I walked to my polling station this afternoon when I got home from work. I love that I can do it. I won’t necessarily do it every year, but today the sun was shining, it was just over 50 degrees and it’s only a 10 minute walk. My body needed the movement. My soul needed the slower pace. My lungs needed the fresh air.
All things I give thanks for. Although now that I’m back at home, I wish I had taken the walk slower. I wish I had stopped to take pictures. I wish I hadn’t rushed out, but talked longer with one of my new neighbors, that I had taken deeper breaths, taken a different route home, paid more attention to the setting sun.
It’s November, I’m still giving thanks because it is all I can do when the negative, discouraging thoughts try to win, when the darkness overwhelms, when I feel like I’m always running behind, when I let other people’s choices affect me and my mood. When I start fretting and spend too much time looking at all the hard stuff and evil going on in the world, the negativity that swirls around me, I stop and take instruction from God’s Word (Psalm 37)
Trust in the LORD, and do good; Delight thyself also in the LORD; Commit thy way unto the LORD; Trust also in him; Rest in the LORD, wait patiently for him.
And I give thanks for the walk, for my neighborhood, for choices in voting, for a sticker reward, for the sun setting through the trees. I trust God with the outcome. I commit my day to Him (over and over again). And I ask Him to show me where I need to rest more and wait patiently for Him.
It’s a process, sometimes a daily battle to delight in Him, to commit my way (my future, my kids’ lives, my dreams, etc.) to the LORD. I preach to myself and I write out my wrestling (and occasionally I share my writing with you). And I keep coming back to Jesus because He can be trusted. He is always faithful. I find my HOPE in Him. His yoke is easy and His burden light. He will carry me.
It’s been over 10 years since I started counting the gifts with @AnnVoskamp. There have been times when it was a consistent 3 gifts a day, or the one time we did #1000gifts in 30 days. There have also been seasons, months even when I was not counting the gifts. But always the gifts are there and always the gifts are good.
I’m starting to count again… this time 1,000 gifts in just 3 weeks, which means approximately 50 gifts a day. It’s not always easy, and there will be repeats.
It’s amazing what catches your eye when you are looking for gifts. Like the beauty I found in the city skyline on the way to work this morning. Or that actually view of the mountainside from work.
At work, it seems harder to find the gifts, but they are still there. The warmth of the sun filling the office, Dropbox, when your co-worker buys you lunch.
Then there is the delightful surprise of a little dump truck strapped to the end of a long flatbed truck in the lane next to me on the way home. The text from my son informing me of the candy bar he bought me waiting for me at home.
And even though I know it means more yard work this weekend, I even found gratitude in the carpet of leaves on the patio. And the wind chimes, and sitting outside in short sleeves on this November afternoon.
The time change happens yet again this weekend, and I feel the same struggle settling in—where can I find the light when it’s dark at 5pm? I counted lots of gifts today, but I also snapped at my kids more than once, I am going to bed with a headache, and I’m letting worry distract me from some of the good I see in the world.
So I write, because in addition to a #1000gifts challenge, I am working to WRITE every day in November. And I remember that God gives good gifts and God deserves our praise. And we hold pain and joy together. And I’m not perfect and life isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty darn great when you pay attention to the little things and give thanks, and when you keep perspective on God’s plan for your life. He came so that we could have abundant life. It’s already here, we just have to notice it.
The calendar turned from October to November and overnight it seemed, the sky turned gray and dreary. I could barely keep my eyes open at work and I was in a slump. The trees still have some color hanging on, but for some reason it just didn’t look as stunning today. It rained, and rained some more. My heart and soul followed suit and it felt like depression was settling in.
It’s still autumn, it’s still pretty out, the sun even peeked through the clouds briefly, but my focus was/is off. I was tired… but I was also grumpy. And it really does have an effect on your day. Complaining breeds complaining.
And gratitude breeds gratitude. I could barely keep my eyes open because late nights and junk food and rainy skies, so I came home and took a nap… a 22 minute power nap. And then I got up and had a snack. (Thank you, Prophet Elijah for your example in 1 Kings 19). And, then I accomplished a few things and felt better.
Does my heart still feel a little off? Am I still tired? Do I want to hibernate at home instead of going to church small group? Yes, Yes, and Yes. Am I dreading the time change and more dark nights? Also, yes. But I listen to my body, I listen to my heart, and then I go to the Word of God for truth.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.” Psalms 42:5
And I remind myself, as David did. I also can put my HOPE in God. I can trust my Creator. He is faithful. He is true. His lovingkindness is always present in my life. So I look up at the gloomy skies and I pay attention to the world around me. And I know that Jesus is here in the every day ordinary, in the sunshine and the rain, in the good and the hard, in the joy and the sorrow.
And I go to small group and eat too many carbs, and give thanks for fellowship, friendship, and prayer. And as we leave, I look up and see the beautiful cloudy sky with the light shining through. Always the LIGHT shines, we just have to notice it.
Where is the light shining in your darkness today? Where can you see Jesus in the every day ordinary? Can I just encourage you to keep looking up?
What is saving my life right now? It can really be wrapped up in a single answer:
Looking for Jesus in everyday moments
The grass you water flourishes. The books you read, the focus of your studies determines what you learn. How you spend your time shows your priorities. What you focus on becomes clearer. And when I look for Jesus in everyday moments, I realize He is always right here with me, even when I am not paying attention. When I am looking, I see Him in every moment—good, hard, everyday, supernatural.
Writing is saving my life. As always, I do not spend enough time writing either, but when I sit down, God gives me words. And when ideas come to mind, I am trying to write them down in the moment so I can go back later. I see Jesus in the gift of writing and in the words He gives me and how those stories can encourage others.
Chocolate is saving my life—Dark chocolate of course, chocolate mint s’mores, chocolate peanut butter candy bars, hot chocolate. Just a little treat and always in moderation. God created cacao beans, God created the people who mixed the right amount of sugar with the right amount of cocoa. So yes, I can look for Jesus even in my chocolate treats.
The sky is saving my life. Once again, the ministry of paying attention to the world around you, paying attention to God’s creation, to seeing the sky and how it’s always changing, and to think on the millions of people that are sharing this same big sky. A gift from our creator, a reminder that He is intimately involved in our lives, that He cares about little old me spinning on this tiny circle He created in the whole wide universe.
And I see the sky best when I’m walking. So walking is saving my life. I wish I was walking more. Walking at least once a week is not much but it is always helpful for a fresh perspective, a little exercise, and shaking up my routine. Walking helps me see Jesus in my neighborhood, in my friendships, in the changing colors of autumn leaves.
Deep breaths are saving my life. Taking a deep breath slows me down, it stretches my neck and back muscles, it fills my lungs with oxygen. Deep breaths when life is going great helps me to stay present in the moment, to appreciate the gifts, and to give thanks to God who gives good gifts. Deep breaths when life is overwhelming and hectic helps me to pause and remember what is important in the grand scheme of things. To remember that God is present and carries us through that hard stuff.
Good food is saving my life, because good food is often accompanied by good friends and that is a lifesaver, too. Church small group, Sunday afternoon pizza, a random weeknight soup. All feed my soul and my body. Jesus is present in community and in sharing the table with others. God created us to need nourishment both with food and with friends and I’m thankful for how those things are saving my life right now.
What is saving YOUR life right now? Where do you see Jesus in the good and in the hard?
There is something about a simple Tuesday sky. About taking a moment to stop and see the world from a different perspective. Look up, look around, look out. To see the vast expanse of God’s creation and remember that He cares about individual me down here. He is creator of the universe and He is creator of me.
And take a moment to look at the sky and remember that my “neighbor” is anyone else on this whole round planet that is looking at the same sky. (Thanks @shannanwrites for teaching me that). And when Amazon fails me and I don’t get a copy of my new favorite book on actual release day, I can find joy in the anticipation of its arrival tomorrow 🤞 #startwithhello
I look at the sky for a brief reset, a respite from the overwhelming noise of the world around me, to find peace in the blue sky and whispy clouds, and changing colors of the leaves. To remember the beauty of autumn and all we can learn in this season of letting go, preparing for a winter’s rest, for renewal.
When I open my eyes to the beauty around me, it becomes easier to find. When I dwell on God’s goodness, when I am looking for His good gifts, I begin to see them everywhere. When I allow a shift in perspective, I find that it is much more beneficial to focus on the good, than to complain about the negative.
Life isn’t perfect, sometimes the skies are stormy, grief can overwhelm, and often life just isn’t fair. Some days you fight with your spouse. Some days your kids give you all the attitude or make choices you don’t like. Or you lose your job. Or a friend. Or the paycheck doesn’t make it to the end of the month. And you just cry out to God, “Why?”
And then you look at the sky and take a moment to seek His face and remember that He will hear my voice when I call. He will be gracious to me and answer me. And to stand on the promise that I am certain I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27). The splendor of the sky is just a fraction of the splendor of His glory, His holiness.
It’s 8pm on move-in day and I am exhausted. There are boxes everywhere, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude toward all the wonderful people that helped us throughout the day… We own a lot of stuff. So I take a moment and step outside. I look around at these new surroundings and everywhere I turn I see houses. A far cry from the wide open spaces we just left behind. And then I look up and thank God for the little love note He sends me in a window of blue sky peeking through the forest of trees. Wide open spaces of a different kind.
It’s 7:15am and I am late for work. I may live 5 minutes closer, but it’s only day 2 and I still can’t find the right shoes, or the snacks to pack in my lunch, or which drawer we put the silverware in. I rinse my coffee cup (I can always find one of those) and look out my kitchen window, and there is my first wildlife sighting in the new home. And I stop and just grin big at the deer. I will never get tired of the deer. “Won’t HE do it!”
It’s 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, and we are just returning from a long walk around the neighborhood, getting to know the area. As we come around our front/side yard (we live on a corner and I can’t figure out what’s front, side, or back), I notice ivy everywhere, and a splash of Queen Anne’s lace. And once again I am in awe of God’s creation, the way He meets me where I’m at, and how He connects my growing up memories of flowers and my love of ivy (first married kitchen theme) with present day.
It’s 5pm and in between the sounds of the evening traffic, I suddenly hear church bells ringing. And I smile. Year two of marriage found us living practically in the backyard of an Orthodox Church. I remember those bells. And once again, I am almost in the backyard of a local church, and the 5 o’clock bells are just one of the many blessings I’m counting in this new, unfamiliar place. And as these bells play familiar hymns, I thank Jesus for the gift of music.
It’s 6:30am, I am settling into routines. I take my coffee to the front room to enjoy with some morning Psalms, and the window view shows a soft misty fog and another deer sighting…. This time a doe and her fawn.
It’s 1pm and as I’m gathering pizza ingredients and prepping for Sunday lunch with friends, I look out the window again (I love the windows) and spot a chipmunk finishing his Sunday brunch. Various shells, seeds, and nuts scattered all over the stone steps, remnants of the way my God cares for the little creatures, too.
It’s 8:30pm Labor Day weekend and we settle around the Solo Stove on our new patio and light the fire, enjoy the view, and of course, roast marshmallows, and I smile and give thanks for the little things. The things that are different and the things that stay the same. The way that life is what we make of it and we can choose to focus on the blessings because they are abundant and overflowing and when I focus on the good stuff, when I shout His praises, when I pay attention to the ways He is present in every moment and area of my life, I just can’t believe how much my God loves me.
And how personal He is. Trains rumbling by in the background, sunrises and moonrises through the trees instead of over the mountain, wind chimes, shops in walking distance, the ever present squirrels and chipmunks, the list goes on and on and I give thanks.
It’s been over four years since I chose my #onceamonthspot as an act of faith because the property we live on went up for sale. Four and a half years later and it still hasn’t sold, but other things have changed and God opened doors and we are moving. So this right here is the last photo of this #frontdoorview
I have never taken this gift for granted. 12 years of wide open spaces, country living, beautiful sunrises and sunsets. 12 years of youth events, small group parties, winter sledding out my front door. Walks to the bus stop and mailbox. Sunday afternoon pizza parties, long hikes, and always changing scenery. Deer, bear, turkey, eagle, coyote, porcupine, the persistent possum, bluebirds, yellow finches, robins.
Sometimes we can’t see the light through the heavy dark clouds, and sometimes God parts them and you see glimpses of the truth that He is always working. The contrast of light and dark, of green trees and dead tree trunks, even the grass takes its turn being brown and green. When I look back through my #juliesmonthlyspot photos, I am reminded again of God’s goodness, God’s gifts, abundant life and continuous provision.
And I treasure our last family bonfire—a needed gift after a rough week of packing, and fighting over future bedrooms, of struggling with the coming changes. We enjoyed a long evening outside, keeping the large fire from spreading to the dry grass, watching the stars come out one by one, enjoying the moonrise… and eating hot dogs and s’mores prepared over the fire. And having my daughter capture us all in the glow of the flames.
And I give thanks for “the last Sunday supper” at this place with good friends that are family, of laughter, jokes, and the weekly walk to the reservoir. And long talks and photos of my favorite scenery.
We will make new memories and find new treasures from God, because life will still be abundant even when it looks different. His promises are ever-faithful, His love is never-ending, and He gives joy unspeakable as we wait with Hope.
So here’s to continuing #theministryofordinaryplaces in a new place, of #trustinggodsplan #ministryofpayingattention with @shannanwrites and remembering #itssimplytuesday with @emilypfreeman
We know that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet. We know that God directs our steps when we acknowledge His sovereignty in our lives. We know that God’s timing is always right.
Yet sometimes God only gives enough light for the next right step. For us, the next right step is moving… and moving next month. I only had to be still and wait on the Lord. It’s causing me all sorts of emotions. I’m so excited about this next step and the opportunities it will make available to us. My heart is rejoicing over the closeness to town and how it fits the stage of life we are in right now with four teenagers. It never ceases to amaze me how God orchestrates the right place at the right time.
And yet, I will miss my front door view and my back door view and the wide open spaces. I will miss the sunrises (the few I’ve seen) 😉 and the sunsets. I will miss the burst of green in the spring, the summer storms, the explosion of leaves in the fall, and even the winter sledding. And so every morning and every evening, and almost every moment in between, I look out my windows and soak in the view and give thanks for this home that we’ve been blessed with for the last 12 years. I’m trying to hold it all close to my heart and stay present in the moment and not start missing it before I’m even gone. I’m trying to remind myself that my God knows me and loves me personally, and He will continue to show himself real to me through His creation, even if it looks different. There will still be love notes from God. He knows the promises from His word that I cling to. He knows how He created me, what I love, what I need, what I enjoy. He knows the desires He has placed in my heart and I can delight in Him and trust Him with great anticipation, because He is always good. He also knows that sometimes I need to be made uncomfortable to move forward in growth.
So He filled my sky with a double rainbow tonight, and I stood outside and tried not to cry again. And I remember that God keeps His promises. He goes before me and behind me and with me and around me. He loves to spoil His children with good things and I take His hand and take the next step.
I will have to find a new monthly spot—a place to stop, take notice and remember that God never changes, but life always does. Maybe it will be an alley, a random spot in town, or simply my front door view, but it will always be something to draw me closer to God, to remind me that He is good, He is God and I can trust Him. And in everything, I will give thanks.
“He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19
In no particular order, here are 10 things that are saving my life right now.
1. apple slices and peanut butter. This needs no explanation. It’s the perfect snack and it’s healthier than Reese’s peanut butter cups. And it’s easy to eat at my desk at work.
2. afternoon or evening walks: I live for warmth and sun (I hear Florida calling me). I know fresh air and exercise is good for my physical and mental health. Some weeks I get 5 walks in and other weeks I have to fight to make myself take just one.
3. counseling, therapy, whatever you want to call it. Talking through situations with someone who knows how to ask the right questions, gives good advice, pushes me out of my comfort zone with suggestions, and encourages me when I think I’m losing my mind has been so helpful.
4. Psalms. It is always my go-to when I open my Bible. David’s example of prayer and processing through his struggles has been life giving to me. And no matter how bad it gets, he always circles around until he comes back to proclaiming the goodness of God. I pray I can always do the same.
5. Nature: flowers, trees, skies, and clouds. Sunsets, birds, rivers, and all of God’s creation is so full of beauty, so full of color and variety. Our Creator created us to enjoy all that He has given us, to live life abundantly, and that includes green grass, yellow daffodils, bluebirds, rainbow tulips, white clouds, etc.
6. Hope: Hope that this is not the end of the story. Hope that hurt I have experienced can be redeemed, hope that God is working all things for His glory and for my good. Hope for deeper relationships, better community, iron sharpening iron friendships. Hope that I can be a better human, be more like Christ, full of compassion, courage. Hope that some day I’ll make time to write consistently, to live out the gifts God has given me.
7. My kids. Yes, my kids are saving my life right now. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me think, and they make me so proud. Each one of them is amazing in their own way. They can be so sweet and so annoying. I think as they get older and I realize my time with them is so short, I panic that I haven’t done enough, I’ve made too many parenting mistakes, I’ve pushed too hard and not hard enough. but I do know that I am doing my best and I love them so much it hurts, but also I can’t wait to see what they will do as they grow up and move out and begin the next phases of their lives. I’m so thankful for my kids!
8. my morning cup of coffee, almost always made by the best husband. Some may call it an addiction, I prefer a ritual, tradition, a morning liturgy.
9. Writing in my local coffee shop. I don’t get to do it often enough. My schedule and budget do not permit, but when I do get the opportunity, it rejuvenates me. It gets me away from the to-do lists and undone, and gives me a new perspective. It reminds me how much I love writing, how much I need writing, how beneficial writing is for my soul and my mind. The coffee is great too!
10. anticipation… looking forward to upcoming activities gives me joy, helps me to survive the daily crazy of life right now. We are just over one month from the end of middle school forever, so I’m looking forward to 8th grade celebration day. I’ve also already preordered my fresh Georgia peaches from @thepeachtruck and I can’t wait to enjoy those in addition to my local fresh fruits and veggies from farmer’s market. Summer trips planned to visit our families are also on the anticipation list. Travel stresses me out and sometimes relationships (even those that share our genes) can be challenging, but they are still important. And making memories is worth the effort.
I already shared this on my social media, but wanted it here on my blog as well.
God’s goodness doesn’t fit in Instagram squares and facebook paragraphs. God’s good works cannot be contained in all the books in all the world. God’s goodness is deeper than the ocean and higher than the mountains.
And if the outcome of last Wednesday night’s experience had been any different—God would still be God and God would still be good. His name is still to be praised.
Nothing changes the trauma we experienced, or the feelings and emotions we are still processing through. Each one of us feeling it a little bit different. No right or wrong way to process and grieve and give thanks, in all things give thanks.
On Wednesday night, I was waiting in the car parked on the busy city street where I always wait for my girls after youth group, scrolling facebook memories, sending one memory text of a few years ago to my son, and re-sharing the following verse:
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:”
Not 15 minutes later, I lived in that perfect peace, the peace that passes all understanding, and leaned on His everlasting strength. Yes, the timeline is blurry, the events are foggy, but I heard someone shout my daughter’s name. I looked up and saw a vehicle stopped in the road and then I heard my baby girl screaming. I moved so fast and so slow, and I ran over to her, on the side of the road, obvious facial abrasions, sitting all curled up and rocking. My eyes looked up and around, and I dashed back into the middle of the road and gathered her Bible, her homework, her glasses spread across the pavement as I was shouting the church address to the man making the 911 call, and then I was back by my girl’s side.
Her first words to me were, “But mom, what about track season?” And I laughed and cried and felt more of God’s perfect peace, even as I was sure there must be a broken elbow, a messed up knee, a dislocated hip—something out of alignment.
The first responders showed up so quickly, they did their jobs and I am so thankful. I answered questions, they put her on the stretcher and immobilized her. It was just a precaution, but it doesn’t make it any less scary and traumatizing.
I see the faces of her youth group friends, her sisters, some parents, our youth pastor, the EMT’s, the police, the young driver, and the helpers—there are always helpers. Jesus is always there.
The ambulance ride, the entrance to the ER, all the medical staff, the chaplain (who couldn’t hold a candle to my Jesus or the pastors I have known in my lifetime). Long story short, she had cat scans and X-rays and then we sat together and waited for results. They checked her vitals again—and then just like that, they were removing her neck brace and telling her she was being discharged, all the tests came back fine. No injuries, no abnormalities, no concussion, no broken bones. Just some bumps and scrapes. And we were home before midnight… not that we got much sleep that first night.
To be honest, the emotions and bruises and struggles were harder on days 5-6 than they were on days 2-3. We are still a little tender. She tried running—it hurts and she feels slow. Taking stairs is slightly awkward and the healing skin feels tight. I feel like I could still sob with relief and scream in grief, if only someone would pinch me. She and I are both perpetually tired.
But God is good and my sweet girl is healing and we give thanks for miracles and for God’s protection. We will take one day at a time. Sisterly love seemed to flow a bit more for a few days, but they will still fight and take each other for granted. But also, they will hug a little bit more and crack silly jokes. And we will remember that God is good.