Wednesday, August 10, 2011's Meant to be a Way of Life

Happy Wednesday! I have finished the book, "One Thousand Gifts" and I am so very glad I read it. I haven't begun to keep a gratitude journal, but today I decided how I am going to do it. I am going to keep a journal in my car, one in the kitchen and one beside my bed. These are the places where I spend most of my time. Hopefully I can teach my children to pause and celebrate their moments with God too. I don't expect these journals to be pretty, but I do hope that they will be filled with the moments where God's love and blessing was revealed to us on a daily basis. My life is full and we have had a wonderful summer. Just for fun I am going to post some pictures of our fun. I hope you enjoy them and I hope that you have had a memory making summer filled with moments from God to celebrate.

Many many's all grace,

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chapter 9 and Only 2 to go

Chapter 9 speaks of humility and going lower, bending the knee in a humble state...even lower...allowing God to be God and me to receive whatever He gives as a gift of grace.

In the midst of this truth life comes barging in. Voskamp gives these two definitions..."Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty. Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father's heart. God's anger kindles hot when the essence of the complaint implies doubt in His love..." I was speaking with someone today who was definitely complaining about God. There is a HUGE difference in pouring our hearts out in a humble state to a God we trust and complaining about God and His ways, not trusting in His goodness at all. Our attitude in the midst of life goes back to what we believe about God Himself. Is He good or not? This question and the answer to it will color our entire journey in this life. It will permeate our lives through and through. Somehow we must come to the conclusion that first and foremost God is good and He is trustworthy. He cares about us in a perfect way. We must see beyond the moment of pain to the goodness of who He is and His perfect love for us. We must accept this from our low position and allow His Godness to reign in our lives. Again, gratitude is the seems to be the beginning and the end to the fullness of life we are all seeking. The joy that allows us to celebrate in the midst of pain who He is and the trust in what He is doing. This is not easy...but without a bended knee it is impossible. "I can't be receptive to God unless I receive what He gives."

Abba, Father,
Let me humble myself by laying low before You and seeing all that You allow in my life as a way to bring You honor. This life is hard and You never deny that. You know that I am but dust. Praise and thanks be to You, the One with the plan, the One that I can trust and rest in. You are good all the time. I will put my hope in You.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

I am Home

It is Thursday night. Last night our flight got in around 8:45pm and so by the time we got home it was 11. I slept hard and late this morning. I love to travel and I loved being with Christie, but I really love the feeling of coming home. I can't even imagine how it will feel someday to finally be really Home. The only thing I know is that it will be glorious!

After sleeping in a bit it was right back to real life. Hungry kids. Dirty clothes. Unpacked suitcases. Schedules to keep. Finding and maintaining the eucharisteo in the middle of all this is going to be way more of a challenge than I imagined, but I am up for the challenge. God is going to teach me and I am going to be taught. I want to live life to the fullest and I do believe that this is the path I am to take to get there.

Chapter 8 is entitled "How Will He Not Also?". This chapter explores and explains the importance of trust in God. Voskamp expresses the wrong idea that our belief can be passive and how trust is the antithesis of stress. "Belief in God has to be more than mental assent, more than a cliched exercise in cognition. Belief is a verb, something you do." She challenges me with the statement, "If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of disbelief...atheism. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism."

Well....that's a bit to think about. Ann Voskamp continues to capture the truth in such a brand new way for me that every chapter fills my head and my heart with such a longing to grasp this and put in into practice so that my life will flow with gratitude. As soon as I finish this book I am going to begin to keep a list of the graces I see every day. I am making myself wait until I finish, but I am thinking of them throughout the day...watching for Him in the moment. I don't know if I will post my graces here, but I am going to be keeping them in writing. I had a sweet friend tell me that just since May she has recorded over 1300 graces in her life. I was amazed and touched by that. It is possible to do this and top allow gratitude to change my life. I sure hope you will join me on this journey. I have another book to write about
when I am done with this one. It is called, Reckless Faith. It is amazing in an entirely different way.

Be blessed and while you are at it, write them down.
With love,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eucharisteo...Always the Eucharisteo

"The practice of giving thanks...eucharisteo...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see."

That statement from Chapter 7 is the real deal. That is the real deal in the midst of good things and hard things....traffic and fights with kids and bills and butterflies and beach trips...disagreements with spouses and fun vacations...babies and sickness...seeing God...finding Him in the midst of it all is the key to celebrating life to the fullest. It's the key to being in His presence at all times. I'm attempting to practice this here on vacation and take it home with me to practice in real life. I'll let you know how it goes. :-)

Thank You Lord for this new way to think about all of life. Bless Ann Voskamp for her tenacious seeking of You and then her vulnerability to share with the rest of the world. Please give me eyes to see you in the midst of the struggles and in those around me; not just in the obvious things but in the whole of life. Prepare my heart to go home and to see you there in the everyday. Holy are You Lord and worthy of all praise.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Want to See God

I had a horrible headache last night and so I missed a day of posting and actually didn't even finish my chapter of reading. I have figured out something about this book. As far as I'm concerned this book needs to be read a chapter at a time in one sitting. Because Voskamp writes in such a poetic style if I put it down in the middle of a chapter and then try to come back to it, it just doesn't work for me. That's all I have to say about that.

This evening after a full day at the Blank Park Zoo I am yawning and having a hard time putting two thoughts together. Iowa is unbelievably hot this visit and the heat- it does wear me out. I did enjoy this chapter though. It addresses exactly what we want from God. I like this from the book, "how I want to see the weight of glory break my thick scales, the weight of glory smash the chains of desperate materialism, split the numbing shell of deadening entertainment, bust up the ice of catatonic hearts. I want to see God...." I love the way she is able to identify exactly what she wants God to do in her and for her...that she might see Him and worship. Our hearts long to worship something...I want mine to worship Him. The way to experience Him is to see Him all around me all the time....euchristeo.

Oh Lord, give me eyes to see You all around me so that praise and gratitude might flow from my lips all day long because You have awakened my heart to the truth that You are all around me if am willing to truly see. Give me an undivided heart, Lord. Make me fully Thine. I cry holy holy holy is the Lord. The One who is and is to come. I love and worship You.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

God is Always Good and I Am Always Loved

Chapter 5 asks and then answers some hard questions. Voskamp has put into words what I have wondered so many times. Often when something goes the way a person wants they might quip, "God is good." I have often thought in response to myself, "Would they still say that if things hadn't gone the way they wanted? Would I?" If I truly believe God is good all the will I respond when the hard things of life happen? What I know is that they will happen. "Should I not accept good from You, and not trouble?"(Job 2:10)

So many people become disillusioned with God when things don't go the way they hoped or imagined. My mom is mad at God and has been for as long as I can remember because her life has been filled with trouble. I'm not saying her life hasn't been filled with hard things. She has had some very difficult, heart breaking experiences that are seemingly impossible to resolve within oneself. But, if God is good then there has to be a way to embrace the trouble He allows. The only way it would seem possible is to believe with all our hearts that God will bring beauty from ashes...light from darkness. According to Voskamp, God desires to "transfigure all". "Christ became ugly that we might become beautiful. Can I believe the gospel that God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son?"

Abba, Daddy,
This is the prayer of my heart...that I would always believe that You are always good and I am always loved. That is the place I want to live. The place where all is grace. Where nothing is taken for granted. The place where both joy and sadness are received from Your hand. Where I am at peace in the moment, so connected to You that like Job I am willing to accept good and trouble. Counting it all grace.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Long Does It Take Your Soul To Realize Your Life Is Full?

Today's chapter is about slowing down to savor life...not life as a whole, but life's moments. The idea that life is made up of moments is not new. Many of us have heard the saying that reminds us that life is made up of the moments that take our breath away....nice saying but it is lacking. According to Voskamp all of life has the potential to be breath taking moments. Slowing down emotionally and then inviting the Spirit to make us aware of the miracle of each moment.

Thinking about this I am struck by the question she asks, "how long does it take your soul to realize that your life is full?" For me this is the inside, my inner self, my soul slowing down to recognize and give thanks in the very moment for all that God has given me. the midst of a very packed full life. When I get home from vacation my busy life is waiting for me. My schedule is packed full of appointments and activities. That is my life as a mom. So many are my tasks. That will not change, but my attitude and grasp of the sacredness in the moments can. After all, it's all grace. Every moment is a gift from my Maker who loves me so. It really is all grace and I desire to recognize it as such.

Lord, You have given me this time away from home. You have made this all possible. In the midst of this You have chosen to surprise me with Yourself. You have given me this remarkable opportunity to make changes to my life that will allow me to see more of You in everything and everyone around me. May this time, this vacation, be a standing stone in my life as the days I was surprised by joy in the midst of the every day. Glory to Your name. Hallelujah!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday...Thankful Thursday...Chapter 3

Today it is late when I finally get to sit down and read the 3rd chapter of the book, "One Thousand Gifts". It is now quiet and all the kids are in bed. There were 8 kids, 3 moms and 1 grandma here today all doing life together. It was a busy, but laid back day all at the same time. We laughed a lot. We talked about serious things a little, but mostly we just hung together. It was delightful really.

In the last two days as I have been reading this book and thinking hard about what I have been reading I realize that this is going to be a book that I apply daily or not at all. This euchristeo lifestyle must become just that, a lifestyle and I am all in. Period. I truly believe that Ann Voskamp has put to words what my spiritual life was missing. Gratitude. If you don't really know me then you may not know the struggle I have with critical discontented thoughts, but it is very real. My criticalness is not so much about my circumstances as it is with the people around me. I am most critical and discontent with those closest to me. You can imagine, and if you are close to me you know this firsthand, I can be not so fun to be around. God has revealed to me through the years the danger this type of thinking can have on all my relationships and so I have been journeying with Him looking for how to "fix" this unhealthy part of myself, but honestly I didn't know how to practically change this. The Lord revealed to me at ladies retreat a few weeks ago a new way to apply a familiar verse :
Philippians 4:8"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." I felt the Lord calling me to use this verse as the lens I look at others a new filter on my perception of others. I understood that truth, but didn't know how to apply it until I began reading this book. A life of gratitude will cause me to be so much more focused on my thankfulness that I won't be able to live in criticalness. Those two attitudes are mutually exclusive. God knows that I am simple and that I need very direct ways to apply truth and He is showing me those ways through the principles presented in this book.

One other honest confession...since I have been journeying through mid-life these last few years I have begun struggling with anxious thoughts and these thoughts come in the dead of night. They are not rational thoughts in the daytime, but in the night when I wake from my
sleep they seem to be quite worthy of my attention nearly to the point of panic. Last night this happened. I am away from home at my dear friend's house vacationing with my two little girls and her family. When I awoke in an anxious state last night I was able to begin to apply the
practices of this book and give thanks to God for the exact moment I was in. Normally I would have turned on the tv for an escape from my thoughts, but last night I just kept talking to God and being grateful for right where I was until I calmly fell back asleep. Unless you struggle with nighttime, perimenopausal anxiety this may not seem like a huge victory....but if you do then you know what a big deal this was. I know I am in the beginning of all this....but peeps, I think I am onto something.

Lord, thank You for using the experiences of others combined with the truth of Your word to teach me how to live this life in full and complete gratitude. Euchristeo...grace, thanksgiving, joy...I want this to be my theme song evermore.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 2 How Do We Then Live?

It's Chapter 2 that I'm reading today.
The first question Voskamp offers that I must at least internally address and slow down to ponder is "How do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?" That is the question that causes my heart to race...that causes me to stop in my tracks...that allows tears to form in my do I live this life so that all that really matters is all that matters? If this life is all there is then eat, drink and be what you all this world has to offer to the fullest...if this is all there is. BUT if this life is the training ground for eternity...if this life is the preparation place where we are to become intimate with our Maker...the place He has chosen for us to journey with His indwelling Spirit to choose to live beyond all the earthly pleasures, choosing to live for something, some purpose, some goal beyond today then certainly this question is worth my meditation.

I've been reading the book of James over and over this summer and according to James, the brother of Christ, this life matters a lot and what we do in this life is what makes our faith legitimate. James 1:22 says, " Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Based on this verse and the whole of James' message what we do here counts There. It would seem to me that each persons journey to eternity would be figuring out for themselves what really counts here and There.

Reading further Voskamp states that joy, a holy joy, might be what our quest for "more" is all about. She also brings to light that when Jesus had only a few hours left to live He took that time with His disciples to offer thanks..."eucharisteo"....thanks...grace...He took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks...He took the bread as a gift and gave thanks. (I pause here to just realize for myself that saying "grace"
before a meal is to stop for a moment and see all that is placed before us as a gift. Recently it has been revealed to me anew that "it's all grace"....-all that I have is all from His hand and that I have it at all is because of His graciousness toward me. It has nothing to do with me
or my moral living...not my rules or standards...nothing about me at's all's all grace. So as I say grace at our next meal...maybe I can remember anew that "it's all grace".) Voskamp states that deep joy, chara, is found only at the table of the eucharisteo...the table of thanksgiving. The question bears repeating, "is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?" thanks in the here and now...right where we the midst of whatever circumstance we find ourselves...seeing God in the present...grace, thanksgiving, joy...could that be the answer in our search for more? Could that be goal of today....of living our fullest life? The verse that immediately comes to me is found in ICor 5:16-18 "Be joyful always; pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." This could be the secret of a full life...theLife that is lived in light of eternity. I believe her thoughts to be true. "Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle. And the one that says "non-euchristeo , ingratitude was the fall--humanitity's discontent with all that God freely gives." and again, "our very saving is
with our gratitude". "Thanksgiving-giving thanks in everything-prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ. I would never experience the fullness of my salvation until I expressed the fullness of my thanks everyday and euchristeo is elemental to living the saved life."

As I have attempted to process the beginnings of this book here I have realized on only the 2nd day that I probably won't be able to take the time to process here, like this, every day. Nor do I think that you will have time to read my thoughts everyday. But, today, for the moment I am thankful certainly to be on this journey and to have the time while on vacation to soak in the truth of what I have read so far and to know that the life I am to live is one of gratitude in all things. I am anxious to see how Voskamp continues in her poetical way to teach me the joy and life of thanksgiving.

Grace. Thanksgiving. Joy.

With joyous thanksgiving,

Better Late Than Never

Hey there folks!

Time is a flyin' by. What a crazy, busy, memory making summer we are having. I finally got to the bookstore today and bought the book I've heard so much about..."One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. I am going to attempt to daily take some time to process this book on my blog. I am famous for getting too busy to write...but, I'm gonna try to stick with this one. To quote Andy Stanley, "application makes all the difference."

So this is entry no.1
The book is about discovering God in the everyday and celebrating by choosing gratitude. The very first chapter is a bit of a heart wrencher, but certainly brings to life the challenge of faith in the midst of human tragedy. For my first entry I am just going to quote the author's poignant description of the human struggle of faith in God. "I wake and put feet to the plank floors, and I believe the Serpent's hissing lie, the refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn't good. It's the cornerstone of his(the enemy's)movement. That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us. Doubting God's goodness, distrusting His intent, discontent with what He's given, we desire more."

I have never actually understood in such a clear way that the very struggle most of us have in trusting God is our own disbelief in the very character of God. That seems like such a "duh" now, but as I have journeyed with so many who have wrestled with their faith, Voskamp
seems to have hit the nail on the head. From the beginning, in that perfect garden, all the Enemy had to do was to get Adam and Eve to the
point of discontentment...dissatisfaction...a hunger for something more... to have them wrapped around his finger. And he has been preaching that same message ever since.

I am in a new place with God than I ever have been before. I am learning to trust Him and see Him as so much bigger than ever before and I think this book is going to enrich my journey. Like I said before I am a bit late in reading this book, but if you haven't read it and want to join me, I'd certainly love to have you and would welcome your comments. You can find the book in any bookstore and catch up easy. Just
one short chapter a day...2 if you start tomorrow.

Many blessings and love. Hope to see you tomorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Birthday Season Again!

It begins in February for our family and ends the end of May. 6 birthdays to celebrate in 3 months! Whew, it can get crazy. We are big on traditions at our house and one birthday tradition is that you get to pick your favorite meal for your celebration. Another tradition, as of two years ago, is a picture in the birthday hat. Here's what we have so far this year...

Davie turned 8 and requested Chinese food for her birthday party. She grew 3 inches this year and the doctor believes she will be taller than me when she is finished growing. Her favorite things are gymnastics, reading, singing, playing with friends and technology...any kind of computer games. Angry Birds is our favorite!Davie has had her share of tears with the moving of our dear friends just recently. What a tender hearted girl she is.After Davie's birthday comes Sarah's. She turned 24 this year. She requested burgers on the grill and a traditional birthday cake. We are so proud of Sarah's hard work this year teaching 1st grade and are thrilled for her that she gets to teach middle school Language Arts next year. She is our first born and a wonderful woman!
Next on our birthday tour is Catherine Jo. She has become "Cat" to all her friends. She turned 15!!!! I know...hard to believe. Catherine is a delight as long as we are not attempting to do homework. She is fun to laugh at and laugh with. We have a great time together most of the time and we are excited for the woman she is becoming.This year our baby turned 5 on Easter! Eliana Joy is so much fun. She started going to speech this year, but it was difficult for me to let go of the cute way she has always said things. Her "ofay" became "ok". Bummer. She is trying to conquer her "s"s and it is giving her a fit, but she works hard on it. She will go to kindergarten in the fall and I am sure that I am going to have the time to finally have that spotless house I've always wanted...haha.
Matthew or Matt Matt as he is fondly known by the little girls has his 21st birthday in Japan this year! He is leaving before his birthday and was kind enough to pose in the birthday hat for me at Ellie's party yesterday. Matt is growing up and has made us proud as he wrestles with decisions and walks in faith with God. Please pray for him while he is in Japan for 35 days. God worked a financial miracle to allow him to go again this year with "Mission to Japan" and we are asking God to keep him safe and protected from radiation and such....trusting the Lord with our precious son.
So this is how we spend spring at our house....celebrating! I sure hope you had a wonderful Easter with your loved ones and that you find tons to celebrate in the coming months.
With much love and celebration,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Huge Life Changes

So, it's been quite a while. Life moves along at a rapid pace and then something happens and you are stopped dead in your tracks. I had something like that happen to me in December and it came to fruition today.

My dear friend, Christie and her husband, Jon, (who was also our pastor), went to dinner with us before Christmas to let us know that they were leaving the pastorate and moving to Christie's home town in Iowa. I was completely surprised by this news. Stunned to say the least. Christie and I have not only been close friends for over 20 years, but we have been the kind of friends who have done all of life together. We talk on the phone nearly every day and it was not unusual for us to talk several times a day. She was like the sister I never had. Our kids were also super close. She had two boys, one 18 months older than Davie, and one 18 months older than Ellie. We spent so much time together. Once I knew they were leaving it was tempting to pull away in order to somehow lesson the pain, but I promised Christie that I wouldn't and that I would spend as much time as ever with her until the day they left and today was that day. I am so so sad. It's not that I'm not excited for the adventure that is ahead of them. It's not that I don't trust that they are following God's will. I am just so sad because my life will be so empty without her here to share it. We have committed to staying in touch and sending lots of photos, but we both know that this move changes everything. I have tried to be brave and pretend that somehow they will be back, but today I realized that they really won't. Every year that we could we spent Easter together. We had our final Florida Easter together on the 10th of this month. We had a nice time that ended with some tears. These are photos from that day.

Last night we had our final Chickfila dinner with the kids. Poor little Davie cried all the way home. She dearly loves the Dunwells and listed all the things on the way home that she would miss about them. I didn't do that last night, but I will do it here.

My ode to the Dunwells and some of the things I will miss about them...
hanging out in their driveway while the kids play on all their fun toys
talking about nothing and everything
spending birthdays and lots of holidays together
their boys and how sweet they were to my girls
Christie's help with all my decorating projects
swimming together all summer
Addison's attempts at eavesdropping
Jon's joking with my girls
talking about adoption
beach days
her family's visits
Chickfila on a whim
Chipotle meals outside
talking on the phone on the way anywhere and everywhere
walking in our little Mayberry town
Christmas parades
4th of July
my Christmas lights by Christie

The list could go on and on. God promises to comfort those who mourn and I am counting on that. Grief is such a hard emotion to process. I want to move through it so quickly and as I do I find myself in a bad place...stressed to the max, eating too much...not healthy choices. Davie had the right idea...bawling your eyes out...pretty darn healthy, but not something I do very easily so I'm blogging instead :-) I have loved my time with Christie and have no delusions of replacing her, but I am trusting God to fill my heart with Himself and new friends to live life with.

Which brings me to the second huge life change for us. After much prayer and consideration David and I have decided together to leave our church and follow God into a new journey with Him. That decision also brings huge grief to my life. We know He is moving us and we trust Him to guide us, but it is a bit scary. The people of Westwood Church have loved us well. We have loved them and served with them for our entire married life. There isn't a single ministry there that we have not participated in at one time or another over the years. Leaving our "home" to strike out and find a new place to be able to minister and be ministered to is a daunting task...impossible...if He did not go before here's to the Lord God Almighty who goes before and behind's to celebrating Easter and our Risen Lord in a new place, with new faces and an anticipation of new things to come. I certainly pray that your Easter is spent with ones you love and that the reality of His resurrection is new for us all this year.
He is Risen!
With much love,