gratitude

Maggie’s first job

My daughter earned her first $1 bill today. Is that legal? Surely not. Well, it happened, nonetheless.

We enjoyed lunch after church at a local diner. Our waitress, a young, cheerful woman who told me she had a five year-old son, went out of her way to express kindness to my daughter, and I was thankful. She brought Maggie chips before our meals arrived. Any parent understands the magnitude of this gift (if this doesn’t happen, your child morphs into some sort of monster in 5.2 minutes). She entertained all of Maggie’s detailed questions patiently. Maggie enjoyed her gigantic flower-shaped pancake, coated in margarine and syrup, and had a grand old time. After the meal, the waitress jokingly asked Maggie if she wanted to help clear the table to help pay for the meal. And lo and behold, Maggie agreed to help.

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She jumped up from the table and followed the waitress around, asking what she could do to help. My mama heart burst with love and joy, watching my daughter serve. She didn’t expect anything in return—she genuinely wanted to clean, serve, and assist our waitress. Our waitress allowed her to help clear the table and then gave Maggie a $1 bill as a gift for helping out. Maggie thought she’d won the lottery and beamed from ear to ear with pride, clutching the money and her stuffed puppy dog, Homer, as we headed to the car, waving goodbye to our new waitress friend.

I remembered all the times that week I’ve felt grumpy and cantankerous about doing laundry, cleaning up after dinner, and loading and emptying the dishwasher. How many times had I begrudgingly washed my daughter’s hair or felt annoyed that I couldn’t enjoy my coffee alone in the afternoon? I specifically recalled feeling disgruntled about trying to hurriedly finish editing a presentation while Maggie attempted to crawl in my lap. And while I have to extend grace to myself–because parenting is difficult, and I am not perfect–I can also learn a lot if I watch my daughter closely. Maybe if I attempt to approach life with just a little bit more of her attitude of service, enthusiasm, and joy over what seem to be tiny moments, I’ll feel less overwhelmed, less disgruntled, and less annoyed when I’m juggling parenting, housekeeping, friending, and working. And maybe if I find pleasure right where I am, I’ll also feel a little less brokenhearted when she slams the car door and walks into school morning after morning, year after year, in just a few short months.

 

 

gratitude

To my loving husband

Today’s blog post is by my student, Ladonna Williams, as part of a brief writing assignment celebrating her marriage.

To my loving husband:

I want you to know that you have been a great inspiration in my life. Putting our friendship with love, we created our marriage. You accepted life’s responsibility and turned it into a blessing.

img_1345There are great benefits of being your wife, including unconditional love. We look upon ourselves as under no obligation. Being your wife has been amazing. Not because of the things that you do for me, and not even because of how much love you have for our family. Just because you are someone special. I am so thankful for the little things that I may have taken for granted. Washing dishes, grocery shopping, and even taking care of me on my late nights. Those days when I didn’t say thank you, count it to my mind not my heart.

I strive to have a heart as big and warm as the one that you share with me. I value the kind heart that has brought sunshine to my life. I thank you for the love and kindness you share with me on a daily basis. I thank you for being my umbrella on the rainy days. When you felt as if I weren’t happy, there was joy pulled from within your heart to share with your wife. I thank you for the encouraging words when situations got a little hard for me. Always there to keep pushing me to the next step in life.

I can’t express enough of how special I feel to get to spend my life with someone as great as you. Someone who always has the next person’s concern on their mind. Standing there ready to do your best to brighten up their day. I thank you for sharing your love with people who may need a kind word. I want you to know I am always grateful for the things  you share. I love you!

-Ladonna

 

gratitude

Abundance of gratitude

Today’s guest blog post is written by my friend Jeri Wright, a beautiful, free-spirited soul. Thank you, Jeri, for sharing your heart.

As I drove down the street today the sun-kissed my skin through an open window. The perfectly warm breeze gently caressed my cheek and tousled my hair. Every breath was a rush of energy and renewal. On a day like this, you just can’t help but to put your hand out the window and let it surf the wind like you did when you were twelve. Up and down and side to side, there is no resistance. I wonder, could this moment be any more perfect or this day any more beautiful?

A smile grows across my face and tears even think about welling up in my eyes for a minute. The awe and wonder I feel from a simple ten-minute drive on a nice day is almost overwhelming. I feel completely connected. This feeling, this emotion, has happened in my life before.

It happened when I was very young, at an age of total oblivion–that small window of life where all the world is a stage to entertain you. There are no scary things in life, other than monsters under your bed or in your closet. The age when you share pinkie swears with your best friend, and your best friend is either your mom or your cousin. When the biggest challenge you face is choking down your veggies at the dinner table.

12963511_609965423102_1062520607317924890_nMy swing set was a magical place in those early years. At around four, I would settle myself in the swing seat with no one else around. Mother would be inside cleaning or folding something. I had no siblings, and the cousins were too scared to play with me. After being sick for years, I had become the family glass doll. I would spend hours on that swing, amazed at how powerful my little legs felt while they shot me off into the never-ending Oklahoma sky above me. I imagined sailing among the clouds, the breeze in my hair and the sun kissing my skin.

This is my happy place. This is where my gratitude lives. Every moment when I recognize a gift in my life, I feel my happy place. Thankfully, as I acknowledge those gifts, I seem to recognize even more of them. My gratitude used to be reserved for “big” things like I’m glad my son’s cancer hasn’t returned, or I’m grateful that the police officer didn’t give me a speeding ticket. But now I feel gratitude nearly everywhere. I feel it in letting others go before me in traffic. I feel it in an uncomfortable situation because it gives me an opportunity to stretch and grow. And I feel it in the simple pleasure of watching my children play.

That abundance of gratitude has made it possible for me to relive my swing set magic every day.

gratitude

Dear Heather

*Today’s letter is written by my wonderful friend Betty Gail Jones, who has impacted countless children, teenagers, and college students over the years through her work in children’s ministry, collegiate ministry, mission work, and church planting. She is a fireball and someone God has certainly used in my life.*

Dear Heather,

BG blogI am calling you out!  There is no doubt that you deserve it!  Get ready for the truth!  I want you to know how what you have done has impacted me!

At a time in my life when I felt isolated and desperate, I found you though Facebook, of all places.  At times there seems to be an insurmountable barrier – namely the ocean – to knowing my grandchildren who live on the other side of the world.  You helped change some of that ever-present anxiety.  Yes, you stepped in when I needed you.  And as I get to know more about you, I find your availability to others to be significant, too.

Life gets busy no matter where one lives in the world.  If I could see pictures every day of my grandchildren who live overseas, I would be happy.  Yet, that is not to be, nor would it be a wise use of their parent’s time.  One day, as I were publicly pleading for more pictures on social media, you piped up and commented to me offering to accept my friendship if I requested.  You further explained that you often take pictures of Ajay, and sometimes Ari gets in the pictures, too.  As the local Kids Kamp teacher, you have access like no other to my grandchildren.  I realized that this was my opportunity for a view of their world that I had not had before, so I immediately went to your page and clicked out a request to be your “friend”.

BG blog 1What I found on your page was eye-opening.  I loved seeing the place where socialization and learning was taking place, not only for my grandchild, but also for the other children who are living overseas.  I recognized what a wonderful unique blessing your ministry is as I scrolled through the pictures and saw the wonder and joy on faces of such a diverse group of third culture kids.

Soon, your posts began showing up on my news feed.  Whether they were about everyday “mommy moments”, personal reflections, prayer requests for your kids, or funny quotes by those living in your home or attending your school, I enjoyed them all.  I even loved following your personal journey of the joys and challenges of your stateside visit.  I learned from each one.

bg blog 3One Sunday morning I stepped into my church and a friend looked at me with eyes of concern and said, “What about the landslide near Kathmandu?”  My heart sank into my stomach because I hadn’t heard of the tragedy and didn’t have any information.  My son-in-law and a friend were trekking at that moment, and I didn’t actually know where.  It was early in the morning on our side of the world and night where you live.  I knew I didn’t have access to my own children who aren’t as media driven as some, but I realized that you monitored Facebook more frequently and guessed that I could message you and would get an answer quickly.  Within a few minutes, I received a message back from you assuring me that everything was all right.  I was so grateful for your friendship, though we’ve never met, at that moment.

Through Facebook, I have learned of your own ministry to the nationals whom you call your “kids”, watched as you care for them and love them deeply, and joined you to pray for their needs.  I have grieved your losses with you as you have shared heartache, and I have rejoiced with you in victories.

bg blog 2At this time, I am enjoying the presence of my grandchildren for a season, but I know the impact you have had even now.  Ajay talks about his home and friends that he misses.  As I was listening in on a conversation between him and his cousin, Ajay told his older cousin about his school and how he misses it.

What a tremendous blessing you are to those young mothers who live in your country.  I would have never dreamed that these parents would have an opportunity to send their little ones to a pre-school situation where they are learning and playing in a social setting and their moms would have some time for other important things (and even a break from the constant responsibility of raising children without extended family or trusted friends’ help).

You do all of this with an attitude of joy.  You are a servant to others.  This, Heather, is why I am calling you out – to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I thank God for you and your family.

See you on Facebook!

Love,

Betty Gail Jones, aka Nanna

gratitude

God sent me a kitten

Big thanks to Debra Dickey for serving as today’s guest contributor and for another kitten post!

catI didn’t know it yet, but He was creating, protecting, and instilling a spirit of trust into the sweetest, funniest, prettiest little long-haired yellow kitten that I have seen in a long time, just for me, even before I knew how much she was going to mean to me.  She was born late last summer, the only one in the litter.  Her mom raised her in my carport, cared for her, taught her lessons, kept her safe, and shared her with us all fall. When she was older, she would come and go with her mom, then soon she was following her whole cat family to the places they go to find shelter and be warm, in the barns and sheds, or playing with the other cats high atop piles of tires and equipment that are close by.  I called her my little ball of sunshine.

Considering that all the cats around my house are purely outdoor cats and not the least bit interested in people except for food purposes, I never expected that this one would be any different!  But one day, while the weather was yet warm, as I was going into the house, the little furry thing ran inside, and began exploring.  She didn’t go far, and she didn’t stay long  — I think she was reconnaissance!   But she was cute and playful, rolling on the rug to be petted and cuddled, so I did.  Soon her mom was peeking in the back door, meowing for her to come out, not that the little one was particularly concerned, but after a time, she was ready to leave and return to her mom’s watchful care, only to occasionally dash in whenever the door happened to be open if she was around.  But most of the time, she seemed more happy outside than in.

However, when the temperatures dropped to very cold and brought along snow, her attitude changed very quickly.  She knew right away exactly where she wanted to be — inside!  By now, she and her mom have both become content with longer periods of her being on her own, so on the coldest of those days when I went to work, I left her inside and she did quite well. . .  by that I mean, nothing tipped over or broken!   Still, not being used to that much ‘alone’ time, on those days she was always really ready for me to come home so she could escape back to her natural habitat.  But, on the weekends now, when I am home and momentarily idle, her favorite pastime is being curled up with me on the quilt I keep in my chair, and there she will blissfully sleep all the day long.

The background to her felicitous and sunny appearance being so providential is simply stated:  mid-November through the first part of January in my life was a pretty bleak patch for me.  The loss of our second cat during the holidays, then only a couple short weeks later, add to that a terrifying mind-numbing six day emergency situation; numerous and challenging technical issues due to freezing weather, incredible exhausting illnesses; treacherous accident-waiting-to-happen driving conditions on ice-slicked roads; and one more family crises looming on the horizon, and you will have the brief three-week- time-span highlights that were going on in my life.  You see, He knew I was going to need her cheerful distraction…. at that precise moment in time … to lift my spirits…. user-friendly …. couldn’t have asked for anything better … she was just the right one-size-fits-all expression, a unique and timely Gift, Perfectly given.  Yes, her little funny face, her silly kitty antics, and her sweet nature, wrapped in this random act of caring, have stolen my heart.  Just a coincidence?  Not at all.

These days, she has become a permanent fixture in my life, a totally spoiled rotten fuzzy ball of Velcroed-to-my-slippers fluff, sometimes annoying, but mostly lovable.  I look for her every day, she also looks for me.  She’s quite independent — coming and going at her leisure, staying in at night, or not, eating on demand, romping through the house, then sleeps where she pleases.  She makes me laugh; she too often wakes me before it’s time; she asks for very little, yet she gives much in return.  She loves unconditionally.  She affectionately fills the hole that only He knew would come to exist.  We call her umm, him, Stinky  🙂 .

 

 

gratitude

Another cat’s tale

*Here’s another cat’s tale from Debra Dickey. This post reminds me of all the fur babies I’ve had over the years and how much joy they’ve brought to my life. Thanks, Debra, for the great reminder!*

Growing up, my parents didn’t allow us to have inside pets.  We had plenty of animals, but because we lived on a farm, they all roomed and boarded outside.  Except for an occasional newborn calf or litter of pigs that had to be brought in to warm by the oven or in front of the fireplace, when the temperatures had dropped well below freezing or there was several inches of snow on the ground, our ‘pets’, whatever they were, stayed outdoors!

Gray catHowever, when I had children of my own, and lived in town, I still wanted to give my kids the opportunity to know the mutual love and affection of having a pet, so eventually we ended up with our first inside cat.  This cat was soft gray in color, with the most beautiful emerald green eyes I have ever seen, and a distinctive personality to boot.  She came to us as a kitten, soft, cuddly, and adorable, and quickly became queen of the household!  She was well-cared for, and well-loved, and came, went, and slept as she pleased.  Because she originated from an outdoor cat parent, she still chose to be outside, sometimes more often than she was inside, and would wake me in the middle of the night to be let out.  But she was always at the back door first thing in the morning to be let in to eat, and she soon found the warmest spot in the house to snuggle in for her day-long cat naps!  We never knew where she might be curled up!

After a time, and she was now a grown up, we adopted puppy-Maddie.  Even though the puppy was 4 times her size, the cat still considered herself the ‘mother’, and would watch out for the puppy as any responsible parent would!  As was intended, the puppy lived outdoors, but nevertheless, the cat and the dog remained lifelong friends, and I would often see the cat outside near Maddie’s pen, napping, or just keeping an eye on her “pup”.

Although she was most certainly her own entity, she graciously brought me presents, came when I called, didn’t mind kids and their attempts at petting her, lived with us, let us take care of her, and in her unselfish way, kindly gave us the impression that we were actually in charge.

This cat was unique in many qualities, however, the most comical practice she had was to follow Maddie and me on our walks.  No matter how far or which direction we went, if she was outside, she followed us all the way and back.  I was certain that she was still exercising her ‘parental’ expectations toward the dog, until one day when my car was in the shop, I set out to walk to work, and lo and behold, I looked back (because I heard rr-row-ing), and the cat was following ME!  I realized then that it was not only the dog she was watching out for, but me too.  She continued to be attentive to her chosen ones and allowed us to be part of her life for almost two decades.

We lost her three Januarys ago. After being with us for over 15 years, we’ve truly felt her loss. A beautiful cat with a beautiful soul, she valued her independence, always took care of herself, asked no special help or considerations, and her humans respected her choices.  She loved us unconditionally, as we loved her in return.  I still miss her — her characteristic purr, her unusual habits, her particular meow, and her kitty antics, but mostly, I miss her presence.  Her passing has left a big hole where a soft gray being with a sweet spirit and beautiful green eyes should be.

 

gratitude

Star-spangled moments

*Today’s post is by my friend Debra Dickey, a frequent contributor to this blog. I’m thankful for Debra’s courage to share her own journey in writing because each time she does, I learn and grow.*

 

1)  A weighty concern regarding the possibility of an expensive vehicle repair — gratefully, did not need to happen.

2)  Frozen, burst water pipes — managed by the appropriate people with no liability to us.  Another Alleluia moment!

3)  A friend’s frozen water issues — easily thawed with an inexpensive heater at minimal inconvenience.  Yay!

4)  My brother, rushed to the hospital with potentially life-threatening symptoms.  Five frightening days of waiting, watching, and wondering.  Again, through the Grace and Power of the Almighty, he was safely carried through the danger, and recovery is imminent.  Praise God!

5)  A dog . . . . a skunk  —  a 10-second imagination-run-wild episode that turned out to be quite comical!

6)  Add to that a treacherous 25-mile drive home on ice-slick roads that can only be described as ‘harrowing’, yet, in its finality, by the Grace of God and one hour later, concluding safely.

7)  And to top off this mere three-week time span, exhausting illness x 2, plus a major health concern of another sort, and a family situation en crises, presently in the hands of God:  starbursts of amethyst and gold — moments in waiting!

FireworksStar-spangled moments.  Decipherable moments of Exquisite Presence.  Moments of gratefulness.  Joyous moments.  Praise-filled moments.  Laughable moments.  Challenging moments.  Gut-wrenching, heart-numbing, fear-gripped  moments.  Humble moments.  Moments of fireworks and awe.  He is in them all.  He answers my prayers, thankfully sometimes even before I know to pray them.

I experience all these kinds of moments and more, almost on a daily basis.  So not only am I grateful for the blessings of things that do happen, I am most often even more grateful for the blessings of things that don’t happen.  Those particularly worrisome events that somehow seem to juuusst barely sideswipe my wee crotchety life as they eek past on their little slippery skates of uncertainty.  Yes, I hear God in the still.  I see God in the small.  And I feel God in each moment.  There is no possible way that I could deflect nor withstand even a fraction of everything that comes at me without Help – I’m not the victor in those wrestling matches – but God is, so it doesn’t matter if I am or not!

My word for 2013 was ‘miracles’, and there have been so many!  What I have come to know is that often before you get to the miracles, that there are a colossal amount of challenges, stumbling blocks, and hurdles — virtual tidal waves of worry, heartache, fear and concern — which require an enormous amount of personal strength, effort, fortitude, and prayer to be able to walk through all the scary situations, the soul-searching days and nights, and the miry swamps of the unknown, before you get to those star-spangled moments, those miracles!!  Those precursors are fiercely and incredibly draining, at times leaving me broken, battered, bruised, and bleeding in the dust.

But because I know that God is the Author of the miracles that I seek, then I also recognize that I must possess strength, courage, and endurance to travel the road that is before me, and to navigate the sometimes perilous journey that will lead to those miracles.  So I shall ever seek His Promises of strength and protection, always by my side in Perfect Love, so that I can get back up and keep going.

His Word assures me:  “He will shelter you with his wings….He will order His angels to protect you…they will hold you up with their hands…  The Lord says I will protect those who trust in My Name.”  Psalm 91:4-12

*I continually pray for God to build a hedge of protection around me and my loved ones, a sphere of God’s glory that carries a vibration of Heaven that will hide us and keep us safe when principalities and powers may threaten our spiritual realm.  Let us commit our lives to God and strive to stay in the center of His Will, so that the enemy will not have access to what has been given to us according to that promise.  Thank You for Your Divine Protection in Jesus’ Name.   Amen.   [missionariesofprayer.org]

I eternally acknowledge the Divine Intervention that is evidenced within the subsistence of my life throughout each moment of my being.  Moments of forever.  Moments of now.  Moments of Grace and Strength and Love.  Small moments, enormous moments, amazing moments, unexpected and surprising moments.  Moments without end.  So many star-spangled moments!