gratitude

No room for failure

Each morning, I spend time reading, praying, and meditating. This morning I started reading the book of Joshua in the Bible. I came across a line in verse five that resonated with me.

“I will not fail you or forsake you.”

I underlined that portion of the verse and meditated on it briefly before gathering cookies for Maggie’s classmates, my cup of coffee, car keys, and cell phone. I whisked Maggie out the door and cranked up the heat. It’s that time of year when I feel false hope about autumn coming until about 10 a.m. By noon, I’m sweating and shedding my sweater.

63910_552312649722_1189983164_nAfter dropping Maggie off at school, I returned home to a peaceful, quiet house. We live in the woods, and the sunlight strives to shine through the grove of trees on the eastern hill. The verse I selected came back to me as I stood staring at the sun.

“I will not fail you or forsake you.”

God isn’t failing or forsaking the leaves on those trees and has provided them with exactly the right amount of moisture since spring. God doesn’t fail the trees either; the only trees that fall are those ready to die, decaying at the core. I looked at the light reflecting off the dew on our grass and spider webs in the forest. He maintains the smallest bits of creation we overlook.

Of course he is not forsaking me either.

He provides me with just the right clients at the right time. Last week, one of my favorite clients notified me that this year, funding wasn’t available to hire me. My heart sank. A few hours later, a potential client called me and said he was ready to start working together. Maybe that timing was coincidental; I prefer to view it as providential. God always knows what I need when I need it, even if it’s just to confirm that He’s going before me and planning in love.

God is not failing or forsaking me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI worried off and on for a year about how my daughter would adjust to starting kindergarten. Each time these fears came to mind, I attempted to let go and trust God. Sometimes I felt relief. Other times I wasn’t sure God would come through for me, even though His track record is stellar. But of course He came through. She was placed in a classroom with the most caring, committed, and well-trained teacher I know. She’s thriving. I’ve seen huge leaps in her ability to write and communicate in just three weeks’ time. And almost every day when I pick her up from school, she yells with glee, “This was the best day EVER!”

God is not forsaking or failing my child. 

There is no space for fear when I focus on the ways God has come through for me in the past.

There is no room for fear when I focus on how God is providing for me today either.

 

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

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

Day 10: Dear Caroline

*Day 10’s post comes from my college friend Kelly Williams Barnett, who has become a great mom of a beautiful little girl.*

Dear Caroline,

CarolineThank you for making most days crazy socks day.

Thank you for helping me avoid stepping on hot lava.

Thank you for placing the bookmark in my book before closing it and climbing into my lap.

Thank you for reintroducing me to the awesome art of Lisa Frank.

Thank you for giving the best hugs.

Thank you for enjoying going to the movies as much as I do.

Thank you for sharing your Halloween candy.

Thank you for choosing to drink water instead of cokes 99 percent of the time.

Thank you for loving hot pink boots, rainbow zebra print, peace signs and glitter lip gloss.

Thank you for thinking I’m always right.

Thank you for getting me back in church.

Thank you for loving school.

Thank you for your kind, caring heart.

Most of all, I thank you for bringing so much joy into my life. caroline 1

You are my favorite!

 

gratitude

Day 8: The Beaver Kids Give Thanks

*Today’s post is a three-in-one: three first-time guest writers, who happen to be children and siblings, share their gratitude in these inspiring, unedited posts. These kids are amazing, and so are their parents, Jessica Cline-Beaver and Luke Beaver, who I had the privilege of knowing in college. It’s worth your time to check out Jessica’s blog, too.*

The Beaver family
The Beaver family

Dear Family,

I am thankful for you.

I am  thankful for my brothers and sisters. If i am scared i always have some one to sleep with. When I am lonely I have someone to play with. The babies make me laugh.

You always take me on trips. When we go you make sure I have the stuff I need. My favorite place to go is Ohio. When I went to get my American Girl doll.

You love me with all your heart. You show me love by celebrating my birthday. I also feel love when you say, “I love you.” I feel love when you tell me it.

You always cheer me on when I ride my bike, dance ballet or have horse lessons.

Thank you family for what you have done.

Love,

Ashlee

 

 

 

BeaverDear Baseball,

I am thankful for you because you are my favorite sport. Here is why.

You are fun. I enjoy throwing a ball. I like to hit the ball hard. I run fast around the bases.

You are my favorite way to spend time with my Dad. He teaches me how to play. My Dad and I like to go to ballgames.

You help me make new friends by showing good sportsmanship and spending  Time together with my friends.

Thank you baseball for all you give me.

Your Friend,

Lucas

Dear School,

Beaver ElizabethI am thankful for you school for many  reasons.

I am thankful for the subject of reading . Wen you are able to read you can learn.And it is fun! Especially wen you can read books by your self!

I am thankful for the subject of spelling. Because it teaches me how to spell. I am thankful for grammar because it teaches me how to write. I enjoy read aloud because it is relaxing and quiet.

I am thankful for you, school, because I am able to learn. Some kids in other countries are too poor to go to school But I am able to learn freely.

I am thankful for my teacher. She is fun. She also happens to be my Mom!

Thank you school for all you have taught me.

Your Friend,

Elizabeth

 

gratitude

Talking her off the ledge

With my friend Amy, sophomore year of college
With my friend Amy, sophomore year of college

I remember the first semester of my freshman year of college. After a whirlwind week full of orientation activities, including dances, parties, receptions, matriculation, and workshops, I settled into my tiny dorm room with my roommate who had a real love for brewing beer and listening to opera music. I wanted to make friends, do well in my classes, work part-time to pay for necessities, and spend time with my boyfriend. But finding the time to do it all was difficult. Ultimately, I spent most of my first semester holed up in my dorm room or a study room on campus, cramming and memorizing and reading and writing. Having graduated from a less than stellar itsy bitsy high school, I knew I had a learning curve if I planned on maintaining a good GPA at the difficult, private, liberal arts college I’d selected to attend.

I couldn’t find the mean between extremes my first semester. I made all A’s, but I didn’t meet many new people. I didn’t have much time to relax. I don’t even recall going to many events on campus or watching a movie.

Second semester was a different story. The pendulum swung back toward the middle. I hung out with people on the weekends. I danced my heart out. I made friends with new people, sat around doing nothing in the quad but eating apples and watching grass grow, and skipped class a few times. I still kept my grades up, but I stopped obsessing about having a perfect GPA. I just lived my life as a college student and enjoyed it.

This morning I talked to my favorite college freshman. I heard my 18 year-old self in her desperate voice, trying to balance work, campus life, friends, family, and course work. I remembered the overwhelming feeling of having too much to do and never enough time to do it. I remembered the constant stress of feeling that my life could not possibly get busier.

This morning while my 9 month-old baby napped, I shared a little of what I have learned about balance, eating the elephant one bite at a time, making a budget and living below my means, learning to ask for help when it’s needed, prioritizing long-term educational success over short-term employment, lowering expectations, and making new friends.

But I tried to bite my tongue, too.

My experience has taught me that advice is ample. Ultimately, though, the lessons I have learned were learned by doing, not listening or talking. “Show, don’t tell” is not just a great writing tip I procured from Dr. Tebbetts in Advanced Composition. It’s a way of life.

Talking to someone who really listens is good. Praying with someone who loves you and lets you fall helplessly into the arms of a loving God is priceless.

Sometimes talking someone off the ledge doesn’t require many words.

Just outstretched hands.

gratitude · photography · Uncategorized

Beyond Lucky

Special thanks to Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, my former professor and fabulous author, for agreeing to write for the Daily Dose of Gratitude blog.

Beyond Lucky

My maternal grandmother’s name was Emma.  She could shine a sunbeam through my gloomiest thought, sprinkle a soft rain onto my smoldering temper, and splash a dash of magic into my most ordinary day.  She was short on formal education, but long on experience when it came to nurturing young children.  Though I dearly loved my grandmother, I didn’t consider myself fortunate to be placed in her care from the time I was three until I started first grade.  I felt I was missing out on getting an education because everyone else in my family left me behind when they went to school each morning.  It took me years to realize that my grandmother was providing me with the education of a lifetime.

 
Emma Wheelis Norris, 1910-1989, Teresa Burns Murphy's grandmother

While my grandmother read to me, sang to me, and engaged me in conversation, her greatest strengths as an early childhood educator were encouraging me to participate in imaginative play and captivating me with her storytelling.  One of my favorite flights of fancy was pretending to be my grandmother’s dog, an activity she fostered by talking to me in such a friendly voice I was convinced I was her little pet dog.  She’d put my “dog” bowl on the floor, so I could lap water from it.  Then I’d lie down on my special “dog” rug so she could sprinkle some of her good-smelling powder on me “to get rid of the fleas.”  Once I was flea-free, I’d lie still while she ironed the white shirts my father wore to his job as a teacher, the blouses my mother wore to her college classes, and the puffy-sleeved dresses my sister wore to elementary school.  As she ironed, my grandmother regaled me with stories about what her life was like when she went to school in the early twentieth century.

“When I was a little girl,” my grandmother would say, “my hair was so long I could sit on it.  Mama used to take hold of my hair and yank that brush through it so rough I’d cry.”

This was how the story of my grandmother’s school day always began.  Even now I can see my grandmother as a girl – little Emma with tears streaming down her cheeks, sitting in front of a fireplace in a straight-backed wooden chair as her mother pulled her long, sand-colored hair into two thick braids.  When her hair was braided, Emma picked up her lunch bucket and walked out into the cool morning air.  The sun was not yet shining on the flat delta farmlands; only the moon and stars lit the path Emma took through the thickets and briar patches.  Emma’s feet would come down on something that felt like a copperhead snake.  Just as the slithering devil was about to strike her ankle, she’d look down and see a branch fallen from one of the trees that bordered her path.  She breathed a little easier once she got off that path and onto the gravel road that took her to school, but she was still in the dark woods.  As Emma walked along that road, the moon and stars faded into a foggy dawn.  In the mist she saw a panther ahead.  He was sitting by the side of the road, poised and ready to pounce.  She crept closer to him, never once taking her eyes off him, showing him she was not afraid.  When she got close enough to that old panther to look him in the eye, she saw a hollowed-out stump.  She had to stop a minute while her thudding heart slowed down.

In the story my grandmother always made it to school safe and sound, but her telling of the trek there was nonetheless riveting.  Sadly, I also knew how the story of her schooling ended – she didn’t have the opportunity to finish school.

“Get an education,” she always told me.  “Nobody can take it away from you.”

Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, summer after first grade

I followed my grandmother’s advice and eventually earned a doctorate in education.  Through the process of my formal education, I learned that my grandmother’s methods for educating me were “research-based.”  In fact, many experts in the field have long advocated fostering learning through imaginative play and storytelling – activities America’s public schools have all but abandoned in favor of more highly prescriptive modes of  instruction and an obsession with standardized testing.  Though the political winds of change seem to be shifting in the direction of allowing teachers more autonomy in shaping their students’ learning experiences, the price American children have paid in recent years has been a high one.  All good teachers know there are teachable moments that if missed can never be retrieved.  While I was under her tutelage, my grandmother seized those moments daily.  Having received such a vibrant early education has left me feeling beyond lucky.

Teresa Burns Murphy is the author of a novel, THE SECRET TO FLYING (TigerEye Publications, 2011).  Her short fiction has been published in Gargoyle Magazine, Pulse Literary Journal, Southern Women’s Review, THEMA, and Westview.  She won the 1996 WORDS (Arkansas Literary Society) Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2006 Kate Braverman Short Story Prize and the 2009 Janice Farrell Poetry Prize.  Her short story, “Halloween Gift,” was recently published in an anthology of Washington, D.C.-area women’s writing, AMAZING GRACES (Paycock Press, 2012).  To read an excerpt from THE SECRET TO FLYING, visit her website at www.teresaburnsmurphy.com.

Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, author. Photo by Margaret Murphy.