A time to dance

A time to dance

The calendar on my desk reads January 1 and it glares hard. There’s a new sign on a fresh coat of paint, “In everything give thanks” and the smoke is rising from the old brown trash barrel.

The words like the smoke irritated my eyes, caused me to lose my breath at times.  And as I read page after page I found a pattern in a time past, not so many years ago—a time when days led to weeks and sometimes even months.  The pen had inked negative in the pretty journals.  But we all know a pen has no ability to write alone.  That’s what happens when the heart dwells in hardness too long rather than being sheltered in grateful. And there was no better place for the journals than the fire.

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_DSC0113.JPGA few months after my Daddy crossed over into his heavenly home this lady said to me, ‘You’re a strong girl.  You’ll get over this.’

And at the time I wanted to scream at her–tell her strong had nothing to do with it and no I won’t get over it. But the words wouldn’t come and I just broke. Again. And knowing and loving this lady for years–honestly, she meant for her words to be of a comfort.  But me looking at the dark–I took them as just that–a dark hurt rather than being grateful for her love and concern.

The words we often speak to each other hurt and sometimes the negativity of sadness we choose for ourselves has an even greater power.  For if we focus our thoughts and words to reflect only on the weeds and thorns, we will miss the true beauty of the blessings of the most beautiful of flower gardens.

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_DSC0137.JPGIn five short days it will be another new year.  Time sure is spinning fast.

And life seems to be getting harder.  Sadness. Troubles. Sickness. Negativity on every corner. And make no mistake about it–giving thanks in everything is hard. But what blessings are we missing while dwelling on the negative?  What are we taking for granted when we should be thanking God…Every. Single. Day.

_DSC0135.JPGTalking with a dear friend a few days before Christmas and we stood together in the mire of deep tears as she asked me to pray for a loved one who was struggling with a sadness. She explained to me what had caused the hurt and then proceeded to tell me what she had shared with her loved one–about the letting go of her sadness while trusting in God’s plan….

‘In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, she said. ‘God’s word speaks of seasons in our lives and the words are there, right there side by side–a time to mournand a time to dance.’

And she explained to her loved one there are times of great sadness but there is always Jesus with His hands outstretched–reaching, waiting. And then she ask her–‘Are you willing to take His hands and dance?’

And I stood there with chills. Grateful for His hands. Grateful for the dance.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; Ecclesiastes 3:4

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;  To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever. Psalm 30: 11-12

 

 

 

And there is this thanksgiving

And there is this thanksgiving

The flashing sign says Please Give Thanks. The song on the radio plays loud, Only Jesus and the leaves dance their farewell spin–freefalling slowly with the wind.

And he stood so humbly in the pulpit on the eve of gratitude and said, ‘We can all use a little thanksgiving in every day.’

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He wraps the nails with the smallest of wires as tight as crippled hands will allow into the form of the cross of his Savior. Five hours for one cross and he wants everyone in the church to have his gift to give.

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His name is Tobias and his name means Yahweh is good–God is good and he was born with a broken heart. There’s this orphanage in China where parents take their children when they can no longer afford their child’s medical care. There they say their final good-byes and leave their babies and toddlers with blue lips, blue fingernails and the brokest of hearts.

That was Toby’s home. And there he was loved, cared for, and prayed over.  Toby was adopted earlier this year by a family in the United States who knew the expenses of his medical treatments, his much needed by-pass surgery and they also knew there could be a greater cost of broken.  Over the past few days brave Toby has been fighting for his life after his heart surgery.  His heart is sealed but his lungs are still in need of healing.  His forever family–they don’t share any bloodlines between them only heartlines and they wait by his side in the ICU where they have been for days and prayers are being lifted all over the world for this strong warrior.

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Zacchaeus, he climbed a tree just to see Jesus and a blind man shouted His name even though the crowd tried to quieten him–stay where you are, they said.  And a woman who after she was freed of her demons took up her cross and followed Him all the way to the grave and empty tomb.

And we are all in need of Him and there’s still this reaching for one touch of His garment.

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We sit close–she and I and her blue eyes has this glint of a heaven star and she says, ‘Granna, the Grinch hates Christmas.’  And she said, ‘you know why–because his heart is too little.  But it grows Granna and he loves Christmas now.’

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And there is this thanksgiving…

For leaves that dance.

For a pastor who speaks truth.

For a man with crippled hands forming the smallest of crosses sharing his gifts.

For Mamas who hug tightly to children who never grew as a seed in her womb but through the miracle of another.

For children with blue lips and blue fingernails and their forever families and their caretakers and medical teams.

For those who could not be hushed and whose lives poured out buckets of trust, obedience, grace.

And to a grand baby girl who knows when we allow our hearts to grow, then and only then can we fully love with the greatest of thanksgivings.

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Colossians 4:4

 

 

 

 

Journaling: giving Thanks, giving Praise–it’s all Worship

Journaling: giving Thanks, giving Praise–it’s all Worship

I was humbled to speak and be among the most beautiful, most inspirational women last weekend at the Faith, Hope, Butterflies: Seeing God’s Beauty in Change Christian Women’s Conference in North Wilkesboro.  I am still in awe of the stories and the beautiful worship music shared and the blessings God rained down on us.

I spoke about journaling, giving thanks, and worship. Glory to God alone.

It had been less than 48 hours to the moment that I had shouted at the nurses and doctors to stop–it was too late.  Too late.  My loud didn’t come from a heart of anger but from the deepest of darks.  You see my Daddy was lying on a cold steel table there in the hospital and the electric shocks the doctors and nurses were pounding into his heart were not going to bring him back to us.  Jesus was there and my Daddy was with Him.

And God tells us….In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

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There was so much I wanted to say about my Daddy at his memorial service.  But I was struggling to find the words–my thoughts.  And I went into his bedroom on that Sabbath morning, the day of his service and picked up one of his journals and began to read it.  My family didn’t even know my Daddy had been writing down his thoughts–we only found the journals the day after his passing.  His journals weren’t the fancy ones–they were the 5-for-a-dollar notebooks.  That was my Daddy.

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Daddy’s penned words didn’t talk about himself or his life–they glorified God–through thanks, through scripture, through song lyrics, through quotes.  And on that Sunday out of his yellow notebook I shared Daddy’s testimony from his own words.  His writings expressed Jesus’ love, a love that is calling to us to our last day and the question, are we ready.

In his journal he wrote, “Some call it heaven.  I call it home.” And the words I shouted, ‘it’s too late’ on that snowy morning in the hospital–it was never up to the doctors and nurses to save him.  Only Jesus can offer salvation and Daddy accepted this grace gift and prepared for his eternal home years before March 7, 2014.

In everything give thanks.

Research shows anyone who practices gratitude on a daily basis benefits greatly both physically and mentally.  It’s so much more.  It’s worship.  It’s prayer.  It’s talking to my Heavenly Father.  It’s what I believe we are supposed to do.  It’s recognizing all of His good gifts.  In all things.  In sorrow and in joy.

As I was preparing for today I spent a little time reading some of my past journals entries….

November 16, 2011, “Dear God what a wonderful, wonderful night–thank you for answered prayers.  Thank you for saving JB.  Please God help us to guide and help him.  And then I wrote the text message JB had sent me on the opposite page so I wouldn’t forget.

January 20, 2018, I set a timer you know.  In my urgency I was only going to work 3 hours–done in 3 hours–cleaning and organizing the craft supply room at the church.  And then I received a text message fom a dear friend, ‘you have been on my mind–are you okay?’ And right then the altar was calling me more than the disarray of glue, paint, beads, twine, yarn, stickers.  And on that day God was preparing me for 2018.

The past few years I have chosen a word and this year my word is brave.

And on January 31st my baby brother was rushed to the ER and the medical staff gave us little hope.

March 22, 2018. Dear God, My journal stopped on January 29th, two days before Tom was close to death.  And I couldn’t write–only pray.  My brother is a miracle because of you.  Thank you God for your healing grace.

August 23, 2018. Today I am waking up to a new season in my life–a new chapter–so to speak.    I have breast cancer.  Breast cancer–not sure it has soaked into my heart–fully saturated it but my mind has absorbed all the medical language–the procedure steps.  Today I am a number–one of the many women diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer.  A partial lumpectomy with six weeks of radiation.  God, keep me brave.  Keep me strong.  And thank you for your many blessings.

My journals are often times filled with lists–names–people needing the uplifting of prayer–one liners of gratefulness-blank pages.

  • Sunrises so blinding I have to look away.
  • Hugs so tight from grand baby girl they almost take my breath away
  • Pink clouds
  • The dark night sky filled with stars.  Filled with visions of heaven
  • Birds at the feeder
  • Baby Wyatt’s first birthday party–his curls are just like his Daddy’s at that age–my baby boy
  • Sweet tea with crushed ice
  • My grand baby boy Kase singing loud, Love Lifted Me

And my prayer lists–

  • Jacob Brown and his family
  • My aunt Geraldine and family
  • My church
  • My family
  • Children in need
  • Homeless

And the list goes on…….

Do I write in my prayer journal and gratitude journal every day–no.  I fail God daily.  But I am trying to do better.  Because what I have found most for me in keeping a prayer journal, a gratitude journal is this–returning to the pages whether I am writing or rereading, they both bring me closer to God.

Keeping a journal has helped me to be more grateful for the privilege of prayer, both answered and unanswered–to pray–to read and remember scriptures–to be thankful for both my blessings and my storms.

And on some days I return to the pages and many are filled with tear stains–marked by the noise of the world and sadly even myself–trying to drown me in words such as loser-failure–unworthy.  And as I reread my past I am once again reminded of how much God has changed me through some of the hardest struggles.  How my faith and trust in Him has grown.  How His presence, His grace, and His mercy are steadfast.  I remember His goodness and remember He is my hope.  And I am reminded these words should be a constant in my thoughts–my warrior cry–I am His daughter and I am forgiven.

I ask each of you to take a moment and think of three things you are thankful for and three people who are in need of prayer.  I am certain you didn’t have to think very long.  We all have much to be thankful for and many are in need of prayer.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, study God’s word, serve others, and to give thanks.  When we focus on our blessings rather than our burdens and our complaints, I believe we will experience more contentment and our faith will become stronger.  And when our hearts are on the needs of others, we will forget self.

O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: His mercy endureth forever. Psalm 136:1

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

2 Timothy 2:15, Study to shew thyself approved unto God. 

Isaiah 34:15 Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read

And the story of the Good Samaritan–to serve others–And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.  Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10:37

You may want to give journaling a try.  Whether it’s illustrating or simply keeping a list of names in a prayer book, keeping a prayer journal, a scripture journal along with your thoughts–a list of ways you can serve others or sermon notes on Sunday mornings.  You don’t have to have a fancy journal to begin.  Only a pen and paper will do, along with a willing heart.

Thank you for your presence today.  I thank you for your kindness and your prayers.  I am not worthy nor do I deserve to stand before you.  But I hope something I have shared with you today will encourage you.  And most importantly I pray I have used my voice to praise His Holy Name.

In closing I want to share this.

The hard is getting harder.  The cruel in this world is becoming more and more hurtful.  And evil is, as we have never experienced.  We are living in a world that has forgotten God–a world that has forgotten to where our blessings flow.  A world that has forgotten how to love.

As I stand here and look at all of us–together in this room I want to leave you with this thought and read from Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 5 and 6.  

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  

We need God to shine strong in our lives.  Together. Our world needs God and they need to see God in us.  Our world needs to hear our prayers and see us praise Him more.  And our world needs to see us more like Jesus–love more and judge less.

Let’s share His story and share ours.  We need each other.  We need the giving of thanks–the giving of love–the giving of encouragement–the lifting of prayer for one another.

We are so much better together than we are apart.

May God bless each of you.

 

 

 

cancer is cancer and love is of God: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

cancer is cancer and love is of God: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

I have this scar—it’s about five inches long.  The place where my skin was broken and the cancer was taken out of me.

She wore a pink shirt and when she got ready to leave the cancer clinic she forgot which side of the building she had parked her car.

And another lady–she walked in.  Her face glowed and her head, it was covered in a yellow and blue scarf with the tiniest of flowers weaved into the colors.

Cancer does these things.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

He came into the house and turned around quickly, back out to his truck.  I forgot something my son-in-law said.  And when he came back into the house he handed me this pink ribbon pin.  ‘I got this for you’.  And I couldn’t get my voice to speak as it wrestled with my overwhelmed smile.

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A Mama this week–her message read, my family is praying for you.  Her message went on to say–‘even though the treatments are different, please know I am here to talk anytime you need to talk.’  And I broke.  You see, this Mama, she’s in her own battle with cancer.  Her young son, in the midst of chemotherapy.  And he is a warrior, a fighter, and he makes no bones about it nor does his Mama or Daddy or his family–they all love Jesus and their faith and hope is steadfast in Him.

And I think about her, thinking of others in the midst of her own storm and I am drowning in this undeserved grace.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

The mail comes and more than once comes this love.  A beautiful shirt handmade by a friend I don’t see very often but I know she’s always there–anytime–day or night if I need her.  And I will do the same for her.

And so many other heart gifts, words, cards, reminders of ‘I’m praying for you’, ‘We are thinking of you’

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We take our seats before worship songs begin and one of our Deacons is carrying this large Ziploc bag–filled with pink ribbons with pink pins.  And he hands me the pin and tells me one of the ladies in our church fixed the ribbons and he was giving them out to everyone.  And I can’t imagine the time she spent making these gifts. I look up and see pink ribbons adorning lapels and dresses and shirts and jackets and coats.  And in my heart there’s this pouring out of what seems to be like the breaking of the alabaster jar where heaven breaks and blessings pour down.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

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This week my aunt was rushed to the hospital on Monday fears she had had a stroke.  It was later determined she had a large mass on her brain.  God answered our prayers as the surgery on Thursday was successful, the mass was removed and my aunt is doing very well.  Our family is waiting on the test results and we covet your continued prayers.

It’s true.  Cancer doesn’t treat us all the same.  Our treatments and diagnosis may be different.  But there is this promise in the lifting of prayers in faith-believing. And the love we give to each other matters.  Love matters.

And cancer is cancer and love is of God.

And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cornithians 12:9

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

Another week has ended and July is getting ready to come to a close.  God’s word tells us in the book of James, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morror. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  (James 4:14, KJV)

How true is this.

How many times have we said or heard people say…

Time slow down.

I can’t believe my baby is this old.

Where did time go?

And tell me again how old I am?  I was just in high school yesterday.

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Jesi

There is no slowing down of the clock.  Or the sunrises or the sunsets.  To us, it is humanly impossible.  But there is a time we can hit the pause in our lives.  Breathe a deep breath.  Talk to our friend, spouse, children, parents–a little longer.  Delay bedtime for 10 more minutes as you read one more book to your child cuddled in your lap who soon will be reading to you.. Take an extra minute and drive by your destination to hear the end of your favorite song.

Make the time.

This week I have thought a lot about time.  I can’t get any more of it.  You can’t either. God gave us all the same.  Twenty-four hours in a day. That’s it. But He did give us a choice on how we spend those hours—those moments.

And the slow in our lives, it can come in other forms–like memories.  Through a camera lens. An old photograph. A journal.  Memories which cut deep within the heart.

I turn to my gratitude journal strumming the pages of the past as well as this week’s gifts and I remember and I am grateful.  Thankful for the gifts God has allowed me to have on His earth.

Hearing the words I love you from my children.

Ferns on the creek bank–ferns on my front porch.

The beauty of a cattle farm and the prodigal.

Sweet neck hugs from baby girl Drew.

Hearing these words whispered in heartfelt prayer for a dear Sister in Christ–she’s dying soon. Hold her tight–Hold her strong Lord.

My cousin Niki.  Such a beautiful heart.  Her tears flow freely because of blessings.

A friend who responds, ‘first of all you are in my prayers’–before she gives me her thoughts, advice.  She taught me a lesson right there.  Pray always–first.  

A phone call–one phone call that links hearts in prayer–my church’s prayer line. 

Memories that appear out of nowhere and you laugh.  Outloud. 

So make yourself a promise today, this week.  You will take some time to pause.  Whether it’s in a memory or the now.  Whether it is something tangible or a matter of the heart.  Whether you keep a journal or keep the gifts stored in your heart.

Make the time.

Give thanks.

For these are gifts from the Lord.

 

A week of thanks; the Saturday Gratitude Journal

A week of thanks; the Saturday Gratitude Journal

I haven’t picked up that particular journal in a while.  The journal where I started writing my gifts–my blessings.  Not that I haven’t been thankful or received many undeserved blessings.

Why is it we sometimes fail to give thanks–thanks to Him where all our blessings flow? And perhaps we do.  For the big things. But what about for the everyday. Maybe it’s the busyness of this drowning in life that we often bring on ourselves.  The rush. The everything else is more important.  Or I’ll do this later.  And later comes and we are exhausted.

Or maybe–just maybe our focus is on the struggles, the trials, the “wants”, the “have-tos”.

Can we say we truly have a grateful heart?   In all things?

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It came as a dare to Ann Voskamp, Christian writer and author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully. A challenge, so to speak to pen one thousand things in her life she was thankful for. And she began in simple, in the everyday, gifts we sometimes overlook .

Researchers studied in excess of one thousand people from the young to the old who kept gratitude journals and found this, “Gratitude journals and other gratitude practices often seem so simple and basic; in our studies, we often have people keep gratitude journals for just three weeks. And yet the results have been overwhelming. We’ve studied more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits: 

Physical
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Psychological
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive, and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness

Social
• More helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated.

Resource: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good/

 

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But giving thanks is so much more.  It’s worship.  It’s prayer.  It’s talking to our Heavenly Father.  It’s what we are supposed to do.

It’s recognizing all of His good gifts.  In all things.  Sorrow and in joy.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 136:1

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 5:20. 

And on this rainy Saturday morning I look back over the pages of my gratitude journal. The gifts I had written not so long ago.  The ink is dry but I still remember and I am once again reminded of how He gives.

Listening to the birds singing in the early morning through open windows–no man has ever produced music such as this

My Daddy’s white handkerchiefs

White roses

Beauty in the healing miracles–Baby Everleigh

Blessed assurance

Sunrises so blinding you have to look away

Receiving gifts from the core of someone’s heart.  And me, feeling so unworthy. 

You don’t have to have a fancy journal to begin. Only a pen and paper will do, along with a thankful heart.  The Saturday Gratitude Journal

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Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 

James 1:17 (KJV)