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

the nurse was right: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

the nurse was right: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

Her name was Amanda and her daughter is studying to be an Exceptional Children’s teacher.  And my nurse, Amanda and I agreed on many of the same things–she, like me, doesn’t drink soft drinks–sweet tea is her drink of choice, especially Chick-fil-A tea, just like me.

But what we agreed on most was this, I am a blessed woman.   Yep, that’s what she said. She asked in surprise as she read my health chart, ‘No surgeries, ever?!  You are a blessed woman!’

I replied loud, ‘I know!’

And then she said, ‘You have a good doctor, a good surgeon.  He is a good Christian man, a man of faith and he will pray with you before your surgery.  And he did.  A most humble and thankful prayer.  One I will not forget.

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Photo courtesy of Jill Miller Woodie 

 

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I struggled to tell others at first.  It was difficult to even say the words, “I have cancer. Cancer.”  And on that Tuesday as my doctor explained my diagnosis and treatment plan I listened, carefully soaking in his every word so I could relay it back to my family.  My mind accepted the news.  It was my heart that took a little longer.

But as I shared the news with others in the following days I began to understand more of God’s grace and the power of prayer. And as much as it is hard, these storms, there is beauty in the suffering.  So many women and other cancer survivors have reached out to me in the last few weeks.  Many I didn’t know their story.  Until now.  Stories of individual’s battles and healing of different types of cancers–Stories only God can write.

“I am praying for you, 4 years ago I also had breast cancer, stage 1.  I can truly say I know what you are going through.  And God was with me every step of the way and I know He will be with you.  If I can be of any help in any way please let me know.  Praying.” 

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And on this Saturday afternoon I sit here and write–one day after my surgery and I am doing well, extremely well and I think of each of you who continues to lift my name in prayer.  Each of you who believes we serve an amazing God who carries us through the valleys.

My heart is overwhelmed, my heart is full.  Because of my family. Because of each of you.  Because of God’s faithfulness.  Because of His promise to never leave our side–His mercy.  His love.

This week as with any week I have much to be thankful for…..

For answered prayers,  as my daughter said, To God be the Glory! 

For nurses named Kim, Amanda, Sabrina and so many others I can’t recall their names

For Dr. Stephen Rosser, God has given you a gift and you have touched my life with your faith and tender care

For Iredell Memorial Hospital 

For friends who lovingly pray–I could feel every one of your prayers. For your messages, offerings of help–please know I love you all

For the gift of grape jelly, a cure-all for anything. Sarah–your grandmother was so right

For my church, who when one hurts, we all hurt. Blessed to be a part of the family of Hilltop Baptist Church. 

And for a young boy named Jacob Brown and his family.  For sharing your story, your fight against cancer.  Your faith and trust in God through your storm inspires and encourages so many.  Praying strong for all of you. 

Tomorrow’s my Daddy’s birthday.  He would have been 79 and tomorrow he celebrates his 5th birthday in heaven.  I can’t explain how much my heart hurts on some days–missing him.  And I know the rest of my family feels the same.  He was truly a gift because you see he wasn’t born out of my Grandmother’s womb, he grew out of her heart and I am thankful God chose him for our family.

Daddy

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  Psalm 23:1 (KJV)

 

 

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal—School.Starts.Monday

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal—School.Starts.Monday

School starts Monday.  That’s worth repeating.  School. Starts. Monday.

There’s a lot that can be said about the beginning of a new school year.  Churches providing meals for staff meetings and the offering of prayers for the upcoming school year.  School supplies collected. Excitement. Tears. First last days for high school seniors.  First last days for the teacher who is retiring soon.  And I think one of the hardest, the first days of many first days.  First day of kindergarten.  First day of middle school. First day of high school.  First day of being the new kid in school.  And first day of a new teacher, principal.

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And parents it’s hard. I know.  And I remember how difficult the part of ‘preparing’ my children for the beginning of a new school was, but what I often overlooked was this—others were readying themselves for my children too.

Our teachers—preparing their rooms with new bulletin boards with encouraging notes and colorful photos.  Lesson plans upon lesson plans to ensure every single student in the classroom have the opportunity to learn in a safe, clean, and fun environment, attending countless summer workshops increasing their knowledge and then sharing in the coming year. Club advisors. Committees and more committees. These are our teachers.

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Our principals and administrators—hiring and mentoring new teachers, many preparing to take on new leadership at different schools, attendance at summer workshops and professional development, and the list goes on.

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Our athletic coaches—and like many school staff there are no summers off for our school’s athletic coaches.  Summer sports camps for our youth. Summer camps and workouts for prospective players and current athletes.  And the never-ending maintenance and upkeep of the sports fields.

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Our bus drivers, bus garage staff, school maintenance staff and cafeteria staff—Meetings and training, repairs, installations of new equipment, every single bus inspected, cleaned, and shined.

Our custodial staff—and this week I have watched as the custodial staff along with many staff members at one of our local high schools have cleaned and walls and doors and stair railings now have a fresh coat of paint.  Every light fixture has been disassembled and rid of any visible dead bugs.  The buildings and sidewalks—pressure washed.  And landscaping, bushes trimmed, grass mowed, weeds pulled.

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And some may say, well, this is their job—but for the majority, it is their passion.

This week I am thankful for…….

Teachers

Principals and administrators

Athletic coaches

School counselors, school social workers, school nurses and all student services staff

Custodians

Cafeteria staff

Bus Drivers

Teacher Assistants

Media specialists

School administrative staff

School receptionists

School data managers

School finance managers

And so many others who work with our children

School starts Monday. Alarms will sound earlier, buses will be on the roads, there will be Mamas and Daddies shedding tears as their little ones walk away, some so excited they forget to tell their parents good-bye, Friday night football and other sporting events, homework, and the car lines will go on forever.

And in the noise and busyness of all the new school year brings, never forget to remember—our schools are filled with individuals who truly care about our children. Every. Single.Day.

                 Pray without ceasing

                 1 Thessalonians 5:17  

 

 

 

 

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

She walked into the waiting room, her body reeked of tired and her uniform of morning food stains.  She sat down beside the gentleman who was waiting—waiting for his wife to come through the door and tell her husband the latest medical updates, her new prescriptions.

‘Where do you work at?’ he ask as she sat with her arms clinched tightly around her purse in her lap–not that she was afraid he might take it from her.  It’s just what we women do sometimes.  We all know women hold these secret treasures in their purses–things we need or can’t do without you know.

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“I work at McDonald’s,” she said.  “Thirty-four years I have worked there. And I work at the supermarket a few hours a week.  I’m trying to get caught back up from when I was out for my surgery.’

And the conversation went on about puppies and children and things pleasant.

Thirty-four years she has served others.  With Happy Meals, french fries, Big Macs, large sweet teas, bagging groceries.  And I wonder just how many times someone has offered her a word of kindness, a gentle thank you.

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And this week I am thankful for….

Hearing this lady’s story and her service.  And for everyone who serves day in and day out. All too often, we take you for granted and for that, I am truly sorry.  

Pink clouds 

Seeing parents with their children shopping for school supplies

The beauty of a walk in the woods

Forgiveness

New beginnings

Remembering my Daddy’s voice on the phone when he said bye.  I could always hear his smile.  

The power to change with God’s help

Our military and their families 

Farmers

Purple flowers

Memories intertwined with songs

Unanswered prayers

Yes, another week has past and the month of August is ticking away.  And God has blessed, more than we deserve. And in the coming days I am going to diligently try to say thank you more–to God–first and foremost; and to those who daily serve others and myself.

I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. Psalm 9:1 (KJV) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week of Thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal at Topsail Island

Week of Thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal at Topsail Island

“Granna, there’s not going to be any seashells left in the ocean,” he said in his soft concerned voice.

The shoreline has been filled with an abundance of shells this week and this grand baby boy of mine, all of five years old–he is a noticer and a quiet thinker.   I explain to him there are still millions of seashells left in the ocean.  And he believes in something he can not see. And we sit in silence as the wind blows against his fresh freckles which stretch across his nose watching the ocean and the shells come to shore.

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Another year.  Another blessed week of enjoying time together.  My kids and their famlies and my grandbabies.

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On Thursday at approximately 10 in the evening, 103 baby sea turtles hatched and made their way to their new ocean home.  These babies were three days overdue on their birth date. I visited their nest for several nights once I heard they had reached their 60 day birth cycle and it was expected they would hatch any day.

And I was terribly disappointed I missed their journey to the sea but what I am extremely grateful for is what I witnessed the days prior to their birth. The care and compassion of some kind-hearted souls who every night, they would wait. In fellowship. In laughter. In conversation. For the same cause. Working together.  The Topsail Sea Turtle Patrol.  They would get to the nest around dusk and wait until nightfall, clear the runway and patiently answer questions for us onlookers who were curious enough to stop on our evening strolls on the beach.

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And this week I have so much to be thankful for.  So many moments.  So much grace.

Laughter of my three grandchildren

A porch that overlooks the ocean

Waking up to the sounds of waves greeting the shore

Seashells

Early morning sunrises

Baby Sea Turtles

Hearing my almost one-year old grandbaby boy Wyatt yell, Da-dy and watching my son come running.  Both wearing the same smiles. 

Safe travels

The cashier at the gas station as the sun illuminated her smile. “Thank you to the Good Lord for the sunshine,” she said with a loud shout.  “Please Lord, bless us with it all day.” 

Time spent with family

Quiet moments with God 

It seems as though the week of vacation–time speeds up.  And I lost a day this week somehow thinking it was Wednesday all day and it was actually Thursday.  Bummer to say the least when I found out we only had one full day left.

But shouldn’t it be that way though? Not been disappointed, so to speak because of the lack of time.  But grateful for the time we have remaining when spending moments with family, even if the time is for a week, a day, or a few short minutes. Time should never be a thought, only a thankfulness, when surrounded by those you love.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms.  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is His, and He made it: and His hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 95:2-5

 

 

 

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.