November 20, 2011

Living Loved

"I am pleased with you, my child.  Allow yourself to become fully aware of My pleasure shining upon you.  Shift your focus from your performance to My radiant Presence.  The Light of My Love shines on you continually, regardless of your feelings or behavior.  Your responsibility is to be receptive to this unconditional Love.  Thankfulness and trust are your primary receptors." Excerpt from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

As I learn to live in gratitude I am learning to live loved. 

To live fully embraced in the arms of God. 

And I am realizing that the days I neglect thankfulness are the ones I most easily forget or even resist God's favor toward me. 

Today, my prayer is that my heart would be inclined to thanksgiving in all things, a mind set on His favor, and a body resisting the urge to perform.

November 9, 2011

The Heavens

Look up. 

Look into the sky on a clear night, out of the glare of streetlights, and you will see a few thousand individual stars with your naked eyes. With even a modest amateur telescope, millions more will come into view. 

So how many stars are there in the Universe?

It is easy to ask this question, but difficult for scientists to give a fair answer! 

Stars are not scattered randomly through space, they are gathered together into vast groups known as galaxies. The Sun belongs to a galaxy called the Milky Way. Astronomers estimate there are about 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way alone. Outside that, there are millions upon millions of other galaxies also!  From ESA Space Science website.

God made EVERY one.

DAY NINE

The GREATNESS of God displayed in the sky!  The SKY, SUN, MOON, & STARS.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
   and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
   and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
   whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
   and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
  which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
   and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
   and its circuit to the end of them,
   and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Psalm 19:1-6

Today, I wanted to help Avery in thankfulness for the sun. 
We made "sun prints."
Neat to see what the sun can do.


Tonight, I walked out into our backyard and was stopped in my tracks by the light of the moon.  It was stunning and I had to stop.

I felt like I could touch it.  I thought about running to grab my camera and stopped.  I merely needed to savor it.  And worship the Lord.

Gazing at the glowing orb I thought of Psalm 19.  "Night after night it displays knowledge."  And I was struck to the core.  I was catching a glimpse into the mind of God.  Looking up is like reading a great novel.  God writing of His love, creativity, and kindness toward His people.

It was beautiful.  A moment of gratitude.  And God spoke His knowledge to me.

"Rachel, I know you.  And I will take care of you."

God's grace.

November 8, 2011

Mountains, Plants, & Trees

DAY EIGHT 

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
   From where does my help come?
  My help comes from the LORD,
   who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

I walk out my front door, turning my head to the left, and behold something full of majesty.  There is something about these mountains that takes my breathe away.

If a glance to "the hills" reminds us of where our "help comes from" I ought to look to the west more often.  These beautiful hills that speak of the power and perfection of God.

I searched to answer the question:  How many mountains are there in the world?  Here is what I found over and over again:  Tens of thousands of them, there are also ones under the sea that we can't count, and also there are ones that haven't been found out yet. So no one knows how many mountains there are in the world.

Again, I searched some more:  How many trees are there in the world?  The actual number of trees on the planet is, of course, incalculable. Here are some related facts that might assist:  Today there are approximately 100,000 known species of trees that exist throughout the world, according to World Resources Institute. 

What about plants?  It's impossible to know how many total plants there are in the world, but we do know that there are over 375,000 different species of plants and scientists discover new plants each year.

 I can think of someone who knows.
And He knows me too.
Awesome.


November 7, 2011

Who Is My Neighbor?

DAY SEVEN... We are thankful for our neighbors.
 
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 
1 Corinthians 10:24

Who is my neighbor?

Anyone who is not me.

Avery and I baked Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread to bring to a few of our neighbors today.  Six loaves as a tangible way to tell someone we are thankful for them.

I felt challenged to be thankful for some of our neighbors.  Neighbors who, in my opinion, were undeserving of my love.  How arrogant of me to place myself in a position of authority to decide who is deserving of love and who is not.

Our family walked to six houses.  As we walked, Jesus was gracious to speak loving words of His favor given to me... an undeserving woman.  And so I choose gratitude for all of my neighbors. 

Those who are easy to love.
Those who are hard to love.

And what a blessing to step outside myself to love another.  Watching my big girl knock on door after door and say, "we are thankful for you today!" 

I am humbled and grateful.





November 6, 2011

Filling The Hungry

DAY SIX

BITE.  BREAD.  CHOW.  CUISINE.  DRINK.  EATS.  ENTREE.  FARE.  FEED.  GOODIES.  GRUB.  MEAL.  FEAST.  NOURISHMENT.  PROVISION.  RATION.  SLOP.  SNACK.  TAKE OUT.   EDIBLES.  NOSH.


Whatever you want to call it.

THANK YOU God for the FOOD you has provided us to eat and enjoy!

With every bite we took today, we thanked God.  

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
   for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
   and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Psalm 107:8-9

Food is a gift.  A good gift.  A gift I never want to take for granted.

Food may fill our stomachs to bring satisfaction, but Christ fills our souls bringing a deeper contentment.  May I hunger for Him more than the food I eat.

I'm still very thankful for that food.  Don't get me wrong.

























I worshipped God as I ate today...  Here's my lunch.
Green chili turkey burgers topped with feta and spinach.
Cucumber and tomato salad with green onions, feta, olive oil, and salt & pepper.
YUM.

November 5, 2011

Winter Hats

144.  Winter hats pulled low over brown eyes

145.  Homemade cashew butter
146.  A loyal and faithful husband
147.  Friendships that endure the years
148.  Memories that make me smile
149.  Bedtime dance parties
150.  Dancing with my husband
151.  Playing a game with my husband
152.  Breakfast in a greasy diner with a good friend

Marvelously Made

Often times a difficult thing for me to give thanks for... my body.

More commonly I am in a place of dissatisfaction with it.

It's not healthy.
It doesn't work like it used to.
It is too squishy in places... ha!
It is too short.
It is too slow.
It is in pain.
It is not pretty.

And then I remember.  I was not made for this world, but a place entirely different and infinitely better.  And in the remembering I can enter gratitude because God did make me.  He did fashion me with purpose and intention.  He made something He looks at and says, "beautiful."

I walked through this DAY FIVE... thankful for that which I often take for granted.

And I had Avery and Madi lay down on big pieces of paper where we outlined their bodies and colored them in, thanking God as we went for every part.  A sweet time.

Thank you God for my BODY.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
      you formed me in my mother's womb.
   I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
      Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

      I worship in adoration—what a creation!
   You know me inside and out,
      you know every bone in my body;
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
   The days of my life all prepared
      before I'd even lived one day. 
Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)

November 4, 2011

Friends

DAY FOUR... 
I couldn't stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. 
Ephesians 1:16 (MSG)

I woke up this morning thankful for my friends.

"The most beautiful discovery that true friends can make is that they can grow separately without growing apart."
~ Elizabeth Foley ~
It felt most appropriate to write "thankful for you" notes to let these women know how much they have blessed my life.  Beyond words.
Friends from college who know the junk of my life and love me still
Friends from staff who spur me to live intentionally
Friends from church who show me how to love Jesus right where I am
Friends whom I have mentored who humble me by their lives of faith

I started writing and the names just kept coming.  The pile of cards kept growing.  Woman after woman who have greatly impacted my life.

Thank you for letting God use you to change me.

I love you.

November 3, 2011

In All Circumstances

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

How do I give thanks in all circumstances?  Really... all.

When a friend has to bury a child.
When those we love can't find jobs.
When marriages struggle to endure thru conflict.
When your heart is wounded by hurtful words.
When your body stops working like it once did.
When life bears down on you hard.

I posed this question last night after a tough day.  I was struck with the reality of the nearness of Christ in all things, at all times.  And wasn't HE the perfect picture of giving thanks when life is soaked in pain?  When your time on earth is full of uncertainty?  I look at his life and gain perspective that breathes hope into this question.

It seems to me that pain is a tool to squeeze out the marrow of our hearts, revealing what is actually there.  What I see in the heart of Christ, that was literally squeezed out, is a posture yielded to what is unseen.  For what we see is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal.  And as his marrow was laid bare there is a front row seat to see a life of gratitude & love for His Father.

If grumbling indicates a lack of gratitude we can assume the life of Christ was rich with thanksgiving.

What a gift to know this Jesus.
 A gift that lives and breathes in me.

So I ask Him to give me perspective in pain, discomfort, disappointment, and uncertainty, filling my heart with thanks.  Asking that my thanks would reside in the eternal, not in what is seen.  I long for what I see would merely be a glimpse, a picture pointing me toward my Heavenly Father, who created all that I do see.

I read something today from Ann Voskamp's blog... thought it was just what I needed to hear, here are some snippets...
Peace is always our Home — because Peace is a Person, not a place, and He always says come dwell in me.
Faith is this unwavering trust in the heart of God in the hurt of here. Unwavering trust all the time though I don’t understand all the time.

God is always good and we are always loved.

Loved enough to be shaped into goodness of Christ Himself.

God’s purposes are not for me to understand His plans: His plan is for me to understand Who He is.

BUT...
What if He doesn’t — what if He doesn’t do what we plea, what we pray, what we believe He can and will do and should do?
 
“And even if He doesn’t” –

Even if He doesn’t do what we beg, we are still His beloved.

Even if He doesn’t, He still is.

Even if He doesn’t do what we will, His will is still right and His heart is still good and the people of God will not waver.

Real prayer has eyes on Christ, not the crisis.

Even if He doesn’t – He does give enough — Himself.

Even if He doesn’t – He does still love us.

“If He doesn’t — I will still believe. Still believe — in Him.” 

That which we fear might happen to us — might be the thing to produce deep faith in us. Why be afraid of anything — when He’s using everything?

God is answering all our prayers: No one enters into the real joy of the Lord in spite of the hard times —- but squarely through the door of the hard times.

121.  The sweet smell of my daughter's cheek
122.  The sound of Avery drinking to satisfy her thirst
123.  Warm fuzzy robes on cool autumn mornings
124.  Slippers
125.  Four year old soccer teams
126.  Wooden turkeys
127.  A season of intentional THANKSGIVING
128.  Little girls bundled like a snow bunny
129.  Aunts, uncles, & cousins I love
130.  Reconciling conversations with my daughter
131.  A strong voice coming out of my daughter's mouth
132.  Watching Avery love and encourage others
133.  Phone calls to my grandmothers
134.  Discovering deeper love for my daughter through painful experience
135.  Restored relationships
136.  Car heaters that work
137.  Branches heavy with snow
138.  White snow on a blue sky backdrop
139.  Everything draped in white
140.  Air so cold it freezes your nose
141.  Answers to prayer
142.  Striped socks
143.  Warm sun making snow drip

Grandparents

DAY THREE is upon us.

We are thankful this morning for our GRANDPARENTS.  Those whose legacy has crossed generations.  You have played a significant role in the lives of not only your children, but your grandchildren.

My girls know that they are loved by you.
My girls know that they are beautiful to you.
My girls know that you are FOR them.
My girls know that their grandparents are people who love Jesus.
My girls know that their grandparents are people who bring love and joy to life.

And thinking on my grandparents, I remember...
How Papaw laughed, told the best stories about golfing and the WWII, loved his family deeply, and gave the strongest hugs.
How Mamaw cooks food that makes me hungry just to think of it, knows more about antiques than anyone, and a precious heart that beckons me to love her more.
How Grandpa played solitaire for hours, had a duck taped car, gave us Twinkies, and his soft eyes that spoke of a life of overcoming adversity.
How Grandma gives big kisses, has the softest skin, bowls better than I do, trusted Jesus when we was in her 70s, and is such a strong woman.

We are thankful.
I am thankful.


Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
Psalm 79:13

November 2, 2011

Aunts & Uncles

Today is DAY TWO of our Thanksgiving Advent.

What a blessing it has been to have something to lift my eyes from myself.  So this morning we are thankful for our Aunts, Uncles, & Cousins.

I sat with Avery and talked about all the things we love about those people in our lives.  We are blessed by our family... the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whether we are away from them.
Whether we have been with them for too long.
Whether we are laughing with them.
Whether we are at odds with them.

Let today be a day to remember that in every moment we have the opportunity to love them.  To bless them.  To serve them.  To encourage them.

Uncle Rob.  Kayelynn.  Michael.  Auntie Tiffany & Uncle Rob.  Jeremiah.  Reese.  Payton.  Uncle Nate & Auntie Mary.  Dominique.  Blake.  Uncle Aaron & Auntie Andrea.  Malachi.  Rachel.  Isaiah.  Little baby Taylor.  Uncle Sam & Aunt Bethany.  Uncle Glenn & Aunt Rayelynn.  Brent.  Tyler & Dawn.  Aunt Merlene.  Mandy.  Uncle Craig & Aunt Rose.  Wendy.  Chris.  Uncle Dave & Auntie Mary.  Uncle Rich.  Dawn.  Chrissy.  Aunt Sheila.  Aunt Teri.  Jed.  Natalie.

We are thankful for you today.  
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  
Romans 12:10

November 1, 2011

Family

We started our Thanksgiving Advent this morning.  24 days of gratitude.

And I am so excited for a season to be intentional about meditating on thankfulness.

Today is DAY ONE... and I am thankful for MY FAMILY.

For the fun we have together.
For the way we love each other.
For the smiles.
For the tears.
For the laughter.
For the adventures we go on.
For the life we live alongside each other.
For the inside jokes.
For the blessing of togetherness in all circumstances.

I have never loved people as much as I have loved these three.  They are more precious to me than words can accurately express.

May your father and mother rejoice;
   may she who gave you birth be joyful! 
Proverbs 23:25

FAMILY. 
Thank you Jesus for the gift they are to me.