Happy Thanksgiving 2018

What are you facing this week? Traveling or family coming in? Stay-cation with lots of local activities? Business/work as usual? Cooking, eating at another’s table, dining out?

Little about this week has been our family’s version of usual. Q14 got an unexpected day off school, closed due to unhealthy air quality from the Camp Fire in Butte County, CA, hours from here but close enough to make our air quality the worst in the world. A good call on the district’s part, but an anticlimactic way to begin ten days of vacation. Often we travel or have family travel to us, but this year we’re staying put. Guy’s brother will join us, the only one who doesn’t eat at our table at least once a week. And I’m still working, albeit remotely. The gross air outside keeps us all indoors, so we’re not even enjoying local day-trips. Cleaning out closets may be productive, but less fun.

Still, we’re looking forward to a day of cooking (we all like to cook) and lots and lots of veggie goodness. Plus lots of family time and thanks-giving. To that end, I turned to Ted for ideas…

10 Questions to Ask Around the Dinner Table

What are you grateful for?
What are you proudest of?
What has been the happiest moment of your life so far?
What has been the hardest moment of your life, and how did you get through it?
What important life lessons have you learned so far?
How would you describe yourself as a child? Were you happy?
Who has been kindest to you?
How do you want to be remembered?
If you could share any wisdom with your great-great-grandchildren years from now, what would you want them to know?
If you could honor one person in your life, living or dead, by listening to their story, who would that be? What would you ask them, and why?

And here’s a super-short Ted talk on the importance of giving and receiving thanks.

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Overflow

The Friday before the Monday C19 left for college out-of-state, neighbors we hadn’t met posted on social media that they were giving away a full-size bed, a few years old with limited wear-and-tear, with an almost-new mattress. Free.

That morning, C19 had awoken in the twin-over-full bunk beds he’d had since childhood. We asked if he’d like a new bed, even though he wouldn’t sleep it in often. He replied with an emphatic, “YES!”

We didn’t need more to do that weekend, but nevertheless we made arrangements to see the bed, and the owner, congenial and overly generous, helped us load the pieces into our minivan. He easily could have sold the bed/mattress, but he just wanted it gone. Two trips and less than a half-hour later, our kid had a new bed he loved.

Q13 liked it, too. Since his bed was the metal frame we’d found, free, when the crib-daybed-full bed frame that had served both our children finally cracked, he decided he’d be moving in to the new bed as soon as his brother left home.

Guy recognized that Little Brother, easy-going and uncomplaining as he was, had grown tired of hand-me-downs. He needed a new bed of his own. He also needed a show of provision from his parents. So he checked online and found another almost-new bed/mattress combo for sale at a ridiculously low price. He bought it, and wouldn’t you know?, it matched the existing decor of Q13’s room as if we’d planned it all along.

We donated all the matching bedding from the twin-over-full bunks to charity. We listed the bunk beds for sale, and the low purchase price was still enough to pay for the purchased bed plus new bedding for the free bed.

And somehow, we still had a good quality full-sized mattress left over. We gave it to a young friend in her first apartment + (low-paying) professional job.

We thought we didn’t have time for more in an already overly-full weekend. But generosity flows downhill. Someone generously giving something away led to more, and more, and more. In the end, our kids had new-to-them beds they love, we came out about even on the cash flow, and we still had things to give away.

God is good!

By the way, I was going to title this post “Pay It Forward,” but I’ve already used that title on another post about someone’s generosity. C19 still enjoys that gift when he’s home and driving about town!

Abundant Life
Week 2: Grace-Fueled Gratitude
Luke 7:36-50

Connect
Share about a generous gift you have received.

Study
Read aloud Luke 7:36-50.
Describe Simon. Describe the woman. How does each interact with Jesus?
How does Simon view the woman? How does Jesus view her?
How would you retell this story in a contemporary context? Who would play the Pharisee and the woman?
Based on this story, why do you think the religious establishment and “sinners” had such different reactions to Jesus?

Live
Write a Yelp! review for the banker who forgave your $36,000 debt (equivalent to 500 denarii today). How would your review reflect your gratitude?
How are you like the Pharisee? Like the woman?
What moves you about the woman’s response to Jesus? Does anything about her response unsettle you, and if so, why?
How can we demonstrate our gratitude to Jesus?
What prayers has God answered for you?
How do we prevent a pharisaical, judgmental mindset? In other words, how can we keep God’s grace in constant view?
What would it take for the Church to be as welcoming to sinners as Jesus was?
Discuss: “Appreciating beauty and giving thanks for life’s treasures is not living in denial of life’s suffering and challenges. It’s what helps us cope with life’s suffering and challenges” (Rene Schlaepfer).
Create a Generosity Project—something you can do, ideally with others, to demonstrate and share your gratitude to God with others.
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Ask God to help you stay grateful and reflect His generous spirit to others.

Thankful Thursday – 25 January 2018

What a week! One kid had a day off school while the other, too far away, landed in the ER with a mystery illness. Rain on and off, dogs didn’t get enough exercise, and I had sleepless nights and a migraine for days.

Still, as Kelly Corrigan reminds us, life is like that. And, as Seth Godin writes:

Beginning is underrated

Merely beginning.
With inadequate preparation, because you will never be fully prepared.
With imperfect odds of success, because the odds are never perfect.
Begin. With the humility of someone who’s not sure, and the excitement of someone who knows that it’s possible.

So, we begin. And we keep on. One foot in front of the other.

Things for which I’m thankful:

  1. C19’s health seems to be improving…?
  2. Q13 diving into a book I loved (Moon Over Manifest, BTW).
  3. Library books. I’ve been to the library three out of three days. Some wins, some losses, so many yet to be discovered.
  4. Consistency in important arenas, like Bible reading & my gratitude journal.
  5. A break in the rain and headache pain to walk the energetic pooches.
  6. The geniuses who thought through leash-splitters, Soda Stream to sparkle tap water, and at-home shiatsu back massagers.
  7. Verdant green grass and patches of blue sky.
  8. A night to cozy up at home, the weekend coming, and family who will be visiting.

And you? What are you thankful for this week?

Thankful Thursday – Let’s Go, 2018!

10 Thanksgivings for the First Week of 2018

  1. New Year, fresh start
  2. My sweet Guy, and celebrating his birthday
  3. Healthy, growing kids
  4. Our cute and cozy home and a clean kitchen
  5. The (mis)adventures of training a puppy alongside our menagerie
  6. Coffee with friends
  7. Meaningful work
  8. Cooking delicious plant-based meals
  9. Bedtime ritual: hot tea and a good book
  10. So much fun, growth, laughter, and connection to anticipate in 2018

And you? What are you thankful for as the New Year kicks off?

Photo by Danielle Macinnes on Unsplash

Thankful Thursday – Spring Break 2016

Me: You know what day it is?
Tween: No, what?
Me: Thankful Thursday.
Tween: Oh, awesome!

Awesome indeed. Actually, everyday of this spring break staycation has been awesome. Tween and I have played and read, repeat repeat repeat. We are almost done with Shel Silverstein’s Everything On It, and about halfway through Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. We watched the first two Divergent movies on DVD, then saw the third installment, Allegiant, in the theater. We have exercised – me running, him biking or scootering. We have played with dogs. We have played with friends at the dog park, at the school, at the pool, out to movies and dinner. He has practiced his trumpet, taking time to simply love the music as well as practicing to bugle at his brother’s Eagle Court ceremony in just a few weeks. We have slept well, remarkable considering the Tween hasn’t slept consistently well in his entire lifetime.

Most importantly, we have said Thank You! This week Guy is leading 270+ students and adults from our church in building hope and homes in Mexico. On Sunday he preached from Psalm 103, the theme text for the week. Psalm 103:2 says, “Let all that I am praise the Lordmay I never forget the good things he does for me.” Guy encouraged the congregation to read Psalm 103 throughout the week and make a list of the good things God does.

So we have!Ps103 1Ps103 2

Each morning at breakfast, we’ve read a few verses from Psalm 103 and made a list of things we’re grateful for – the dogs, the people, the activities. It takes only a few minutes and centers us on what truly matters.Shel Silverstein

This is one of the Shel Silverstein poems we read yesterday, and it reminded us of something God could say. God has created so much beauty for us, it’s the least we can do to recognize it, acknowledge it, and say Thanks!

What are you thankful for this week?

Gratitude Check

Some days are more difficult than others, living in this messy, broken world.

Just before heading to bed last night, Guy turned on the evening news and heard that the little girl, missing for days in his hometown, had been found dead. The suspect? A 15-year-old neighbor. Tragedy times two, two broken childhoods.

Quietly, I slipped into Tween’s room as he slept. I laid down next to him, caressed his face, kissed him gently, prayed and cried. The girl’s mama couldn’t cuddle her baby, couldn’t feel the soft whisper of breath on her cheek. The boy’s mama? I can’t even imagine. And they’re not alone; how many mamas are brokenhearted today? Tween rolled over, content in dreamland, as I uttered, Thank you, God, thank you!, and left him to rest.

We awoke this morning to learn that the sirens we heard last night were in response to a fire at our friends’ house. As I always do when I hear sirens I prayed: Thank you, God, for sending help. And thankfully everyone is okay, but their young kids are understandably scared. This makes two local families who have had fires in the last two weeks. Stuff lost, hassles in progress. It could be worse, but it’s bad enough.

Another mama whispered her feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness. And the shame that comes with knowing just how blessed you are and still feeling wildly out of sorts. Head and heart disconnect and she’s not alone. We hear the shattered voices in our head, know our own aches and pains, and compare that with others’ beautiful exteriors. Our cell phones keep silent, not because we’ve silenced them, and we think no one is thinking of us. We lose in comparison, even as we know we shouldn’t compare because we will always lose that insidious game.

Some days the brokenness becomes too obvious, too overwhelming. How do we respond?

Writer Kristi Atkinson encourages: “Everything that happens in the world is an opportunity for us to move in love towards God and others.” She wrote a helpful article on praying the news. As we pray, we seek to connect with God’s heart for a hurting world. Then God directs us how to move forward in love, whether that means more prayers or tangible assistance.

And we give thanks because…

thankful

@Ann Voskamp

Even if the something isn’t directly related to the heart ache, and maybe some days it cannot be directly related to the heart ache, we can unearth some reason to be grateful: the air we breathe, a new green shoot of life bearing witness, even the beating of the heart which can be broken.

So, for today, here’s my partial list: a new book I’m reading with Tween; a hot summer day and a house that stays (mostly) cool; the noise of boys playing; sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon; easy, healthy food; daily posts of pictures from the week-long camp Teen is attending; time to draw a silly picture I will mail to Teen; the ability to help as help is needed; our small town that generously responds to others’ needs; health; so much love.