These Things I Know

August has a way of reminding me that summer can’t last forever. The heavy scent of harvest is in the air, with its sweet promise of abundance. Most years a north wind blows through in the third week and abruptly ends the warmth of summer but this year the sun is standing its ground. Amid the heat, we’re catching glimpses of shorter days with a post-6am sunrise and a few leaves turning here and there, and we’re making the most of these final schedule-free days.

Amid summer’s dying embers, fall looms in the distance. Routines, requirements, responsibilities — all await a fresh energy and positive attitude built up over the months of rest. We’re preparing for the new school year and the rhythm of life that September brings, with all its challenges and opportunities. I’m steeling myself and praying that the Lord would remind me of a few things as we launch into this fall.

Work is a blessing

Whether I deem the work to be meaningful or not, I am formed in the process of carrying it out. The excitement of work I love reveals God’s goodness to me. When I have the opportunity to do the things I enjoy and do well, I live out His design in my life and reveal His glory. The drudgery of tasks I don’t enjoy reminds me that not everything is about me. The toilet, the laundry pile, the dishes in the sink – each one is an opportunity to live out a love that costs me something by laying down my pride, leading by example and serving others well. Either way, the blessing remains.

Rest is essential

When I push myself past the point of no return, it’s not only I who suffer but those around me who bear the weight of my foolishness. My irritability and inability to manage well becomes a sharp sword in my hands, hurting the ones I love the most. Repairing the damage is a painful and lengthy process. When I rest well, I submit to the limits of my body and mind and enjoy the good gift that God has designed as nourishment for myself and my relationships. It becomes an essential part of what it looks like to live well.

Consistent times of worship and prayer are non-negotiable

It’s one of the easiest things to neglect – but also one of the costliest. How quickly I forget who God is! The only One who made me and knows me inside and out, who can bear the weight of the heavy things I’m carrying, who is sovereign over all and yet walks with me step by step, whose mercies are new every morning – He is the One who holds it all together. When I am rooted in Christ’s love through worship from the Word and time in prayer, I am grounded and ready for the temporary challenges that stand in front of me. My perspective shifts from the struggle of the here-and-now to the promise of the what-will-be and I live with my eyes wide open to God’s work in my life. It must be a daily practice.

Community is a gift

As much as I like to fly solo, I am learning that it is unwise to consistently attempt to go it alone. Accepting help is not my forte, but in His great wisdom the Lord has graciously placed people in my life to gently walk along with me in every area. The insecurities left over from previous rejections and hurts are slowly transforming into confidence and strength. Learning how to be a contributing member of the circles we inhabit is crucial for our growth, offering us much more than we can obtain in isolation. We need this.

Lord, let these truths settle into my heart as we prepare for September. Help me stand my ground against the distractions and temptations to go my own way, and keep me on Your path.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;

 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

The glory of an August sunset on the Prairie (image credit: my dad)

Slowing Down to Savour

A temporary relief from the stifling heat of summer is so welcome! Dark clouds hang overhead, yet to give us the treasure within. We’re waiting for the rain to fall after a week of bright blue skies, blazing sunshine and hot, sleepless nights.

Summer is sailing along now, heavy with the scent of life in full bloom. All the things we’ve planted are showing their resilience in the face of hail and heat. Some stand tall regardless of what comes, others are crushed beneath the weight of the elements or become food for critters and birds bent on survival.

Saskatoons are slowly ripening, but the sparrow stole my only strawberry of the year. Though the plants are young and the soil likely needs more nutrients, I have hope that in future years we’ll have more berries. Maybe I’ll expand the patch in a few more years if the plants are doing well.

Amid all the flowers and fruit, our kids are engaged in the very serious business of backyard play. With four between the ages of 5 and 11, there is no shortage of ideas on how to spend the day. Morning ’til night, with short breaks for food and responsibilities, they play. And play. And read. And play. I believe in the gift of a rather boring summer, with loads of space in the schedule to literally do nothing, if that’s what they want to do. Of course, the responsibilities are always an expectation, but otherwise, we aim for a rather carefree summer pace.

I glance outside. The much-needed moisture begins with sprinkles at first and then turns to a steady, gentle rain. The thirsty ground is soaking up the blessing of a long, cool drink. Trees bend in the wind and robins impatiently pull the surfacing worms out of the ground.

The kids wander around for a while before becoming thoroughly soaked and chilly. In the back door they tumble, asking for a late snack, although lunch is nearly ready. It’s our daily reset button, a gathering around an abundant table, filling their hungry bellies and setting them on track for the afternoon ahead.

I don’t want to forget what it was like in this season of life. I am learning to slow down and savour the small, ordinary moments of each day. These scenes are mainly for me, snapshots of what life is like in these good old days, moments captured on paper and in photos, and mostly, in my mama’s heart.

All four kids, home together, more of a gift than I can fully appreciate, I’m sure. That old cliche rings true: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom….
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Psalm 90:12, 14 (NIV)

The pansies are doing alright this year. Grateful.

Marking Milestones

And now, summer.

A change in rhythm, a welcome break from the beautiful things that fill our calendar through fall, winter and spring with more space to breathe deep the sweetness of the season, more time to explore new places, more freedom to linger a little longer.

In the coming weeks, we’ll reach another milestone in raising our family: our youngest will join his three older sisters as a school-aged kid with a whole new world to discover. For more than a decade I’ve carried and cared for our babies, toddlers and preschoolers and it has been worth all the blood, sweat and tears so far. Perusing older posts with the stories of life with four kids under the age of six, I’m in awe of how the Lord has provided what I have needed in the moments I needed it most! I found these words I wrote four years ago when the pressure of raising small children was at its peak:

The other day, the older kids were fighting and spilled blueberry applesauce all over the carpet. After cleaning it up, they trotted outside as friends again (nothing like a shared chore to encourage sibling bonding), where one promptly did a trick on the swings and ended up with a possible fracture. I heard the shrieking from inside the house where at the very same time the baby was having a meltdown while I was cleaning up a potty accident from our three year old who was ill. 

While we’re in the thick of a challenging season, we don’t even know that the whole time He is carrying us! It’s only when we find ourselves in between the waves and we have a minute to breathe that we realize we’re still afloat.

In a world that values filters and highlight reels, I’m thankful for authentic reminders of God’s goodness to me in times past. As we mark this family milestone with a celebration of our youngest, I’m praying that I won’t forget these lessons I’ve learned in these early years. We have a long way to go before they’re grown, and I may have no idea what challenges lie ahead, but I know the Lord and I’m confident that He will hold me fast throughout the journey.

Image: Bob Richards/Stocksnap

Brave Enough

“What we perceive to be holding us back may actually be the catalyst for the deeper, lasting change we desperately need.

Can we make room for it? Are we brave enough to let ourselves be interrupted by what is better?”
March 28, 2019

My own words written three years ago, a lesson I am still learning to put into practice. 

I set aside a couple of weekend mornings each month to write. This particular morning, my coffee was made, the engine of my mind was in first gear, my fingers were itching to tap out my thoughts on a blank sheet, and the old school cartoons were on for the kids.

I sat down beside our youngest for a minute to give him a little side-squeeze and a kiss and he looked up at me with his bright blue eyes and said, “Can you watch with me, Mom?”

So often, I’ve blown right past such an invitation. In fact, my default position on such things is, “I’m just going to do this one thing, okay?” which stretches into several things and before I know it, the moment is gone.

Let’s be honest. Sometimes you just have to say no for all kinds of good reasons. Every day made up of thousands of little choices that reflect the current reality I’m living, and every time a request comes I have to weigh it before making a decision. This morning, I weighed the decision before me and I knew that it would be a mistake to turn this little guy down. We cuddled up together, and before long, like a magnet, the other three kids found their way onto the couch too. Each one, with their own unique and beautiful design, settled down beside us, close enough for hugs and back scratches.

It won’t always be like this, I know. One day these little birdies will fly and I’ll cheer them on from the nest but for today, I’m taking the opportunity to soak up all the snuggles. What makes it possible to continue on, day after day, with all the different needs and wants of each one?

The beautiful grace of Jesus in one tiny three-letter word.

GET.

I don’t have to do these things; I get to do these things, even the hard things. I get to hear about their day, help them navigate their world, give them the tools to carry into adulthood, pray for them, love them, delight in them, cheer them on.

This one simple mindset change can make all the difference between a child who grows up feeling like a burden to the entire world and a child who knows they are deeply loved no matter what.

Years ago when we first had little babies, my mother-in-law said something that marked my heart: “I love having a front-row seat to my kids’ lives!”. Her exuberant joy of cheering on her kids and grandkids in the different ages and stages has impacted how I view this life I’ve been given.

It does not come without great cost, but it is worth more than gold.

“Mom! This is a scary part! Come sit with me!” My 4 year old calls me back to cuddle on the couch for a few more minutes. I return to my own words, written long before this morning’s cuddles on the couch:

What we perceive to be holding us back may actually be the catalyst for the deeper, lasting change we desperately need. 

Can we make room for it? Are we brave enough to let ourselves be interrupted by what is better?

Lord, may I always learn to embrace what is better!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

Photo by one of the kids

The Skies Proclaim

This fall has been remarkably pleasant, with many beautiful days for hikes and walks through colourful hillsides and parks. Snow flurries made their annual Thanksgiving weekend appearance though, serving as a reminder that winter has not forgotten us. As surely as the squirrels hide peanuts in my planters, cold weather is on its way. Seems like every year the second weekend in October is a turning point where we go from brilliant warm fall sunshine to “the north wind doth blow and we shall have snow”.

As an extra rare Thanksgiving treat this year, even city-dwellers caught a brilliant display of the northern lights. The light pollution here makes it difficult to see much of anything, but over the weekend, what a show! For some, it was their first glimpse of aurora borealis in all their majesty. Growing up in the country, they frequently danced across the winter sky and let me tell you, it never got old. My memory clicks back to a scene: sitting bundled up in lawn chairs with our chins tipped to the sky, watching brushstrokes of green shimmer and sway across the deep blue night filled with diamond constellations. Quiet. Calm. Magnificent. My mind took a snapshot that stays with me even now that those days are long gone.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge. 
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV)

Remarkable how every eye can see the glory of the Lord on display on a night like this. Scientific explanations only deepen my awe of His design. His fingerprints are everywhere.

Last night as I was trying to sleep, I felt the weight of time slipping away. It happens on occasion, where I’m lifted out of the current state of day-to-day affairs to see the larger picture of life, like a sudden display of aurora borealis in the night sky. Look up! it says. And see the glory of the Lord!

I’m always alarmed by how short our time here actually is. My musings must have been prompted by an old movie we watched recently with our gaggle of kids about a man whose daughters break tradition as they grow up and start their own lives. As I watched the story unfold before me, the heavy realization that one day my own children would move on from this place into their own seasons of bittersweet beauty had me feeling some feelings. Kids are likely to do things much differently than their parents and it’s naive to think we’ll be spared of the growing pains coming our way. It’s also quite tempting to imagine that the best of life is behind us now that our kids are basically through the baby and preschooler years when things are simpler (albeit exhausting) and they’re all just so darn cute! But I’m catching glimpses of what’s to come as I watch friends bless their grown kiddos and send them off into the world, and let me tell you, it’s stunning!

These friends are my northern lights, my glimpses of beauty in the unknown, my beacons of hope, yet another fingerprint of the Lord’s gracious hands. They remind me that no matter what life brings our way, God goes before us and walks with us through it all. So today I’m tipping my chin to the sky and drinking in the truth: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)

And then, back into the ups and downs of the day-to-day. As I turn my eyes back to what’s right in front of me, Lord, let me soak in the daily hugs from You — snuggles, laughter, moments of insight and the works of Your hands, right here in our home.

Image: Stocksnap

Yes and No

“Every yes is a no to something else.”

I don’t know exactly who said it first, but it’s the kind of thing you see in articles on productivity and time management and it’s giving me something to think about.

After more than a year of pausing and waiting, it’s temping to jump back onto the hamster wheel of busyness and do all the things! And yet the lessons I’ve learned about capacity, time and priorities are helping me to pause and count the cost of my yes with some important questions:

  • What has the Lord put in front of me right now to invest my time and energy into?
  • What do I need to say yes to this season? In this day? This moment?

Last night I said yes to a short break in the middle of my evening to-dos and and no to an early bedtime. This morning we said yes to rest and creative play and no to a nature hike. Tomorrow’s plans may be a yes to adventure and a no to home projects that need to get done. Sometimes the no’s are difficult ones, but I am trusting that these are simply a yes to something else that the Lord is unfolding in my life and the life of our family at that moment.

As our daily rhythms intertwine with the unexpected and the upcoming fall season takes shape, I’m praying for wisdom to choose well. I’m so thankful that Jesus knows me better than I know myself and that I can trust Him to work in and through each season and each day! 

May the lessons we’ve learned from the past year and a half mark our future decisions. We don’t have to run ourselves ragged! The badge of busyness can quickly turn into chains. Praise the Lord that we have permission to pause and consider just what we are saying yes to, and what the implications are. If these choices feel big, that’s because in some senses, they are. Life is made up of a series of little moments that shape the bigger moments we experience. Isn’t God so gracious? He is walking with us through it all. We need His wisdom to learn how to make the most of the time He has given us and the courage to live for His glory.

James 1:5 (NIV) — 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Image: Artsy Crafty/Stocksnap

A Priceless Gift

He was the OG up-cycling trendsetter. The master engineer without a degree. We had front row seats to “How It’s Made: Grandpa Edition” our whole lives long. There was nothing he couldn’t cobble together from parts and pieces or improve upon with a few days of thinking and tinkering. On the farm and later on in the little town where I grew up, his creativity and ingenuity continued to amaze.

When I was a kid, I had a lot of questions about the mechanics of things. Once, around the big brown table in the farm kitchen, I asked my dad how an engine worked. He encouraged me to ask Grandpa. His eyes lit up as he explained the inner workings of spark plugs and pistons in a way I could understand. Often when I visited Grandma in the kitchen, the shop across the yard was alight with welding flashes which I was always warned to look away from so they didn’t damage my eyes.

We grandkids wanted a trampoline more than anything. So he made one for us. A big rectangle with a green rubber mat. No padding on the springs, and spaces in the corners for you to sit with your feet dangling down while you waited for your turn. How those springs could pinch! We learned the hard way not to sit on them while we waited. He had one rule – no shoes on the trampoline! Double jumps got some serious air. That thing could hold an amazing amount of water and became ridiculously slippery when wet. We spent hot summer afternoons flailing around, playing Crack the Egg and Slip and Slide thanks to Grandpa and our uncles.

I remember helping Grandma bring supper to the field during the long hours of harvesting, the free range chickens that left their presents all over the yard – easy to find in bare feet – and Grandpa’s old dogs one at a time in succession who were always named Pup.

And music. How he loved to listen to us play and sing! Not at first though. When I was just learning on their old piano he’d tell me to be quiet because he was reading at the table. But something must have changed over the years because I remember how he loved it when I’d lead the singing at our little bilingual country church. I used to pick his favourite hymn without telling him. I was always fascinated by the German hymnals that sat next to the red English ones in the backs of the pews. When I learned how to sing in German in my high school choir, I signed up for a special number in church one day and surprised my grandparents by singing a hymn… in German!

I remember Grandpa wiping his eyes and thanking me, in his understated way, for singing that song. Grandma clasped my hand and gave it her signature squeeze. As the years went on, I moved around. But anytime I was back in my childhood town, I stopped by and sat down at the table for a few more stories, cookies and hugs.

My little corner of the world is darker these days. And my blog has lost one of its most faithful readers. My heart feels the ache of grief, compounded by current restrictions on group gatherings and travel. I watched through a screen as my dad and aunts and uncles stood up to tell his story. I never got to gather around his grave to sing a hymn or place my flower there. I didn’t see my cousins carry him or watch as he was lowered into the ground in my childhood church cemetery. No fellowship time with distant relatives and old friends over raisin buns and cheese and pickles and red funeral juice and bad church coffee in those little white cups. 

And worst of all, no hugs for those who suffer this loss from those who suffer alongside.

Jesus keep me near the cross
There is a precious fountain; 
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

In the cross, in the cross
Be my glory ever
Til my ransomed soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

-Fanny Crosby

After the online funeral last weekend my husband and I sat on our little front steps drinking coffee with blankets on our laps in the March sunshine. As I processed my feelings I asked him why our generation had the tendency to be dissatisfied with a simple life.

“Why isn’t it enough?” I asked. “Why are we rushing around trying to prove ourselves, desperate to matter to everyone but those closest to us? Why are we reaching for the stars when we already have the real treasures right here?”

I have a choice. I can focus on the things that don’t matter in the end, or I can turn my eyes upon Jesus. I can do the hard, slow, steady work of cultivating what I already have right in front of me. I can plant the seeds, pray for rain, watch the growth and reap the harvest in the right season. I can practice creativity in problem solving, be a good steward of what I have, pour into others and choose to be content. I can love my family in the best way I know how, and I can praise Jesus for His goodness to me even passing through the valley of the shadow of death.

These simple things I have learned from the ones that have gone before me. They have given me a priceless gift of a life well-lived.

A little corner of the old farmyard in the trees behind the garden.

Weeping with Those Who Weep

We pulled on our snow pants and jackets, zipped up the zippers, donned the hats and mittens, and with sturdy boots on our feet, began the long walk up the hill to the grocery store.

With a 5 year old up ahead and a 2 year old in tow, I had plenty of time to admire the scenery in the neighbourhood on this particularly chilly morning with no promise of spring in the air. It was one of those mornings that was just warm enough for a long walk and just cold enough to remind you of the polar vortex from weeks ago. As we made our way past the familiar landmarks of the various types of trees that make their home on our street, it wasn’t the spindly and barren ones that so often grab my attention at other times of the year. They had no sprouting blossoms or changing leaves to marvel at. On that winter day, it was the mighty evergreen that caused me to be amazed.

Remarkable. Towering several feet into the air, sending its roots deep into the ground below and across multiple yards, standing tall and unchanged in the bracing north winds that blow dead leaves off of every other tree in the neighbourhood. The snow piles high and the branches bear the weight. The temperatures plummet and the thousands of needles hold fast, only made more beautiful by the silvery frost that highlights each individual one.

Winter really is the evergreen’s time to shine, isn’t it?

In no other season of the year do I take much notice of its thick, velvety branches providing shelter and comfort to critters and birds. The coldest months are made bearable by its dense design, offering the hope of a warm place to sleep when all other trees are bare.

My heart is broken today as I think of two families who are in the process of losing children to paediatric cancer. Treatment options have been exhausted and the disease is progressing through their small bodies moment by moment. Jesus, be near these precious ones and hold them in your arms! Surround their parents and siblings, be the strength of their hearts in the darkest of times!

When our lives fall apart, when the lives of those we love are changed forever because of loss, we know that we have the light of Jesus’ life flowing through us. We are comforted by God himself! We become like the mighty evergreen, holding out hope in the midst of despair.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25 NIV)

Yes Lord, we believe! Let us weep with those who are weeping today, and be a place of comfort because we have been comforted in our own times of trouble by Your very presence.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)

evergreen afar

Evergreens standing tall

Everyone is Growing Up

My holiday joy was mingled with the grief that comes from the unmistakeable reality of the passage of time.

Everyone is growing up.

Maybe it was the fact that for the first time ever my sister and I shared cooking duties for the entire holiday dinner on our own, or the realization that our home has become “The Christmas House” in my family, or that it seems entirely possible that we are finally growing out of the “my kids are sick all Christmas break from sharing little kid germs” phase of life.

Or maybe it was the big wedding.

My oldest niece got married at the end of December and I am now 100 years old. How did this sweet little baby I cuddled and rocked to sleep just last night, the one who made me an auntie in my teens, become this stunning bride before me?

I couldn’t look at her mama (my sister) during the ceremony. I cried for an entire day afterward. I really am happy for this new chapter in her life, and we all just love her new husband, but I am definitely having feelings about this whole growing up thing.

And she’s not even my child.

My parents entered a new decade of life last year and I didn’t think it would really make a difference for me, but it has. They’re gradually moving into their later years and I’m thinking about it more than I thought I would.

Birthday season has blown into our home with a vengeance. Of the four kids, three of them have winter birthdays within six weeks of each other. As we celebrate their next milestones and cheer them on in their growth and development, I can see the next stage on the horizon and I don’t know how I feel about that today.

We know change so well, don’t we? We can’t even fathom a life where things stay the same forever. Morning and night, day after day, month after month, we are living through the slow change of aging and seasons. I see it in the mirror, I witness it in my children, I experience it in the gradual lengthening of the daylight hours. We can count on it – and we do. Winter will end and spring will come. Summer follows, then fall brings its brilliance. Back to winter and we begin again.

Children become adults who become parents then grandparents. And the cycle continues.

An inescapable reality.

The other day I was reading a devotional that focussed on God’s immutability. He is the Unchanging One. It gave me pause for a moment. I realized that we as humans, we only know change. We understand change. We live through it and thrive because of it. And frankly, the concept immutability is so foreign to the human experience that I wonder if we truly appreciate just how incredible it really is. Like the constant north star, we catch a glimpse of it when we encounter God.

He Himself says he is unchanging (Malachi 3). He does not change like shifting shadows (James 3). He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13). He laid the foundations of the world (Hebrews 1; John 1). He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 1).

What a remarkable truth to bring to bear in our lives! How does God’s immutability affect my current state of mind? My world is constantly changing and I am continually grieving losses while celebrating gains, knowing that through it all He never changes. His character, His will, His covenant promises – these will never be broken or removed. I have finally found Someone I can count on to be who He says He is, to do what He says He will do, to prove faithful generation after generation.

We may welcome it or we may lament it, but change is constant. Thankfully we are deeply loved by One who never changes, One on whom we can depend regardless of how our billows are rolling in this season.

Maybe you are in the throes of something that feels like too great a change to bear. Set your feet on the solid rock of Christ!

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” – Matthew 7:24 (NIV)

“For the Lord is good and His love endures forever, His faithfulness continues to all generations.” – Psalm 100:5 (NIV)

Thank you Lord that You are the solid foundation beneath my feet, and that You are good! Your love endures forever, Your faithfulness continues in my life even today with all its changes. As I navigate this part of my journey, I praise You for Your unchanging nature!

stars Arto Marttinen

Image by Arto Marttinen

The Sun is Back

At last, the sun is peeking through the clouds.

For the past few days we’ve had cold, rainy weather, reminding us of the changing season. We pulled out rain boots, winter jackets and toques so the kids would be warm enough at recess, and the memory of strong summer sunshine began to fade. Until today. The skies have begun to clear and the promise of a warm late summer day seems possible, if not probable. The beauty of the brilliant light is streaming in the large front window, illuminating the crowd of little people toys lined up on the coffee table.

Doesn’t take much to forget, does it?

That’s the thing about the daily grind of life. It tends to cloud our view and we exist under its pall, moving from one moment to the next, getting the to-do list done and just trying to get through the busy day before us.

About seven years ago, I grew tired at how I was always surprised by the sudden arrival of Thanksgiving. When it breezes in on the second weekend of October, it really feels like the worst possible time! The school year is in full swing, we’re neck-deep in navigating our new schedule and cold and flu season is making its grand entrance.

Suddenly, it was time to pause and be thankful over a meal with family and friends. It was a welcome break from the crazy, but I began to wonder: can there be more to this than sweet potato casserole and slices of perfect turkey?

I wanted to create something hands-on for our family to engage in before Turkey Sunday to help us connect the concept of thanksgiving to our real lives. Burlap and twine went up on the wall in the living room and I carefully cut out some paper leaves. Sitting at the table with my young children, we thought of things we were thankful for. As we wrote them on the leaves, we thanked the Lord for each one, and then carefully hung the leaves on our Thanksgiving Tree.

I’ve kept all those old leaves, and every year they go on the tree. We always make more by tracing our handprints on red, yellow, orange and brown construction paper, filling them in with things we are thankful for now, in this season of our life together.

Our tree is full – along with our hearts.

It has become the sunshine that peeks through the clouds of our routine, reminding us that we have a great God who is faithful in all things and everything we have and are is because of Him.

It’s easy to forget what we really have right in front of us, and even more than that, the One who sustains us with His grace and love. My hope is that as we enter into the Thanksgiving season, we’ll move beyond a pre-meal prayer of “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food” into a heart full of gratitude for who He is!

***

If you’re looking for a way to make Thanksgiving more than turkey and stuffing this year, join me for a short weekly blog series called Three Weeks of Thanks (#3WeeksofThanks) on Thursdays, starting September 19th.

sunrise in september

A stunning sunrise today: the morning sun always breaks through the clouds.