The Pie is Gone

It ain’t over ’til the pie’s all gone… and our pie is gone, bringing the end to another season of Three Weeks of Thanks.

I am enjoying the experiment I began a few years ago, to be more intentional over the Thanksgiving season in actually pausing to examine my heart instead of rushing through turkey and pie.

And yet, I have to be honest – this has been the most difficult year to “find my thankful heart” so to speak. Our family has had some things come up in the past twelve months that have given me cause to feel anything but thankful. I am learning, though, that I have a choice to worship anyway.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

When Christ, who is your life, appears.

Is He my life? Or am I staking my hopes on things that crumble like dust beneath their weight?

It’s not an easy shift to make, but even there we find grace.

The Colossians passage gives more insight on what it means to truly find our lives in Christ.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:5-17 (NIV)

My post-Thanksgiving prayer is simple: Lord, may I continually discover how to find my life in You every moment of this day!

pumpkin pie

A beautiful gift from a friend this Thanksgiving!

When I Remember

This is the third in a weekly series called “Three Weeks of Thanks”. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

***

The “Thanksgiving Tree” is finally up. It’s just a piece of burlap on the wall, with twine and clothespins that hold cut-outs of leaves and the kids’ hand and footprints. On each one is written what they’re thankful for this year. We put up the “leaves” of years past so we remember how God has been faithful to our family. As time goes on, this inexpensive piece of rough burlap will fill up with the softness of our gratitude toward the One who holds everything together.

It’s a tradition that I’ve really come to love. As we trace our hands and cut out the shapes, think of our list of things to be thankful for and write the words on orange and brown and red construction paper, we’re discovering a way for us to connect what’s going on around us with a heart of gratitude.

This is the sixth year that I’ve chosen to be intentional with my thoughts leading up to Thanksgiving. In the past, I’ve had more of a quick, day-of, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food” kind of approach, but I’ve come to learn that this season deserves so much more.

I’ve also come to learn that by the middle of September, my plate is nearly overflowing and I’m not sure I even have room to engage that kind of “more”. Can I really adjust my well-organized plans and leave space to quiet my heart before the big weekend is here?

Can I actually make time to discover what true thanks looks like?

It is not easy to pause when life is moving so quickly that I am out of breath before my feet even hit the floor in the morning. It’s not easy to stop when stopping means I have to actually think about the difficult things I’m facing, whether individually or even as a community or world. It’s not easy to sit down and lean into the Lord when I have more “productive” things to do, like plan a menu and craft my best sweet potato casserole ever.

And yet, I long so much for the “more” that I find when I just. slow. down. When I can make the connection between what I am doing and why I am even able to do it in the first place – when I discover the deep love of Jesus and astounding grace of God and the beautiful fellowship of the Holy Spirit, Thanksgiving becomes more than just turkey and to-do’s.

We crossed a bridge over the river in our city a couple of days ago and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the scene that stretched out before me. The cool turquoise water contrasted with the brilliant greens, rich golds, burnt oranges and fiery reds of the trees and bushes that lined riverbank. My heart sang at such a magnificent sight! In a moment we had passed it, but the image remained in my mind.

The One who brings that kind of beauty to life in an ordinary riverbank is the very same One who brings my heart to life when I remember that everything I am and everything I have is because of Him. I was made to worship!

God, help us this Thanksgiving to truly make space in our hearts and lives for Your presence. To breathe in Your breath of life and discover that we really can give thanks to You no matter what we’re facing, because this is Your will for us in Jesus. You know that with a truly thankful heart, we will begin to see what is most important in this life – being wholly devoted to You.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 —

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

leaves in fall

My favourite backyard bush in fall

Why I’m Praying All Day Today

This is the second in a weekly series called “Three Weeks of Thanks”. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

***

It’s amazing to me that the moment I decide to make a point to live in the knowledge of constant rejoicing in what Christ has done, I realize how desperately I need to commit to the following verse: “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Last week we received some difficult news that drove me to my knees in tears. I cannot express how much I didn’t feel like rejoicing; it was quite the opposite, actually. I couldn’t see beyond the circumstances I found myself in and I asked the Lord why this was happening. My mind clicked and whirred, thinking of all the ways we may have been able to avoid this if we had known then what we know now.

Over the past ten years or so, the Lord has graciously been reworking my heart and rooting out some of the things I’ve believed that simply aren’t true. One of those is the false impression that if I just do the right things, the right things will happen for me.

I mulled over the hard road ahead. “But we’re good people!” I found myself thinking. “We shouldn’t be dealing with this!”

And in the very next moment, it struck me: maybe all really is grace.

All the good things, all the tough things, all the things we can’t control and all the things we have some power over – it’s ALL His grace.

I am not all-knowing. I am not all-wise. My understanding has limits.

But I put my faith in the One whose “understanding no one can fathom”, the One who really does know what’s behind and ahead, the One who is good and just and full of compassion and deep love. The question then becomes not “why is it like this?” but “to whom will I compare Him? Or who is His equal?”

And I bow to the One who is worthy of my worship and my full trust. I am learning day by day and moment by moment that it requires a heart of constant prayer.

Lord, help me see You today!

Isaiah 40:21-31 (NIV)

“Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

He brings princes to naught
    and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

No sooner are they planted,
    no sooner are they sown,
    no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
    and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

‘To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God’?

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.”

stars caleb woods

Image: Caleb Woods

The Choice to Rejoice

This is the first in a weekly series called “Three Weeks of Thanks”. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

***

Last night I was wracked with anxiety over nothing in particular and everything all at once.

The pressure of the first two weeks of September were mounting and my release valve was stuck. It had been too long since I stopped to take a deep breath of the Word. I had short quick moments of encouragement from the Bible, but I needed more.

I needed to really sit in the quiet of the late evening and let it wash over me.

When I was a kid Scripture memory was a great way to win cool prizes so I went all in with it. I realize now that it was one of the best gifts my Sunday School and camp experiences have ever given me, because all these years later, the very same verses will pop into my mind exactly when I need them the most.

Everyone else was asleep. I was awake, reading two words that are difficult for me right now:  “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

A friend just received some tough news about her daughter.

Another friend lost her dad a few weeks ago.

The world feels scary and unpredictable. Farmers struggle through difficult seasons of bad weather and poor crops, wildfires rage, hurricanes bring catastrophic flooding, good people face unemployment in a tough economy and we’re never short of bad news from around the world.

How can we possibly “rejoice always” when this is the reality we live in?

I know I can’t just muster it up by the power of positive thinking, no matter how hard I try.

There has to be more.

I certainly don’t have the answers to the why and how of the darkest valleys we face. But as a person who puts my faith in Jesus, I am called to rejoice always not because of my circumstances but in spite of them. I rejoice in what Jesus has done when he died on the cross and rose again from the grave. His death conquered sin and his resurrection overcame the grave. Because of Jesus, we have an eternal hope that can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3).

“Rejoice always” isn’t a chore we grit our teeth through when the going gets tough.

It’s not a pep talk when the world is falling apart around us.

It’s a choice we make to trust that God’s word is true and unfailing – and the Word made Flesh, Jesus, makes a difference in our lives right now. He is the reason we choose to rejoice always.

Amen. This week I’m going all in with that.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV) —

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

September sky

One September morning this sunrise was outside my window.

Finding My Thankful Heart

In about three weeks, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving.

Already.

Every year it’s the same: September’s whirlwind of details unfolds day by day with little time to catch my breath and before I know it here comes Thanksgiving with its call to pause in the middle of it all and give thanks to the One who deserves everything.

About six years ago, I had an idea to take Thanksgiving from one of those holidays that sneaks up on me every year to something more reflective and intentional, and so, Three Weeks of Thanks was born. I’m a Canadian prairie girl and my husband is both American and Canadian, so we have the benefit of celebrating two Thanksgivings every year, but it’s the first one that comes on so fast!

Every September as I start to mull over what Three Weeks of Thanks will be this year, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 comes to mind:

Rejoice always.

Pray continually.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

When life is moving so quickly and all the little details are unceasing, it’s easy to just let Thanksgiving be turkey and stuffing and family or friends you haven’t seen in a while. But it’s so much more than that.

For the past five years I’ve done a few small things to make Thanksgiving a season in our home. The kids have already asked about our “Thanksgiving Tree” – a sheet of burlap that hangs against the wall with construction paper leaves that say what we’re thankful for this year. We hang the leaves of years past so we can see God’s faithfulness to our family and each person can remember where we’ve come from. My home decorating skills are minimal so pretty it ain’t, but we choose to focus on what it means to be thankful, even when we aren’t feeling it, and learning how to turn our hearts toward God in all things.

In the middle of life with a capital L and all it entails, stretching out the Thanksgiving season is an opportunity to find my thankful heart again and turn my eyes from my circumstances back to the Lord.

Look for my weekly blog series “Three Weeks of Thanks” starting Monday, and use #3WeeksofThanks to join the conversation.

fall flowers

The September sun fell so beautifully on these fall flowers in my dining room.

True Thanksgiving

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

There are toys strewn about the living room. The dishes are piled, the lawn needs mowing and the laundry hamper seems bottomless.

Life is very full and rarely goes the way we plan. It’s easy to find myself muttering under my breath as I go from room to room, putting things back in their place and making mental notes of what needs to go on the grocery list this week.

In this busy season of family and work, it’s often a struggle to find the time to process life, let alone allow my heart to move into that place where I realize that no matter what is going on around me, I can rest in Jesus.

More often than not I am “giving thanks in all circumstances” because my circumstances are manageable or better than someone else’s. But that’s more of a “feeling relieved in all circumstances”.

The truth is simply this: I can give thanks in all circumstances because no matter what those circumstances are, the One I give thanks to is who He says He is, He will do what He says He will do, and He can be trusted.

Wow.  Want to turn your worries into worship?

Give thanks.

Even if you aren’t quite there yet.

Even if the problem isn’t actually solved at the moment.

Even if you really can’t see the tidy ending, or there isn’t or won’t be one.

Give thanks.  In ALL circumstances.  Because the ONE you thank is so much more than ANY circumstance.

Thank Him that He never changes, like shifting shadows. Thank Him that He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Thank Him that His grace is sufficient for you and that His power is made perfect in weakness.

Thank Him that He is good and His love endures forever.

forest through trees

Image: Ricardo Gomez Angel

Because He is Good

Today I’m sharing a quick thought on Psalm 100 – a psalm written for giving thanks. 

***

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100 (NIV)

 

If you’ve had a tough week, you may have to choose to shout for joy to the Lord. This psalm is full of not just suggestions – but commands to praise the Lord and give Him thanks, and a call to understand that the Lord is GOD, and we belong to Him. For me, the final verse is the kicker – why should we praise Him? Simply because the Lord is good, and His love endures forever, and His faithfulness continues through all generations. Today, in this moment, that is enough for me.

piano2

My piano

 

The Time Machine: To Myself – Read this when the kids are grown

The Time Machine series features posts from years past.

I wrote this to wrap up 3 Weeks of Thanks one year when I had no kids in school. I love these memories!

***

The sun is bouncing into the living room right now, warming the floor and inviting me to nap right there beside the toy box   All.  after.  noon.

Alas, it is not to be.

But it sure is beautiful.

I want to remember this moment forever.  I will probably forget it when the next cloudy day comes along, because you really don’t remember exactly how glorious the sun feels until it’s right there on your face or your feet or whatever happens to be in reach.

I’ve got an inquisitive 4 year old asking me questions from the table behind me, while munching on the bread we made this morning in the bread maker.  She is an expert ingredient-adder, and always has to taste the flour (I don’t know why, I always tell her it tastes gross by itself).

“How’s the bread?” I ask.

“Good.  Do we have any more pears?” comes the reply.

“Nope,” I answer.

And she is on her way to look for a cowboy hat and a half-crocheted yellow scarf that doubles as a rope she uses to lasso anyone and everything.  Today she is Jessie the Yodelling Cowgirl from Toy Story 2.

The other two are napping for the moment.  A quick morning playtime in the backyard in the crisp fall air and warm sunshine, and that about does them in well for nap time.

Then, all at once, little voices echo from down the hall.

Everyone is awake.

These are the moments I will probably forget, because you can’t really remember everything after all, can you?

How I wish I could freeze time and hold this in perfect detail in my heart, and save it for when they grow up and go away and do the wonderful things (and the awful things) that adult children do.  For when I actually have to let go for real.

I know there will be grace then too, as there is grace now.

sunflower

3 Weeks of Thanks is nearly at an end for another year.  This weekend, we gather with loved ones over food prepared by hands full of love, and in this way return our love to the One who loved us first.

Generations gather.  Moms who once were where I am now will watch their own sons and daughters do what they once did, around this Thanksgiving table.  And we carry on in this way, each year getting a bit older and maybe even a bit wiser.

We give thanks – together.

What an absolutely beautiful tradition.

3WT Week #3

We love because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19 (NIV)

How do you raise kids who love Jesus?

“Fall is the beautiful-est season!” my 4 year old declared from the back of the van. We took the long way to Grandma’s house the other day, past a natural area that comes alive with colour at this time of the year. You wouldn’t believe the fiery oranges, deep reds, dark purples, and shades of bright yellow set against the browns and greens of the hillside and the glorious deep blue of the fall sky above.

Incredible.

My eyes are drinking this in. I can’t get enough! Every year I forget just how amazing it is, and every year I’m stunned by the gorgeous palette around me. Little creeks and hillsides next to freeways go completely unnoticed until Fall, when they shout their presence with incredible beauty. Ditches and groves that were so ordinary just a few weeks ago now catch my eye and amaze me.

I am a “noticer” of nature. In spring, it’s the return of the robins and the buds on the trees. In summer, I wait for our roses to bloom and for thunderstorms to shake the house. In winter, I love the way the snow sometimes falls in huge peaceful flakes, and the way the stars twinkle on a cold, crisp night. Right now, it’s technicolor trees and vivid sunrises and sunsets.

I purposely point them out to the kids.

Last week we happened to be out past bedtime, as the sun was setting. “Look at those colours, girls! That’s amazing! God is such an incredible artist!” I said. I snapped a photo with my phone from the passenger seat.

fall sunset 1

They gasped, eyes wide in wonder.

“Wow!”

“It’s so beautiful!”

“It’s dark outside!” Our 2 year old was worried. “Why’s it so dark?” (We assured her it was alright, and that we were safe.)

They pick pretty rocks from the driveway for their rock collections. They are dazzled by dandelions. And pinecones are perfection.

I can see them becoming “noticers”, and my heart is so full!

I remind them that God made all of this and He made them too.  I tell them that God is the MOST creative of all, and that He gave them their creativity. I want them to see that He is not silent and uninvolved. I want them to know He is real, and that He draws near, even in everyday things.

How do you raise kids who love Jesus? Ultimately, the choice to love and follow Him is up to them, as they grow and discover who He is. But I am learning that they’re watching how their parents interact with God and each other, listening to the things we say and putting the pieces together about Him by their experiences with us.

It really gets me, you know? I think of all the mistakes I’ve made with the kids and I wonder if even those things can be made into something beautiful in our family’s life. But I am trusting that God knows how to untangle my mess and work it into a gorgeous tapestry of His faithfulness for each of my kids.

They need to know that worship is more than Sunday morning songs and stories, and that the beauty of creation is meaningful because of Who it reveals.

We worship God inside AND outside church walls, right smack in the middle of all the ordinary.

 

The Time Machine: 3 Weeks of Thanks Week 2

The Time Machine series features posts from years past.

This week I’m continuing with 3 Weeks of Thanks. It’s tough when you’re in the middle of raising kids to stop and remember the little things, and that’s why I’m so glad I posted this a few years ago! This is one of my favourite memories of a quiet moment with our oldest daughter, who turns seven this winter. She was nearly three years old at the time.

***

pink clouds

Pink clouds one October morning

This morning I got to watch the sunrise with my oldest daughter.

“What’s that pink stuff?”  she asked.

“The clouds.  They sometimes turn pink in the morning,” I explained.

“When’s they come back?”

“Usually when the sun goes down.”

It was a particularly beautiful way to start the day!

3WT Week#2:

Romans 1:20 (NIV)

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.