Category Archives: gratitude

Make Space For the Season.

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The other day, I sat in mom and dad’s living room and began recalling my childhood Christmases. The subject came up when I told Anna about the time each of my parents thought the other was buying my presents. We call it “the Christmas my parents forgot me.” Their only child. Just one. Me. It’s actually one of my dad’s favorite Christmas stories to tell. Well, besides the one when dad asked me when I was a little girl to tell him if the lights on the tree were working. “Now they are. Now they aren’t. Now they are. Now they aren’t.” I didn’t realize they were blinking lights. My mom, however, hates the story of forgetting me. She was a flight attendant then, and her schedule was crazy. But, dad and I have laughed about that Christmas so many times. I was older, and I got it. I wasn’t hurt or disappointed. But, I laughed. (And, I caught my dad later that day writing a check to stick inside my stocking.) I wasn’t disappointed, because everything I ever could have needed or wanted from my parents I received. I’m not talking about the things. I’m talking about the relationships. The love. The real stuff that doesn’t get old or break or fade.

After I told Anna that story, I began remembering all of my Christmases when I was a little girl. I remembered the Christmas morning I got Dolly Pops. I had wanted those for a solid year. I remember the Christmas where Ken and Barbie were sitting on their Barbie horses, and another Barbie was taking a dip in her pool that mom filled with water. I remembered the Christmas I opened up a my burgundy velvet blazer and navy blue tie. I guess I was channelling my inner Diane Keaton that year. I began to tell my parents and my own children that while I knew my Christmases weren’t “big” by most standards, they always felt big. Dad was pastoring a small church on a very modest income. They couldn’t do the big. But, I told them, “It always felt big. They were the best Christmases.”

I watched tears stream down my mom’s face. Did she not know that they always felt big and were so perfect to me? Did she not know that I never felt slighted growing up but, instead, only loved every part of what the season brought our family? The peace, the smiles, the joys, the laughs, the hugs, the thank-yous, the blinking lights?

Last night, I sat in my own living room with my two oldest children who are hardly children anymore. John Henry looks at me and says, “Mom, can you give my big presents to another kid this year or is that not an option?” Later Anna says, “Mom, last Christmas was great. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone loves presents. But, I don’t want so many gifts taking up our time together.” Then, in her hilarious Donald Trump voice she said, “I’m going to build a wall around the tree and gifts.” (Seriously, her Trump impression rivals only that of Alec Baldwin.)

“I want to make space between the gifts and this,” she said, stretching her arms toward John Henry and me. “There is nothing I need. I just want this.”

Did I not know that my kids simply loved every part of what the season brought our family? The peace, the joys, the laughs, the hugs, the thank-yous, the lights that do not blink? Not the things that get old or break or fade. The relationships. The love. The real stuff.

In all of your hectic shopping, your worry over if you have bought enough, done enough, given enough….Pause, stop, breathe. Your kids will have more than they need or want because of YOU. Because, you laugh in the kitchen together while making Chex-mix. Because, you put away your phones and look them in the eyes and listen to them. Because, you take a break from homework and laundry and cry together watching This Is Us. (Have mercy, that show is everything right now.) Because, they watch you say something encouraging to their dad. Because, they watch their dad bring their mom coffee. Because, they see stockings for John Henry’s dad and step-mom hung at my parents’ house. Because, they see what love looks like. How it walks, how it talks, how it moves, how it pauses, how it gives.

Make space between the gifts and this. Fill that space with everything you are. Fill that space absorbing everything your children are. That’s what a big Christmas looks like. Make space for the season. Make space for the real stuff that doesn’t break. But for the stuff that gets you through your hardest seasons. The stuff that assures you that God is always for you and will not fail you. The stuff that reminds you to always make space for forgiveness, for gratitude, and for loving well. The stuff that reminds you that YOU ARE ENOUGH and you are amazing and you are INSANELY loved. Make space for that stuff. Nothing else matters. It’s all about your relationships. I can assure you of that.

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Love Your Now.

I have found myself this week struggling to enjoy this season of busy schedules. I’ve thought, “Can we just go back to Maine where we eat six meals a day and linger at every beautiful sight?” Because, it was really easy to enjoy every moment there. It’s not always easy when you’re back in your regular routine. I probably found ten things making my life more difficult last night. A driven daughter who wants to do it all, these lessons, that practice, the broken air conditioner, the light that won’t come on in our living room, the drive to and from the farm that adds an additional hour to it all.

My life is harder and more exhausting than some. BUT, it is so much easier than MOST.

And, that’s where I had to get back to. It’s EASIER than most. That was my first perspective shift.

My next shift was a reminder that I create my world. I create what makes me tired, what makes me happy, what makes my day. I do. So, get control of what you’re creating, Dusty. WE are the creators. Not our children, not our circumstances…WE create it all. What do I need to take off of the table? Or, what do I need to reframe in how I think about it?

My last shift came when I thought of something I saw a while back: “LOVE YOUR NOW.” We don’t live in the past where we think, “Well, that season was a good one.” So, only loving our past won’t make us happy today. Sure, it’s great to remember good times and let them make you smile. But, it isn’t sustaining happiness. Also, we can’t be in love with a future we are hoping for either. Vision and goals are necessary and wonderful. Dreams keep us striving for something better. But, we miss true happiness when we fail to love our now.

Loving my now means I don’t take for granted the fact that one of my dearest friends walked into my office and loved on me today. Who gets to experience that kind of goodness everyday? This girl right here.

Loving my now means I get to go to bed, albeit exhausted, every night knowing I loved on my children and supported their gifts. Loving my now means I that choose to not despise my 30 minute drive, and instead, come home to the farm in the middle of the day to absorb every bit of peace it brings me. Exactly as I’m doing right now as I type. And, can I tell you how much peace and serenity it brings me? Worth the drive. Worth it all. Because, of this.

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Loving my now means that I might choose to celebrate life exactly like this guy who says, “Best day ever,” EVERY SINGLE DAY OF HIS LIFE.

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Loving my now means treasuring this season, because all five of us are still doing life together. In 4 1/2 years, one will be off at college. And, I will probably be in a corner sucking my thumb needing someone to remind me to love my now.

Loving my now means that when my husband gets home from his trip, I get to pull him close and thank God that in that very moment, we are together. And, I get to draw from his tender goodness and peaceful existence. I also get to say, “Bam, bro, enjoy your kids a while. I’m going to be loving my now in my room by myself a tick.” Just kidding, Ivar. Not really.

There will always be something to distract us from loving our now. Always. Even when the hard days of rearing children are done, something will have the potential to distract me. So, we have to conscientiously fight to own our now and love it. We have to discipline our emotions. We have to reframe our perspectives.

And, we have to say YES to now, so we can fully love our now.

Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life  suddenly starts working for you rather than against you. Eckhart Tolle

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What Good Will It Do?

I enjoy running. I might be the “world’s okayist runner” according to Anna, but I do it still. She gave me this nickname when I ran a couple of races with my mom and good friend, David Gamble. They both placed first in their age groups. Not me. I placed second in one race and didn’t even place in the other. “Congratulations, Mom. You’re the World’s Okayist Runner,” she told me. There are weeks I get out there almost every day. There are weeks I get out once or twice. And, there are weeks I don’t get out there at all. Some of those days, I don’t run, because I think if I can’t devote at least 45 minutes to it, it’s not worth it.

This morning, I had exactly 25 minutes to run, so I gave it what I had instead of justifying not doing it. As I was running, I began to think of how many things in life we justify not doing, because what does a little bit matter? What good will it do? It’s kind of like that diet we blow and justify eating the cookie, because, what does it matter now?

Or deeper life stuff….What good is reframing my attitude about this when I’ve allowed myself to spiral into this negative thinking about all of that?

What good is refraining from buying this when I’m already piled up in debt?

What good is doing something special for my spouse, when he or she hasn’t said or done anything special for me in months?

What good is that little bit going to do?

What will that little bit of good change?

Everything. It changes EVERYTHING. I really want to shout this. IT CHANGES EVERYTHING!

I cannot tell you the times I have done what seemed to be “a little” or seemed to not be worth my time only to reap huge dividends from it. From moments like in this post where I made a decision to make things right in that moment instead of saying, “I really blew it already. What’s the point?” To moments when I’ve laid next to my husband and reached for his hand when I’ve been frustrated with feelings of “we aren’t taking enough time for each other.” In those moments, I could play the blame game. Or, I can take his hand and make an investment into our marriage instead of making a withdrawal with a feeling that may or may not be a real truth….

And, that’s the kicker: a feeling that may or may NOT be truth. This brings me back, once again, to one of the greatest life changing principles ever: Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.

Stop saying your little isn’t worth it. Stop buying into a thought of your spouse not meeting your needs that may not even be true. Stop believing that your twenty minutes of exercise will not reap any benefits or skipping that purchase will make a dent. Stop saying, “when it rains, it pours,” and say and do something that yells, “But, let me show you all the amazing things God HAS done for me!”

Things happen. Life happens. Things will get in the way of a morning run. Life will get in the way of a lot of things that we have little to no control over. But, there are things we DO have control over. How we respond to those things and how we LOOK at those things.

Your little not only does a whole lot of good. Your little can change EVERYTHING. Your little can set a marriage on a course for an unbelievable connection and goodness. Your little can teach your children about forgiveness and mercy. Your little can lead to another little and another little where you live a life free of debt. Your little can turn a seemingly crappy day into a moment of pure gratitude for what isn’t crappy. And, there is SO MUCH of the not crappy.

There is so much good. Do the little. It will give you a lot more of the good.

I may be the world’s okayist runner in races. But, I sure want to win in the race that really counts.

So I run with purpose in every step…. 1 Corinthians 9:26

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Living An Adventure.

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Now that the kids are back in school, and I’ve stopped celebrating my freedom, wiped my tears, I’m going to try to get back into the habit of writing everyday. One thing I’ve learned is that the more I write, the more I have to write about. The less I write, the more I stare at my computer and try to remember how in the Sam Hill I did this everyday. When we don’t use our gifts, they lie dormant. No good for anyone. (Thank you, dear friend, Susan Harp.) So, here is my attempt to use it, and hopefully along, the way make you laugh or feel all the feels or be reminded that life is good, and YOU matter.

My kids started a new adventure this year at St. George’s Episcopal School. Anna even started a new adventure taking ballet. Who would’ve thought that my girl who insisted on dressing like she was trying out for the NBA would decide she’s a dancer? Or John Henry would decide one day, “I want to learn the cello.” Then, there is Jett where every day is an adventure. So much to do, to explore, to learn, to grow. Kids just get it. But, sometimes, along the way, we grown-ups don’t get it anymore. We stop imagining ourselves doing something new. We stop imagining the life we really want to live. We stop imagining, we stop being thankful, and we stop living an adventure.

I started reading Mark Batterson’s new book, A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life Into the Adventure of A Lifetime. Batterson writes, “Kids get adventure. Its innate. They live life free of worry, full of faith, and with their eyes peeled for the next big adventure. We should live with holy anticipation of what’s around the corner.” I began thinking about how God wants us to become like little children. When the disciples asked Jesus who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, He called a child to Him and said, “Become like him.” Become like a child. Forgive like a child. Love like a child. Seek adventure like a child!

As I read, I began taking inventory of my own life. I have seasons I stop living an adventure. I honestly think I’ve been in one. It’s not that I haven’t necessarily done adventurous things lately. Doing a helicopter tour in Hawaii this past July was a definite stretch for me in terms of adventure. However, it’s been more of the absence of observing life and being truly thankful for it. I believe our imagination is birthed in our observation of life around us. It’s birthed when we slow down our minds and slow down our motions to breathe in Him. To look intently into Jett’s eyes when he is taking ten minutes to tell a two minute story. To notice how his eyes get so animated and to appreciate how passionate he is about his story. It’s birthed in sweet conversations with Anna when she asks questions like, “Tell me more about how we hear the Spirit within us.” It’s birthed in moments like last night when I begin singing a song, and John Henry says, “I can play that on guitar.” So, he does, and we begin singing these words together:

How do I say thank You, Lord
For the way that You love
And the way that You come

For all that You’ve done
All that You’ll do
My hearts pours out
Thank You

You don’t have to come
But You always do
You show up in splendor
And change the whole room

How do I say thank You, Lord
For the life that You gave
The cross that You bore

For the love You poured out
To ransom my soul
My hearts pours out
This thankful song

A life of adventure may not always be climbing Mt. Everest or taking some big risk. A life of adventure may be in having that hard conversation. It may be in noticing God in every moment. It may be a moment where your heart pours out thanksgiving for a life that is just so good, and a God whose goodness never stops pursuing after you. That’s the environment, those are the conditions, where imagination is birthed. And, imagination is what sets our life up for the adventure of a lifetime.

Be aware. Slow down. Notice. And, above all, let thanksgiving be your language. Because, there is no greater adventure than a life filled with gratitude.

 

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When We Run Into Problems.

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

These verses carried me through the hardest time in my life over 14 years ago. I read this passage again this morning with a different set of eyes. A confident set of eyes. A heart that knows and understands. A life that can testify to it over and over and over again.

Our initial reaction to adversity and problems isn’t, “Well thank you, Jesus. This is going to grow me and strengthen my character.” No. It can be anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and so many other things. Certainly not happiness that we get to endure something hard. It’s not a normal reaction. Hey, you’re normal. So, I am I! However, once we get over the initial shock and awe of it, we get to make a choice how we are going to through the problem. Whether the problem is as large as what I endured 14 years ago when my husband walked out or even if it is as small as a conflict at your work, we get to choose to endure it with a confident hope that He will grow us and work it for our good.

So, what do we do after we get over the initial onset of a problem? I wanted to share some things that I do that may help you, too. First, I vent upward. That means I don’t share my problem with someone who isn’t on the same page of life with me spiritually. Because, that person may feed into my anger or resentment where nothing redemptive comes from it. I vent to someone who has compassion but who also brings light to it. They help me process it from a position of forgiveness and understanding. They remind me to trust Him. The conversation is always redemptive.

I slow down. Haste causes us to react instead of respond. It causes a build up of negative emotions and feelings that are hard to come down from. I slow down my responses, my comments, my time. When we slow down, we are able to think more clearly, take captive our thoughts that are negative more easily, and avoid making the mistake of saying or doing something we might regret.

I pray and meditate. This keeps my heart soft and refocuses my thoughts. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Don’t worry about your problem. Don’t dwell on it. Tell God what you need, and THANK Him for everything He has already done. Everything He has already delivered you from and made better for you. Re-center your thoughts on Him and on thankfulness. When you catch yourself dwelling on the problem, replace that thought with all of the good in your life. Everything you have to be thankful for. THEN, peace will flood your life.

Finally, I am open to change. What if I am the one that is the problem? What if God is not just working something for my good, but what if He is changing ME? What if I created the problem myself? Stay open to accept responsibility. Allow people you trust to speak into your life.

All problems are meant for our growth. I learned a long time ago to say, “Nothing goes wrong in my world.” Instead, every situation is an opportunity to grow. To learn. An opportunity to be a better friend. A better mom. A better wife. A better person. Without running into hard situations, it is impossible to become BETTER. So, with that knowledge, we really can rejoice in hard times. Because, we are then presented with an opportunity for our lives to be better. We may not always see the end from the beginning and know the hows and whys, but we can trust in the One who is working all things, ALL, for our good.

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Create Your Calm.

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Jett loves his little, blue blankie. If you’ve seen Jett, you’ve probably seen his blankie. We are working hard on getting Jett to leave his blankie on his bed every morning. And, by “WE” are working hard, I mean Kris. It makes mornings harder, because, blankie…..you know.

Last night as I was putting Jett to bed and praying over him, I added, “Thank You for a smooth morning. Thank You that Jett is patient and cooperative and full of understanding. Amen.”

This morning Jett woke up happy and cooperative and saying, “yes ma’am” to leaving blankie on his bed. Inside, I was thanking sweet Jesus for such a smooth morning and fist bumping Him in my heart. ‘Cause, we got this.

Then, my sweet, cooperative boy spilled my entire cup of coffee all over the coffee table. All over my phone, my iPad, my favorite books, his Legos, and whatever else was in that line of fire. Jett awaited for scary mom to come out. John Henry left the room to get paper towels and not hear scary mom.

And, I paused. I remembered my prayer of a smooth morning. And, I just said, “It’s okay, bud.”

While, we cannot control every part of our day and avoid trouble, we do get choose our response to the bumps and how they control us. And, instead of it ruining our morning, I was able to be a model of peace and self-control and forgiveness to my children. I do not tout this inner fortitude to do this all of the time. I have failed so many times and went scary mom on my children more times than I care to recall. And, self-appointed Holy Spirit in my life, Anna Takle, is always quick to remind me of how I should’ve responded. Bless her. But, today, I made a decision to create my calm. To CHOOSE a smooth morning.

We can pray for things, and that’s okay. We can thank God for things, and that is necessary. But, in as much as I thanked Him for a smooth morning, it was up to me to create it.

You create your calm. You create your peace. You create your smooth. It’s not the hard moments that wreck us or our day. It’s our response to them.

Instead of coming home from dropping the kids off stressed, I came home noticing a beautiful sunrise. I came home pouring out tears of gratitude for this beautiful day. Creating my calm made thanksgiving so easy.

Make the decision to choose your responses today. Create your calm, and let thanksgiving pour out.

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My Girl Is 11.

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“I will have this experience with me for the rest of the my life. I will always treasure that I got to play this role. I will miss Scout.” – Anna

These are the kind of deep statements I hear from her. Sandwiched between her witty comments, hilarious sense of humor, and laughter are deeply felt moments of honesty and emotion. There are days that I am sure I am talking to a 30 year old. She poses hard questions. She always has. Questions about poverty. About social injustice. When someone is mistreated, a righteous anger rises up in her, and she needs me to help her direct it.

She reasons well. If she asks for something, and we tell her no, she receives it graciously. She never pushes the envelope with her wish for material things. Ever. She doesn’t jump on bandwagons of negativity. Instead, she will refocus on what is right and good in her world.

At the risk of uncovering myself and one of my very weak moments this year, I would like to share a story of how Anna responded to my self-indulgent rant. We were leaving the house one day. I was very frustrated with Kris. I felt he would fly, come home, and spend all of his time working on the farm. I felt left with a home to care for by myself. I felt so many things went undone, and I was frustrated. Knowing better, I vented. To a 10 year old. More than that, I asked her, “Why don’t you tell your dad we need him to stop working on the farm so much and help out more around the house?”

“No. I won’t. It’s a lot of land. He has to work it hard. Far-Far (Kris’ dad) can’t do it all alone. He needs him. And, you need to allow dad to do what he feels he needs to do. If you are stressed, ask me. If you need more help, ask me. Ask ME. I will help you.”

I will never forget that conversation. I will never forget how she responded to me. She stood up for what she felt was right while still honoring me.

Anna Takle, you absolutely light up my world. You are so incredibly smart. And, your wisdom has astounded me. Your love of music, the piano, and broadway are so much fun. You continually make me proud when I watch you use your gifts.

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You make me laugh harder than anyone.

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You are the sweetest, most loving sister.

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You have a tender appreciation for all life.

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You are a living, breathing beautiful, example of God in the earth.

I love how you love life and the people in your life. I love how you crawl up in bed with me almost every single night, because you want to talk to me. I love how you love Seinfeld and Big Bang Theory. I love how you appreciate good tea. I love how you work tirelessly on the piano until you can finally play a piece perfectly. I love how you love your brothers. I love how you look at me and watch me. I love how you still get so excited and exclaim, “Daddy’s home!”

And, of all the roles you have played, my favorite one you play is simply being Anna Takle. I love who you are. I am forever thankful God chose me to be your mom. What a gift it is to call you my daughter. Thank you for being you and for continuing to allow God to grow inside of you.

Happy 11th Birthday, Anna Takle. I love you so very much.

Mom

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