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Posts Tagged ‘grateful’

Every morning, after my shower and before eating breakfast, I sit down at my kitchen table and open a journal. Lately I’ve noticed I’m nearing the end of the empty pages, so soon I’ll go purchase another book to fill again.

img_2447Each morning I write down five things I’m grateful for…five gifts in my life. Some are silly (longer extension hose on the sump pump), some are monumental (healing), some seems small (the smell of brewing coffee), some are large (the furnace has worked great all winter long), some are spiritual (thankful for God’s unconditional love), some are physical (warm socks on a cold day), some are mental (clear mind for today’s work), some are emotional (joy over times with family and friends).

I began my gratitude journal on January 1, 2018 – by the end of the year I had written 1800 lines of thankfulness. I’m sure a few were duplicates (I love the smell of coffee – it probably showed up a couple of times). Today I wrote numbers 530-535 of 2019. It takes some introspection, some self-awareness. Those first few pages were easy to fill, but now it takes some real work to find those things that I’m thankful for. The practice of gratefulness has caused me to look over my day, even as I’m living it. What will I write tomorrow morning? What am I living right now that I’m grateful for? Who has caused me joy, or pain, that I can turn into a journal entry?

I know God has blessed me with health, love, joy, family and friends I treasure. I have work, shelter, provision, food on my table and blankets on my bed. I enjoy electricity, hot water and air-conditioning. We drive two cars, worship the Lord with freedom, and eat meat every day. And I know most of the world doesn’t have any of the above.

Would you take on the gratitude challenge? You can use a cheap spiral notebook, or purchase a fancy journal, but no matter what the pen and paper look like, it’s the expressions of gratefulness that will change your outlook on your life. And it will definitely spark joy!

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

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Do you have a household task that you are grateful for?

Those are the words on today’s 30-days of gratitude chart. I have a very easy answer.

No.

I hate to clean.

I’ve listened to my friends talk about the stress relief of cleaning their homes top to bottom, the relaxation they receive from dusting knick knacks, vacuuming miles of carpet, scrubbing toilets, or taking a toothbrush to their shower grout. Not me.

The only stress relief I receive from cleaning is when I don’t have to do it. Which never happens so yes…I have a lot of anxiety…mostly about household tasks.

I grew up with a mother who wasn’t too concerned about keeping an immaculate house. If she told us to clean the house, we asked, “who’s coming over?” because that was really the only timCleaning_and_Babies_poeme we worried about it. Now don’t get me wrong – we didn’t live in a hovel.  The house wasn’t an episode from Hoarders (until recently, and that’s a whole other blog). My mom’s mantra was “you’ll always have a house to clean, so spend time with your kids while you have them.” Great philosophy.  I guess I inherited that gene.
I still adhere to the philosophy I bought into when I had young children: “If you want to see my house, call ahead. If you want to see me, come on over.”

I clean as much as necessary. I vacuum, dust, sweep and mop floors, scrub the tub and toilet, and occasionally, declutter my closets. But I don’t enjoy it. Ever.

If I had one household task that I had to say I was grateful for – it would be washing dishes…by hand. We’ve never had an automatic dishwasher so I’ve washed a lot of plates and glasses in the last 30 years. I started using this time to think about stuff. Nothing like a sink full of dirty dishes to get the creative juices flowing. (insert laughter). But truthfully, since no one wanted to do the dishes, I was never bothered with “Mom, can I…? or “Mom, would you…? Made for a perfect quiet time.

I came to appreciate the blessing of running water when Cedar Rapids flooded in 2008, therefore I don’t complain that I HAVE to wash dishes. I GET to wash dishes. I have clean water to drink, wash dishes, make tea, boil potatoes, whatever. So I guess I am grateful for the household task of washing dishes…though it is near the bottom of my list of things I’d like to be doing on a sunny afternoon.

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My 30-Day Gratitude chart has some very interesting topics on which to focus. Today says “What hour of the day are you grateful for?” This seems like a silly question to me, as I’m grateful for every hour of the day. Aren’t you? Why would I not be grateful for another hour to live, to breathe, to love, to eat, to sleep…whatever? Maybe they mean – “what hour of the day are you MOST grateful for?”

Easy – lunch hour.

And not just because it’s another opportunity to stuff my face.

Monday through Friday I work in an office where I sit for the majority of my 8 hour day. But on my lunch hour – almost every day – I walk. If it’s warm, I walk. If it’s cold, I walk. Even if it’s rainy, I walk. As you can tell, I’m somewhat obsessed with walking.

TrailWalking does many things for me, physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. One website says a daily walk of 20-25 minutes could add 7 years to your life. Sounds great to me. The author, Dr. Mercola, claims a two-mile walk a day can cut your risk of heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. Other benefits include improved sleep, joint health, and circulation.

I love my lunch hour walk because it clears my head. I usually pop in my ear buds, turn on a walking playlist of music, and sing along as I walk through the neighborhood. Yes, I’ve received looks from other pedestrians, but I’m not concerned. I don’t sing THAT loud. By the time I’ve completed a 2 to 2.5 mile circuit around downtown, I feel refreshed and mentally ready to tackle the afternoon.

Even if the weather is cloudy, or chilly, or gloomy, I can walk because Cedar Rapids has a great skywalk system. If I start at our public library and walk to the end, including all the little side trips, I’ve gotten over two miles of walking…and stayed warm and dry. There are several restaurants along the route so if I feel inclined, I can stop for pizza, or a burger, or soup and salad. I can enter and exit the skywalk at over a dozen different locations, so I can do a little inside and little outside walking, depending on the weather and my mood.

Sometimes I leave my music in the office and pray as I walk. Sometimes I just think about the tasks I have left on my to-do list or what I’m going to blog about. My lunch hour walk is a sacred time for me, when I quiet my spirit and worship through music or prayer; when I give my body a good workout; or when I just think. I don’t believe it’s an accident that God promises to walk in close fellowship with us through life. He wants to accompany me as I journey along each day…not run from task to duty to job…but walk, conversing together as I put one foot in front of the other.

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

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I’ve loved my teachers since I started kindergarten way back in the olden days. I can remember each one very vividly, which should scare some of us. Teachers are such a huge influence in the lives of our kids – mostly for good, occasionally one or two not so good. For the most part I have great memories of good teachers who loved their students and were dedicated to their calling of training up the next leaders of our society.

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First day of school, some unknown year, standing in the middle of the road

 

In first grade, my original teacher broke her leg right before the school year began so we had Mrs. Highland as our substitute teacher for over half the year. I loved Mrs. Highland. And she obviously loved her students. Because I started my “school life” with her, she became the next most important female in my life (after my mom). I’m so grateful I had that positive reinforcement in my young life. Because I could read before I got to first grade and often finished assignments before others, Mrs. Highland asked if I would like to help some of the other students occasionally. I guess I did okay, because she told my mom that “Kris should become a teacher.” I was six – not really thinking about my life’s calling at that time in my life. I think back then I wanted to grow up to be a waitress.

But Mrs. Highland was attuned to her students so well that she saw talents and giftings in her little group of six-year-olds…way before others were even looking. She encouraged us to try harder and go beyond our assignment. When we were concentrating on learning 2 + 2, she was seeing future city leaders and attorneys. While we sounded out our Dick and Jane Readers, she was envisioning teachers and doctors and priests. She gave us resources that pushed our little six-year-old minds to dream big, to see ourselves for the valuable human beings we were…even in first grade.

 

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The youngest class picture I could locate. I’m top row, second from the right.

My home town is a small village in northern Illinois with a small school of kindergarten through high school encompassed in one building. As first graders, we often saw and interacted with high school students so we had opportunity to dream about being like the “big kids.” Mrs. Highland already saw us as “big kids” and beyond.

 

I missed Mrs. Highland for many years after I left first grade, though I was able to see her often. She was always the kindest and most encouraging woman, even when I finally reached “big kid” status. And I’ll never forget her “prophecy” over me – I didn’t become an officially trained and certified school teacher, but I’ve been teaching my whole life…tutoring other students in high school and college, home schooling my own two children, teaching women’s classes and now privately tutoring elementary, high school and adult students.

Mrs. Highland saw something in me when I was six years old. She looked for the gifts each of her students possessed, even if those talents weren’t finely tuned or sophisticated. I want to be able to do that with my kids…all of them. Each student I tutor becomes one of my kids. Each one is special and unique in their own gifts and talents. Some are naturally outgoing and loaded with personality. Others are quieter, shy in the presence of me as a stranger. But I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Highland, and how much she encouraged me to reach farther, that nothing is impossible, no matter how old you are.

When I grow up, I want to be just like Mrs. Highland.

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Do you ever catch yourself in a mindless fog, moving through traffic without any idea how you got where you are? Me too. Scared myself.

On the other side, I have also over-thought myself into inaction. I thought about something for so long and hard that I came to no conclusions…only saw the situation from every point of view available…and then did nothing. This is a talent for which I’m very skilled.

I have another talent – looking on the bright side. Occasionally, I will get down (who doesn’t?) but for the most part, I’m the person who sees the glass half full. Or as my science-geek friends would say,  completely full…half with liquid, half with air. This particular talent has served me well most of my life. I enjoy happy feelings. I like being the “up” person until…I’m the only “up” person. Then it feels like work. I feel like I have to pull everyone else up and I forgot my weight-lifting workout.

I realize that my natural tendency to look on the bright side is God-given (and annoying to some). God made me with the desire to encourage and exhort others, to help people see the positive side of a situation, to give others indisputable evidence that in all things God works for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

It’s a trait I am most thankful for…

But…

I can’t do it alone. Will you help me today? Will you give others a boost? Will you encourage someone who’s low and looking lower? Thanks – I appreciate it. I’m glad I’m not in this work alone.

And, by the way, if you’re one of those who have a tendency to see the glass half empty, take this Scripture and post it everywhere you can. Think_About_These_ThingsIt will help. Because God promises that He will never allow His Word to return empty and if you have your mind fixed on things above, and not on the circumstances of life that change, and drift, and sink your soul…you will be lifted up.

I appreciate my positive outlook and general happy perspective but God did not give it to me just for me…

He says, “Kris, go pass it along to others. This world needs to know that I haven’t given up on them. I will never leave them. I will never forsake them. I’ve got this all under control. Be salt and light and watch Me draw people to Myself.”

Cool, huh?

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I’m scheduled to write about a memory for which I’m grateful. Once again, it is very hard to choose just one. I have a tendency to write about memories most of the time so I was wracking my brain to think of something clever or creative. However, while checking my “On This Day” tab on my Facebook news feed, I came across a memory from six years, for which I am so very thankful.

tsnumani_2011

Six years ago last week was the anniversary of the magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami which devastated northeastern Japan. With only the 2008 Cedar Rapids flood as a reference, I cannot begin to imagine the recovery efforts needed to return to some sense of normalcy. The effects of that disaster were felt around the world, even in Cedar Rapids, as the McGarveys here (and in the St. Louis area) waited impatiently for news. You see, my beautiful niece Kim was working as a kindergarten teacher in Sendai, only 80-miles from the earthquake’s epicenter. Initially, local people reported 200 to 300 bodies already been found there. It all turned out okay for Kim, but even with all the current technology, it was hours before we knew that for sure. Hours of prayer. Hours of worry (let’s be honest – we say Christians shouldn’t worry, but we do). Hours of waiting for any little bit of news. Hours of watching devastating video. Hours of hearing rumors, hoping it’s all false.

If my memory is correct (please, no quotes here), Kim’s school ended up being a recovery location. She waited herself for news of her little students. As Americans, she and some other teachers ended up being transferred to the U.S. Air Force base at Misawa, north of the affected area. Eventually she flew home, only to return in late summer to help out again.

The numbers involved with this earthquake and tsunami are incomprehensible. The death toll was over 18,000, with over 6,000 injured. Entire towns were lost. Over 228,000 people had to live away from their homes, either temporarily or permanently. The property damage figures are staggering. Some estimate insured losses from the earthquake alone to be $34.6 billion US dollars. The tsunami caused nuclear accidents including meltdowns of three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex. People within a 12 miles radius of the plant evacuated. The health results of this part of the disaster may never be comprehended. Radiation levels remain dangerously high, and the Tokyo Electric Power Company reported in 2013 that about 300 tons of radioactive water leaks into the Pacific Ocean everyday.

It is not my intent to scare people. Though I am very grateful for my niece’s safety, for many, this anniversary is a reminder of one of the worst moments in recent history. Please take some time today to hug your kids, call your mom, and pray for a nation still recovering. May my heart be moved as God’s heart.

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Impossible.

My 30-day gratitude list asks: “What book are you grateful for?” Really? Singular? One book? Impossible.

You need to know this about me before I can continue. I love books. I have always loved books. I learned to read before I went to kindergarten and I’ve been reading ever since. I love all types of books…most genres (except horror, yuck)…many different authors and styles. Some of my greatest lessons have been learned while reading stories to my boys. One of my favorite series of children’s books are about a little raccoon named Adam.

adam_Raccoon - 2Adam Raccoon is the brain child (brain animal?) of Glen Keane, who both writes and illustrates all of the books. Formerly an animator for Disney, Mr. Keane wrote eight books about this little fun-loving fellow who lives in Master’s Wood along with his best friend, King Aren, and other friends (and enemies). In Adam’s many and varied adventures, he invariably learns a lesson or two, and always, always, King Aren pulls him out of whatever pickle Adam finds himself in.

My favorite Adam adventure involves a race he runs up Victory Mountain. Adam is very excited. He has new running shoes and is full of confidence that he will win the race, no question about it. King Aren, as always, is a wise and strong friend, who tries to dispense advice pre-race…but Adam thinks he knows it all and doesn’t listen well. (Sound familiar? Yeah, me too.)

One of my favorite lines is King Aren’s encouragement to Adam before the race begins.

“It’s easy to get off track. But when you do, get back on course and finish the race.”

Each of Adam’s books include a character meant to get him off alone and without King Aren’s protection. In the Race to Victory Mountain, the dark enticement comes from a bat who gives Adam a map of a “short cut.” Don’t we all want a short cut to the top? Don’t we all get tempted to cut corners and still reap the rewards? Yeah – it doesn’t work so well for Adam either.

The important thing to remember – for Adam and for us – “What counts is finishing the race. Everyone who stays on course and doesn’t quit will win.” More wisdom from King Aren.

As the race begins, Adam enjoys a comfortable lead. He is running great…until he hits Ruby’s Honey Stand. The temptation of fresh biscuits and honey get him off the course and a few pounds heavier before he realizes he needs to get moving. Then he encounters the old deserted fairgrounds. The various rides and attractions quickly become his latest distraction and time quickly gets away from him. He’s trying to make up some time when he remembers that short cut map.

At one point, Adam is standing at a crossroads. He sees King Aren’s course flag, and remembers the words, “Stay on course.” However, he’s worried he’ll never finish in time, so he heads off down the other path. As you can guess, this is not his best decision. He ends up hanging from a broken bridge slat over a raging river, “I quit.”

Nevertheless, to the rescue is King Aren, who encourages Adam to get back in the race. “You can still make it if you don’t delay!” So accompanied by his royal friend, Adam gets going, and as the last rays of sun fall over the mountain, Adam makes it to the finish line and receives a trophy, just like everyone else who finished the race.

Simple story. Yes. Timeless truth. Absolutely.

I go back to this story over and over because it so easily comforts and encourages me while I’m running my life race. I also have a king who is my best friend. King Jesus never leaves me, always provides the encouragement and advice I need, through His Word, to run my race with endurance. I can rely on His map (the Bible) and don’t need any short-cuts to a victory.

I’m grateful for this little book which showed my kids (and me) the way to live (race) victoriously – staying on course and never giving up.

“So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way. And we should remove the sin that so easily catches us. Let us look only to Jesus.” Hebrews 12:1b,2a

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