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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

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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It random-act-of-kindnesswas a saying my mom used to tell me when I complained in junior high about people being mean to me. Looking back, I cannot remember anyone’s actual actions or words toward me that I would consider mean…but I certainly do remember my mom’s advice, “Just be nice to them, Kris. Kill them with kindness.”

Most of the time, I think I’m a kind person, but I also realize that plenty of times I’ve chosen what felt good to me over what may have been kindness extended toward someone else. The times I could have allowed someone in front of me at the WalMart check out lane, held a door open during a walk instead of hurrying on myself, or getting Don a cup of coffee while I was up getting my own…I could go on. So could you.

Today I’m grateful for kindness. I’m also grateful for the POWER of kindness, because I believe if we, all of us, make the intentional choice to be kind to others, we’ll help inch our society in the opposite direction of where it is currently heading.

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

Here’s my intentional kindness action plan for this week:

Day 1 – Baby steps: smile at everyone I meet, even if they are grouchy or frowning. This includes while I’m driving (my biggest challenge) and when I answer the phone. I don’t know about you, but I can tell when the person on the other end of the phone says “hello” with a smile. I’m weird that way.

Day 2 – Everything from Day 1 PLUS…within the course of the day, choosing kindness in the little things. This could include holding doors, making coffee, running errands, doing a favor, extending grace, being generous, laughing at dumb jokes.

Day 3 – Day 1 + Day 2 + taking note of my body language and tone of voice so I exude kindness with more than just words. Walking the walk, not just talking the talk, as they say.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4

Day 4 – Everything from the past three days PLUS adding in kindness to those who don’t like me.

NOOOO!

This one is the hardest, of course. Who likes doing nice things, being nice, showing kindness to people who do not deserve it? Not me.

But…

That’s what God has asked us to do…and in fact, it is what He did (and keeps doing) for us. We don’t deserve God’s love…we never deserved Jesus’ sacrifice for us, but He did it anyway. Because He loves us more than we can imagine. And if we really want to show the world a better way…the BEST way…we must demonstrate God’s love through our actions. Kill them with kindness.

“Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Romans 12:20-21 (The Message)

I once heard a message from a guest speaker about kindness. A person sitting near to me scoffed about it afterwards – “What a stupid topic for a sermon!” I guess they thought it wasn’t spiritual enough. But in actuality, showing kindness is one of the most spiritual disciplines you can aspire to reach. By showing kindness, you are showing an unbelieving world the unconditional love of our Father God. We are proving His love for them, and using us as instruments of that love. What is more spiritual than being a tool in the hands of the Master?

“We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us,[a] and by our sincere love.” 2 Corinthians 6:6

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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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mom_aunt_nene_dresses

Juanita & Gloria Damon (my mom) dressed for prom (circa 1945?)

 

I don’t know about you, but I had a mom who wasn’t shy about speaking her mind. She was the youngest of three daughters and admittedly, teased and tormented her sisters most of her growing up years. As a teenager, she was a spitfire who boasted about having quite a few friends who were boys. But once she met my dad, it didn’t take long to say “I do.” She had just turned 18, and my dad was just 21, when they tied the knot. Their marriage lasted almost 56 years, though not without quite a few painful twists and turns. Through it all, my mom stood pretty firm. She had a way of seeing the world and expected almost everyone else to see it her way. I loved my mom, but she was a stubborn woman.

As the middle of five children, I was the born peacemaker. I wanted everyone to get along. I didn’t like fighting…between mom and dad, brother to brother, or even with my sister. My usual way of handling conflict was hiding or running, or lashing out with hurtful words. One of the first sayings I remember my mom telling me: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” She didn’t always live by that motto, but it’s one I’ve tried to use, especially since joining social media. It’s an early lesson I heard that I’m most grateful for.

The book of Proverbs is full of advice similar to my mom’s (and I’m sure she didn’t know it at the time) – “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)… “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life…” (Proverbs 10:11a)… “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom…” (Proverbs 10:31a). When I get frustrated with the hate and vitriol spewing forth on television and the internet, I try to keep my mouth shut. I’m not always successful. More than anything, I want my lips to speak wisdom…my words to be encouragement…my mouth to speak life into a world that desperately needs words of hope and grace. O Lord, let me hear my mama’s voice one more time: “Kris…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

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old friends

I remember a conversation I had with my husband when we both decided to join the Facebook frenzy back in 2008. We were trying to learn this newfangled thing called social media. Our kids had recently created profiles on Facebook and we were not about to be left behind. So while discussing all the ins and outs, he asked me about “friends.” What does that mean exactly? He was adamant that he wouldn’t have any “friends” because none of his friends were on Facebook. I tried to explain that “friends on Facebook aren’t really your friends, not as you would know them. They are people who want to see what you post, people who follow you. Facebook just uses the term ‘friends.'”

Since that time I’ve come to realize our culture has embraced the Facebook definition of friend. We know so much about a person, from their photos, profiles, posts and shares, that we really think we are friends with everyone. In reality, when a crisis hits, only a tiny percentage of those “friends” will be there for you…that tiny percentage – those are your real friends.

I’m so grateful for my true friends. They aren’t defined by time spent together, proximity, or age. It doesn’t matter if we are attend the same church, live in the same city, or read the same books. I count as true friends those who are honest, kind, real and lasting. They love me, with or without makeup, money or ministry. I love them the same way. Some of my friends I’ve had since kindergarten…some I’ve gained in the last few months. All are precious to me – not for what they do for me, but because they love and appreciate me for who I am on the inside. They are honest with me – telling it to me straight when I get a little too self-absorbed. And I know they expect the same from me.

Some of my friends live too far to see very often, but when we do, it’s like no time has passed at all. In those cases, social media has been a blessing – keeping up with the lives of my far off friends…though nothing beats a little “mas café” on the beach in Puerto Vallarta with good buddies, or giggles over dinner with high school classmates, or pie & ice cream with the best neighbors ever.

In my 40-days of Intentional Gratitude, I know I need to express my thankfulness to my friends, for they are often “Jesus with skin on” for me.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:14

 

 

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