Saturday, November 30, 2013

Faithful Friday: Daily Thanksgiving

November 29th will always be crazy difficult, a tornado of emotions, a mixture of new memories mingled with painful reminders. 

I spent the morning in quiet time, allowing the kids to sleep in, while Tim headed out for work.  Surprisingly Noah, my sleeper, awoke first and came straight to me with a gentle hug.  He lingered and though nothing was said our hearts spoke.  His fingers traced my hand and we just sat in the peacefulness of the moment. 

The day was filled with a wavering.  Of laughter and tears.  Of longing and knowing.  Of wanting to be alone and glad the house was full of family.  Of what could've been and of gratitude for what is now.  Of missing him and yet feeling him in everything.

#23's more than I could count.  Giggles from the spaces of this little house, filling up the empty and erasing the aching.  A three month milestone on the anniversary. 

Our tiny newest blessing.  More hugs than normal from my sweet guy.  Noah knew this momma needed extra loving, I guess.  Even snuggles on the couch before bed.  And restful sleep, something that hasn't come with other anniversaries.  Prayers from friends no doubt filling the night and bringing us peaceful dreams.

We took things slower.  Stretched out RAK even to today.  It allowed Tim to be a part of the reverse shopping spree for the first time.  The three of us doing it together.  Healing and changes.  And today, two days after Thanksgiving, just like five years ago, we began decorating for Christmas.  Phases.  Some old, some new, some still hard, some bittersweet.

This morning, this last day of November, I paused to write my last thankful post of the month.
I'll share it below....

Today, as I think back over November, my list of gratitude abounds. And I'm glad thanksgiving is not just a day, or even an month for us, but how we try to live every single moment.

I am thankful we are at a place that, despite the pain we've faced, we still find joy and give thanks. I am grateful for family and friends who haven't forgotten our sweet boy, who remember him through helping others. I am touched by the prayers which continue to be said for us to this day. And I am knees bent at God's overflowing mercy and grace, which whispers to my heart that this is not the end.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Last year, our family chose to spend our Thanksgiving at our church, delivering meals to those who would otherwise do without.  It was, by far, one of the very best holiday experiences we've ever had. 

This year, I was blessed to lead the amazing group of volunteers who run like a well-oiled  machine.  At our busiest, it was a beautiful display of organized chaos. 

The hands and feet of thanks for the ability to serve.
God is so good.  And we are so blessed.

They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
Psalm 145:7
So, what's it take to deliver 315 meals to the community...
Plus serve a complete banquet to the volunteers and families afterwards?
400 lbs of turkey
40 bags of stuffing
1000 ounces of corn & green beans
600 cookies
a small fort of cardboard boxes
20+ drivers
at least 200 miles of routes
dozens of tables, hundreds of chairs
enough volunteers to fill the space of our sanctuary in a giant circle
and an endless supply of smiles, passion, service and Christian love!
Even with all that, I am certain I'm leaving quite a bit out.
God filled in all the gaps.
Seeing this event beginning to end was such an awesome sight. 
Thankful, beyond words, to serve alongside these willing servants.

Wishing you a JOYous and blessed Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Purpose Driven Acts

This is our week to make a difference.  To remember our son. 

Austin's purpose in this world, without a doubt, was to make a difference to anyone he met.  He'll always be remembered for his kindness to others.  It is because of his caring spirit our Random Acts of Kindness project was born.

November 29 wasn't ever a date I expected to have such significance.  Shortly after Thanksgiving, it was normally such a happy time for our family.  Now, it is a day laced with painful memories of losing our 14 year old son, Austin.  In fact, the entire month seems somewhat like a countdown to that horrible night.

It's almost been five years and what we've learned along the way is to focus on the positive.  Remembering what we're thankful for and how much we're blessed, despite this great loss, is how we've survived. 

For us, it is now more than just a day to honor him...It is a month of Thanksgiving.  In gratitude for the 14 years we had with him, we give back every single day of November.  In some ways small, in some ways big.  They may be "random" but each is done with a very special purpose.

A previous year's post explains it more for those of you who are new.  And here's a recap of the beautiful acts done for Austin one year.  And one of my favorite activities we've made an annual tradition.  So many wonderful stories of how this simple act of helping others helped us heal.... 
(you can search "acts of kindness" on this blog to read even more).

If you'd like to join us in RAK this week, or on November 29, please send us a quick note with your random act.  You can message me below, or even post on his Facebook page here.  Prayers of thanks and blessings in advance for remembering Austin in this way!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Faithful Friday: I've Got Your Back

When you bow your head, who is the first person you pray for? 

If you're married, without fail, it should be your spouse. And I can say I've failed Tim many times through the years.  It wasn't that I didn't want to pray for him, other needs just seemed to float the top.  Perhaps I took for granted that God knew the prayers of my heart without me sending them up to Him. 

There's certainly been seasons he's been the sole focus of my prayer, but again, it was a pressing need that drove me to lifting him up.  I've seen the work, the progress, the changes for the better when my focus was to put Tim first.

My pastor has shared often that he prays daily first and foremost for his wife, then his kids, then his church and so on.  It is through his guidance and reminder, I've committed to putting Tim top of my list no matter what.  God has gifted me with this man and he is worth the time of my prayers.

It's no coincidence that God is sending me Sharon Jayne's new book Praying For Your Husband from Head to Toe.  Her book is available for pre-order now and will be in stores by December 17.  I'm among a lucky few who will be getting an early copy this week.  Stay tuned to my blog for reviews!

"no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
    and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
    and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17
If Tim were threatened, I wouldn't hesitate to protect him.  I'm always at the ready to stand up for Tim, to encourage him, to defend him.  This scripture is a reminder though that I should be proactive not reactive in protecting my husband.  The best way to have his back is to lift him up in prayer.
Wives, will you join me?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Teach Me

When I was a little girl among the list of things I wanted to be was a teacher.  I also wanted to be a fashion designer, race car driver, and psychiatrist, but those are for another day, another post!  Being a young married mom though, I opted for a quicker career track after high school.

While I didn't choose that path, God has blessed me throughout life with many teaching opportunities.  I started young, teaching vacation bible school while still a teenager.  In my previous job, one of the things I loved most was when I was training or teaching.  And in my former career at a local college, I covered a vacancy one semester and taught a freshman personal development course.  Loved that.

Through the years, I continued to volunteer through church teaching various Sunday school classes, Wednesday night groups, and VBS.  But it was always to children or those younger than me.  Up until this past weekend, I'd never taught an adult class.  The thought intimidated me, as I worried I didn't know enough.  My fear was that someone would ask a question I couldn't answer. 

But a week ago, I was asked to substitute my own Sunday school class.  My stomach flipped and all those worries returned.  Yet, sitting in class, God stirred me to respond yes.

It was a bit of a struggle this past week while preparing and studying for the class.  Was I on the right session?  What if I presented the wrong one? Doubts became so much that I texted two friends and even called someone ensuring I was on the correct week.   I read through the lesson and felt like I was reading Greek.  Nothing made sense the first time and I had no clue what to pull and share.  I'm certain that Satan wanted nothing more than for me to give up, change my mind, and not teach yesterday.  And that just made me want to dig in my heels and do it even more.

Prayerfully, I dusted myself off and set back to it.  God showed up with perfect timing, bringing out the parts he wanted me to focus on and highlighting scripture to read.  Though nerves tried to reappear, when I stepped up to teach, it all washed away.  It felt natural and I found joy in doing it.

Now, this is not an acceptance letter to a future proposal, should this make it to the hands of the Sunday school director, just admitting it was more enjoyable than expected.  All kidding aside, I know it is more than I can take on right now, even being temporarily "retired" but it was fun to put on my teacher's hat if only as a sub. 

In this season of figuring out where God wants to be, keeping an open mind and being brave to try new things is how I need to respond.  Every experience is a lesson if we're willing to be taught.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Faithful Friday: Operation Me

Most of us envision what we would do with free time.  Days with no schedules, no rules, no lists, just free time.  In today's busy world, is that even a realistic concept?  But if you had the opportunity for freedom...what would you do?

Although I normally saved my vacation time for family activities, every now and then, I would take a Me day. Being a homebody, it normally involved staying at the house in my PJs to read, write and watch movies. And it was nice.  Once in awhile.

I'm on day 5 of unemployment as I write this.
People have asked how I'm doing, and, "How you liking retirement?"

Well, at 37, that's not really a phrase I'm prepared to answer yet.  But I'm dealing with it (or at least trying) in the only way I know how... with a joyful attitude and lots of prayer.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  
2 Timothy 2:15

Last week, while out running errands, a gentle nudging led me to stop and get a devotion book for this new season I'm facing.  I picked up a few, flipped some pages, touched the covers of others, but this one book kept finding me.  I'd turn the corner and see it on an end cap.  Sitting down to check my phone, I again found a display at eye level.

Ok, God, I hear ya.

The book I chose (or rather He chose) is Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore.  It's a daily devotion that includes room for me to write and is focused on prayer.  Speak to my heart, sister.  And it lasts for 10 weeks.

Now, I'm not saying I want to be unemployed that long, but the studies I've read are shocking.  It could take more, it could take less, but I figure 10 weeks will give me lots of growth in Him regardless.  No matter how long it takes, my prayer is to find something which brings Him glory.

The first page was a definite sign He has news for me along this journey.
"God wants us to surrender to His will, but we tend to want a blueprint of His plans 
so we can decide whether or not to surrender."

Surrender sure sounds a lot like my word for 2013...Submit.  Isn't it amazing when we can look back and see the hand of God at work in our lives?  While I don't know what he has planned for me next, I do know and believe his promise that it will be 
for my good.

In the meantime, I'm catching up on DVR that's reached capacity, cleaning out and organizing the house, and helping manage Thanksgiving deliveries to over 300 through my church.  Oh, and starting that book - at least in my head.  Good things.  Truly blessed...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Faithful Friday: Cool enough for School

When my boys were in grade school, I frequently stopped in to have lunch with them.  Austin, probably more so than Noah, because Noah got "too cool" pretty quickly.  I remember having lunch with Austin all the way to 6th grade and that he even considered letting me grace the halls of middle school.  Considered....

Noah is a different story.  I can remember maybe making it 3rd or 4th grade.  In fact, I think it was 4th grade that he graciously showed me the teachers lounge and all its glory one morning while volunteering, an early effort to politely shove mom into another room. 

And that was ok.  I still got my hugs and snuggles at the end of the day.  I'm cool with playing cool.

You can imagine my surprise when Noah came home one day a few weeks ago, asking if I'd come to school and present to his class.  And not just his class but all his teacher's Language Arts classes for the day.  Wow.

His teacher had emailed me earlier that day, but of course, I didn't respond until after I talked to Noah.  I figured he'd say "No way!"  or, "not unless I can skip that day!" but instead, he was willing, maybe even excited to have me there.

My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.  Proverbs 23:26

I was asked to share about writing - blogging specifically, because it matched what they were learning about personal narratives.   Saying yes was easy.  The difficult task became finding posts that wouldn't embarrass my son. 

Keeping my audience in mind, I opted to share a funny story to begin.  Maybe if I could make them laugh, it wouldn't be quite so awkward.  And I ended with a story about Noah.  It was a story, of course, that met his approval.

With the teacher's permission, I was able to add in some writing exercises to my presentation.  It was a joy to see the excitement in some of the kids faces as they got to write.  Of course, some barely wrote out a word or two but I watched the pencil flow from several pages.  One of the exercises I used is an after school activity Noah and I still practice - The Rose & Thorn.  Afterwards, he shared that the class really enjoyed doing it. 

Maybe they'll go home and share more than "fine" when their parents ask how was school today!

One of the highlights from the day included having lunch with Noah, albeit in a private room beside his class.  While we didn't brave the lunchroom, I was happy he was willing to forgo friendships and eat with Mom.  The fact that I brought Subway, cookies included, probably didn't hurt.  All in all it was a wonderful memory that I hope he treasures for years to come.  I know I will.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Instant Gratification

I think people either love or hate the thankful posts that November brings to social media.  Some complain that perhaps it seems insincere, that one should be thankful all year long, and whatever other reasons it annoys them.  But I like it. 
At least for one month out of the year there is a little more positive than negative in my news feed.

Only 34% of Americans say they are truly happy but statistics show that keeping a gratitude list has direct and immediate benefits.  "They" also say that November is the most depressing month of the year, or at least when depression spikes.  People who practice gratitude are 25% happier.  All those stats simply put, count your blessings.  It helps make the not so good moments better.

I believe this.  And I truly live it. 

That's what this blog is all about.  Finding JOY even in the midst of pain, of grief, of the chaos life brings.  Because it is everywhere.  No matter the trial, we always, always have blessings.

For the past several Novembers I've participated in this act of sharing a thankful thought each day.  Some years I planned out what I would share, not wanting someone or something to be left out.  This year I decided to follow the inspiration of beginning this blog and to live in the moment.  To be thankful each day for what that day brings.  To be in the now....

We're only on day 5 and I can't wait to see what God does this month.
I hope you'll join me. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Faithful Friday: Thanksgiving Begins

Happy Thanksgiving!

No, not the turkey-laden national holiday...but true thanksgiving.
Being thankful for one's blessings.  For me, it is more than a day, as I choose to reflect on thanksgiving the entire month of November.  In all truth, I try to live every single day like this.

Webster defines thanks·giv·ing  [ thàngks gívving ]  as this:
  • : a prayer that expresses thanks to God
I knew I liked that Webster guy...

So on this November 1st, I start my thankful journey and random acts of kindness done in memory of Austin.  If you're new to this blog, you can catch up here as to the "why" behind this project.

Want to JOYn in? 

You can start small.  Simply dedicate your social media to thanksgiving.  Each day post something you are thankful for.  30 days of thanks.

Stumped on what to choose?  Ann Voskamp does a beautiful job here.  She even takes it a step further and chooses three things a day.

Even more?  Add random acts of kindness.  Search my blog for ideas of things we've done in the past, or Pinterest.  Good stuff there.  You can do it in memory of our sweet boy, or someone you love, or just because.  Send us some extra hugs on November 29 by messaging me some of your acts.  It's how we choose to remember Austin and what helps us get through the anniversary of losing him.

For today, I'm thankful for...being thankful.  For being in a place where I can see the good within the bad.  For the healing time - and God - brings.  For the month of November, though laced with painful memories, and the opportunity it gives to pause in thanksgiving and to share the love of God with others.

What are you thankful for today?
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