First Month of Thankful

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It has already been more than a month since I started keeping track of a blessing-a-day, and what a month it has been! Little did I know when I started this project that I would wrap up my first month living in a new home and house-hunting. The past week has been very busy with last minute packing, moving, cleaning, rearranging, and unpacking, but I’ve managed to keep my resolution so far and I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I’ve been learning along the way.

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1. I am so very thankful for my husband and kiddos. Can you tell? The munchkins make it in to the majority of my pictures and even the ones that don’t include a munchkin usually represent a moment that did involve one or both of them. While two little ones make life busy and sometimes overwhelming, I certainly am grateful for my girls and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. Not clean floors or grown-up conversation or free time or sleep or anything else! As for Dan, I’ve been resisting the urge to write down “Dan” or “time with Dan” or anything of the sort, saving those ones for special days. No repeats allowed, you know.

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2. I love weekends! I actually keep a journal and during my quiet time each day I try to write down at least three things I’m thankful for. One Friday I looked back and realized that “Friday!” was making the list over and over (exclamation mark and all). I love Fridays because once Dan comes home from work, he doesn’t leave me until Monday. (I do not love Mondays). Saturdays are my Dan day. Sundays are nice too, but with church we spend more time talking to others. My “Fridays” haven’t made it into a picture yet because it feels too easy. I’m trying to make myself be specific.

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3. The real lesson I’ve been learning is that it’s just not enough to be thankful for one thing a day. I can quite vividly recall fuming in frustration one afternoon. I was standing in my kitchen looking out at the messy living room, upset that the day had gone so terribly. There was not a grateful bone in my body as I stood there and this lesson hit me. It wasn’t working. Not that day anyway. And I realized that it’s not enough to make a little list of blessings, even if you do it every day. I want my life to be one of continual gratitude and joy, in each moment, in each difficulty, trusting God and rejoicing in the blessings He’s given me. I am learning to count my blessings and trust God’s long-term plan. It’s not quick or clean or easy, but I can see that God is making me a more grateful person. But I always come back to the place where I am so thankful that it’s not based on me at all but on what Jesus did for me. I’ll never be good enough. This project is just another way that God is showing me I’m not and never will be. Thank God I don’t have to be. He is.

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And so wraps up one month of twelve. One month closer to my 27th birthday. One month behind me filled with little happy moments. Eleven months to go.

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Midnight Meeting

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During my Junior year of college I lived by myself in a cute little one-bedroom apartment on campus at the University of Michigan. While there are ups and downs to living alone, I enjoyed that transitional year and am grateful for it. I have many priceless memories of spending time there alone with God; sometimes in prayer, singing, or reading the Bible. One of those occasions happened to be about five months after Dan and I had started dating. And, while I enjoyed that time alone with the Lord, I started to panic as I thought about the possibility of getting married and giving that time up. I had heard how busy it is to be a mom, how you’re always tired and the work is unending. I had heard that it becomes impossible to have significant quiet times alone with the Lord. I also knew that just being a wife was, in a way, a sacrifice of the freedom that I had to spend time alone with the Lord so often without interruption. So, by the end of this particular evening, I was seriously questioning whether or not I ever wanted to get married, even to someone as wonderful as Dan. However, after a few weeks of serious prayer, thought, and a helpful book I felt let to read, I decided that this was indeed the direction in which God was leading. So, sacrifices or not, I obeyed.

Fast forward to this past Friday evening. Dan and I were talking, as we often do, about our future. Where would we live? What sort of career will Dan have (long term)? What are we supposed to do about all that right now? And, as is often the case, we weren’t coming to any solid conclusions. This evening, though, I was getting frustrated and impatient. So, as Dan ran into a store, I took the moment to pray through some of my unhappy thoughts. It’s not really ok to be angry at God, despite what our culture (even the Christian culture) tells us. I knew that I was getting angry, but God was gracious enough to offer me some clarity and comfort during those short moments in the car, and I was excited and grateful.

That night, I woke up earlier than usual. (In recent weeks of this pregnancy, I’ve been waking up once a night, around 3:00 AM to get a drink of water and go to the bathroom) I thought that was a bit odd and was soon fast asleep once more. Then, I woke up again. Now that is really unusual. That time, I couldn’t fall back asleep. So after tossing and turning for a while, I decided this was another one of those evenings when God was waking me up to meet with Him. I shuffled out to the living room, made some tea and a snack, and settled down to read my Bible.

I have been flying through the Gospels lately, and I found myself starting off another one, the Book of John. Different things have been standing out to me from each book, but I haven’t been doing any in-depth studying, just reading. In John 1-4, the thing that stood out very clearly to me was Jesus’ interaction with and care for individuals, one at a time. Andrew. Simon. Philip. Nathaniel. Nicodemus. The Woman at the Well.

Each person, Jesus already knew, before they knew Him. Each person, He told to “follow”. And, for all except Nicodemus, each person went and told others. And in the case of the woman at the well…

“Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.’”

As I sat under the cozy light from the lamp perched on a ledge above our couch, I enjoyed this uninterrupted time of Bible reading. No laundry to fold, no dishes to wash, to toys to pick up, no diapers to change…just uninterrupted time to sit back and read. I thought about how my name goes into that list of individuals. Like Philip, I have heard the call, “Follow Me”. Like Nicodemus, I was up during the night to meet with Jesus. Like the woman, I have had moments of discovering my own sinfulness, only to realize that He already knew. Throughout my childhood I heard about Jesus until I too could say, “It is no longer because of what you said that I believe, for I have heard for myself and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

I thought, more specifically, to the Friday night before, and how patient God had been with me and my frustrations. I thought about that night in my apartment alone when I was so afraid that I would never get any special time with the Lord once I was married, and certainly not once I was a mom. But those rumors I heard, about how moms just don’t get to spend any time with the Lord, I have found them to be false.

True, I don’t often have hour-long daily quiet times. True, I can’t just drop everything and sit on the floor and pray when I’m feeling emotional, sad, tired, anxious…and, true, I have a larger number of important priorities now than I did back then. But what is also true is that God gives us the spiritual food that we need, sometimes only one day at a time (or hour, or minute!) and sometimes only in small moments. But He feeds His sheep. We shall not be in want. He makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters.

I have heard an analogy that God feeds us in the same way a baby is fed milk. Some newborns take hours to eat a meal, only to need another meal an hour later. As babies grow, however, they eat faster. Even though their stomachs are bigger, they still get all the food that they need, but in a shorter amount of time. Sometimes our Bible times after dinner are my only “food”. Other times I get a few minutes, or half an hour, to spend with the Lord. But sometimes, God wakes me up in the middle of the night and asks me to spend a little time alone with Him.

So, what’s the take-away from all of this? God gives Christians everything they need. God cares about individuals: me, you. God is gracious, and likes to give us good gifts, and loves to have special alone time with His Beloved. And the peace, and contentment, and hope, and joy that I have in this moment don’t come from a perfect life, or a well-planned future, or a sweet baby girl, or a wonderful husband. They are gifts that God delights to give His children. May you experience those gifts today.