Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 24

Tonight it's all I can do to thank God his mercies are new every morning.

Some days I'm not the person I ought to be.

Some days I see my impatience, my weakness, my shortfalls clearer than anything.

Some days I want to crawl in a hole.

But in the morning I get the chance to start again.

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 23

I didn't venture far from home today, but my daughter made a 900 mile trek across Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico in the snow and freezing rain.

Tonight she was safely in her Nana's kitchen making cookies.

Letting your kids grow up is not for cowards.

Tonight I am thankful for traveling mercies for my girl.

Do your best to get here before winter...

2 Timothy 4:21

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 22

1 container chocolate milk mix

1 jar cremora non-dairy creamer

1 pound bag of powdered sugar

8 quarts of powdered milk

That was Mom's hot chocolate recipe. Only the first time she made it, she bought 8 quarts of powdered milk (what the recipe said) instead of enough powdered milk to make 8 quarts (what the recipe intended). We had very milky hot chocolate mix in ever tupperware, every bowl, every pot in the house.

The weather has turned cold and we're making hot chocolate a la Mom's secret recipe. Only not so much powdered milk.

I thank my God every time I remember you.

Philippians 1:3

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 21

There's an article in the Huffington Post this week about boring men and the women who live with them. I am lucky enough to be married to a boring man.

I don't have an uber romantic story of how he proposed to me or a chunky diamond ring to remind me.

He didn't hire the paparazzi to snap pictures of the proposal. He didn't scour my pinterest account to throw together the wedding of my dreams as a surprise. He didn't fly in a hundred guests to share in a surprise wedding or arrange for the whole wedding party to sing Lachaim! at our reception.

But here's what he did do.

He sold his camera so I could fly to his hometown to meet his family.

He listened for the growl of our diesel truck in Africa so he could rush out and open the gate for me. Every time.

He rubs my shoulders every time I set myself in front of him.

He played with the kids every evening while I made dinner, bathed them while I did dishes, and read aloud to them before bed.

In 26 years of marriage, I can think of only one time when he said, "It'd be okay if you don't cook that again."

He dug my garden, planted my fig tree, ordered the wood for my new floor. He goes along with most of my crazy ideas. Or if he can't go along, he lets me go without him. He works hard every day. When work was scarce, he's even dug ditches in the freezing rain. He never complains.

He thinks deeply, stays calm, and brings a different perspective to problems that stump me.

And when I see him in a crowd, he still makes my heart flutter.

My beloved is mine and I am his...

Song of Songs 2:16

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 20

The sun is out!

Whatever seemed difficult or impossible a couple of days ago is easy today.

The sun streaming through the front window was actually to bright to work in this morning, but I didn't care. When it's the sun that blinds me, I am happy to work blind.

Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean.

Job 37:21

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 19

Fleece-lined slippers.
A flannel shirt.
A fuzzy robe.
Fluffy socks.
A small dog.
A wall heater.
A warm shower.
A cup of tea.
A down comforter.
A cozy hubby.

As the weatherman predicts freezing nights, I am thankful for options for keeping warm.

If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:11

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 18

My critique group

My prayer ladies

My children

My husband

My dad

My brothers

My colleagues

My elders

My neighbors

My imaginary friends

So many people weave in and out of my life. A smile, a nod, a word of encouragement or rebuke. No relationship leaves me unchanged. I search for deeper truth in the eyes of the people around me and they do not disappoint.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 17

Today I am thankful for Skype.

When we moved overseas, email was a new idea in the states. Direct dial phone service hadn't even come to our town yet. When we finally got telephones, the wires had to be rolled from the post office to our house by the workers. We used the phones Mayberry style for years, calling the operator on duty to patch us through to whoever we needed to call. We got to know the operators' work schedules and would make our calls to the States when Maglo was working since we knew he would actually try to place the call.

Now, with our kids far away at college, we can turn on Skype and have them in the room with us.  We can share conversation and see their faces and it doesn't cost a dime.True, we can't share our brownies, but that's not all bad!

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

2 John 2:12

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 16

A cup of tea and conversation with friends.
A business meeting.
An hour of praying together.
A walk with a friend.
A telephone conversation, a skype talk, a chat via IM.

Words, words, words. Blessed times sharing hearts. I love them all.

And then, beautiful silence. Yesterday I enjoyed 6 hours of silence.

No telephones.
No emails.
No skyping, IM-ing, or even talking to myself (much).

Just silence. It was just a taste, really, of what I'm craving. I yearn for a day, a week, a month of quiet, a chance to be still and let God breathe new life into me.

The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.

Exodus 14:14

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 15

I fan myself as I wait for Tom Robinson's verdict in the balcony of the Maycomb County courthouse.

I stand on the balsa deck of the Kon Tiki and drink in the sight of the first land I have seen in a hundred days.

I stroll through the gardens of Hollingford, dig in the dirt of Misselwaithe Manor, step through the wardrobe into the snow. I share a lifeboat with a tiger. I carry the ring to Mount Doom. I hike the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, walk across Africa, and climb Mount Everest. I fly to the moon and beyond. I sail to the land of the Wild Things in my bed and go on adventures with my purple crayon. I look out the dormer windows of my room in Avonlea.

I step into worlds like Alice steps into the looking glass. I rediscover adventure whenever I open the pages of one of my favorite books. I lose myself in the story, only to find myself again.

I thank God for words that paint a thousand pictures.

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story...

Psalm 107:2

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 14

After a full week of work and a full day of catching up, all I can say is I am thankful for the possibility of rest, for flannel sheets and feather pillows, and for my comfy warm blanket.

Nighty night.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 13

Today I am going to be thankful for home. My own people, my own bed, my own pillow, and all the familiar sights, sounds and smells of home. I have been away for nearly a week and I'm ready to be back in the fold of family.

I am thankful that my 6th grader still loves to come home and tell me everything about her day. I've missed 4 days of school, so I'm sure to get an ear full.

I am thankful that my husband has kept the house running while I've been gone. I'm thankful that he'll be happy I am home.

I am thankful the little dog will remember me and forgive me for leaving her here as soon as she sees me.

I am thankful to be coming back in to cell phone range. The quiet is nice, but it's always good to catch up with what's been going on.

But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home.

Ezekiel 36:8

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 12

Here's one that wouldn't have been on my list a few years ago...

I am thankful for social media.

There. I said it. Being able to be in at least casual contact with hundreds of people from all eras of my life is such a blessing.

I can have a chat with a friend from Africa. I can stay in touch with my Japanese high school friend who married a Norwiegian and now lives in Sweden. Instantly. I can look at the pictures my brother took this morning. I can see the smiling faces of my nephews. I can play a game with a friend or ask advice from someone who's got more experience that I do. All in one place.

Who woulda thunk it?

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 11

Today I am thankful for the wounded warriors. This time I am talking about the men and women who stand up for our freedoms so we can enjoy them. I'm thinking of those who are apart from their families today because they are stationed far away. I'm thinking of those who fought for our freedom in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the "War to End All Wars," and the dozen wars after that one.

Today I am thankful for my uncle who stand with his Patriot Rider brothers to protect the families of fallen soldiers in their time of grief. I am thankful for my brother-in-law who has given 18 years of his life so far to serve our country. I am thankful for the officers and firemen and search and rescue workers who risk their own lives for the sake of others...all in a day's work.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:1

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 10

I've got itchy feet. Not the kind that anti-fungal powder can fix, but the kind that only a stamp in the passport can remedy. And even that is only temporary. In my dream life, I think I would be traveling about 90% of the time. I would come home for a bit of quiet, a cup of tea and to do some laundry, and then I'd be off again.

As much as I wish I could travel more, today I am thankful for the places I've been, for how the world has stretched me beyond who I would be if I just stayed home. Today I am thankful for the memories I have made in...
Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri, and all the other states I have been to...
the Caribbean...
France (oh, especially France)...
South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Benin, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, and Ghana...
Venezuela and Brazil...
and all those other places I've passed through.

Where to next? Japan? New Zealand?

Let's go!

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up in the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139:7-10

Saturday, November 09, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 9

It's easy for me to be thankful for spring. The warming of the soil. New life pushing its way up into the world. The swelling buds on tree limbs and bellies of farm animals bring the promise of new life.

It's harder for me to be thankful for fall. Sure the colors are beautiful, but the shortening days and chilly mornings remind me that winter is upon us. I dread the darkness and the rain, the need to defrost my car windows and keep track of my gloves.

This year, I am taking a different approach to winter. What if winter is not about death, but about rest? What if fall doesn't usher in the grave, but the blankets and pillows of nap time?

This fall, I am wrapping myself in the promise that hope doesn't only come in spring. In comes in the understanding that this time of dormancy is necessary for the cycle to begin again. I love the "sabbath rest" of a Sunday nap. Why not the sabbath rest of winter?

There remains, that a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

Hebrews 4:9-10

Friday, November 08, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 8

A Tale of Three Mountains

Mount McKinley, 1985
It is the middle of the night, but the sky still holds the pink glow of the midnight sun. Is it sunset or sunrise or both at the same time? I press my forehead against the small round airplane window to peer at the ground below, but the earth is shrouded in clouds. The plane banks right. Out of the cushion of clouds rises the mass of Denali's upper slopes, her back covered in snow and washed with the pink light of midnight. The plane's wingtip grazes the summit. I am so small.

Mount McGinnis, 2012
The helicopter makes a slow turn to put its nose to the wind. The mountain ridge rises to meet us as our pilot gently sets his skids on the mossy turf. We aren't the first ones to visit the mountain top, as evidenced by the narrow trail up the ridge to the summit and the piles of mountain sheep scat scattered liberally about. I stay a safe distance back from the cliffs where these sheep make their home. Pellets of sleet strike my cheeks. The wind whips the ends of my hair that stick out from below the borrowed stocking cap. It's our chance to say good-bye again, and to say it in style. It is another gift Mom left us, this hairbrained plot to lay her to rest atop the mountain she'd looked at from the valley floor for so many years. What I don't yet understand is how the sight of this mountain will act as a giant gravestone, a massive reminder of the massive love that was my mother.

Mount St. Helens, 2013
I can see the summit. For miles, I look up the rocky slope ahead of me. One pole to the next, one foot in front of the other. "Because it's there" seems like such a silly reason to do anything. But the weather is good and I'm in as good a shape now as I will ever be. Through the trees, up the boulder field and up the ashy, windy slope. I can see the summit. It's just ahead.

I have looked at this mountain from below for years now but only recently has she called to me. Now that I am scrambling up her jagged back, she looks so much bigger. I don't know if I can make it. The grey scree stretches on forever in front of me. 50 steps at a time. Then 20. Then 10. I think I can. I think I can.

The last step, my line of sight comes even with and then over the lip of the crater rim, I draw in a breath of wonder. I knew if would be spectacular, but I never expected it would be like this. The whole northwest opens up before me and I am reminded once again how small I truly am.

As for God, his way is perfect: The word of Jehovah is tried; His is a shield unto all them that take refuge in him. For who is God, save Jehovah? And who is a rock, save our God? God is my strong fortress; and he guideth the perfect in his way. He maketh his feet like hinds' feet, And setteth me upon my high places.

2 Samuel 22:31-34

Thursday, November 07, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 7

Today I am thankful for the wounded warriors. Not the ones in the U.S. army or other branches of our military, but the ones who have given their lives on the battlefield of God's mission.

Today, I remember Ryan. It's been a year since he went ahead of us, but his love and compassion changed our world forever.

Today, I remember Nancy whose time in Africa was cut so short. I remember Cindy. I remember Kathy.

None of us, when we left for the mission field, imagined so many lives cut short in auto accidents. We'd read the stories of Jim Elliott and his crew, murdered and martyred by the Auca Indians. Their deaths and their wives lives ushered in the redemption of a tribe. Maybe we thought about that kind of sacrifice, noble but unlikely. Maybe we thought of the dangers of malaria and cholera and (much less exotic sounds) worms. But car accidents? Where is the sense in that?

I want to glean meaning from these lives cut short. I want to know it was all for the greater good, but sometimes I'm not invited in to witness and understand the back side of history's tapestry. In my own wisdom, I think it would be better if Ryan was still here. I miss him. But I'm grateful that the time he spent here, he spent for good.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 6

If you come to my house, you are likely to be greeted by the whistle of the kettle. The black pot does its duty several times a day, announcing that its water is ready for tea. It's a happy sound and brings me to what I'm thankful for today...the ritual of tea.

First thing in the morning, you'll find me with a mug of PG Tips nestled between my hands. Mid morning, I like something with a little kick to it, like market spice tea. Another cup in the afternoon and another at night. Tea is the new coffee. In fact, if I invite you to meet for coffee, I'm probably having tea.

A heart at peace gives life to the body...

Proverbs 14:30

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 5

Along the road in Togo, every few kilometers you will spot a little cement marker sticking up out of the macheted grass. These little markers are painted white and red, with black numbers on them. They are miles markers (called bornes) and they tell you how far to the next town or village.

When I imagine the markers God plants in my life to remind me of him, I always picture these humble bornes. They're not much to look at but they are solid and they serve an important purpose, to tell you where you are, where you've come from, and where you are heading.

Looking back on my life, several of these markers come to mind. I've heard them called "thin places," those moments when spirit and flesh are so closely meshed they almost merge. The thin places are the places we see God.

Here are some of the milestone places where I have met God:

  • Midnight Sun Bible Camp, 1984
  • Harding Chapel, 1988
  • At a voodoo ceremony, 1995
  • In my kitchen, 1998
  • On the Whidbey Island Ferry, 2000
  • In our home office, 2010

There are dozens of other instances when I felt or saw the hand of God at work, but these are the moments that come to mind when I question whether God is real. I know he's real because he marked my life on each of these days. Today I give thanks for these markers.

There he built and altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him...

Genesis 35:7

Monday, November 04, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 4

What do you think of when you hear the word "freedom?" Does it bring to mind an American flag? A soaring eagle? The Statue of Liberty?

While I'm certainly thankful to live in a free country, my gratitude for my freedom comes from a much deeper place. My freedom is freedom from the attitude of "Free to Be, You and Me." This adage of recent history brought with it a wave of people standing up for their individuality. In some ways, it liberated us to walk our own path. In others, it turned us into selfish brats. There is certainly value is allowing my God-given talents and giftings to grow and blossom. But there is not freedom at all in living a life dictated by my culture, my selfishness, my greed and pride.

Free from myself (old man), free to become like Christ (new creation), free to walk daily in God's grace and to let the fruits of the Spirit grow in me, not because I'm checking them off the TO DO list, but because they are the natural outgrowth of a life lived in the King's garden.

I have stood in the slave castle dungeons of Ghana, imagined what it must have been like to be crammed in the small, dark, filthy, sweltering room, a piece of chattle alongside many others. I have peered through the narrow opening of the door of no return, where the slaves were forced onto ships to a voyage and a life so much worse than anything they could imagine. I have sung their words, "I'll fly away. When I die, Hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away." Their bodies were chained, but their souls were free.

How blessed am I to have both.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

Sunday, November 03, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 3

They say good things come in 3's. 3 of my favorite people were born on the 3rd of the month, so it must be true. Just saying I'm thankful for family isn't enough, so here are 3 reasons I am thankful for these 3 special ladies.

1. My oldest child (by 4 minutes), Jessica whole-heartedly embraces the role of the firstborn, making sure the world is safe and in order for her sisters "behind" her.
2. Jessica has a gift for watching other people and noticing what is important and valuable to them. She has fostered a spirit of compassion. When I see her heart open to the pain of others, my heart swells with pride.
3. She is an extremely talented artist, not just in what she produces with her hands, but it the way she sees the universe. She's going to do some amazing things.

1. My second born (by 4 minutes), Bethany has the heart of an artist. I am thankful for how her ability is growing and excited to see how God will work through her art as the years progress.
2. Bethany, though very quiet, has a quick, dry wit. If you pay attention to what she says, you'll find it's often hilarious.
3. There's a spirit of adventure is this one. She constantly surprises me with what she is willing to try.

1. My mom was the model of hospitality. She welcomed in strangers and, quicker than they could imagine, she insisted they think of themselves as family.
2. She kept an inventory of people's talents, skills, and possessions and always knew the right person to call to help someone in need of a service or  a loaner.
3. She had an uncanny ability to keep a dream alive. More than 30 years after buying Jessie's truck, she researched and wrote Jessie's story. Her tenacity amazed and inspired me.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 2

In his Thanksgiving Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln went on to describe the state of the nation. Despite the country being at war, he acknowledged that farmers were still able to farm, ships continued to sail, iron and coal were still being found in the mines, the population was increasing, and more and more people were free.

He said, "They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."


It's a weighted word, not because of the burden it carries, but because of the load it releases. It holds the reality of my life...that not only do I not deserve the blessings, but that they have been handed to me instead of the punishment I've earned.

It's one of the paradoxes that defines God. He is the Just One who should hand out the sentence but he stands trial in my stead.

The chains are loosed. The charges are dropped. And each morning his mercies are new.

Thank God.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (from the Song of Mary)
Luke 1:50

Friday, November 01, 2013

A Season of Thanks, Day 1

1863. America was in the throes of its civil war (Has there ever been another phrase so oxymoronic?) The climate of the times did not promote gratitude. President Abraham Lincoln, though, knew that people needed to remember not just how much was wrong, but how blessed they were.

In the opening words of his Thanksgiving Proclamation, he wrote:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

Even in the worst of times, God is watching over us. When things seems unfair, when life is hard, when the government and our coworkers and our own best intentions work against us, God is sovereign.

And so, in this first day of a season of giving thanks, I give thanks--as the Psalmist did--as President Lincoln did--for the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

Give thanks to the Lord of Lords. His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:3