We Are Okay

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There have been critics.  It’s a challenge for me to go on and write anyway.  I know I’m flawed, but Christ has declared me free.  I admire the female authors whose works I’ve been reading recently.  They are brutally honest and allow others to see their struggle, women who think outside the box but might not be accepted because they are too “out there.” Yet they are part of the body of Christ, and they reach people who would never be reached otherwise.  These women encourage me to continue asking questions, to search the heart of God and drink from His infinite well of truth, to think and to reason with the good mind God has given me.  So I pick myself up, dust myself off, and begin again.

When the Holy Spirit led me to write “Closing the Rule Book,” I immediately felt lighter, as if chains were broken off.  I felt free to become a lover of people and not their judge, according to the greatest commandments of loving the Lord and loving others as yourself.  Yet putting legs to it and walking it out—that’s the hard part.  I often joke with Mark as I’m waiting for him to make my latte each morning (yes, I’m spoiled!) that I’m going to my quiet time “to talk myself off the ledge.”  It’s wonderful having a husband who understands what that means!  The question that puts me on the ledge, though until now I didn’t have words for, is “How do I make myself acceptable today?”  

Here are some questions to ponder honestly—do we say what we are feeling, or do we say what we’re supposed to feel?  How much of our behavior is actually self-protection, but we’ve become so good at it that it seems normal to us?  Yet there is that undercurrent…a persistent though faint hum in the background that says “You are not okay.”  How do we make this interference in our thinking go away?  Only by the Holy Spirit and only by complete honesty with ourselves.  Do we have the courage to believe “I am okay just as I am?”  To believe “I don’t have to perform to be acceptable to God or people-please to be loved?”  The courage to take His nail-scarred hand and hold onto it for dear life, to believe He is always enough?  This is the first step—awareness.

You and I are acceptable just as we are.  Are there imperfections? Yes.  Are there areas that need growth?  Of course.  Mindsets that need to be changed?  Definitely.  Wounds that need to be healed?  Absolutely.  But is it in our power to “clean ourselves up”?  NO.  Coming to the realization and embracing the truth that we are loved just as we are frees us to hear His voice, to know Him, to walk with Him, the Righteous One.  And by the power of the Spirit working within us, we become a little bit more like Him day by day.  As long as we try to do it on our own, the more defeated we feel.

Religion said to me “You are not okay.”  Jesus said to me, “It is for freedom that I have come to set you free.”  Just for freedom’s sake—God gave us that.  If we had to clean ourselves up before we entered a church, the pews would be empty.  And if we had to clean ourselves up before we prayed and sought the presence of the Lord, we would never encounter Him.  How sad it must make God to see His Son hanging on that cross and then so many of His children walking away because they don’t feel worthy.  Once we embrace that He died for us because we are valuable to Him, we will see others as valuable too.  When that truth sinks into our hearts, we can “stay off the ledge,” whatever that looks like for you.  I’m leaving judging to the One who is perfectly just, merciful, and good.  And I’m asking Him again today, “Lord, help me love myself just as I am so I can love others the same way.” 

Color Wheel

My place at the table was reserved just for me.  The Lord knew exactly when I’d be ready to stop striving and come in and rest.  In my eyes I’m late, but in His eyes, I’m right on time.  Change isn’t automatic, even when you know you’ve been set free.  But the new wine is beginning to flow, a few drops at a time.  I feel a shift—more peace.  I don’t seem to be carrying around the I should list in my brain and am able to be present in the moment more often.  

As the homeschool volunteer art teacher for my daughter, I had my little grands—Emma, 7, Ethan, 5, and Myla Grace, almost 2, at my house for art and some play time.  We learned about the color wheel, painting the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow on paper plates.  I gave Myla Grace markers to use instead of paint, and of course, she colored on her paper plate…and the table…and her little belly.  Luckily, they were washable!

Next I let them mix the primary colors, and presto!  The secondary colors appeared—orange, purple, and green.  After teaching them about which colors are warm and which are cool, the lesson was over.  Then we had cookies and hot chocolate, half milk and half whipped cream, followed by play time in the toy room.  As they joyfully laughed and played, I was content just to sit on the floor with them and savor the moment, fully present.

I was thinking about those primary colors this morning, the three colors from which all other colors are created. And I wondered, since everything in creation reflects attributes of God, do the three primary colors represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  These three colors blend uniquely to produce an infinite number of reflections of their source, all containing nothing but pieces of the original colors. I thought of the imagery that Mark has written about, that we each uniquely reflect a piece of God’s heart.  And the color wheel with its infinite shades is another way of looking at how each of us express our Creator with our own special hue that was given to us when He designed us.

With the pressure building through this crazy and complicated year, I’m finding it’s a good time for me to go back to the basics, the simple truths that have always sustained me.  The Lord knows that for years I’ve chased simplicity only to find it elusive.  But with a new perspective from my view at the table, I see it’s not elusive.  Christ is offering it, arms wide open.  There is time for finding my truth and expressing it, my “color.”  But I know I will only find it when I am resting in Him.  

In “Late to the Table” I asked the question, Is it easier to follow rules than to walk in freedom? To be honest, I think we have to admit that in some ways, it is.  It’s often easier to do something than it is to be someone.  I believe that my true “color” has been hiding in plain sight all along.  I just haven’t been listening to the right Person.  Jesus is the only One who can tell us who we are and enable us to live our own truth. It’s time just to sit at God’s table and be with Him, the triune God, the Great I Am, to listen and to receive from the One who knows me best.

Late to the Table

The journey to full freedom can be gut-wrenchingly hard.  “Deconstruction” has been unsettling as I leave behind long-held mindsets of what is and isn’t acceptable.  What is happening is that everything that has “propped me up” no longer works.  Lord, you know I love you.  I just want to understand.  As painful as it is, going back to where I was before I started this process is unthinkable.  As I’m beginning to know and live my own truth, I’m happier in the midst of the confusion because this is real, and it is an answer to my prayer to love Him and know Him more intimately. 

Part of living my own truth is understanding that I’m an introvert and a highly sensitive person with a need for much solitude and peace, and along with that, greatly affected by overwhelm and overstimulation.  This is the way God designed me, and for most of my life, I haven’t respected it.  I’m looking at Romans 12:1-2 from The Passion Translation on my little chalkboard in my office, my Scripture for this year, and I see progress.  I have stopped imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around me, and I’m in process with the Spirit of a total reformation of how I think.  Finally, I’m beginning, a little at a time, to discern God’s will and live this beautiful life.

I know I’m not alone in the way I feel.  So many others have gone before me, but I am late to the table at age 65, late for my own feast.  Being “wired for compliance,” I didn’t ask many questions—well, some big ones I did.  Looking back, my questions were always about judgmentalism and “the rules,” my sense of justice kicking in.  But staying on board and drinking the Kool-Aid limited me.  Most importantly, it limited using my amazing mind to think and to reason, to come out of the box of false identityAs a result, I’ve been nibbling, scarfing down a bite or two or three at a time, but never feasting.

Why does religiosity (legalism) continue to rear its ugly head and stuff believers into old wineskins? This only divides the Church when Christ has called us to unity.  In Jesus’s own words, you cannot put new wine into old wineskins because the fermentation of the new wine will cause it to burst—it just doesn’t work anymore (Luke 5:36-38).  And look at verse 39: “And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”  Are we uncomfortable with freedom?  They say there is a high recidivism rate when an inmate is released from prison because he can’t acclimate to the world as a free person.  Is it possible that it’s easier for us obey the law than to step out into freedom?

There is nothing to fulfill when we come to Christ because He fulfilled the Law.  It really is that simple. The Lord has prepared a table for all of us in a spacious place.  I know He is calling me to come sit down with Him and taste and see that He is good, that He is for me, and that I am His beloved.  I never want to settle again for “the old is good enough,” because that leaves Christ out of the picture. He is always calling us up higher into His ways and His love.  It may have taken me a while to get to the table, but there is a seat open for me. There is one for you also. Let’s go and feast together!

Closing the Rule Book

Last week I wrote about being “wired for compliance” and the “deconstruction-reconstruction” process that I’m in.  I’ve been meditating on Mark’s words, “Previous roots of emotional security have to be torn down, deconstructed.  Only then can you reconstruct with your truth according to what God is showing you to be truly yours.”  I’m hopeful that uprooting the things that have given me false security and letting God replace them with my truth as He gives it to me means freedom at last!  

Sitting with the Lord and inquiring what this looks like for me, I heard the familiar passage from the Gospel of Mark where Jesus is asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” I know I’m God’s child, but I won’t resemble Him unless I love like He does.

Show me what my truth is, Lord.  How do I love a broken self and a broken world?  We all stand equal at the foot of the cross, all completely dependent on His sacrifice for us.  Equally guilty, equally loved At the cross there is only One elevated, He who hung on the tree. I began to draw a picture in my journal, a cross with a stick man on it and a row of stick men under it.  Of course, the man on the cross is Jesus.  But then, without aforethought, I began to label the row of stick men with names: different Christian denominations, Republicans, Democrats, people of all races, LBGTs, and individuals with personalities that are opposite of mine.  

The Scripture floated up from my inner being:  Little children, love one another as I have loved you.  And then I wrote, “When you look at your brother, see him as I see him, equally loved, equally deserving of grace.”  I, too, am standing at the foot of the cross.  But as I look at the sin of someone else, I need only look up at Jesus and know that He died for that sin….and that sin….and my sin.  He who knew no sin became sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  How can I judge my brother when He has taken that sin upon Himself?  He died for the broken, and He told us that the way to reach them is by love.

So often men want to take the Bible and break it down into a “rule book” by which they can have some system of control, telling us who is one of us and who isn’t, who is right and who is wrong, and who fits the profile of a Christian according to their rules. Freedom means the ability to see God and encounter Him without human constraint. He is infinite and cannot be contained in the boxes that man has tried to put Him in. God’s Word is the story of a Father who loved His children so much that He sent Jesus to die for us all.  He died because we are valuable, not to make us valuable. That’s how He sees us and how He wants us to see each other. 

God gave us the gift of free will, and what a gift!  The gift to change our minds.  The gift to close up our rule books and find the way of love that Jesus deems as most important.  I’m feeling a huge burden lifted.  I’m no longer “playing by the rules” that constrain how I see myself and others.  And I’m falling in love with Jesus all over again.  I don’t know if this is the first step in my “reconstruction,” but I believe it’s the foundation for which all else with follow.

Wired for Compliance

Is it okay to question the things you have been taught your entire life?  The things you have accepted about yourself and the way you have structured your life around that perception?  I heard from the Lord last fall that 2020 was to be a sabbatical year for me.  I had no way of knowing that we would be in a pandemic and socially isolated, but that has made it easier to dig into this process, to read, to study, to just sit and listen for anything the Holy Spirit might want to say.  

My journey began before this year, my search for who God made me to be, the focus of my blog.  But this year, I have entered into a Spirit-led process of “deconstruction.”  I didn’t have a name for it at the time, but this is from a model often used in business called construction-deconstruction-reconstruction that can be applied to many phases of life.  I didn’t realize the deep issues of my heart that I would wrestle with as I started down this path.

I learned about spiritual seasons from a wonderful book by Alice Smith, Spiritual Intimacy with God.  In the springtime, you are hearing from God and coming to life in new ways.  In summer, you are grounded in these new revelations, and you are passionate and effective in living it out.  But then fall arrives, and you are confused that things aren’t working as well.  God is pruning so that you will bear greater fruit.  Next comes winter, and that’s when real discouragement sets in.  God is working in you at the root level, even though you may not be aware of it.  And when that work is accomplished, spring will come again.

Deconstruction is like the fall and winter seasons on steroids. I have been questioning, searching, trying to make sense of how I have responded to my world over my entire life.  And at my age, that’s a lot of years to process!  In a conversation recently, Mark pointed out to me that I was “wired for compliance.”  Being a peaceful phlegmatic personality type, that is true.  I’m wired to want peace and avoid confrontation.  

I was raised in a very strict home where I tiptoed on eggshells around my stepfather, trying to be very good so that attention was never drawn to me.  I was in a long marriage where I was often in the same mode of walking on eggshells, wanting peace at all costs.  I worked for 25 years in a career that was chosen for me.  And in every church where I have been a member, I truly tried to adhere to their doctrine, no questions asked, and felt guilty when I couldn’t.

Mark’s words “wired for compliance” shed more light on this journey to find out who I am.  I began to ask the questions, what does my heart really want?  What do I really love?  What do I really think?  And most of all, do I know the sound of my own voice?  I’m convinced that this deconstruction process I’m in is what the Lord meant when he gave me the vision that I wrote about in my post Merry-Go-Round, where the stones are removed so the vineyard can be planted. 

This is a painful process for my personality type.  Certainly, there are times and situations where complying is exactly the right thing to do.  But sometimes compliance is nothing but a form of self-protection.  It may be easier to forget myself rather than to be who I am, assuming I know who I am. I have included Mark’s words in the following paragraph because he described so well this deconstruction process.

“Being wired for compliance means that the things which you have agreed with are deeply rooted within you. Finding peace with your world through compliance creates at best a false sense of security, and at worst, a false identity. Uprooting those beliefs means a painful and sometimes confusing process of searching for a more honest sense of self. New growth can come only after previous roots of emotional security are torn down, deconstructed. Only then can you reconstruct with your truth according to what God is showing you to be truly yours.”

Yes, I am all in.  If you are at this place also, take heart!  Give yourself permission to journey through the “unknown.”  Jesus wants us to see ourselves as He sees us, the much-loved ones He created and uniquely designed.  Each person’s uniqueness is a part of His glory. He wants that to blossom, and for that to happen, we can’t define ourselves by compliance to others. It is always worth the struggle when Jesus is leading us to greater truth.

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice—
though the whole house began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug at your ankles, 
“Mend my life!” each voice cried.  But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little, as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do,
determined to save the only life that you could save.

The Journey, Mary Oliver

Never Alone

My son and my younger daughter discovered what no child should have to find.  While driving home from out of town one hot August morning in 2007, I heard the crying and the confusion over the phone.  Surely this was a dream, a nightmare, not reality!  My son begged me to pull over on the side of the interstate as he broke the news that my former husband had died.

These are the thoughts that come as I remember:

Sleeping all together on the floor of the living room that night, not willing to be separated from one another even for a minute.

A slide show that told the story of my family: the births of my children, the school activities, birthdays, Christmases, beach vacations, high school graduations—a treasure of precious memories.

A casket in front of the church, my family sitting behind a black curtain for privacy.

A good friend leading me through the purchasing of a headstone—researching prices, driving me to the monument company.  God helping me to choose the inscription, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

My son visiting the gravesite for the first time since the funeral and then coming home and cutting a tendon in his hand by opening a jar that shattered.  Being with him through surgery and rehab.

A few weeks later my younger daughter escorted down the aisle by her brother at her wedding.  My stepping in to give her away.  Happiness and grief merged into one.

My older daughter showing up at my house with her three-year-old child and only a backpack, fleeing an abusive marriage.  Taking charge like a mother bear to pursue legal action to protect her and my granddaughter.  Another good friend shielding my family in her home, as we didn’t know what the repercussions would be.

Selling the home where we had been a family.  Moving out and going back for a final clean-up.  One last look at the backyard, still seeing where the garden would always be, hearing the voices of my children playing somewhere in a memory.

Three years later, three marriages in one year—my son, my daughter, and me!

Finally, being able to exhale.  But with the next year came the trauma of my daughter-in-law’s miscarriage at eleven weeks.  A few months later, my daughter’s devastating miscarriage at exactly the same stage.

But God restores!   Ten beautiful, healthy babies have been born to our family since then!

Taking care of my mother in the last year of her life as she was ravaged by Alzheimer’s.  The privilege of sitting with her through her last night.  The holy moment of witnessing her last breath, knowing she was now at peace in the presence of the Lord.

It has now been 13 years since the beginning of this story.  With joy and thankfulness, I have seen all of my children established in happy marriages with beautiful children.  I’ve been married for ten years to the man I had longed for, the one whom the Lord brought to me when I asked Him to choose.  God has written a new script for us that He continues to make known with each passing year.

I am brought to my knees in tears when I think of the grace that carried me through those hard years.  I am awed and humbled by the presence and power of Christ in my life.  A friend asked me once what I had learned from this journey, and I had only these three words: “God is faithful.”  We were never alone.

Last week I published the post “Finding True North” which says that when you have lost your compass, it may be that God is leading you on a new path. As I look back over the last 13 years, I see many twists and turns along new paths, major life events that I didn’t write about in the above post. We endured a financial crisis as we were trusting the Lord for how we would survive in the ministry He had called us to. The Lord interrupted us in our life in Arkansas and directed us to move to Texas where we lived for over four years. Then just as abruptly, He led us to move back. With each event, it was Jesus, our “true north,” that enveloped us in His grace and gave us the courage to continue forward. Our story continues to be written, as does yours. But no matter what we are facing, God is with us and will be faithful to see us through, even when we cannot see the way ourselves.

He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Finding True North

When you feel as if you have lost your compass

Can you embody a faith that you haven’t explored and dissected from the inside out?  Inquiring of the Lord unashamedly as you hunger and thirst for truth?  Is that not a part of spiritual maturity?  In these times of upheaval in our country, with the angst that COVID-19 is lurking around every corner, the politicization of this serious health pandemic, and the thunder of racial unrest colliding with what has been status quo, an unequal one for sure, I find myself searching for answers:  What would Jesus say?  What would Jesus do?  What do I believe?

I have always relied upon the Word of God for truth.  I still do.  In the last couple of years, even before the current atmosphere in our country, I have been seeking more deeply what it means to love Christ and to live for Him in the unique way he has created me. The last time I had questioned things that I had been taught was when I left the church of my childhood, one that had very legalistic views on who was saved and who was not, what was allowed and what was not.  It didn’t feel right to me, but Jesus met me where I was in my early years, and He was enough.

For most of my adult Christian life, I lived habitually, routinely, learning and growing, yes, but not asking the deeper questions as to what I was receiving. I was satisfied with my status quo, and wasn’t it wrong to question anyway? What would that say about me as a Christian?  Yet God again met me at every stage of growth in that season, and I’m very thankful for the good foundation in the Word I received.

My life began to change dramatically in the years preceding my becoming a widow and as a single lady.  God was my lifeline, the Rock that I clung to during all the upheaval surrounding that time in my life.  When I married Mark a few years later, we were immediately called to a healing ministry which has grown in depth to a place we both would have never imagined.  We have witnessed the ways of the Lord in his interaction with his broken children, always meeting them at their point of need and capacity to understand the truth He was giving.

We are made in the image of God; indeed, Scripture says we have the mind of Christ if He is our Lord.  He gave us our amazing brains to think and to reason, to contemplate.  Yet, it is only through the Spirit that we encounter Jesus in the pages of the Bible.  We learn how He interacts with man in all manner of circumstances. The Spirit is the one who shows us how to apply the truth in Scripture to the events of this fallen world.  In our natural mind, we are only lifting out verses, proof-texting, to justify the words to our own ends.

I’m disheartened because some of what I’ve been taught doesn’t line up with the ways of the Lord I have come to know in an intimate relationship with Him.  The purpose of the Word of God is to reconcile hearts to Him, so I’m puzzled because it seems that much of the body of Christ is not exemplifying love, but division. How did Jesus address the political unrest of the day in which He made His appearance on earth?  He didn’t address it.  He always redirected people to his kingdom saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  How did He address the social unrest of his day? He said to take care of the needs of people, to love your enemies, and to love one another.

I may not have it all figured out. I may be still questioning some things. But this is my true north:  I know Him.  My faith, my “belief system,” is a person—Jesus Christ.  Though these are unprecedented times for those of us now living, we have an anchor for our souls.  And it’s not a church doctrine or a political party or any single interpretation of the Scriptures.  Jesus IS the Word.  He is faithful to show us truth, to be our guiding light, if we will only look to Him. 

Sometimes when it feels as though we have lost our compass, it is only that God is leading us to a new path.

Purging

I have been underwater, and I am coming up for air,

Breathing in big gulps as oxygen revives me.

We are quieting the voices, my Lord and I,

The noise that keeps me from being who I am.

I can feel the coolness of the water on my face

As it washes me cleaner still.

One by one, the stones are removed and

The hardened ground is ready to be tilled.

Soon the planting will begin.

(The Lord began this process in me a year ago. I wrote about how it began in Merry-Go-Round).

The Spacious Place

It takes faith to enjoy your life wholeheartedly.  I recently read those words in one of my devotional books.  Wow.  It’s true.  I had never thought of that.  We know the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  And one of the things he wants to steal is our happiness.  Often, even when things are going well, we’re waiting for “the other shoe to drop.”  We may be having a great day but still have a nagging thought in the back of our minds of “What if…” or “I should…”

This underlying angst can originate in childhood.  My stepfather drank for most of my growing-up years, and my mother as a codependent was controlling.  Fun was “meted out.”  If I was allowed to have a playdate with friends, I learned not to ask again for a certain period of time because I had had enough fun.  I received this message from early childhood until the wounded part in me that coped with this assumed the guilt.  In other words, I didn’t have to be made to feel guilty for having too much fun; the guilt came from within me.

This was reinforced in my first marriage.  My former husband was an alcoholic, and his moods varied greatly.  During the seasons of active drinking, I walked on eggshells to not set anything off when he was in one of his darker moods, just as I did in childhood with my stepfather.  I had learned to stay “hidden” and subdue my own desires and opinions about life so as not to upset the apple cart.  Although the Lord met me where I was and I continued to grow spiritually, I was not at the place where I could let my guard down and truly live freely.

I just celebrated ten years of marriage with Mark.  When I was widowed, I told the Lord if he had someone for me, that he would have to bring him to me.  I asked for someone that together we would be better for his kingdom than we could be apart.  And he answered me.  I have “become myself” in ways that I never dreamed were possible with this man who has made it safe for me and helped me with encouragement and unconditional love.  Those deep places of pain, the broken parts, are for the Lord alone to heal.  But I finally have had the safety for them to come forward, one by one, for healing.  

Psalm 18:19 says, He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  The Hebrew word for spacious is ravach, and it means to breathe freely, to be revived, refreshed.  This is the place where the Lord wants his children to live.  The Lord has since given me Galatians 5:1 for my life verse:  It is for freedom that I have come to set you free.  Stand firm, then, and don’t let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  The spacious place is freedom.  

I’m still in process.  Aren’t we all?  But I’m determined with God’s help to let go and trust him to wholeheartedly live my life.  We don’t have to keep carrying our baggage as if we have to pay to earn the right to be happy.  Jesus paid for that right.  All we have to do is receive his grace and be willing to let him heal the inner children in us who are still in pain.  

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10.

When Time Stands Still

There are moments that exist just as they are, in the present with no other thoughts, no other voices.  Just that moment.  I had that experience one night when I was babysitting my then eleven-month-old granddaughter, Myla Grace.  I had the delightful task of feeding her supper, giving her a bath, and rocking her to sleep with her bottle.  Myla Grace is a highly sensitive child.  It was months before she would let any of the rest of the family hold her, even her daddy.  So it was very special when she started “taking” to her Nana.

In the rocking chair with Myla that night, I softly sang the songs I had sung to my own babies and some of my other grandchildren.  She watched me wide-eyed as she sucked on her bottle.  I’m not a good singer, but that didn’t matter to Myla.  Her eyes grew heavy, and slowly the sucking stopped.  As I pulled the bottle out of her mouth, she opened her eyes widely and looked at me, studying my face.  And then it happened.  I smiled at that precious baby girl, and she broke into a huge smile back.  No words, only quiet.  Two sets of eyes locked together, two smiles as if a huge secret was being shared.  At that moment nothing else existed.

I was deeply impacted by Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.  And I’m naming for the second time around one thousand things I’m thankful for, writing them down in my journal a few at a time, day by day.   It used to be that I thought a gratitude list was only for things like family, health, and material provision.  Now I understand that it’s being present and noticing all the graces God gives throughout our day-to-day lives.  The Word says “In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus,” I Thessalonians 5:18.  In noticing how he shows his love for us, we are loving him back.

Having our eyes open to see God’s graces requires intentionality.  It requires the “want to.”  It requires slowing down and being present in the moment If we set our hearts toward Him, the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to the smallest of graces, but it’s up to us to create the space for that to happen.  And when we experience those moments, wow!  We can be in touch with his love and with the life he has given us.  Time really does stand still.

The Word says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” Psalm 90:12.  Wisdom comes from seeing, hearing, touching God.  We do that by eucharisteo, by giving thanks.  I couldn’t wait to note my moment with Myla in my journal later that night.   I’m inviting you to try it!  There are no rules and no time limit.  It is highly personal.  And check out Ann Voskamp’s, One Thousand Gifts Devotional.  There are pages in the back for you to make your list. I promise you will be refreshed as you notice more of God’s gifts to you each day.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us so much.  Open our eyes to see your graces, that we may have more and more of these holy moments with you.  Amen.