Tuesday, November 26, 2013


In light of one of the most celebrated American holidays, my mind is cued into what is coming. Gathering of family...the ones you don't see enough of and the ones you see too much of and the ones who walk with you through life and the ones who don't really know you. Indulging in food...the perfectly roasted turkey and the gollups of mashed potatoes and the whipped topping on top of pumpkin pies and the cranberry sauce that always leaves a stain. The football games, too...filled bellies sprawled out on couches and carpets while men snore between plays and children giggle as they find a new friend in that cousin they chase around the house. And women gather where they always gather. In the kitchen, together again. Sinks full of dishes and coffee being poured.

And on this day as families and friends gather for these predictable moments a word of thanks often gets squeezed into the day, just as predictable as the people there, the food being eaten, and the football watching that happens.

Thanksgiving...a word of thanks, a moment spoken for all we see through the hurried eyes. Family. Friends. Health. Faith. And sometimes even football.

I love what thanksgiving represents in so many ways. I love family time. I love big meals shared together. I love my boys watching football. I love giving thanks. But my hurried ways have been shaken in my recent years...and thanksgiving has become more of a thanks-giving. Thanks giving...not your one day out of the year celebration, but an every day offering that involves more then the basic family, friends, faith, and football gratitude.

During one of my most difficult seasons of life, I felt really called to slow down and learn how to really say thanks. A habit of thanks giving can change a heart. It can change a life, really. As I ached inside, I let the hurt slowly be released in the way I started to say thank you. In what I saw, when I slowed down. And I counted. All of it. And it really started to add up.

18. soft puppies
101. my swing
210. courageous friends
315. 5 year old boy
498. a hug
577. chatting with Grandma
641. a heartbeat
796. watermelon
895. a calm mind
933. good husbands
987. painted boys
1000. change

And there is more. More written down and more coming. It never stops. Unlike the one day of Thanksgiving, thanks giving keeps going...and going. Slow is the only way to live a life of full thanks giving and in the rush of our days passing by, one must see slow enough to not miss what is being offered each and every day.

So I look forward to what Thanksgiving will bring to my life. But I truly live breathing the habit of thanks giving. Alive and awake to what is being given to fill me up on His grace, His love for me, His thanks giving to my life. And in return, as I count these gifts and say thank you, I know that I must pass the main dish and offer that same grace to those gathering around my table of life.

I will gather in a few days and enjoy an all American Thanksgiving meal with loved ones. I will say thank you for family and friends and health and football. And I will mean it. But when the day is over, I know that my thanks offering will lead me into the next year when I gather again for the very same meal and the very same faces and the very same routine of what Thanksgiving is supposed to look like. For me, thanks giving happens every day. And when it doesn't, I know my life will be a few portions short of being full. Thanks giving...counting what I see, sharing what feeds me. Filling a life.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

the best gift givers

Walking through the department store I see the signs of the holidays already out shining and glittery to catch all the eyes of the consumers coming in to just grab some diapers or a gallon of milk. What they usually walk out with though is a cart full of Christmas add-on's that never seem to stop finding their way into our homes. I love glitter and Christmas galore as much as the next festive person. Don't get me wrong. I indulge in the spirit of Christmas and get carried away with traditions as my children get older and look forward to them every year. I get excited when the calendar flips and says it is the day after Thanksgiving so we can go tree hunting and put a freshly cut fir in our house. I have a love/hate relationship with hanging the lights outside and getting some Christmas cards in the mail. But I also get a little burnt out on finding what should really be under our tree each year. Under our trees and in our hearts.

I spend 363 days a year trying to control the "stuff" in my house. I watch my kids play with 25% of the things they get as gifts. If you are reading this and have been a gift giver to my children, please don't take this the wrong way. We are so grateful for such gifts...my boys love having a fun new toy. But the buzz usually only lasts a short time and soon that latest action figure or Tonka truck quickly finds it way to the back of the shelf too soon forgotten. What stays fresh in front of my children's eye sight though is this...  time. Not the hour hand clicking by second by second, but the minutes spent with them. The undistracted time spent gifting them with love...and laughter...and action...and patience...and joy...and an experience. A gift that they tuck into their heart and can't open on Christmas morning, but all year through. This gift of time is not found in the glitter and the lights as you roam the stores looking for the perfect gift. It's found right where you are already. You are here. So give your time to the ones who matter the most.

A mountain of gifts under the tree doesn't make me feel more loved. Doesn't make me think "this is Christmas". I gather my children will look back some day and think the same thing. They won't remember the gifts they opened from a box, but rather the gifts they participated in through their childhood. The time they spent opening the gift of sharing a life together.

In a culture where companies hit the black this time of year, but people's souls dip into the red, why wouldn't we invest in something more for our hearts? Instead of spending every other day of the year trying to keep up with the stuff that consumes our homes, why not keep up with the little feet running ahead of us and walk along-side the bodies that need a hand, not another thing to fill them up? Wouldn't we benefit from spending our resources on a place that leaves an imprint on someones life, rather then leaves a debt to be paid in our mailbox every month? Can we see past the glitz and black Friday's deals and holiday shopping lists and really look into the souls that we are trying to buy the perfect gift for? Can we find the  time to really give what is needed, rather than give what will be forgotten as soon as that tree comes down?

I am slowly being lured into the Christmas tradition of giving less in the eyes of my culture, but in doing so...giving so much more in the eyes of those on my gift buying list. I will be playing Christmas music soon, watering a freshly cut tree in my home everyday, baking little stars and jingle bells, placing coins in the red buckets, attending parties, and most of all... I hope I will be making the time to give the gifts that really matter. Won't you join me? I have always loved giving gifts. But the best gift givers in my life are those who have given me their time. I want to keep that tradition more then any other this time of year...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

it is good

Driving down the highway is one of my favorite things this time of year. Through the back-roads and along the flat Iowa land. A mid-west girl at heart, I suppose. And a little bit of country. While the height of the mountains and the never ending ocean lines take my breath away...it's the Octobers and the pink skies and the tree lines in Iowa that make me feel at home, make me feel like I'm alive, make me feel like there is truly something more then this life, and makes me see the creative eye of our Creator. Who can stand next to the colors of fall and deny a great source of beauty given to us year after year, season after season?

If you are able...and if you are willing...then stop and really look. See the greatness that starts well below the earth and reaches up to the skies declaring it's beauty...it's glory of nature. It is meant to take your breath away. The beauty that hangs from the branches and blows with the breezes of this time of year whisper... how great thou art. How great are these things that were created for us. You and me. For this world, this time, this creation. When you see the beauty that comes with this time of year and you stop to let it leave an imprint on your heart, you speak a small word of thanks for such a sight, such a piece of grace. Looking at such things helps me see our Creator and praise His works. For He is mighty and creates such beautiful things.

And what if... what if...when you looked at the October sky line in the middle of the Mid-west or wherever you are and let that place in your heart that needs reassurance be filled up? Filled with His undeniable truth that He creates beautiful things. He does. We can see it all around us. In our back-yards, in the long car rides, walking out our front doors, and across towns and country sides.

Then what if...what if you saw those fall branches and knew that He not only creates beautiful things, but He creates beautiful people too?

Today I look outside and I am humbled. Humbled that when I stop and admire the reds, yellows, and oranges  and everything in-between out my window that He also created even more...even better then this.

He created ...me...and YOU.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

The way we see the colors of fall is maybe just a glimpse of how He sees us. Yes, looking at you...looking at me. He made us for more. He made us in His image. And said it was all very good. That feeling you get when you breath in the fall air and appreciate the beauty across the trees... He feels that for you. For me. 

We are image makers, you and I. Deep down inside each of us is a beauty, a piece of art, that He wants to show the world. Because when people pass by, He wants them to stop and look... just the way we do when we see this time of year unfold around us. Live today believing that you were made with a purpose, a reason to live out the true colors of your season. Breath taking worthy for all those looking your way and a soul declaring His praise as you let your beauty touch the world. 

Go ahead and look today. Turn off the screens and tune out the noises that tell you any different. Don't miss today. Don't miss this season. Don't miss how YOU were made to be beautiful. In His image, and you are very good. Just...the...way...you...are.