Re-reading the Manual

Sunday, our normal preacher didn’t take the stand, but the pastor of operations did. Shane and I have heard the younger speaker before, and agree, he is just as inspiring as our senior pastor. This week, he did not disappoint, bringing forth the word, and presenting it not as a “how-to” manual for life, but instead a story of who. If we constantly and only approach the word as a manual, then we are bound to be disappointed. Ways we can be disappointed could be in ourselves for not measuring up or being disappointed because even though we were following the “directions”, things did not turn out how they were supposed to. We can be disappointed as we feel we are following the “directions” yet others around us, who don’t seem to be following them get promoted, get a bonus, get that relationship we’ve been wanting, that job, that home, what ever.

If your heart is heavy and mind is tired from trying to follow the “how-to” manual, these lyrics from the song “Particles” seem to sum up how it feels in that moment of things not working:

Here I am
Floating in emerald sea
Keep me dancing
Keep me as still as can be
And I try to keep the balance right
And I try but it feels like wasted time

But these heavy hands
They’re pulling me down on my chest
Latching on, coloring all of my flesh
Quietly, you hover over me
And I fight but it feels like wasted time

I’ve been there. Who hasn’t been there? I think what really hurts sometimes is seeing someone you love right there; there in that moment of “but what did I do so wrong, wasn’t I basically following the manual? I have seen others follow it far less, and yet I’m the one suffering.” Any time spent following the manual, feels like wasted time. Disappointments pull you down and seem to latch on. I so want to tell everyone who is standing in that place, there is a door, there is a pathway, there is more to the story. Thank goodness, there is more to the story, there is redemption.

Our regular pastor has been speaking on Revelation, and he is in chapters two and three at this point, and Jesus is revealing things he knows about specific churches, a testament to a central theme in Revelation that God knows what you are going though, it is evident by what he already knows about the churches. At the end of every church statement is written, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says…” Meaning, if we put it in context of ourselves, we have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to look for signs of all sizes. This is where our senior pastor said, “Do not miss the subtle ways God reveals himself because you are only looking for the powerful.” Maybe it is a song, maybe it is a blogpost, maybe it is a friend reaching out, but that is God acknowledging that he knows what you are going through and he is trying to reach out to you about it.

The bridge for me between his message from Revelation on April 29 to this past Sunday’s sermon on the Bible as a “how to” guide, was this idea of not giving up. If you have followed the Bible like a “how-to” manual instead of a story about who, then trying something else might seem to make more sense, ignoring it until Sunday may seem easier, or tossing out the manual altogether may seem like an answer, but there is more to the story than a list of do’s and don’ts and more to your story. It may feel like God hasn’t noticed how you have followed directions or at least that other people have followed them less and yet they are receiving blessings and it just feel like time wasted, but there is more.

Pointing out synonyms, we looked at Psalm 19:7-10 where it speaks of the law of the Lord, or synonyms for law like commands or decrees.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.

 

Here it is, verses making promises, following all these rules should work, right? So why doesn’t it always work out? Where is the beauty in illness, in a car crash, in debt, in a broken family? Let’s pause and consider, what if we re-read those verses and replace the “how-to” with a who.

7  Jesus is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
Jesus is trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
Jesus is right,
    giving joy to the heart.
Jesus is radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
Jesus is pure,
    enduring forever.
Jesus is firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

10 Jesus is more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
He is sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.

 

And what if we look at the truth Jesus shared about himself in Matthew 11 where his arms are stretched out, reaching for us? It adds so much to these Psalms full of promises and helps fulfill a beautiful image of a caring savior.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus is the answer. He is perfect, he is pure, he is forever. He is all of those things that the Psalms describes. While those descriptions may be applied to many unreachable gods, Jesus is reachable. In fact, he is reaching out for us with the promise of rest.

Jesus is the answer. Every time he speaks to a church in Revelation, our pastor pointed out, Jesus identifies himself to them, and to the suffering church of Smyrna, he presents himself as the one who died and came to life again. For that particular church, they needed to know that, they were under real persecution, and some wouldn’t survive. But, we need to be reminded of eternity too. This isn’t it, there is more, so much more to all of our stories thanks to Jesus, and when it seems like the rules, the decrees, the manual isn’t working, Jesus is perfect, refreshing to the soul and waiting to give us rest.

I have to finish with this quote from our senior pastor because as I heard it the first time, I found it so encouraging. The connection I made with this particular quote from his message and resting in Jesus rather than a “how-to” manual just culminated into a beautiful reminder I want to carry into the remainder of this spring. It is a reminder that I can’t keep to myself as I see hurting people all around me feeling like they are wasting time on laws and decrees with hollow promises. And to contrast the song “Particles”, I also want to share “Your Promises” and hope it is a song you can carry with you this hour, this day , this week to remind you to not give up.

“Don’t give up even though you don’t always understand what God is doing, you may not like it, you may not understand it. Things might happen to you that God didn’t orchestrate because somebody else turned wrong, made a wrong decision and now you are paying the price and he would’ve not wanted you to go through that, but he promised he’d be with you, even in the middle of it. But even if there are things God orchestrates, and you don’t get what he’s doing and the end result, don’t give up.” -Denny Krajacic, Senior Pastor at Butler Community Alliance Church 

 

Trout Season

Last year Shane teased about standing shoulder to shoulder on opening day, until on my first cast, I reeled back in a lovely, little rainbow. What really began, besides friendly competition, was Shane joining in on one of my traditions. I can’t believe that, with all the build up to the moment, that the time is now long passed by and it is May.

I had gathered snacks the whole week before, this included a desperate search for peach rings at a big, blue chain store. Did you know that there are no peach rings in the Clarion, Pennsylvania Walmart? At least they had Shane’s other requested treat, pull-apart Twizzlers, which were a huge hit with my nephew, Marcus. (Note to self: before they ever come visit, pick up chocolate milk and pull apart Twizzlers.)

So I had done all this searching for snacks and had even gotten sweet rolls from my favorite local bakery, which I promise to gush over in another blogpost, intended for a breakfast. Well, on our way to my folks, Shane and I stopped at a little local market, where, first off, we scored peach rings, but Shane asked if we could take the little camp stove to cook breakfast while we waited to cast. When it was agreed that we probably could, we grabbed some delicious, garlic bacon to fry up.

Saturday morning, we loaded up all the food, and oh, yeah, the fishing stuff and headed to Parker Dam State Park. We brought the sweet rolls, heated them in the camp stove, and ate them while we waited for the bacon to fry up next. It was a quiet, cool morning, with the sun promising to shine, which was good being that my brother and sister-in-law were headed up with the niece and nephews.

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The shore was crowded with family and friends of all ages. Groups sitting side by side, apologizing when their kid’s line crossed over three stranger’s own line. We cast for the kids in our own party most of the time, but now and again, we were the ones apologizing and correcting a crooked cast from a kid. Even my Grandma Hayes and aunt joined us that day, my grandma wanting to take advantage of her lifetime license.

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After the hustle and bustle of keeping an eye on the active kids, catching trout, and snacking all morning, my dad, Shane and I headed to the quieter creek setting and hit both Laurel Run in Parker Dam and Moose Creek on the mountain. Moose Creek was one of the places where I first got to see Shane and his best friend Scott in their truest form. It was good to finally go back there, remember that day with Shane and Scott, but also to make new memories.

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Something that my whole family thrives on is quality time. After listening to The Five Love Languages book with my parents and Shane on our way to Chincoteague one summer, we all decided it was one of the top, if not the top language of us all. I am so lucky that we all have that in common, it is easy to fulfill when you all have the same goal, shared, quality time. But, I also have to back up and say how fortunate I am to have a husband and parents who would all listen to that book together and enjoy discussing it afterwards.

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With out intending it to be so, I have to summarize this entry by saying it is one full of thankfulness. I am thankful we found peach rings and pull-apart twizzlers that the kids enjoyed and for the breakfast we had. I am thankful I got to see the joy on the kid’s faces as they saw trout pulled from the water at the state park I am thankful for, Parker Dam. I am thankful it was a sunny day after all the crazy weather that lead up to it. I am thankful for the quality time spent with everyone at Parker Dam and the quieter quality time at the creeks later that day.

Discovering Radiance

Living starts in-between your ears. It was something like this that my hometown pastor said during Sundays message. He was saying how sometimes before a week even begins, the list of things that must be done can be overwhelming and make you feel far busier or more rushed than you even really are. With my last post being about devotions or meditating on God’s word, for me through sketching, reading various books and making connections, I had to share my thoughts on “living between your own ears”.

In the evening, after that morning message, I was reading “Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art” by Claire Wellesley-Smith. I loved how she cited other artists and writers who, whether directly or not, seemed to have this call for the movement of Slow Art. We are surrounded by all these tools these days that are supposed to speed up processes of everything, from cooking to contacting people, but somewhere in that mindfulness has been lost.

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It has taken me twenty-eight years to sort of barely just figure out a little bit better how my own mind works. As an artist, introvert is often a blanket term tossed around, and I am comfortable with that term. Essentially, for me, it is being comfortable with solitude, being alone with out being lonely. In reading Claire’s book, I couldn’t help but connect my solitude, and working in it, with mindfulness. Taking the time to think through a project, a drawing, a painting, a series, gives me a chance to engage with it, sort things out beyond the project and get things sorted out between my ears. The author says something about the long amount of time it takes for her to regain concentration after engaging with external digital media, and I couldn’t agree more, as it can make me completely lose momentum in a drawing or painting.

Beyond my art, connecting more with the idea of lists or schedules like the pastor was pointing out, it can be so distracting to live fast. We can see twenty people’s opinion on a news story on Twitter in under twenty seconds, we can scroll through hundreds of pictures in less than a minute on Instagram, and we can start a group message with people all over the United States and get dozens of replies with in a matter of seconds. Actions that used to take a whole day, like to research or write to someone or about something now can be done in less than fifteen minutes. On this overload of media and images and messages, it can be hard to leave room to take things slow, to meditate on good things, or to be mindful.

Pslam 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.

This Psalm is how pastor finished his message, and I love it. In the context of today, we have all seen that person in distress from their hectic schedule, trying to keep up, they look exhausted. On the flip side, someone who has just taken the time to get a massage, or a weekend trip, or something, anything that is very deliberately un-rushed, always seem to glow, do they not? Well, what if every day, we took the time to meditate on Him, find that time to be mindful, make deliberate choices, wouldn’t we daily glow?

Start between your ears. Quiet your mind. Put the cellphone away. Pull out a pencil, a needle and thread, a paintbrush or a book and take it slow. You might just find yourself beaming!

 

Different Kind of Devotions

Daily devotions can elicit a feeling that “we forgot to do our homework” feeling can’t it? Never-mind forgetting it, when we hear daily devotions, sometimes we can even think, “I didn’t even bring my homework home to do.” We leave it at church or in the car when we turn off the ignition, stopping the flow of praise from the speakers, and walk into our homes completely disconnected from our Father.IMG_4145.JPG

I like to read, in fact, I have a really appetizing spring reading list I am picking through at the moment, and only one carry-over book from my December reading list, “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller. I just can’t fly through that particular book, after reading pages of really good truths, I find I need to sit back and think about it. I don’t want to finish that particular book just for the sake of finishing it.

I’m beginning to notice that that’s how devotions always come across to me. You have to do it to get it done. I even heard the analogy once about tuning your orchestra at the end of a performance, and you wouldn’t do that would you? So tune up before the day gets started! And though that is a great analogy, sometimes it sets in and sets me up to rush through the tuning because “I have to get it done”.

In reality, I really enjoy the time it takes me to get to work and devoting that car ride to a time for prayer. Prayer has been a topic I have been reading a lot about lately, and by lately, I mean beginning right before Shane and I were Shane and I till now. It began with “God Whispers” by Margaret Feinberg, “The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations” by Anne Graham Lotz, and “The Mercy Prayer” by Robert Gelinas. Another book, “Why Keep Praying?: When You Don’t See Results” by Robert Morris is always floating around in my laptop bag, and I get it out from time to time for a quick “ah-ha” moment before it ends up hiding away again for weeks on end. Finally, I am slowly getting into the more devotionally minded “Before Amen” by Max Lucado, a book from my Grandma Hayes, a fan of Max Lucado.

Maybe I’ll get more into how my brain works in another post, but until then, as I was sketching this morning, listening to hymns picked with a banjo and strummed with a guitar, I realized how I get into my devotions is probably vastly different than half a dozen other people. While drawing, I was making connections with yesterday’s sermon, an art method book I was reading, and scripture that tied the two together. That is when I thought about how drawing can often bring me to a place of meditation and focus in a way not many other things can.

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I don’t have to follow someone else’s formula of waking up early, timing out a prayer that is sufficient enough before I read the next chapter in a book meant for devotions. I can do it my way, as long as I am doing it.

Psalm 119:97 Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for your testimonies are my meditation.

Our First Christmas

Our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. was not unlike our other Christmases spent together. We spent time with my family, drove home and spent time with his. There is something about the familiarity that is comforting, down to the decorations I see from year to year.

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After such a whirlwind of a year, the familiarity felt good. New traditions, namely Shane and I driving here and there for different meet ups, easily nestled into the old.

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Gathering around the table, over foods we have each year, my red sausage soup, my grandma’s plum pudding, Val’s potato casserole, shared with new stories and new laughs, all comforting.

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There were gifts under the tree, but being together bested any gift wrapped up in paper or tucked in a bag. Though it was fun to watch the kids open gifts, Marcus being in a very sincere phase and was ever so thankful for everything.

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James 1:17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

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The kids were soaking up the attention, and it is always fun to see so many generations interact. Even though we are all family, and it is to get expected, it is interesting to think of how little time is spent together by such a wide age range.

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Joanna was especially thrilled when her two little brothers went down for a nap midday and she got to spend that time icing cookies with me. In the evening she presented them to everyone on a plate offering them their choice of color. When her mom took one, she said, with her eyebrow raised, “But Mamma, there is a purple one?” So her mom changed her choice to purple.

This year, Shane and I got my dad a ukulele. It was something that had been on the back of my mind to get him for a while, and we finally did it. A new sound to echo in my parents home, now to mingle with the familiar.

Soon, our first Christmas would end, and we would head up to New England for our first New Years as a married couple. I’m so thankful for our beautiful Christmas and I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

Stillness

The rush of the holidays, like a swollen river eating away at muddy banks, is pulling and making the anyone and everyone’s time slip away. Just today, a short trip into town to pick up pictures lasted twice as long as twice the amount of people waited at the once photography now layaway and photography counter. My afternoon floated away giving me no chance to save it. So many eyes rolling at the store, so many sighs from shoppers pushing carts, so much frustration bubbled through the isles as people looked for anyone with a name tag to help them on what ever last minute search they were on. One thing no one was bound to find was more time.

In a desperate attempt to avoid a crowded isle and save time, I cut through the book department to try to get to where I was going. This was the wrong sort of short cut for someone like me, and I probably did not make up any time as I emerged with two books. I told myself not to linger, but two books for my nephews, at least not myself, caught my eye, and another title made me chuckle, but I didn’t pick it up. The title was “Waiting Is Not Easy!” and it seemed so very appropriate for a holiday shopping day. The little elephant on the front of the book looked as exasperated as I felt.

It occurred to me that we cause a lot of this exasperation to ourselves. Personally, I love holidays, holidays of all sorts, because I love the homemade traditions that go with them. I love watching cheesy Christmas movies at Christmas time, wrapping and making presents look pretty, decorating, and baking, but sometimes I think that I will miss out on the magic of the season if I do something out of order, not the same as last year, or not at all.

So despite not having watched all of my holiday favorites, having not baked anything in three days, or having all my gifts wrapped, this weekend I said to Shane, “Let’s go for a hike.” Which he interpreted as let’s go squirrel hunting. Tomato-tomahto. I was glad to bundle up and be outdoors with him and Jagger.

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Not to be too cliche, but all that kept running through my head as we walked through the snow was, “Be still and know that I am God.” The forrest was ever so still that day, it was so peaceful, yet every tree, every branch seemed to be crying out, “Oh glorious day!”

I hope you can feel that sense of stillness and quiet from these couple of photo’s from that day paired with Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Be Still and Know” lyrics.

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still Oh restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
Be still

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still
Be speechless

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Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is our Father
Come and rest your head upon His breast
Listen to the rhythm of
His unfailing heart of love
Beating for his little ones
Calling each of us to come
Be still
Be still

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Psalm 46:10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Gym

I brought up the numbers sixteen and forty-four in my blog post, “Being the Salt, Continued” for a reason. They are actions that can reach outside of our comfort circle, outside of the “handling fresh fruit” zone and can dip into delaying the decay. While I think it is important to encourage other christians, support them on their walks, have a mentor or be a mentor, or support our spouses by giving thanks to them to encourage and uplift them as I mentioned in my last post, when we are compared to salt in the book of Matthew, that’s an image that should cause us to reach beyond ourselves.

I have long been thinking about this salt idea since it was so repeatedly brought to my attention through a few different outlets, and since my routine is pretty set in stone, tucking in “gifts” as Ann Voskamp might refer to them has been on my mind. One place I regular is the gym. I could shrug off my time in the gym as everyone wears headphones and for the most part is in their own little world, but I didn’t want to shrug it off. Again, I’m shy, I might not be the one to go directly up to a stranger and invite them to church, but I do regularly wear hoodies to the gym.

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Over the years I have collected a good number of hoodies that have verses on them and bright images. I made them year after year for our VBS at our church and the little dance crew that would perform in the closing. As a gift, the dancers would get to keep their hoodies, and if I wasn’t dancing, I still kept one, usually just to make the minimum order it took to get them printed and because I designed them, so naturally I liked them. I try not to disguise their message, it’s a bold pop of encouragement.

One year the hoodies were a rich azure blue with bright white mountains and a cross. The verse was from Psalms 18. My cousin was one of the dancers at the time, and after VBS he still wore the hoodie. He was so excited to share with me his experience with it after VBS, and why he no longer had it, which I will now share with you.

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He was in another town with his friends, a day trip, just having fun, not out on a missions trip; they were stopped someplace when a woman came up to him and asked where he got his hoodie, to which he replied he hadn’t gotten it in a store and why he had it. For whatever reason though, the verse on the hoodie just really hit home with the stranger, and she told him it was exactly what she needed to hear, or see since it was on his hoodie. My cousin was so moved by this chance meeting that he gave his hoodie to the woman. She was so grateful. My cousin, in recounting the tale, apologized for not having his hoodie any more, perhaps thinking I would be offended he gave away a gift I gave him.

I was the complete opposite! My heart felt full and I wasn’t even the one who got to hug the stranger and give her the hoodie. I told him that was exactly what the hoodies were for, not that I or any of the other dancers have had experiences quite like this, but the message is big and bright so it can be noticed and shared.

Maybe someone will approach me about my hoodies when I wear them to the gym, maybe they won’t, but they’ll get to read them. Sometimes it is a silent connection, other times it can become a connection where you can literally give something away. Either way, again, I pray you can find a way to be the gift in our world today.

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Psalms 18:2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Thanks Best Friend

I told myself that I would finish three books by the end of December. When it comes to December goals, being the salt, giving, adding finishing three books didn’t seem like a stretch. The only issue is, I get distracted fairly easily while reading, because a point from the book will remind me of a song, another book, or a Bible verse and I will head off in that direction to look up those lyrics, line or verse.

It seemed important I set a goal on these particular books because I’ve been immersed in two for some time now. The first one “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller was a pre-wedding gift from my cousin and bridesmaid, Carlie. “The Mercy Prayer” by Robert Gelinas is the second that I began soon after Scott passed, and am very close to finishing it. Finally, I am half way through “Be the Gift” by Ann Voskamp. While all of these books are handling a different topic, I am thoroughly enjoying the overlapping facts I am discovering.

Ann’s book has challenged me to be the gift through word or action, living a life daily given. Meanwhile, Robert’s book, more about prayer, really challenged in chapters six and seven to live on the border, to serve those who we might not normally serve. I combined those two ideas to how can I give to those on the border, how can I reach out and give to those I wouldn’t normally. This has been a challenge of sorts as I have shared how I can be shy and it is far easier to stay with in our comfort zones.

After reading a chapter about friendship in Timothy Keller’s book, I couldn’t help but begin to draw lines between this idea of giving from Ann’s book to giving in an intimate relationship such as a marriage. As the marriage book put it, a relationship where your partner should be your best friend, willing to be there for each other during your christian walk, help each other, and have the ability to be truthful with each other.

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I’ve come to really find out, you give a lot when you are in a marriage. Giving of yourself requires mercy, pity, and kindness, all carry a sense vulnerability. What if you show mercy, pity and are kind and you get no acknowledgment for those actions given? Giving and receiving no thanks can jade us towards the opportunity to give again. It can be an easy cycle to fall into of giving, getting hurt over the thankless response to our kindness, then with-holding a gift of kindness, and finally, in turn, becoming bitter and thankless ourselves. Something couples can easily fall back on is the go to statement of, “You don’t appreciate all I do.”; in other words, you don’t appreciate all the time and effort I give. I give up my time to make our lives better, your life better, and when is there a thank you given in return?

With these three books ideas really beginning to weave together, I thought instead of getting hung up on the thankless part, what about me giving thanks? For I am certain I do not say thank you for everything Shane does. When it comes down to it, I feel blessed that Shane often does come to the dinner table and says thank you for cooking, so what is something I can thank him for daily? Because I want to give in our marriage too, I want our marriage to benefit from my December goals of being the salt and giving.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

If I can gift that appreciation to him daily, well, studies show that can go a long way. Out of the many studies on gratitude, one  found that couples, after receiving gratitude, noticed that their partner was more responsive to their needs; overall, they were more satisfied with their relationship. Meanwhile another study reported that saying thank you strengthened a women’s marital commitment while it protected them against the negative effects of poor communication during a conflict. Could it be that just kicking things off by saying thanks can get the ball of communication rolling?

With Shane being so great at saying thank you every time I cook, maybe I can start there and say thank you for noticing and giving me feedback on what I do make. It may seem small, but at the end of the day, I love that I am married to my best friend and I do get to go along my christian walk with him and we get to help each other shine. Our marriage isn’t void of thank you’s, but when reading study after study of the positive benefits of being grateful has on a couple, it couldn’t hurt to add a pinch of thank you’s here and a dab of gratefulness there.

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Picture’s from a sort of engagement “shoot” we did while on a hike with my folks

Passing the Love Along

To start off our season of giving, I was inspired to take home a tag from the giving tree that was set up at our gym. I spun the tree round and round, and a bright orange tag caught my eye. It isn’t so much the blazing orange that grabbed my attention, but what the child had requested.

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Construction paper and a fishing pole were the items printed in black and white under the capital M, age 10. I smiled when I saw those two words. How perfect for Shane and I, construction paper up the art alley, and a fishing pole. I sent Shane on the mission of finding the fishing pole, which he did, and I collected the construction paper and a wooden fish that came with paints.

I couldn’t help but in my heart to sort of dedicate this gift as a memorial to Scott in a way. Shane and him love fishing, and to pass on that love for the outdoors, well, it just seemed like a perfect fit this year to honor his late friend. I dropped the gift off, unwrapped like requested, but built a narrative in my mind of what that little ten year old would think on Christmas morning getting to unwrap something he asked for.

The same day and place I dropped off the giving tree gift, I ran into a pop-up art show. It was a delightful surprise, and though the pieces weren’t all necessarily seasonal pieces, it just added to my afternoon of Christmas cheer. After having been involved in the local art scene back in my hometown, this was a sweet discovery for me and hopefully a future outlet I can participate in.

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All of this coincided with the beautiful, thoughtful Christmas bouquet my dear Shane had gotten me the day before. It was a fan of red, greens and white bursting out of a seasonal coffee mug with a sweet handwritten note on it. Feeling so thankful to have such a sweet man in my life inspired me to again pass the love along. So before I had headed out to deliver the fishing pole and happen upon the art show, I secretly sent a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to my mom who had just gone through surgery on her hand.

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Needless to say, it was easy for me to get excited when I got the text from her that she had received her Christmas bouquet. All in all I had a Friday bursting with love, and it was easy to share as I ran my errands, smiling at strangers, helping someone find a spirograph, delivering two secret gifts, one to the giving tree child and the other to my mom, and enjoying other folk’s art.

So now I pass the love along to you by leaving you with this verses from 1 Corinathians 13 to help inspire you in passing on the love this holiday season.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 I may be able to speak the languages of men and even of angels, but if I do not have love, it will sound like noisy brass. If I have the gift of speaking God’s Word and if I understand all secrets, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I know all things and if I have the gift of faith so I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give everything I have to feed poor people and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, it will not help me.

 

Being the Salt, Continued

Living on the border or coming into contact with decay are images we can rebuff easily. It sounds hard, it sounds dirty, it doesn’t sound like “living on an island” or “handling fresh fruit”. But if Jesus did it, why can’t we? He purposely walked the border, he washed the feet, he gave his life.

But I’m shy.

I get it.

I’m shy too.

I can sit for a whole evening enjoying conversation and not coming out of my shell. Then again, out of nervousness, I could talk your ear off over facts that are a little bootless for the current situation. Surprisingly, even though I am a teacher, a dance teacher no less, it isn’t my first instinct to get up and steal the limelight or make a scene.

So how can a shy person be the salt? Shy or not, how can we, creatures of habit, be the salt? My first excuse as to why I wasn’t “very good salt” was that I’m shy, but then I thought that is a poor excuse, so my brain promptly came up with a second excuse of I don’t have time to break out of my routine. My routine is generally wake up, tackle my to-do list at home, go to the gym some days, then work, then bed, repeat. But, another great book has challenged me the way “The Mercy Prayer” and the Family Talk podcast “Fight for Freedom in a Godless Society” have.

“Be the Gift” by Ann Voskamp is yet another beautifully written book by Ann that brings pictures to life with words and touches the heart. Though an easy read, I can only make it through a few pages before I have to stop and reflect. As it suggests, she challenges that we bring ourselves to be the gift, to give of ourselves, even through the brokenness. I could go on all day about her writing and this book, but what I want to look at in context to this blogpost is the “Gift Idea” pages in the back.

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What a perfect way to look at being the salt this time of year, a gift list. As you can guess, these aren’t things that are for yourself, but instead, it is ideas to give of yourself. With my love of all things list related, it seems conceivable to me that I could tuck a few of her ideas into my own to-do list. They are acts of every size, and depending on how shy you may or may not be, some that sound small may be very big, like number sixteen:

16. Choose the ministry of smiling at everyone today. It’s contagious!

Meanwhile, number forty-four makes it easier to live on the border while staying more anonymous:

44. Make a donation of any amount to a group or cause of your choosing.

Shy or not, routine oriented or not, I pray that these are some ways to kickstart your calling to be the salt and light in this world.

Matthew 5:13 ““You are the salt of the earth…”