Two Weeks of Gratefulness [A Series]

“We will feast in the house of Zion

we will sing with our hearts restored

‘He has done great things’ we will say together

we will feast, and weep no more.”

Sandra McCracken, “We Will Feast in the House of Zion”

I’m wrapping up the second week of writing down all the things to be grateful for, and writing a novel.

I have to say: this entire journey has been much more difficult than I anticipated. I, nearly daily, have to grab myself by the scruff of the neck and say, “Alright, I’m going to sit down. I’m going to write another paragraph. I’m going to pause long enough to consider what all I have to be grateful for.”

And honestly, some days I have not shown up to write the manuscript or in my little gratefulness notebook.

Isn’t being a human crazy? That I have to pick myself up to do the things I most want to do? That it’s a practice to follow a dream? And to even pause? The things that bring us the most joy can often require the most convincing, and that’s really frustrating to me.

But this week, this truth was spoken over me: I don’t have to wait until I’m in the mood to live with purpose. Actually, I can live by a firm commitment to go after it now, regardless of what I’m feeling.

Friend, we are not victims. If we’ve made the decision to live for Christ, then we are empowered and cherished by a God who has crafted stories we’ve yet to unfold. Let’s not be enslaved to what we do or don’t feel like doing. Instead, let’s press into the desires and dreams he’s placed in our hearts. And let’s go after them. We get to live by a commitment to the purposes set before us. We get to say, “Hey, I’m not going to be tossed about today. I know my purpose. And I’m going to keep stepping into it.”

Don’t give up. Keep pressing on. This is worth it. You might be tempted to think it’s not worth it; don’t believe it. You are sustained by the Sustainer himself. He’s got you. Even in the waves and tosses of the day, he’s got you.

And with that, here are only a few things I penned in the gratefulness notebook over the last several days.

  • singing with the church
  • the last few autumn trees that are still full and vibrant
  • snowfall and 2 hour delays
  • the satisfaction of meeting – and far passing – a goal
  • fleece blankets under the sheets
  • the warmth of the sun on a cold day
  • hearing a child say they want it to be Christmas every day so they can celebrate God every day, and getting to say, “But you can!”
  • going back to the place we got married just to reflect and say thanks

By the way, here’s a link to the song we sang in church on Sunday. It always breaks my heart. I mean this in the kindest way possible: I hope it breaks yours too.:

November: Writing Thanks and a Novel

That’s right,’ said Gandalf. ‘Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you may guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. You may (possibly) all live to thank me yet.’” Tolkien, The Hobbit

No one told me that adulthood would feel like a rut.

You wake up to the same alarm every day. You drive the same car to the same office. You swerve to miss the same pothole in road, and don’t even complain when you still bump over it. It’s happened before. You’re used to it.

You work the same hours. See the same people. Wrestle with the same insecurities. Come home with the same kind of tired. Then you go to sleep, hoping that same familiar pinging of your alarm doesn’t come too soon, just to do it all over again.

Okay, this sounds bad. But I’m not bitter about it. When I boldly asked the Lord to show me how to be faithful to where he’s planted me, I’m learning this is actually what that means: showing up to the sameness. It means being there for the same friends when they call, and going to the same Bible study every week. It’s working from that same office you’ve known for almost 2 years, and watching the kids you’ve taught graduate from one grade to the next.

The next step in this faithfulness journey, and the one I’m fumbling in, is learning how to show up to the sameness with the joy and passion that led me to ask him to bring me to it in the first place.

What I’m unsettled by is the belief that this is all there is. Like going to work and being tired is all adulthood will offer us, so we better settle in. Being stable and making money – this is the American dream, after all.

They might tell me to get over it. They might say that we live to work and pay bills, but I cannot stomach the thought. They’ll tell me that dreaming is for kids. They’ll say this is it. Work and routine, this is what I’ve waited my whole life for.

But I don’t believe it.

Jesus did not save me to a safe, planned, routine life. A faithful life to his reasons, yes. But a life stuck on repeat, no.

My Jesus is yours too; He didn’t save you to a life on repeat either.

November, You’re Special

This month, in this chilly November, I know that my heart needs refreshment. I know that even now – up to Thanksgiving and start of Advent – my heart needs to begin its preparation for December. I am not ready to receive the coming of Christ with joy; I need to reposition myself.

I am human enough to admit that my preparing the way for Christ in December begins with preparing the way to prepare his way in November.

Why? Because I don’t want to miss a single miracle that God can work this season.

I want all the grace and joy bestowed upon me as I look ahead to family dinners and get-togethers. I want the joy of Christ to radiate from me. Not because I’m special, but because he is and I’m in tune with his ways.

I want to feel deeply-rooted contentment when I’m eyeing gifts under the tree, or shopping for others. I want to believe at the core of my bones that I’ve already been given enough, and that I am not defined by things I don’t have.

I want to listen to what God has to speak and show. I want to believe that even in my every day, he is here, crafting glory and beauty in the mundane; let me not forget him. I want to know that I am not a slave to the rut and routine of adulthood. But actually, life is a miracle – and as a believer, I have full permission to enjoy it.

He knows every step I take and beat of my heart, and I want to praise that. I just want to increase in my gratefulness to him.

Starting today, even right now, I can number what he’s already done for me. I can ask for eyes to see the wonderful mercies he’s given me already, and tune my heart to receive it, while still showing up to my same circles of faithfulness.

Writing Thanks

God has already given us so much. Hello, have you counted your fingers or numbered your breaths today? Have you noticed the way the sun rises through the tree tops? Did you hear what your husband said of you, and did you feel your heart flutter?

Life is beautiful. And how much do I miss when I’m looking down?

I’m challenging myself to look up and number my thanks this month. I’m going to keep a mini composition book in my bag, and pull it out when I’m on my lunch break or sitting in traffic. When I see a kindness of the Lord, one that I just want to simply say thanks for, I’m going to jot it down. I’m going to remember that he is, in fact, my lovely king – at work in all things.

You can too. Maybe you prefer using your notes app. Maybe you want to reflect on your day in you journal before bed every night. It doesn’t matter how you incorporate it, but that you do. It barely takes any planning. Just a simple raising of the hands and uttering the prayer, “Lord, help me to be thankful. Let me see what I’m prone to miss.”

And a Novel

This month is also NaNoWriMo – short for National Novel Writing Month. In these few weeks, writers from all over will commit to writing a 50,000 word manuscript. For some, it will be the start of a great work. For others of us, it will be a chance to finish what’s been started. But for all, it will be an opportunity to share the stories that need to be told.

I’m joining the journey, and am hopeful that God will give me the words I’ve been looking for. Or running from. Whichever.

Welcome, November

So that’s where I am today, on this chilly first day. I’m taking a step deeper into faithfulness, although it looks different this month. In these weeks, my faithfulness will be tested on the page. It will show up to the pen, and I’ll get the wonderful opportunity to feeling its pressing on paper and learning how to simply say, “Thank you, God.”

This is a chance to show the rut that I will not be bound by its cruel restrictions, but actually, am going to live fully aware of joy and chasing dreams. I’m going to practice believing that God loves when we enjoy his gifts to us – whether it’s a spoken or written word. And today is a great place to start.

I can’t wait to share with you what I find on the other side of the month. Until then, let me leave you with a note from Gandalf, when the dwarves despaired that he was leaving them to their journey:

“We may meet again before all is over, and then again of course we may not. That depends on your luck and on your courage and sense; and I am sending Mr. Baggins with you. I have told you before that he has more about him than you guess, and you will find that out before long. So cheer up, Bilbo and don’t look so glum. Cheer up Thorin and Company! This is your expedition after all. Think of the treasure at the end, and forget the forest and the dragon, at any rate until tomorrow morning.”