Thanksgiving In July

They move from event to event, stoic, chin-up with game faces squarely on.

Determined, fierce-competitors, steely-glass eyes starring the moment directly in the face without blinking. Unflinching. Taking on the challenges with grace.Brave. Unwavering. Strong. And appearing to all the world as though they have no fear.

Mighty warriors on the world stage. Grace on display in diminuative packages. And they amaze.

I watch these young Olympians strong-jawed and graceful, gymnasts who take my breath away with their poise, beauty,and skill packed in lovely small packages of pure muscle.

They are like marathon runners pacing their emotion. Pacing the celebration and victorious grins and all-out over-joyed thanksgiving for their wins, the milestones.

Because until they are finished, they must pack their bags and unwrap their wrist-wrappings and move to the next big event.

But I am not an Olympic gymnast. Very far from it. But sometimes if I am not careful I will move fists clenched and jaw tight from one event to another without stopping to rest in moments of thanksgiving and praise for God’s goodness.

And I have seen God’s goodness in many areas of my life. So I have to stop. And be still for long moments of the heart. To let myself catch up with my living. To let the soul soak in the worth savoring. Because I have seen break-through’s and they are worthy of noting with praising lips.

They are worthy of big Alleluias and Hallelujahs back to the Giver. They deserve a return of praise. They require a thank you note of the heart.

If I am not careful I will race ahead without engaging my heart and soul in a long grateful embrace. The moment worth the long savor risks being passed over. The answered prayer of the heart and lips risks going by without an outpouring of gratitude.

I will rush ahead of myself and God into the forward moving moments of life. Without rightful praise. Without rightful thanksgiving. Without giving the breakthrough its long celebration of being born into my life. I risk being stalled out and stuck in a place of forward moving living which races into the next without pausing and looking long on the beautiful miraculous milestones of God gifts of the now.

The now is so deserving. The right this minute is so worthy of marking and noting. And of celebrating.

I see these as the happy middles. No longer wanting to desire only the happy endings in life, but rather finding joy in the happy middle moments. The good stuff on the way. The stumble upon small things which are truly grand. Like the small Olympic gymnasts we pack a pint sized punch, these little life-moments are grander and more glorious than we often give them credit for. They are huge if we but stop and marvel.

Just because its good. And just because The Giver of Good Gifts, a holy God, has given with and in Love.

If I miss the opportunity to walk into His presence with praise, I miss a holy moment of intimacy with God. And we were made by Him to praise Him. The praiseworthy moments then, are just what we were created for.

And some just seem due a longer pause, a wider smile, and an even more joyful heart. I don’t know why they seem to stand out, accept that when you journey with Him and cry out to Him, and pray to Him, there are moments which feel so glorious. Maybe its the ones we thought we’d never live to see. Or maybe its the ones that come after long periods of drought or what feels like extra-long waiting. Maybe its the ones which look so transformative as to have God’s mark, His handiwork so beautifully displayed that we are in awe. Of His Goodness. And His Love. Maybe it’s the ones that have a bit of the prodigal son peppered in the narrative.

That God in His mercy works beautiful gifts into  every day is worth an outpouring of gratitude every day. But sometimes it feels hand-stamped,hand-delivered right to the door of our hearts. Because it is.

It always is when it comes from God. And thanks be to Him, the Giver of Good Gifts.

Counting gifts today. And it truly feels like Thanksgiving in July. And grateful to Ann and her book 1000 Gifts for helping point me in a grateful direction of the heart.

*a beautiful worship service yesterday with glorious music and a very very funny guest preacher. Joy in the laughter echoing all through the sanctuary.

*a transformation in a relationship. Restoration, love, and tenderness.

*a moment to mark and celebrate a moment with a mother in church which involved seeing great things in the lives of our sons.Seeing her beautiful tears of joy at God’s hand in our lives. A gift.

*Seeing my man/child in his new home loving His job and seeing glimpses into his future with his career. Feeling God’s hand of protection and love on his life.

*Hearing my middle son say how much he enjoyed our family day together, after not wanting to participate. Hearing him proclaim the joy in the day. Amazing. Grace. A mother’s heart hears how very much we are wired to be in relationship.

* Four of the five riding back from Charleston and my daughter looking out at the marsh and marking the beauty. Then, passing the river and marking the beauty. Her words of longing to be on the beautiful water. Seeing her mark beauty.

* Hearing my son sing in church.

*watching the Olympics with my family

*Mother-daughter time of fellowship with friends laughing and savoring and spending hours, the four, for a celebration of birthdays. It is good. Friendship.

*Finally telling my husband how very badly my heart desires a literal white-picket fence, and having him sweetly receive, and try to see where and how he can provide my silly heart’s desire for one.

*A loving text message filled with gratitude from someone in my life, early this morning. A welcomed-Monday morning sight for these eyes.

*Seeing the joy in a woman’s heart upon receiving home-communion yesterday. Seeing  the power in breaking the communion wafer for someone for the first time. The beauty. The holy of the moment. Grateful for the opportunity to serve. Seeing her touched by the love of Jesus.

Writing in community today with Ann, who is helping me develop a heart of gratitude. And I am joining with Michelle at Graceful today.

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This I Will Always Remember

I want to start a list of all these things. The things I will remember, always.

I want to entitle it something simple like, “Things I Will Always Remember.”

I want so desperately to  go back and fill the pages with lovely memories of the cherished past. And to collect them in one leather bound place with gold embossed lettering.

Things I will always remember.

And I wonder if I have the discipline to keep filling the pages as I live forward. To fill the white space up with lines , phrases and photographs of these times. The ones emblazened boldly on my heart. And in my memory. In the crevices of my story. In the cracks of my life.

I know I can start today by and in His Grace. I can begin  a list of these things I will
always remember.

These moments that dance and sing and  take our breath away.

The ones that fill us up so we can pour back out. Those that breathe life into us so we can breathe life into others.

Those that restore and rebuild.

That define us and mark us with beauty.

The ones which we record in technicolor in our memory to pull out on the black and white days, the grey ones too. The ones where we can’t see the grace. The days when we get stuck  and can’t remember the beautiful we promised we’d always remember. We swore we’d never forget.

I know that by His grace I hiked a mountain hemmed in by ones I love. With ones who love me back with a deep unfailing love.

 I hiked Lookout Mountain with my 74 year old father  and my 11 year old niece. And Shadow came too. The rescued dog. The furry family member who is his name to my father and mother.

I look back in my mind’s eye over the pictures and over the moments on the trail and I see so clearly now. How the walking up is life. How the hiking along side one another  is life. How the journey is what we do daily. How we are given the opportunity to live well in community. In family. In relationship.

How God tethers us to others to teach and build up. To strength us. To grow us. To challenge us.

We can choose to do this  daily. In love.

We can choose to get up and go out to seek the relationship challenges.

We can choose to speak a word of encouragement and be encouraged by others who are walking right beside us. We can be life givers and hope builders. We shared one bottle of water between the four of us, and it was just enough. Under the shade of the green canopy,  a sip here and there was all we needed.

Just being with was gift.

Just the presence of the others blessed.

I am grateful that these two spoke encouragement to me and that they undergirded me and accompanied  me in on this hike.

It wasn’t easy, the trek up. But it was important.

It was vital for seeing life this one particular way. It gave clarity. I see with  a lense focused on journeying  in community and in love. The lense is  angled and tilted and pointed to perfectly see things this way. On this trail.

To see this life and its relationships.

Again. Anew.

How grace extended to one another on the huffing and puffing parts brings joy to the journey.

How stopping and resting and extending hope, breathing life into each other’s weary souls, its what makes the journey joyful.

I will always remember my father’s cheerful spirit on the trail. His strength and stamina and joyful spirit pushing us up and on.

I will never forget extending hands out, holding on for the hard rocky part. I will remember forever my heart beating hard at the top as we took in the views. Resting after the tiresome parts to savor. To stand in awe of the God-beauty and savor what we had come to soak in at the mountain top.

My book will add this memory to its pages. The book written for now in my mind with gold embossed lettering on the spine.

This I will always remember.

And counting gifts with Ann today too. These gifts I will always remember. I am grateful to have these things in my life, to count, to savor, and to always remember:

*a week of getting to know my niece, her heart, her humor, her sweet sweet spirit

*for all the things I learned from an eleven year old which I could never learn from a book

*for that split second moment when I embraced my husband after a long absence and how the spark and beauty of the moment lasted for hours in my heart

*for the sound of running water over rocks outside my bedroom window for days and days of endless joy

*for cool nights and cool mornings and lots and lots of green canopies

*for an endless supply of inspiration for my photography, thank you Lord for your God-beauty, your creation

*for fresh blackberries and one summer cobbler

*for an “A” in chemistry for a hardworking child

*for a very social monarch butterfly which let me take what felt like a million pictures of him (cannot wait to share the picture here)

*for a daughter who loves the mountains and how late night trips to the Blue Cone for ice cream is her idea of summer nighttime fun.

Breaking the Break

It feels like breakfast. Breaking the fast. Or breaking the break.

It has been a long pause, this break from writing on my end.

And I miss ya’ll. Yes, I am southern. Because I am blessed by this community, by you.  Each one of you — who are present and read and reflect with me on this life.

And while I gather my thoughts and process this life that I have been living, I want to say a brief “hello world” on the other side of this blog.

Because the sun has been rising and setting a lot since I wrote and you read here.

And the moon has been doing her thing.

And trees have been smiling in forests while no one was looking.

And God has placed hearts on stumps, to stumble upon in the most shaded of secret places.

And Joy still floats. Hope does too. The Janice Sue tug floats along and chugs along too.

Even smiling as I capture her tuggy beauty.

Tangerine wings still stop and rest, then flutter their flirty fluttering selves like little tutu-ed dancers in a preschool recital, performing their dance, so simple. So simple.

And roads still lead the discoverer, the wanderer to new places. Carrying the one who looks for surprise down the road to just that. Simple surprises. Simple findings.

A new shade of blue, quite unlike any other. Not common. Not named. A blue so unique and brilliant that all shades of it aspire to be this.

They long to be this blue.

An in the beginning, Genesis blue. When God formed the universe and made earth and sky, blue. His original idea of what blue should be when it is being blue.

And God is all that He has ever been. Great. Good. Loving. And omnipotent. And loving us, and loving me.

So while I try to get my hands steady, oh so steady back on the keyboard. And while I process all the ways that He loves and shows Mercy and Grace, I leave you with a word or two and a photo or two.

And I say thank you for being here. And always thank you when you comment, though please know and feel the grace there. I feel you even when you don’t speak.

I am soaking in the love of God and family. And picking my tomotoes fresh from the vine and soaking in the summer rays, shooting like an arrow straight at my heart.

And counting gifts and Grace.

And all these summertime moments of wonder.

And of course, practicing working on enjoying writing.

{If you would like to follow along, another place I ponder and post is on my facebook page. And you can comment there too. Don’t forget to “like” it if you want to follow along. There is a place to hop over there at the bottom of this home page.}

A Still Quiet Place

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.

(from C.S. Lewis)  
   Friends, my Sunday hope for you as you see this day begin its end is that you steal away to a quiet place for peace and friendship…wishing you His grace as you……….                  

                                                    

Take a minute,

Seek the silence,

Search out solitude,

Find a friend,

Grab the good,

Rest in quiet,

Think on blessings,

Knaw on words,

Release worry,

Ponder gratitude,

Curl up in the comfortable seat of Grace

And speak your heart to a precious friend.

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