Monthly Archives: November 2016

What Grateful People are Made Of

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Happy Thanksgiving!   It’s the culmination of our tweets and status posts and IG selfies listing all the things that make this hard life sweet and good and worth it.

This is an exercise we do, right? And that’s okay.  It’s good to remember what we have and why we should actually be thankful – feel thankful – all throughout the year, not just when the leaves start dropping and the turkey comes out of the oven.

But – well I know this is true for me – being grateful seems to be somewhat of a struggle a lot of the time. For all the reasons I don’t even have to list here – because you know.

Jeffrey and I were talking about a few nights ago, and just a few people came to mind who seem truly, undeniably, grateful almost all the time.  It made me wonder how do they do that?   I don’t know, because it certainly isn’t something I’ve mastered yet.  But I know how to recognize one!

Seven Characteristics of Grateful People

  1. They are Content
    This is more than just looking around and taking note of all the good things in their life.  Grateful people have a depth of contentment in their own set of circumstances, in blooming right where they are planted and sticking things out for the long, long haul – without letting bitterness take root. And without looking at the greener grass on the other side of the fence.
  2. Their Focus is Outward
    When I talk to one of these Grateful People, they almost never talk about themselves or their own circumstances.  Instead, they are always asking about others, seeking to encourage, help, comfort, or come alongside me or others around them.
    They pray – really pray – for the needs of others as part of their daily life.  They give their time and energy to helping others .
  3. Their Strength is Upward
    I’ve witnessed these individuals giving their time and energy for others – not because they have it to give.  Some of them have health issues that cause pain or weakness in their body. Some of them work long hours. Some of them are helping to care for an elderly loved one several days a week.  Some have large households to manage.  But they focus outward and they give out of a heart that is somehow refilled supernaturally… and a Strength that is not their own.
  4. They Don’t Get Caught up in the Past… or the Future
    Admittedly this is where I get tripped up the most.  I try to hang on to the girl I used to be or the places I used to live… or I get antsy for the next season, the next adventure.
    But Grateful People seem to have learned how to leave the past where it is, and not reach their hand forward to what hasn’t been given yet.
  5. They Have Suffered
    This is more than going through a lean season and then being thankful for plenty.  This is more than having hope deferred and then having that prayer finally answered.  Every truly grateful person I know has suffered deep loss.  A tragedy.  A death.  A disease.  Or even a combination.  This is one Jeff and I can understand a little.  There is a sweet closeness to God that we have only experienced through suffering when we learned that our little Rebecca had Trisomy 13… and later when we had to say goodbye to her and walk our other children through that…. when you suffer a valley like that, the good gifts around you come more clearly into focus.  More cherished.  I have never been more grateful or felt more blessed than when we were in that deep valley.  Grateful people have truly suffered.
  6. They Choose Joy
    Grateful People seem to know there is only one thing they can really control in life: their own  response.  Their own attitude.  Grateful People have escaped the disease of Entitlement, and  they understand it’s a blessed broken life.  And they choose to be joyful in whatever moment they are living.
  7. They are Worshippers
    With each truly grateful person I know, this is really key.  I can’t talk with them for more than a half hour without hearing them talk about how the beauty or goodness or faithfulness of God.  Their life has a light about it that kinda makes me think of Moses coming down from the mountain with his face glowing.  You just see it them.  Even when you see the brokenness and weakness in their body or their circumstances, you see a light and a sweetness that only comes from spending time loving on God.

    After thinking about all this, it made me really grateful to have people like this in my life who are such genuine examples. I think I’m going to commit to praying for each one of them and see if I can come up with a way to do something thoughtful for them.

What do you think?  Would you add to this list?  Do you have someone in your life who shines with a grateful heart?  Share with us in the comments…

And… Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I hope you are well, and surrounded by those you love. <3

 

Keeping Advent Simple

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So we’re less than a week out from Thanksgiving.  I’m a stickler for not even mentioning the Christmas tree until we have appropriately celebrated Thanksgiving to it’s fullest- it remains one of my favorite weekends all year long.

But since we started celebrating the Advent season about seven or eight years ago, I have to at least be thinking a little ahead, since the season always begins shortly after Thanksgiving.

If you’ve never really celebrated Advent, don’t stress. I didn’t really understand anything about it until several years ago.  As we remind our kids each year, “Advent” means “the Coming” – and of course what we’re talking about here is the coming of Jesus Christ – the sole reason we celebrate Christmas.

The season of Advent helps us get our hearts and minds into a joyful expectation for Jesus.

So, there’s a lot out there as far as what you can use during this time to make it fun and meaningful for your family.  But I gotta be honest – for us it just works really well to simply stick with what we know.  I’m often tempted to get on a bunch of blogs I really like and see what’s new or what everyone else is doing… not to even mention Pinterest… but if I’m not careful I’ll get bigger ideas than what we can really attain right now, and I’ll end up making it stressful and hectic – which is the exact opposite of the atmosphere we want in our home during Christmastime.

We found a few things years ago that remain meaningful and traditional in our home – so let me share them with you:

 

advent-books

  • The Jotham’s Journey Series
    This is a series of Advent books written by Arnold Ytreeide.  There are four books (Tabitha’s Travels is not shown above), and truly you can go in any order.  You read one book per year, and each story is about a young boy or girl who has some kind of adventure (sometimes perilous or dangerous) and in the journey, the main character ends up hearing about the coming Messiah… and I won’t tell you what happens :)  Each story stands alone but each story is also interwoven into the others.inside

    Our family has LOVED these books.  Since you read a different one each year, it will be years before you will repeat a story, and it’s always just as enjoyable as the first time you read it.  The book is broken down into sections to be read aloud each evening leading up to Christmas Eve. Even our younger children enjoy listening (Jeff and I often want to read ahead), and we’re always sad it’s over at the end.

    Last Advent we read the new book that Ytreeide had just released, “Ishtar’s Odyssey” and it didn’t disappoint.  We read by candlelight around the table each evening.  At one point during the story, Ishtar enjoys some baklava.  The next day we happened upon a package of the yummy treat at Sam’s and brought it home so we could all enjoy some baklava during the next evening’s reading.  Our kids are still talking about it.  Our older kids ask to get these books off the shelf all year long, but we make everyone wait until Advent.

    getting-ready-christmas

  • Getting Ready For Christmas
    It looks like this one isn’t available on Amazon, except as a used book from other sellers.  Bummer. But if you can get it on time, and you have very small children, we found this to be a great beginning to celebrating Advent.  We first used this when Maggie and Lilly were ages 2 and 3 (and still have some of the sweet little homemade ornaments they made while going through this book).  And this year I’ll be using it with Olivia (4) and Carson (6)… and hopefully with Jessa in a few years. :)
    Each day leading up to Advent, there are simple pictures, a short reading, and a verse.  Each day also offers something to do with your child.  Some days it’s helping them with a homemade ornament; other days, it’s as simple as looking at the stars outside.inside-2
    This book is one our little ones have really enjoyed going through with us, and it’s a very stress-free way to begin celebrating Advent.  And this is a way for me to spend some quality time with my younger kids during the day during Advent season.  However, there are some readings in this book where I have to add a bit when talking with my kids in order to connect it to Jesus coming.  So just be aware of that.

These books, which we purchased years ago, along with candles, and sometimes desserts or hot cocoa are all we need to keep Advent season simple, memorable, and most of all, meaningful.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing for Advent this year, or how you keep Christmastime meaningful for your family. Tell me in the comments. I promise not to compare! :)

Here’s some pics from Advent over the years…  eek, they were so little!

Eager ListenersAdventNativity
Reading Getting Ready for ChristmasHot CocoaCocoa Mustache

When We Feel Powerless

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I was up past midnight last night working on a blog post… but truthfully I’d have been in bed way before that if Baby Girl would just sleep.  Like, ever.

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This one.  We are having the hardest time getting her to sleep unless she’s on me.  And once asleep she doesn’t stay asleep long.

Last night- like almost every night – it was past midnight before she finally gave up the fight – literally.  She literally fights sleep, and us in the process. In the 6 hours that I was in the bed with my eyes closed, my sleep was interrupted more than six times. Not just the baby… our other kids will wake us up as well… can I have some of your water… my nose is stuffy… I can’t sleep… I had a bad dream… My leg hurts… Can I have another drink of your water… that kind of stuff is pretty routine.

So yeah, six hours in the bed, and awakened over six times.  This is the stuff Monster Moms are made of, you know? And I have to add that Jeff gets less sleep than this on a regular basis.

We really need a date night.  Or a retreat.  Or just a nap for goodness sakes.

Despite all our best intentions and lots of research and failed attempts at restful nights, our kids have historically just been terrible sleepers.

The list of things we’ve tried is long and pervasive and I won’t bore you with it.

This morning for some  insane, ridiculous reason, the kids got up two hours earlier than normal!  I got up feeling achy and cranky from lack of sleep.  This wasn’t the first or fifth or thirtieth time the kids had gotten up before they were supposed to and started playing and being noisy when they were supposed to be following a routine of getting dressed, making beds, etc.  In fact, it’s the third time this week. One of the perks of homeschooling is we get to be more relaxed, but one of the downsides to being a relaxed, laid-back family is that the kids often stretch that to the max and want to be free spirits when parts of the routine are really not optional (like they wish they were.)

I was frustrated and stern.  They were lethargic and discouraged.

As I stumbled like a zombie to the coffee pot, I realized I had a choice to make.  I could rant and rave and berate.  I could complain and whine and feel stuck in my circumstances.  I could bemoan the fact that these kids “never obey”, that I never get adequate sleep or enough free time or even just enough time for necessities.

OR… I could choose to have a better day than that.

I felt like there was nothing I could do to make things work.  I felt (and feel) like this is never going to get better. I felt powerless.  But the truth is I tell my kids all the time that they have the power to change their thinking… to change their attitudes… to change their day.  They really do, and if I tell them that, then I have to live that out too.

So I took my coffee and sat everyone down for a pow-wow.

“Guys, do you get up and dance in the pew at church or blurt out stuff to interrupt Pastor Dustin during a sermon?”

They all looked appalled and laughed a little “no,… no way”…

“Why not?”

They seemed to think it might be a trick question. “Well, … because that wouldn’t be right. That would be disrespectful,” one of them said.

“And we’ve been trained not to do that,” Lilly said.

“Carson, do you drive your cars down the center aisle during church and make loud ‘vroom’ noises?” I asked.

He hid his face like he would be utterly embarrassed to do that.  “no way!”

I started asking them more questions:

  • Do you take off your seatbelt – ever – while I’m driving down the road?
  • Do you practice handstands during a wedding?
  • Have you painted murals on our walls?
  • When is that last time you wore a diaper?

I started to show them just how much self-control they really do have.  Every day.  Hundreds of times a month.

So there is no reason they can’t use that self control to begin their day the right way.  And there’s no reason we can’t all use our self control to have better attitudes.

We all decided to start fresh and work together to make it a good day.

Has it been perfect? Nope.  We’ve had more than a few corrections and attitude adjustments – some of them before breakfast. Some of them my attitude.

But something in the back of my groggy mind clicked:

When I feel powerless, I’m not aiming high enough.

That seems counterintuitive, but when I feel powerless, it’s usually because I have my eyes on the day-to-day goals I’m trying to achieve, and it’s not coming together like I need it to.

 

C.S. Lewis said:

“Aim at Heaven, and you get earth ‘thrown in’;
Aim at earth, and you will get neither.”

Sometimes the day-to-day goals aren’t supposed to be the aim.  I’m looking at schedules and schoolwork and chores …. God is looking at hearts and souls.

When I’m looking at the daily grind around me, I start to roll up my sleeves and think I can do this.  When I aim higher – at cultivating love, patience, kindness, gentleness (in myself or my kids)- I realize this is a mighty battled waged in God’s Country. To survive this kind of battle I need a bow that retains its strength, and arrows that do not easily miss.  I need the perfectly weighted sword with a blade that never rusts.  I need a bit of healing cordial.

In short, I’m never going to survive, much less win the Spiritual battles without the Valiant Lion of Judah going to battle for me.

When I aim higher and the realm is not of this world, I have to rest in God’s doing the work – in His way.  And He never fails.

What does this look like? How does it work?  By constantly talking to God about it throughout the day… taking my frustrations to Him and asking Him to help me see things through His eyes… asking for His help to take my thoughts captive… asking for His help to be gentler when giving correction… asking for His help to know how to handle behavioral issues when they arise.  Looking past the actions and seeing hearts and asking Him to take those hearts in His hands.

So now I’ll go lay down the baby – who is currently sleeping in my lap while my computer is perched on the couch armrest – and hold my breath and pray she stays asleep.  I’ll spread out a large-family-size bag of frozen nuggets on a tray for my hungry tribe. I’ll pull an arrow from my quiver and adjust my aim a little higher.

And hope that between the battles, I can squeeze in a nap. :)

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The Sabbatical is Over

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Well, let’s jump right in.

I feel like I’m pulling out my old typewriter from high school, dusting it off, fiddling with the paper feed, trying to remember how to do this.  It’s been two years since Rebecca’s funeral and a year since Jessa’s whirlwind birth and 21 days in the NICU (after God saved us both through an emergency surgery at 32 weeks pregnant)- the major events which caused me to lay down my pen for a while.

Many times I started to pick it back up, but couldn’t find my voice.

Flannery O’Connor said “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
And as a life-long journal-er, I’ve always been able to relate to that.

So here I am, after putting the kids to bed (multiple times), with a one-year-old toddling and drooling around the living room… and I type while holding her back from my laptop with my outstretched leg – because if I wait for her to sleep, I will literally never blog again.

Over the last year I kept thinking something profound would come to mind and I would have the perfect thing to say to you all – to reconnect – and bring my blog back to life.

But the perfect words never came.  And I realized perfect doesn’t belong here.

I named this space Our Blessed Broken Life for a reason.  There is always at least a little bit of brokenness in all of us.  Life is messy, and real, and really imperfect.

At least mine is, and I kinda like it that way sometimes.  Because in our darkest times the past few years, I realized there is a joy and a beauty and a closeness to God that has only come through suffering.  And through lots of mess and chaos and imperfection.

As Elisabeth Elliot said, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”  I’m pretty much studying for my doctorate in that life course.  I bet some of you are, too.

The truth is, the last several years have left us tired exhausted, stretched, more gray up top, and feeling less like we know any of the answers.  And yet, we’re continuing to learn to extend grace when we don’t want to.

That patience is something you actually have to practice.

And that we can choose joy, no matter the circumstances.

Nothing profound.  Just life.

So I’m gonna line up my paper and try to load it in without any snags, and just get started drumming on the keys.  If you wanna join me, you’ll be more than welcome on the journey.

One thing I know: The sabbatical is over.

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