Category Archives: Thankfulness

Autumn Joys: A Few of My Favorite Things

Today is the first day of autumn, 2017…a day that has never been and will never come again. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the tragedies occurring in America and around the world this year. Sometimes it seems almost sacrilegious to speak about the blessings during such a time of hardship, but then I remember that it’s often in the midst of suffering that we’re most acutely aware of the everyday blessings that we usually take for granted. I’m going to list a few of my favorites, and I’d love to hear you share some of yours as well!   Now that it’s autumn, it’s dark when I wake up, but among my favorite everyday blessings are hearing the birds sing and watching the sun rise while Alan and I read the Bible and pray together each morning.      I’m also extremely grateful to be living in a clean, dry, safe, snug home.  I’m thankful for food and water and electricity. Millions are without right now in the Americas and Caribbean, and billions are chronically without worldwide.   I am thankful for the spiritual bread of life and the water of life, Jesus. Beyond all this, I find myself wrapped up in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, which is better than a velvety fleece around my shoulders, and I am a child of our heavenly Father, who has his arms outstretched to whosoever will come to Him in faith. I am thankful for the privilege of prayer! God invites us to come to him like a little child and promises to care for us and answer our prayers.  I’m thankful for my husband and children and grandchildren. I’m thankful that we love our Father and we love each other. I’m thankful for family and friends, both those far away and near.  I’m thankful for the golden warmth of the sun by day and the silvery glow of the moon and stars by night. I’m thankful for the seasons…for snowflakes in winter and soft green grass in summer, flowers that bud and bloom in the spring, and leaves that flame and fall in the autumn.  God has created a world of beauty, mystery, light, and darkness, and I’m thankful for it all, knowing that God is good and is working everything “together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him (Ecclesiastes 3:1-14).

A Little Thought About Being Thankful

Last year for Christmas I received a beautiful, velvety fleece blanket that matches our bedroom colors perfectly and is about as soft as a cloud. I keep it over the back of my favorite reading chair and snuggle into it every chilly morning when Alan and I settle in for our devotional time. Even in the summer it’s been a particular source of comfort, since my chair is next to the window, and often early morning temperatures are quite cool.  I’m sure I thanked Dan and Brianna when they first gave it to me, but almost every morning I think to myself, “I need to write them a note just to let them know how much I love their blanket!” However, every morning after rearranging the blanket, I’d hurry off to make breakfast and promptly forget my good intentions. Until today. Today I finally remembered to do something about it! Ten months later!!

Is there anything in your life like that? Any kindness that you often remember but never take time to acknowledge? I read the story of the ten lepers and wonder why nine of them failed to return and thank Jesus for healing them, and yet—I’m no different! But, they were excited! They wanted to share the good news with their loved ones. They were busy—they needed to go to the temple to be declared “clean” again. They were…just like me! So caught up in the routines of life’s business that I fail to stop and just express my gratefulness to those who are blessings in my life. Even more—I fail to thank God for the daily abundance He gives me. May I (we) become people whose hearts overflow with gratitude, and who take the time to thank God and those who bless us!

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good:
because his mercy endureth for ever
” (Psalm 118:1)

All Quiet on the Western Front

Nine years ago on July 25, I was writing about it being
“all quiet on the western front” here at Tanglewood Cottage.   My daughter’s boyfriend was visiting, and my son Jonathan was visiting my son Michael’s family, who were stationed in Germany.  Nine years later, my daughter is married and has three lovely children. Jon is also married (to a girl he met in Germany!), and they also have three darling daughters! On this July 25 (yesterday), Jon’s family  arrived safely in Germany,
where they’re going to be spending the fall semester
while Jonathan is on sabbatical from Moody.  What a whirlwind this past month has been!  Alan and Jon drove a moving van cross-country  so they could store Jon and Linda’s household goods here in GR until they find some place in Chicago next winter. Linda and the girls flew here, and we’ve been having a grand time;  the house has been bubbling and bursting with life. Not only does Dan’s family live in town, and we have Joel living with us, our oldest son’s family (four boys) and my daughter’s family visited,  and even my “Little Sister” Lizzie came for a visit! However, last Monday I put the last of our visitors on planes heading East
and came home to an empty house.  (Thankfully, Alan and Joel still live here,
but they were at work when I came back home.)  Have you ever noticed how therapeutic work is?  I worked like a beaver washing mountains of bedding and linens, cleaning…putting away toys and books and puzzles…  legos and trains and balls.  All the lovely wildflower bouquets have wilted,
and the only remnant of my flower girls are a bunch of clovers!   The house is straightened and is slowly becoming tidy and clean,
but the silence is pretty much deafening!

I was thinking about how exhausted I would be by the end of each day, and my nightly chorus in response to Alan’s inquiry into my condition: “Oh, the old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be!” My elderly mother, while living with us when my seven children were small, used to say sometimes, “I think I’d like to spend the afternoon with some old people.” It made me laugh (to myself, not at her), but now I understand!  Time flies! I wouldn’t trade a minute of such bursting life for a minute of rest, but I do know why the Lord created us so that we cease child bearing in our forties!  Are you exhausted and in the thick of family life? I truly do feel for you, but I hope you’re able to appreciate the beauty of exploding life and love.  When the “war” is over, it will be quiet—and that’s wonderful too…and the way God intends, I believe—but tranquility is also often a segue toward death.                                                                Life is sure messy,                                                                but life is good! Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4)  “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

 

 

These Colors Don’t Run

Happy Fourth of July to all Americans everywhere, and if you’re not an American, I hope you are living in a country where you are happy enough to want to celebrate, and that you’re able to enjoy safety and freedom. My little grand daughter Amélie was helping me arrange this bouquet, and when we got finished, she sighed happily. “At least we won’t have to water the flag!”  My sister heard this sentiment: “Red, White, and Blue. These colors don’t run.”

I am glad to be an American, just like I hope you’re glad to be a citizen of your country, but even more precious to me than my citizenship in America is my citizenship in heaven…where the color red most often refers to the saving blood of Jesus Christ, the color white speaks of purity, and the color blue is known as “the heavenly color,” pointing us heavenward. What keeps me from running—from being afraid—is that I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, can daily experience cleansing by the water of the Word of God, and am filled with eternal life through faith in Christ.

Today, I want to praise God for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness here in America, and for the even greater spiritual blessings of life, liberty, and love! I hope you’re experiencing the same joys and freedoms wherever you live!

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21, ESV).

 

Someone To Remember

pretty-elderly-ladyI walked into her home. It was dark. A small light in the kitchen was the token illumination for her humble home, which was sparsely furnished with tattered cast offs. Among the few old pictures decorating the walls, there was one of a beautiful woman with dreams in her eyes…the elderly woman standing in front of me. She was still pretty and neat, her white hair neatly pulled back in a traditional European bun, garbed in a coat – in the house.

James 1 admonishes us to visit the widow and the orphan. This evening’s visit was my attempt at reaching out of my comfort zone to be an obedient Christian.

She invited me to sit down. She was very talkative in her Eastern European accent, which I found comforting (being introverted). She told me how much she loved the preaching of the pastor of our church. As she could no longer attend church, the deacons faithfully brought her the tapes of the Sunday sermons.

I thought: Why does she like this pastor so much? He says nothing. I listen and listen, but all I hear every week is, “You can make a difference!”  I could feel my critical heart becoming even more cynical, fueled by my awareness that this poor woman was living in a ghetto with no resources and shattered dreams.

“Why is that?” I asked.

She answered in her lyrical voice,  “ He talks about my Lord, Jesus Christ! He is all I have now!”

Throughout the evening I heard her story. She grew up in Latvia, not far across the river from the Tsar’s palace. Her father was the Tsar’s personal doctor. But sadly, the royal family was murdered one fateful evening in 1917, and even her father could not bring the dead back to life. In spite of the unrest and instability of Russia, Latvia continued as a peaceful state. Lilijan grew up privileged. She was beautiful. She sang. She married a congressman of Latvia. They started their family.

Life did not stay beautiful. Dreams were shattered as Hitler did his thing and eventually Stalin did his thing. Latvia was nothing but a pawn in the world revolution. One night, political madmen came in and killed her husband.

Somehow, pregnant Lilijan escaped with her young daughter. They made their way through Eastern Germany.  People were starving.  Soldiers were everywhere. She talked about how Christianity became much more than an ethnic tradition, how Jesus became much more than a name, and how God became much more than an impersonal deity as He met their basic needs.

Lilijan came to the United States as a refugee and started life over. She was no longer a Latvian princess. No one seemed even to remember Latvia after the Soviet Union swallowed it up. She became a line worker at a GM plant and eventually married, only to be discarded later in the American way.

Liljan had two children. Her daughter, Rose grew up, got married and moved away She would visit but not often. Lilijan’s son suffered from schizophrenia, making her life extremely difficult when he wasn’t hospitalized. She continued to love him and have hope for him. She longed for the day when she would be in that country that her Savior had prepared for her. She longed for her Prince of Peace.

As I listened to her that night, I did not understand. It all seemed so hopeless. What  a sad ending. Certainly not the stuff of a Jane Austin novel!

Even though I was a mother of two at the time, I was still a child in my soul. I thought as a child. I wanted to dream. I did not know God shatters dreams to reveal to us the desires of His heart that will make us whole.

But now, many years later, after disappointments and quiet tragedies that broke my heart to heal my soul, I am a woman. I no longer think like a child. I can see more clearly. The name of Jesus now lifts my soul. Whether I am in a ghetto home or a palace,  and whether I’m in a traditional church with the facade of ancient stability that echos the songs of ages past or I’m in a postmodern warehouse that markets itself with popular Christian rhythms, I can now say with Lilijan: I rejoice when I  hear the name of Jesus! I am thankful to be with those who worship God. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

(This post was written by Connie Sikma, from my writers’ group. Connie didn’t have any pictures of Liljan, who is now with her Prince of Peace. However, a sweet friend from my Sunday school class kindly allowed me to take her photo for an illustration. Thank you so much, Connie and Shirley!)

 

African Flower Thanksgiving

ixia-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africaMay your Thanksgiving is blessed with joy this year! coral-tree-in-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africaIf you’re an American, I hope you’re able to celebrate with loved ones,
and maybe enjoy a turkey dinner too! phylica-pubescens-featherhead-or-flannel-flower-bush-in-afternoon-sun-at-kirsetenbosch-national-botanical-garden-south-africaIf you’re not an American,
I still hope you will take a few minutes today to count your blessings. pink-cluster-of-roses-africaRight at the top of my list is God and all those with whom I share love. everlasting-flowers-south-africaI can’t think of anything more wonderful! golden-trumpet-tree-south-africa-cape-townI’m also thankful for the scripture, which feeds my soul. african-daisies-south-africaSomewhere way under that, but still exciting to me are beauty and color, bougainvilleaso today I want to share with you some of the lovely flowers I saw in Africa, angel-trumpet-tree-south-africapaired with a few of my favorite verses on the subject of thankfulness:  poinsettias-south-africa“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).  yellow-proteas-south-africa“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,
and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High” (Psalm 92:1). pink-rose-africa“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). flamboyant-tree-south-africa“I will praise the name of God with a song,
and will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). lilies-south-africa“Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his,
and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4). jacaranda-tree “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). scadoxus-multiflorus-or-red-ball-of-fire-at-victoria-falls-zimbabwe“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). bougainvillea-along-chobe-marina-lodge-botswana“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4) african-orange-flower“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). hibiscus-and-bougainvillea-botswana“We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). jasmine-cape-town-south-africa“O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 107:1).

Adventures You’d Rather Miss: Chariots or Jaggernauts

Springtime in KentuckyA week ago we had to make a low-flying trip (in a rental car)Springtime in Kentucky FArm to retrieve our RV from the hills of Kentucky, Farm. Springtime in Kentuckywhere it had been languishing in a repair shop for several weeks after the electrical motherboard failed on our return from spring break.Springtime in Kentucky 1It was a lovely spring evening that Friday when Alan got off work,Rainbow. Springtime in Kentuckyand we decided to make ice cream from our hail (as Almanzo Wilder would say)Horses in Kentuckyby enjoying this unexpected trip just 3 days after our return from California.Springtime in Kentucky 1-65The roadsides were laced with frilly, pink redbud trees.Highways jammed with spring break traffic(Although, I must say, I-65 was jammed with spring break traffic, particularly with a 23-mile section of I-75 closed due to a mud and rock slide.)Blackberry Pancakes from Cracker BarrelHowever, we enjoyed our travel and time together immensely,
had a fabulous breakfast the next morning at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant,  Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace Memorialand even stopped briefly to visit the Old Kentucky Home of Abraham Lincoln, Happy Valley Roadwhich was right on our way back to 610 “Happy Valley Road” in Glasgow, KY, Redbud trees in Kentuckywhere our RV had been (theoretically) nursed back to perfect health.  RVHowever, much to our alarm, Alan discovered that the RV had no turn signals and the lights still weren’t working properly (honestly???)
…and that the electrical repair mechanic had already left for the day.  Service GarageSo…Alan and a mechanic who didn’t know much more than Alan did frogged around until they discovered we could use our turn signals as long as the emergency light switch was pulled out but not activated, and away we went. Freak spring stormUnfortunately, a freak winter storm brewed up as we headed into Indiana. High winds sweep across farmlandWinds were recorded at 71 mph in Straughn, IN, just to the east of us,Storm clouds rolloing in and there were power outages in Indianapolis as we drove through. Heavy traffic Freak spring stormNot only our RV, but even the heaviest trucks were shifting sideways involuntarily on the road at times, Snowstorm on highway 2making driving conditions very treacherous.Slush on roads But, the worst was yet to come.Snowstorm on highwayIt was dark and growing late by the time we reached Michigan. Spring BlizzardBlinding lake effect snow was sweeping across the highway, making it almost impossible to see more than about 40 feet in front of our vehicle. Blinding Snow StormOur “Sanctuary” (as we’d named our motor home)
had gone from feeling like a chariot to a jaggernaut. Spring Storm in MichiganWould we (or others) be crushed by the momentum of this unstoppable storm? Traffic AccidentI’m sure there were accidents that night,Our lane at night although by God’s mercy we did arrive home safely
in the midnight hours of Sunday morning. Door LocksHowever, we had one last challenge.
For some reason, neither of our keys worked in the front door!  😦
We have no idea why, but Alan eventually had to break in through our garage door by repeatedly bashing the lock with a sledge hammer.Poor visibility in Freak spring storm At Sunday school later that day, our teacher mentioned that
all the difficult misadventures in our lives Freak spring storm Poor visibility in MIcan either serve as chariots to bring us closer to God,
or as jaggernauts to destroy us. The difference is in how we respond. Sun and storm cloudsDoes the trial cause us to draw nearer to God and increase our faith,
or does the hardship make us bitter and disbelieving?Sunset during stormGod wants us to respond in faith, drawing nearer to him
and asking Him for help…learning to be grateful for his mercies Freak spring storm 4rather than becoming angry because we didn’t get what we wanted
or were expecting (which is usually our personal idea of perfection).  Snowstorm on highway 3Got any misadventures in your life
that you wish you weren’t having to experience? Freak spring storm at nightCan you let them be chariots to bring you closer to God
rather than jaggernauts that destroy your faith under their crushing weight?

Freak spring storm 2“Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number. Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not. Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou? (Job 9:1-4,10-12)