Heart of Gratitude: Day 21

Of all the places where the Lord could have us, we are blessed to make our home in Colorado. . . at least for now! The National Weather Service adheres to a more technical definition of a “sunny day,” but most Coloradans agree that a mostly sunny day meets the criteria for a day of sunshine.  With a loose approach to the matter, the Front Range joins the ranks of the sunniest places on earth with more than 300 days of sunshine each year.

Yesterday, I was trampling leaves on a lunch run, the sun kissing my face and nothing more than a breeze through my hair.  The golf course was littered with golfers who couldn’t have asked for a better day in the middle of November.

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This morning was an entirely different story, but one that warms my heart all the same.  Temperatures dropped overnight and the noontime thermometer reads 18 degrees!  Rays of sunshine have been traded for tiny snowflakes and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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Only the Lord knows how long we will reside in this beautiful place, but for the last 24 years I have absolutely loved every season!  Today I am thankful for rays of sunshine. . . and tiny snowflakes!

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Heart of Gratitude: Day 18

Riding the waves of this weekend, there were moments of pure relief – the Lord’s provision played out in a very tangible way, moments of unexpected sadness – when the depths of my heart were laid open before Him, moments of disappointment – when what I believed to be the next step was no longer an option, and moments of simple joy – where there was no where else on this giant planet that I would rather be.

Friday afternoon, I had the privilege of sitting at the kitchen table of a dear friend.  Lunching on raspberry salads and grilled paninis, we spent the better part of two and a half hours catching up on this last year.  One of my very favorite traits of this woman is that she always challenges me to go deeper.  Not “deeper” in a way that confuses by making something out to be what it is not, but deeper in a way that forces me to relinquish my desire to have all the answers (my feeble grip of control) and seek the face of God, giving Him ultimate reign in my life (by HIS glorious power).

I believe that many will concur when I say of the heart of women: when we value growth, we often have a blueprint by which we envision the story of our life to follow.  We identify phases of our own construction by seasons of preparation that culminate in a moment of completion.   As a single person, there was an exponential amount of growth as the Lord was preparing me to enter into my new role as Wife.  During that time, I always wanted to know, WHERE WAS THIS MAN?!?  I fully understood that I should be patient and savor singleness.  I was also aware that I was not to play the “If. . . then. . .” game with God.  Typically, it sounds something like this: “Lord, IF I get married in the next couple years, THEN I will be fully content.”  I know that many times I parsed this prayer and made it my own, as a means to justify my case. 

Eleven months ago, standing in the presence of God, our family, and our friends, we vowed to love one another for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.  My season of singleness was over and I entered into a new phase of preparation with my husband.  PREPARATION?!?  Just when I thought I would catch my breath and settle into married life, we were looking to the Lord to guide our steps as a family.  For now, we believe we are to be a family of two until the Lord might bring the joy of little ones into the picture.  While this plan will likely be years in the making, I know that my desire to be both Wife and Mom is fully intact. 

Now that I have established connections with many friends through social media, there seems to be a baby “born” on Facebook each week for the last few months.  Bridal showers are fewer and farther between and I am finding myself walking up to the kiosk at Target to search for baby gift registries.  Only recently, have I been out for a run and considered how much fun it would be to be pushing a jogging stroller. 

This weekend, we learned that dear friends of ours are expecting a baby.  Three of my close girlfriends are now pregnant and one of them could deliver any day now.  When I learned of the most recent announcement, tears welled up in my eyes and a part of me was saddened that it wasn’t quite our time.  I was completely caught off guard.  Was it not enough for me to be fully confident in what the Lord has placed on our hearts?  Was I not content?  Could I be getting wrapped up in another round of “If. . . then. . .”?  As I tried to communicate through my cloud of confusion, my need for the peace that comes from spending time in the presence of the Lord and engaging in His Word was absolutely clear. 

On our bathroom counter rests a calendar filled with verses for each day.  This morning, I turned the page to November 18 and these words were before me: “God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.”  (Romans 2:4 – The Message)  A life led by Christ is marked by continuous change and requires the process of preparation.  There is no guarantee that it will be a leisurely stroll, but the reward is worth the pursuit.  If I am willing to fully engage in this way of living, I must be prepared to battle the temptation to fall prey to the weakness of my flesh and find my strength in the one who is I AM.  Today, I am thankful for blueprints.  My heart is filled with gratitude when I remember that He is our Lead Designer.

Heart of Gratitude: Day 13

As part of my morning routine, I snag a sandwich and yogurt from the fridge, reach for a Cutie from our fruit bowl on the counter, and am reminded of the raspberries that I bought on Saturday.  They were dark to begin, but when I washed them at lunch today, I noticed a couple had been inhabited by bits of mold and the majority were marked by tiny black spots.  To be sure, I inspected each one before consuming them.  While I sort, an email drops into my inbox with today’s blog post from Ann Voskamp (aholyexperience.com).  My heart sinks to my stomach as I am reminded that there are thousands of people, another world away, who have been struck by a disastrous storm.  Lives have been lost and little ones are starving, yet here I sit, tossing away berries that spent too many hours in our refrigerator.

I am not suggesting that the abundance that we experience day to day should call us to throw away all our possessions out of a place of guilt.  What we are blessed to do is to give thanks for clean water and sunsets, for health and strong relationships, for the warm blankets on our beds and for jobs that pay our bills.  I have learned that giving thanks is not limited to lip service, but it is also an expression of our heart.  An expression that is demonstrated by the way we expend our time, energy, and resources.  Looking down at my Solo cup of raspberries, I considered all that has been given to us and was challenged:  Are my minutes, talents, and dollars being used wisely, or are they sitting in my refrigerator, only to be forgotten?  Today I am thankful for the reminder to not only be thankful, but to live out a life of Thanksgiving.

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Heart of Gratitude: Day 12

Many, many times, I have laced up my shoes, strapped on my watch, and hit the streets, trails or treadmill to log a few more miles.  I would not consider myself a natural runner, but my body has endured five half marathons, four sprint triathlons, three legs of a 200-mile relay, and a number of 10k and 5k races.  While gearing up for a marathon relay this spring, I was training on a treadmill when my knee suddenly gave out.  Gripping the side rails, I offloaded my weight and hobbled away from the machine.  The pain subsided, but my training came to a screeching halt.  I hoped that a couple weeks of rest would allow me to run my portion of the race, but only three minutes into my run, the pain was a clear indication that I should swallow my pride and pass the baton to another runner.

Weeks later, the pain was still keeping me from going out for a quick jog.  I made an appointment with a specialist and had an MRI of my knee.  It was both a relief and a frustration to learn that there was no clear indication of what was causing the pain.  I continued to train for this summer’s triathlon, but steered clear of any activities that would involve high-impact training.  Once more, I choked back my desire to complete all three legs of the race and walked away once I crossed the bike finish.

Never before have I been truly limited by an injury.  Through the spring and summer, there were moments of tears and questions as to whether or not I would be able to run as I had in the past.  While I may not choose to train for more than a 10k race, my sunglasses bounce off the bridge of my nose as I smile through the last tenth mile of each run I have been able to complete this Fall.  My heart rejoices when I consider the healing that has taken place in my body.  Today, I am thankful for the ability to run!

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Heart of Gratitude: Day 11

As if the Empty Nester Effect wasn’t enough, my parents were faced with a decision this year that could mean that they too, would fly the coop.  After twenty four years of making their home in Colorado, Mom and Dad said ‘yes’ to a new adventure in Oregon.  Tears flowed from every eye as they said their goodbyes to both sets of parents, three kiddos (and son-in-law), siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, and coworkers.

My husband and I understood that this was an opportunity to not only propel Dad forward in his career, but the perfect chance to embark on a brand new adventure together.  For years, they sacrificed much so my brothers and I would grow up near family and graduate with many of the kids we knew as Kindergartners.  Now, it was their turn.  While it was hard to see them go, our excitement for them superseded our sadness. 

In the weeks leading up to their departure, we were committed to praying for wisdom in their decision.  Our focus shifted when Dad accepted the position and Mom started coordinating with the moving company to relocate every inch of their home.  The movers may have packed and delivered sets of dishes and living room furniture, but family and friends were not included in the move package offer.  Given our experience, we understand firsthand how important it is to be surrounded by other sincere Christ-followers.  We prayed fervently that the Lord would provide a community for them in their new home.

Within days of Mom joining Dad in Oregon, they were meeting friends and settling into their neighborhood.  Our hearts have been overwhelmed with joy to learn that Dad is leading his team at work with confidence and Mom has joined one of the ladies from church to churn out jars of blackberry jam and gallons of fresh pressed apple cider.

My heart is filled with gratitude when I consider their example of teamwork and commitment to following the Lord’s calling.  Today, more than ever before, I am thankful for blackberry jam.

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Heart of Gratitude: Day 8

It has been shared by very wise men and women that you should carefully consider who you are marrying. Not only the singular person to whom you vow to spend the rest of your life, but their family. On the day you say ‘I do,’ you become part of that family.

Butterflies were set to flight as we drove to Garden and Steph’s place for the first time. Before we could even get out of the car, family poured from the front door. We were greeted with giant hugs, warm smiles, and even a few tears. A few months later I learned that it was on that day, that they picked me.

For the first time in my life, my family includes three beautiful sisters. It has been awesome to see the way Lic approaches motherhood, Steph’s journey of pregnancy, and Rob’s success as a nursing student. And then, there are the spouses who join me as part of the crew, by marriage. These guys are creative, hilarious, fun-loving dads and supportive husbands. Our nieces are brilliant – and it’s pure joy to watch them explore their world around them through music, science, dance, sports and art. When asked what they would wear as flower girls in our wedding, McKenna, without skipping a beat, knew her plan: “My Spiderman shirt and jeans.” When you are with them, you can’t help but smile. The latest little addition just celebrated his two month birthday. His personality is starting to shine through and each time we see him, he seems to have doubled in size.

One of my favorite memories is the night I first met Grams and Gramps. We were out on the town with some of the prospective students and returned home to find Grams and Gramps waiting up for us. They were dressed to go to bed, but wanted to make sure to get a few pictures and say hello before calling it a night.

This post wouldn’t be complete without sharing the gratitude in my heart for my husband’s parents. They have been such an encouragement to us as we begin our journey as one. In many ways, they have walked our path and have shared valuable wisdom that will surely help to sustain our marriage. My sweet “mom-in-love” is a hard working woman and she has the tenderest way about her. With his vintage car restoration projects and love for storytelling, spending time with my father-in-law is always a good time.

Less than two years ago, I didn’t even know a single one of these people. Today, they are a very special part of my life – they are my family. What a precious gift!

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Photo courtesy Brianne Janae Photography (briannejanaephotography.com)

Heart of Gratitude: Day 7

Some of my earliest memories include the presence of twelve friends.  It was with these friends that me, and my brothers, jumped on trampolines, collected hail after a storm, opened Christmas presents, went to the zoo, and ate grilled cheese sandwiches at Grandma’s house.  I remember waiting patiently at the hospital to meet three of them on the day they were born, and was at the courthouse the day one of them was adopted.  Three of them invited me to stand up their weddings.

Today, seven of them have children, totaling fourteen.  Two of them have lived out adventures of a lifetime, making their home on the other side of the world.  Last year, we were all trusting God as one of them fought a battle with cancer.  Another, is a strong wife of a soldier who held down the fort while her husband protected the freedom of this nation.  Our lives may look very different from one to another, but we share a very special bond.

In a few short weeks, the holiday season will be in full-swing.  For our family, the holidays truly bring us together.  It is certain that we consume more calories than we should, laugh until our sides hurt, and catch up on life.  We may not see each other as often as we would like, but I love them all the same.  Today, I am thankful – thankful for cousins that I also get to call Friends.

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