So, to sum up...
Gratitude is a choice. Every day there is something beautiful. Most days there is something difficult. I can make a choice to focus on the difficult, the hard, the awful, or I can choose to find the beauty.
I'll be honest - there were days in this project that I had to sit and think for a while. My hormones, or some pain, whether physical or emotional, or difficult people or hard circumstances made it a challenge to not focus on the awful. It would have been very, very easy to not look for the beauty. There are days I give in to that.
This month has been good for me and I pray that I will make this a practice - a discipline - to stop every day, maybe several times a day, to reflect on what is beautiful, even in the midst of the mess.
So here's week four:
Today I am thankful that God's goodness is not dependent on my moods, or the way I feel. His faithfulness is not at risk on the days I don't feel well. His compassion is still in tact when I'm just the teensiest bit cranky. His mercies are new every morning.
Today I am thankful that I was able to spend the entire day in my warm house. Cooked two hot meals and read most of the rest of the day. I can't remember the last time I spent most of the day with a book. Loved it. Ended the day watching a movie that Brian couldn't believe I'd never seen (The Outsiders). A warm house, sweat pants, comfort food and a good book. Thankful.
Today I am thankful that occasionally things completely out of our control (like the weather today, as an example) force us to slow down and enjoy the people closest to us. I loved spending today with Brian, Erin and Jeff. Thankful they were only a couple of miles away and could come over. I wish the boys could have holed up with us too, but it was a good day.
I'm also thankful that it's not always this cold - I don't do cold well.
The small picture...I'm thankful the roads weren't bad for me to get to OKC for work this morning.
The big picture...God is still freaking us out with options for how our life could change dramatically in the next few months. I was reminded again of this today. I'm thankful that I do not have to have all the answers...I don't even have to have any of the answers. He does. I can rest. And I am grateful.
Today I'm thankful for this man. Y'all don't want to hear all that I could say about the reasons I'm thankful... Ain't nobody got time for that - but here's a few:
1. He is my biggest cheerleader. He never, ever stops encouraging me. I've never for one second doubted his love for me.
2. He's a great dad. The reason I picked this picture is because it so represents how he fathers. He is always there for them, always has been - yet he always gives them space to be themselves, to learn, to grow, to make their own mistakes, and to shine.
3. He is a good friend.
4. He is loyal to a fault.
5. He is the most forgiving man I know. Being a pastor gives you many, many opportunities to practice forgiveness and I'm constantly amazed at his ability to forgive in the face of painful circumstances.
6. He challenges me with his love for people, his passion to invest and be involved, to take risks and have fun. I fully credit this man that I haven't become a complete hermit, living alone with a bunch of cats.
I'm a way better person than I would be without him and I am thankful.
I forgot to take any pictures, but today I am thankful for all the people that show up to make our Thanksgiving meal for the community happen. Those who donate and organize, those who cut and slice and bake, smoke our turkeys and hams, pass out flyers, those who worship at Cornerstone and many who do not -- and all of this before tomorrow even arrives. I'll try and remember to take pictures tomorrow, but the myriad of people that have already stepped up is humbling. It's a beautiful thing.
Ten years ago an idea was birthed to serve our community on a day meant for thanks, for giving, for family. This has since become one of our favorite days of the year.
We have learned so much, been blessed beyond measure. We have met some really amazing people just by opening these doors and serving a good, home cooked meal - some of those people have become really good friends. We honestly do spend a day giving thanks, with family - a family that grows larger every year.
This event rapidly grew beyond us. Every year, others outside of Cornerstone jump in and help make this possible. Every year I am able to serve with new people - and our family grows larger.
This family of faith is so much bigger than any of us realize. It is so easy to make it about the people we meet with in the four walls of our "church" each week -- we are so much bigger than that. God has beautiful things for us to do - together.
This day reminds me of that and I am grateful.
Tonight goes to family. This is kinda sappy and I've tried to steer clear of the easy picks for what I'm thankful for and really think through each day. But there's just no getting around the sappy on this one. I've spent the last two days with many of them, and I've just gotta say it...
I simply love my family. Family by birth, by marriage, my parents, my in-laws, siblings, kids, my husband. I'm not going to tell you that there aren't ever times that are difficult, but I am going to tell you that these people bless me. Every. Single. Day. I love that even though we can't pick our family, if I could, I would still pick these people.
I recognize that there are many people that cannot say this and I refuse to take for granted the blessing this family is. These are my people. I am grateful.
"Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” ― George Eliot
Today, the last "official" Giving Thanks day goes to my friends. The gift of friendship that God gives to women is a beautiful thing. There are so many that I love, identify with, esteem, admire and enjoy. So many that bless me and I pray daily I bless them. Some that are very new and I'm excited to see what the added gift of time will bring to these relationships. Some are sporadic, forced apart by space and circumstance, but easily renew every time we are able to be together. And some are old, comfortable as an old robe...
Today goes to these women - the few that years, joys and trials have forged a special bond. These women hold me up, hold me together. We have laughed, cried, prayed, ranted, raved, counseled, vacationed, birthed and raised kids, served, cooked, cleaned, organized, planned, solved the world's problems many times (if only anyone would listen), laughed and cried some more.
The years of friendship with these women range from the longest (my Mom), being my entire adult life, to the shortest (my daughter), blossoming as we got to transition to friendship in her adult years.
I love the beauty that time has brought to these friendships and these women. When I am with these women, I am at home, no matter where I am. They are my safe place, my refuge, and a gift from God. I am grateful.
So as we end our designated time to give thanks and, traditionally, enter into a time of frenetic insanity all in the name of Christmas - let's slow down. I want to really commit to remain thankful, and thoughtful. To look at each day and find the beauty there. To see Jesus.