Saturday, December 1, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness, November 2012

November 1st - I'm thankful God saw fit to give me a husband whose top love language is 'acts of service' and three small, active children who need me every hour of the day, so that I cannot easily give into the temptation to become idle and lazy.

November 2nd - I'm thankful for my sweet, detail-oriented 3.5 year-old Emmi, who has counted all the soft ginger cookie dough balls I'm making this afternoon for a get-together with some of the wonderful wives and children from our church Care Group this evening, while Dave goes shooting in Dallas.

November 3rd - I'm thankful for my affectionate, adorably verbal, almost 2 year-old Pierson Everett, who asks for "moodies" (smoothies) every morning, tells me "I love you" every day, and has to give every member of his family a kiss goodnight after saying bedtime prayers; he prefaces each kiss by saying "kiss (pause) Mama"..."kiss (pause) Daddy"..."kiss (pause) Evie"..."kiss (pause) Emmi."

November 4th - I'm thankful for my super precious, easy-going 7 week-old Evie Citrine, who has been cooing and gooing at us, while cracking a smile every once in a while; I'm so grateful I get to smother this beautiful little blessing with kisses every single day!

November 5th - I'm thankful for my brilliant, wonderful, servant-hearted husband of 6 years now, Dave Matthews, who intentionally does so much around our home each weekend, especially this past one, to make my job with our three children a lot easier on Monday.  He makes me laugh every day, gives me constant grace and mercy in my weaknesses, exemplifies Christ-like lovingkindness, and is an amazing Daddy to our little ones.  His character, knowledge, skills, competencies and talents impress and bless so many people, in his full-time job as a Contract Specialist Supervisor with the GSA and in his part-time photography business, The Fort Worth Stock Yard.  I love him, and I'm so proud to call him mine!

November 6th - I'm thankful that, at the end of the day, even on a critical day in history such as this one, I can go to bed and rest in the peace of knowing eternal hope in my Savior Christ Jesus, regardless of who has been elected President by an ignorant people in an instant-gratification society.

November 7th - I'm thankful for some beautiful, amazing women friends whom God has knitted very dearly to my heart. They know who they are, and they know my heart, even when my flesh gets in the way. I don't see all of them regularly, but there is still a close bond in God's Spirit and a refreshing joy when we can connect. These ladies have invested in my life so richly and have allowed me to invest in their lives to varying degrees. Thank you, Father, for these sisters in Christ.

November 8th - I'm thankful for God-breathed lives who have survived abortion attempts, like Melissa Ohden, who survived a failed saline infusion abortion in the same summer of 1977 when I was also born. Melissa is an awe-inspiring voice for life now, speaking all over our country and the world, Praise God! I'm also thrilled that Dave and I get the chance to hear Melissa speak tonight at the annual fundraising banquet for the Grand Prairie Pregnancy Resource Center, and I'm so grateful for my trusted, wonderful friend Symantha who will be caring for our two oldest, so that we may go.

November 9th - I'm thankful for the opportunity to participate in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) this year, after being admonished to do so for a long while by my friend and mentor, Lyn Mitchell. BSF has allowed me to meet people that encourage me in daily study of God's Word, and I'm so grateful for our large group teaching leader, my friend Tonya Henn, who has so graciously and excellently presented truth each week in that venue. I'm grateful that I've had such sweet, loving small group leaders, who set such faithful examples of studying the Word and serving others. Our children also love going to their own classes, learning simplified lessons on their level of the same Bible stories we are learning, and they enjoy play time with their new friends, singing Bible songs, and other fun things each week.

November 10th - I'm thankful for the amazing blessings of coconut and its products, since I've had to abstain from cow dairy drink and foods (cow milk, butter, cheese, cream, yogurt, chocolates, ice cream, etc.) during the better part of the past two years, for my two youngest children and for my own health. Coconut oil has been a huge help when I can't use butter in recipes and to cook with on the stovetop. Coconut milk has been a wonderful addition to our smoothies and for pouring over cereal, when we don't have our raw goat milk. I've also been able to eat ice cream made of coconut milk....not *quite* the same, but a nice treat every once in a while. And, just tonight, Dave discovered some coconut milk "Egg Nog" at Central Market for me! ♥ So, I added some ground nutmeg to that and then forgot to add a little something else, before enjoying that tonight. ;)

November 11th - I'm thankful for all the wonderful U.S. military veterans, especially those in my own life, on this Veteran's Day 2012, including my remarkable husband, my brothers, my step-dad, various cousins, my late great-uncle, and some other dear, special friends. Thank you each for serving our country in the various ways that you have, willing to forgo your comforts, relationships, and temporary freedoms, even willing to risk your lives, for the sake of our safety and liberty as a nation. Our gratitude cannot run deep enough for the role you have played and for the time and service you gave.

November 12th - I'm thankful for a warm home and comfortable bed, on this cold night. Oh Lord, be with those who have no warmth nor shelter tonight.

November 13th - I'm thankful for the opportunity and privilege I have of Homeschooling my young children. This morning, while Evie was napping, Pierson and Emmi sat down with me and went through all 24 of "My First BOB Books" Pre-Reader Collection with me! They both loved it and are developing such a hunger for learning.

November 14th - I'm thankful for the resources and co-ops all around us here, that make it so convenient and affordable to get healthy food and healthy products. It's so awesome to have Homestead Farms within 10 minutes of our home, where I can get raw goat's milk every week for half of our family. I'm grateful for the opportunity I get to facilitate our local Azure Standard drop each month, getting lots of great organic and natural foods, and I'm also grateful for the privilege to help manage our Raw Milk Co-op of 5 drivers, who take turns getting milk every 2 weeks for our whole group. Thanks to my friend (and doula) Tonya Buffington, who organizes several other co-ops, we're able to order wholesale from Frontier each month, getting many organic items at a fraction of the price, and through her group, we're also able to place discounted group orders with various other businesses and farms throughout the year, including the best raw honey ever from the Desert Creek Honey Co.! I don't take these things for granted, because I realize it's not so easy to get some of these so conveniently in other places. Every good gift is from the Father of Lights, and I thank Him for providing our every need and so much more.

November 15th - I'm thankful for resourceful friends and groups like the Crunchy Gals of Tarrant County and The Real Healthy Housewives of the USA and Oily Wisdom, when I need advice about health issues, homeopathy, natural remedies, clean eating, and other good stuff for my family.  (Our son Pierson was diagnosed with a croup virus today; three days before his second birthday.)

November 16th - I'm thankful that God, in His wise and omniscient mercies, sometimes cancels our plans beyond our control.

November 17th - I'm thankful that, exactly 2 years ago right around this time of night, after 2 weeks of prodromal labor, I was finally headed into real labor naturally with our second child! My friend and doula, Katie Perez, had just arrived at our home, and my Aunt Sara (who had come to help us with Emmi) was admonishing me to go to the hospital soon. With Katie and Dave's great support, I would soon welcome a beautiful little boy into our hearts and grateful for his amazing story.

November 18th - I'm thankful for the laughter and joy our children bring to our home, especially our little Pierson, who is 2 years old today. While getting the children ready for bed tonight, Pierson picked up Emmi's butterfly clip, which I had just taken out of her hair and left on the bathroom counter. Pierson then says, "a butterfly!, sweet." He then drops it thoughtlessly on the floor. Dave and I burst out laughing. Happy birthday to the cutest little boy I love, who has a huge chunk of my heart! ♥

November 19th - I'm thankful for a healthy 2-month check-up for my easy, sweet doll baby. We took Evie to see Dr. LeCroy in Colleyville, who has seen all of our children as babies, and she is a healthy 13 lbs., 8 oz. (5 more pounds since birth)! Evie measured 23.5 inches long, had a perfect temperature, and managed to bless Dr. LeCroy with a tiny bit of spit-up on his shoulder. ;) Evie has a little stork bite birthmark in the middle of her brow, like Emmi did, but Dr. LeCroy said that should fade and clear up within the coming months. We're so grateful for Evie's good health.

November 20th - I'm thankful to have finally been able to sign up as an Independent Distributor for Young Living Essential Oils! Now I can order oils and other health products for our family and friends monthly, and I can also finally send something long overdue to a very special friend.

November 21st - I'm thankful for communication with family members lately. Some conversations heart-warming and delightful; other exchanges heavy and concerning; yet still a weird postal letter in the mix... But, all and all, at least I know everyone is still alive, and I can be grateful that I've at least heard from them...and grateful I don't have to know all the answers tonight.

November 22nd - I'm thankful for the refreshing relief of the Autumn season, my favorite time of year, on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day. I love passing by the changing colors of reds, oranges, and yellows on so many trees right now... I love the delicious cool air in the evenings... I love the sacred holidays that November and December invite us to celebrate once again... I love the Fall fragrances and spices that fill stores, homes, and especially kitchens, like the Cranberry Orange Pecan Cookies that are cooling right now on my stove top. :o)

November 23rd - I'm thankful that I did not visit one single retail store on Black Friday.

November 24th - I'm thankful for the wonderful visit and holiday meal that our family enjoyed with my Dad and Aunt Gladys today. Evie got to meet her grandfather and great aunt, Pierson and Emmi got to play and pick fruit off of their tangerine and orange trees in the backyard, and I got to learn more about my Dad than I had known before, by listening to at least a dozen interesting stories and more.

November 25th - I'm thankful for special visits with more special people today. We picked up my awesome nephew Gabriel and met up with my sister Darla and my other awesome nephew Westley for a nice lunch at Yucatan Taco Stand in The Woodlands. I hadn't seen them in over three years -- hugs were long overdue! Then, we had the joy of stopping by College Station, on the way home, to visit my 2nd cousin David, his wonderful wife Jennifer, and their three (soon to be four) beautiful children for a little while. Pierson and Emmi had a fun time playing with their 3rd cousins, and it was nice to break up the drive. We're so grateful for the clothes and shoes they also just passed down to our little Evie.

November 26th - I'm thankful I'm married, after getting the following message from some random guy on Facebook.
"hello how are you doing this lovely day......First of all your looks are perfect in my book! It grabs me strange as it may sound, and I can tell you have a very interesting personality that I am dying to know...i will be glad to hear back from you soon have a wonderful day."

November 27th - I'm thankful that we decided to get a Costco membership for the first time this year. We have definitely used it and have saved a lot of money, getting great deals on so many things, especially organic items.

November 28th - I'm thankful that our little Evie (my best sleeper yet) was sound asleep for the night by 6:30pm; but that also means that Mama needs to get to bed early as well. ;)

November 29th - I'm thankful for my very dear friend and mentor, Lyn Mitchell, and her husband Larry, whom I've known for almost a decade now. Words cannot describe how much they both have meant to me and to my family, and we are grateful they are just down the road from us. They have so intentionally invested in our hearts and lives, and they have shared their family and hearts with us, as well.  Lyn always remembers and acknowledges special days, like birthdays, with meaningful cards and thoughtful gifts. They watched Emmi and Pierson for us, when I went into labor with Evie and gave birth in September, and the children enjoyed the time, trusting them completely. We are grateful for biological family, of course, and we are also grateful for special people in the "family" of Christ that God sends, like Lyn and Larry, to fill in the gaps in a not-so-perfect world.

November 30th - I'm thankful for the hope I have in Christ Jesus, beyond this world filled with evil, hate, and depravity. I'm so grateful that the God of the universe had an ultimate plan to save a sinner like me, by giving His only Son to die a horrible physical death and then to rise again to life, that I might be redeemed from the curse of eternal death, which I deserve for anything sinful, anything wrong I've ever done in the fallen, iniquitous nature of my flesh. Thank you, Lord, that I can call you LORD, and that You are not only Lord of all the heavens and of all the earth, but LORD of my heart, eternally, having saved me so graciously from the hell I deserved. Your mercies and grace are utterly astounding; may I continue to grow in humility and gratitude my whole earthly life long, for all that You have done and continue to do...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More Bitter or Sweeter

Someone I knew, who had visited with a great number of elderly persons in nursing homes, once told me that we all get sweeter or more bitter, depending on how we respond to people and circumstances and how we allow God to work in our own lives.  The more I'm acquainted with my own iniquitous soul and the more I observe people as they grow older, the more I realize how true that statement proves to be. 

We can either let a bitter root (Hebrews 12:15) grow up in our hearts, as a result of how we view other people's blessings, our own hardships, hurts, or whatever circumstance, OR we can choose to trust God in His sovereignty, surrender our emotions to His care, and take captive every thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of God to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), altogether allowing Him to mold our character more like that of Christ, making us sweeter and purer as the years go by.  When we trust that He is a good Father, that He will not give us stones for bread nor snakes instead of fish (Matthew 7:9-10), we are able to walk with a peaceful contentment (Philippians 4:7) in the present and with a true hope and joy for the future He's preparing for each of us.  When we surrender our emotions to His care, the Holy Spirit will comfort, convict and counsel where needed and appropriate....He will soothe our hurts, show us any sin needing to be dealt with, and give us guidance for the days to come.  When we take captive every thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of God to the obedience of Christ, we are actively giving Christ the high honor He deserves in our lives, being single-mindedly devoted to Him in our life.

My sister Aleshia and me, with our Nana, who I dare say got sweeter...
Pictured above is my sister and I with our Nana, Bessie Marie Pendergrass, who would have been 84 last month, on October 19, 2012.  This was my last visit with her in 2008, while she still remembered me, in the nursing home where she lived.  She herself had worked as an LVN and had cared for hundreds of patients in nursing homes, before she retired.  Nana passed away in March of 2009, and has been greatly missed.  When we were growing up, I remember how my Nana and Pawpaw loved roses and had bushes of them lining their home, in their front yard.  One of her favorite songs was "Where The Roses Never Fade."  She told me back in the year 2000 that she wanted this sung at her funeral, and nine years later, I had the honor of doing that for her and for her loved ones who gathered that day.

Where the Roses Never Fade

Music by Robert Metzgar
Words by Janie West Metzgar, 1929

Verse 1:
I am going to a city,

Where the streets with gold are laid;
Where the tree of life is blooming
And the roses never fade.

Here they bloom but for a season
Soon their beauty is decayed.
I am going to a city,
Where the roses never fade.

Verse 2:
In this world we have our troubles,
Satan snares we must evade.
We'll be free from all temptations;
Where the roses never fade.


Verse 3:
Loved ones gone to be with Jesus,
In their robes of white arrayed;
Now are waiting for my coming,
Where the roses never fade.


Nana was a Rose that smelled sweeter as the years went by, because, although she knew it was important to take care of her physical appearance, she knew it was even more important to care for the condition of her heart and to resist any temptation to allow a bitter root inside.  As she trusted God, in prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit, resting on His Word, her beauty did not fade, because, even though she was a lovely woman, her true beauty was not physically derived.  1 Peter 3:3-4 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

We have the choice of playing the victim (which ends up being a form of pride if we continue that path, drawing attention to ourselves and our "problems"), or the choice of letting God bring forgiveness, healing, and sweetness, using everything in our lives, whether temporary or permanent, for our ultimate good and Christ-like character.  He alone knows all the desires of our hearts, and He may fulfill certain desires, delay others, say "no" to others, or even change the actual desires in our hearts to desire His best instead.  At the end of the day, He sees the bigger picture that we cannot always see, and He knows what is best for each of us.  In the winter of my own life, I pray that I will have the wisdom, humility, and grace like my Nana, to allow God to continue making my heart sweeter and keep it from becoming more bitter. 

I'm so grateful to God for Christ-like examples of our loved ones who have gone before us.  Nana was my last grandparent to leave us on earth, and losing the remainder of a generation in your family brings a bit more sobriety to the realization that our days are numbered.  What will we do with those days?  My prayer is that of Psalm 39:4-7, "Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.  You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.  Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.  Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.  But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you."