Thankfulness…Even Through the Storms…Can It Be?

The view in our back yard as the sun went down last night.
The view in our back yard as the sun went down last night.

What are you thankful for?  Facebook has a thing where every day in the month of November, people tell what they’re thankful for on their daily status.  My mind always goes first to God, family and friends.  Then I have to work at it the rest of the month to come up with creative things for my page.  I could say, “Today, I’m thankful for ice cream.”  I really am thankful for ice cream.  It makes me happy and tastes good.  However, who wants to hear about that?

A couple of weeks ago, we had our local elections.  Many of you probably did, too.  On Wednesday morning after the elections on Tuesday  as I was on my way to work, one of the local candidates was standing in his suit and tie on the street corner with a huge sign that said, “Thank You!”  Wow.  I was so impressed.  Out of all of the candidates who ran for various offices and others who promoted issues of interest to them; this was the only person that I saw actually taking the time to thank his voters.  I am sure there probably were some thank you’s extended that I didn’t see.  However, it was so abnormal in my mind that this man would be out so early in the morning to thank his voters.  All I could think was, his mother has to be proud!  I’m going to watch for that name to be running for president someday!

Last night, tornados hit the Midwest with force, killing some and robbing many of their homes and businesses. Some of our kids were here visiting while we watched the television to determine whether we were in danger or not.  I was getting texts and calls from out of town family telling us to pay attention…the storms were coming right towards us.  There was even a point in the evening that all of the sirens started going off to tell us to get to our basements and the T.V. started making a horrible emergency noise to alert us of the danger outside.  Luckily we were only inconvenienced and had to eat dinner in the downstairs bathroom—all six of us.  Others weren’t as lucky.  My prayers go out to them.

One thing that kept resonating in my thoughts through all of the evening was something the weather man said.  He kept repeating, “We in this area were much better off than the states west of us because we had rain recently where they didn’t.”

Apparently, the rain stabilizes the atmosphere and was helpful in keeping us safe from the threatening winds on the way.  Without the rain, the atmosphere west of us was volatile and much more susceptible to the dangers ahead. Thus, the winds and storms did way more damage there than here.  Wow.  Doesn’t that sound like another lesson from God?  Some of us who go through tough times—rainy seasons in life so to speak—get mad and turn our backs on God wondering why He would let these bad things happen to us.  Then there are those who have had a pretty quiet life, not much ever going wrong that freak out off of the freak out charts when a trial comes their way.  They haven’t had a lot of practice in dealing with storms in life to have learned how to trust God and stay focused when the rain and winds begin.  However, it’s the trials in life that prepare us for the storms ahead.  They teach us to stay calm, trust God and actually help to stabilize the situation as our faith grows through each circumstance.  Having been through some cloudy days, I can look back now and realize they were situations that God used to strengthen and stabilize my faith as I trusted Him.  Now I can face a storm with confidence, knowing that God will be there with me.

So like the politician, perhaps we should be standing on the street corners with a big Thank You! sign in our hands when the winds rage around us!  God understands where we are, where we’ve been and knows exactly what it’s going to take to get us to where we need to go.  The next time the storms rage and the rain pours, praise God.  In fact, maybe we should go out and dance in the rain with thanks and praise on our lips.  For we know that even though it is raining, the Lord is allowing valuable faith lessons to pour into our lives to prepare us for the days ahead.

Please join me in praying for those hardest hit last night in the storms. I pray that even as horrendous as it all may seem, that God might be glorified in the days ahead.  Let there not be anger from the lips of those affected; rather, thankfulness for the hidden blessings after the winds.  In this month of November, what are you thankful for?  Can you look back at rainy times in your life and understand now how they have helped stabilize your faith? Can you see new insight today that you didn’t understand then?  Please share with us!  In the meantime, have a great week and don’t forget to get out there and be a blessing!

1Peter 1:6-7   In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.


Thankful To Be Thankful!

Wow!  What an emotional day it was yesterday!  Our church service was about adoption.   I left wanting to sell everything, move to Haiti, work in an orphanage and never have to see another kid in the world ever suffer again!  Obviously, that’s a silly thought; but nonetheless, I left wondering how God was calling me to help those less fortunate.  Then yesterday afternoon we joined many others in the community and delivered Thanksgiving dinner baskets in our surrounding area.  We saw a lot of poverty.  We saw some we suspect may have drug issues leading to their poverty and dysfunctional homes.  Then we went to a couple of very nice middle class homes.  Homes like what lives next to you and me perhaps—just average Americans.

The homes looked nice on the outside, but for them to be on the list for free turkey dinners, something had to be going terribly wrong on the inside.  Perhaps they had lost a job and been unemployed for months–or even years.  It might be that one of the adults in the family decided they didn’t want to be married anymore and the income of the spouse remaining in the home was greatly less than in the past.  I can relate to that.  Perhaps the main bread-winner was ill and the family was just trying to be there for him/her in their last days.  Maybe that explains the homes in disarray on the inside.  One never knows why someone is “on the list” so to speak.  I was reminded that we could all be “on the list” at any given time for any given reason no matter who we are.  I don’t even have to go to Haiti to find them!

Going from home to home with food baskets conjured up feelings I hadn’t felt in many years.  You see, there was a time when I was a single mom and short on cash.  I remember those who came to my door with bags of groceries because they felt God telling them to come.  Not only did they come with groceries; but they came with stuff my picky children would eat!  God even told them what to take!  I had to swallow my pride to accept them but what a blessing it was to get a little help here and there.  This time being on the giving side instead of the taking side was almost as hard.  I know how embarrassed those on the receiving end might have been.  It’s a humbling experience to be in that place.   I’ve been there.  However, on the giving side, you see those whose families have been turned upside down for one reason or another and a meal seems so insignificant.  It leaves one with a feeling that perhaps your turkey dinner you just delivered was merely a band-aid on a gaping wound.  We actually did nothing to help the family get out of the situation they are in.  We simply gave them one day of hope amidst their overwhelming hopelessness.  Then it’s back to reality.  Does God think I failed?  No.  I know I was obedient to complete my tiny part of the big picture He has for that family’s future.  In Matthew 25:40 (NIV) it says, “…Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  He didn’t say only the big things you do count; rather, He said whatever you do.

Our pastor challenged us Sunday to listen for what God is calling us to do no matter what it might be.  Whether it is to adopt ten children, go start an orphanage or just volunteer, get involved with the local homeless shelter, start a Bible study in our home or simply take a bag of groceries to someone— whatever God is asking us to do , we need to just do it!  Yesterday 225 meals were delivered.  Our family delivered about 8.  It took us about 3 hours to do it.  It’s a good thing that so many other volunteers were called to deliver meals too or we still wouldn’t have it done yet!  As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t be able to get it done before Thanksgiving even working day and night if we had to do it alone.   The one small thing that I can do for God and for others doesn’t look like much.  However, if each one of us is obedient to God when He calls, great things can be accomplished.

I am grateful for a God Who allows me to do His work here on this earth—it gives me purpose.  I am thankful that I personally have had suffering and loss in my life—it gives me compassion and understanding for those I serve.   I am blessed that He doesn’t expect me to do everything needing to be done.  My heart is warmed to know that I have brothers and sisters in Christ all around who are ready and willing to take action at any given time just because God said to!  This makes me part of a family even if my earthly family lets me down or in the case of the orphans—isn’t there at all.  I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to tell me where to go, what to do and how God can use me today.  That gives me power—the end result being a life lived with passion.

What are you thankful for?  Is God using you?  If not, why not?  What little thing can you do to get started on your journey God has planned for you?  How is He speaking to you today?

1Peter 4:10-11 (NIV) Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all…go out and be a blessing!

Today, I Choose To Be Thankful!

Me, Grandpa Walsh, and Daddy Bill…waiting on the traditional dressing!

It has always been important for me to be able to cook Thanksgiving dinner as well as my mom so that one day I might carry on her traditions.  My first year of marriage, I was determined to have my parents over for dinner with me having prepared an entire Thanksgiving feast just for practice.  Mom came over the night before and helped me put the dressing together.  Then the next day, she came a little early to help out where she could, so I asked her to make the gravy.  She started looking around and finally asked me where I had put the giblets. “Giblets?  I don’t know, what’s that?” Well, you’ve probably guessed it; although my first turkey was very moist and tasty, I had forgotten to take the bag of giblets out of the middle of it before I cooked it!  Just minor details…after a few laughs, it all worked out OK.

Over the years, Mom continued to pop in to help and offer advice on the dressing or other items that I was preparing.  I have learned that even though she didn’t have an exact recipe for her wonderful dressing, there was a certain technique to getting it right year after year.  Last year, my mom was no longer with us to come and offer advice or help make the gravy.  I felt it was very important now more than ever that I pass along the family wisdom to my children so that they too, might be able to carry on our traditions once I am gone.  With that in mind, last year, I asked my son to get up early and help with the dressing making.  He’s the one in the family that might actually make it again someday.  It was a special time as I carefully explained the art of Grandma’s dressing and was excited that he was enthusiastic about learning the family secrets.  I cherish special times with my loved ones like that and am thankful that God has put each one into my life.  I imagine that my mom probably felt the same when I was eager to learn as well.

Reflecting this Thanksgiving season, I am reminded especially as Americans, we have so much to be thankful for in even the little things we take for granted.  Even though our nation is in tough times right now, we can be thankful that we are free and among the wealthiest people on this earth despite what our government budget looks like today.  I was driving through some small towns last week and although we are said to be the wealthiest nation, I was disturbed to see several homeless people on the side of the road digging through trash barrels as I drove by.  I might expect this in downtown Cincinnati, but not in the smaller rural communities for some reason.  For the last week there has even been a gentleman standing on a street just down from my home with a sign reading “unemployed, will work for food”.  Sometimes I feel led to give what I can to those alongside the road and other times I drive on by in fear or disbelief that they are actually homeless.  In today’s world, you just never know who you can trust so I wonder how many people who are truly in need that I pass by because of those who have falsely proclaimed to have need when they really weren’t needy at all.

Where do we draw the line?  Do we just give to everyone with their hand out and hope that they are sincere?  Or do we just pick and choose the ones we will give to by how we have determined to size up their need?  I know there are several people who have enjoyed middle to upper class lifestyles and are now finding themselves unemployed and without money for groceries next week.  If I were to look at them, I would think that by the clothes they wear and the cars they drive, they are not in need.  However, in today’s world, we really can’t make that determination. Joblessness is affecting people from all walks of life.  Of course, someone who owns a home, cars and other valuables are in a lot better shape than someone living on the streets, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that times are tough for a lot of people.

One day as I was out showing a client homes to buy, we came up on a dad with three kids who were walking through the house we were there to see.  It was a scene that is becoming all too familiar and I cautioned my buyer to stay in the car until we determined the mindset of the man there.  The kids were bringing things out of the house, mostly clothing, and putting it into the trunk of their tiny car.  Thankfully the man was not angry as some are about their circumstances and told us to come on in to look at the house.  My heart broke as I walked through this house that used to be called home for this family.  The kids were walking kind of aimlessly through the structure looking through what was left of their once prized possessions now strewn across the floors while trying to determine what they were going to need in the next several months.  There were TV’s on the walls, exercise equipment, furniture, toys and even treasured photographs lying around they were leaving behind.  I think this family was realizing that all of those things weren’t near as important as they once were.

I don’t know what happened to that family, but I know this scene is replaying every day across America.  We can read about it in the news reports but it doesn’t really become real until we are literally face to face with the reality of people losing their homes.  Perhaps you know someone personally who has lived through this scenario.  I suspect each one of us knows of someone since it is so widespread.

During this holiday season, I may not have all of the answers to homelessness and unemployment but one thing is for sure–I am thankful.  I am thankful that I am not currently losing my home or living on the streets like those who have crossed my path lately.   I am thankful for my salvation, for my husband who cherishes me, for my family who loves me, for good friends, for our home, our jobs, and for a refrigerator with food in it.  This Thanksgiving, we will have an empty seat at our table as my son serves our military in Afghanistan.  I am thankful for his service but I will be even more thankful when he returns home safe and sound.  For now, I will just hold onto the memories of last year’s special time with Rob and be thankful that we shared that time together.

As a nation in trouble, I pray that we will be a people of prayer.  I hope that those reading today will take a minute to pray for our nation, for our loved ones, for our economy, for our military, and praise God for the blessings He has bestowed on His people today.  Perhaps it is good our nation is suffering a bit.  It seems like when times are good, we forget to look to God.  However, when we and our loved ones are suffering through hard times, I would hope we would be reminded to look up and ask God to intervene.  I hope that each one of us will pray for God to show us how we can help those in need around us while thanking Him all the while that we personally can be used in some small way.

The Bible says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV), if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

May we choose to give thanks and praise for all things this holiday season and never forget the One who makes it all possible! Happy Thanksgiving!