"O Taste and See that the Lord is good!" - Ps. 34:8

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bloom where God plants you

I happened to look out my dining room window today and notice a little snapdragon that is blooming happily on a neglected corner of our back patio.  At some point, a seed must have blown into the cracks between the bricks.  There in the tight, dry spot, a plant grew and bloomed-- all without any fanfare, attention, or even water, except for the sparse rain we've had from time to time.

We've been so busy the last few weeks, I haven't even been out there to notice that something was sprouting up among the bricks.

But there it is, blooming and bringing joy to whomever happens to glance its direction.  I know it made me smile today.

And isn't it just like my Lord to once again teach me something through a little lonely snapdragon blooming in a hot, neglected spot.

It is as if God said, "My child, bloom where I plant you-- even when it is tight and dry and tough."

Oh, Lord, I'm listening.  Let me bloom.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Be Still...

It seems I haven't gotten much time to write on this little blog for the past several months.  Life happens, and the minutes available to write don't come around very often.  I've always resisted letting our family get too busy, but I'm beginning to realize that I'm going to have to work even harder to really evaluate each potential schedule change.

We've been into school now for three weeks, and as the academics get harder and higher, we have more to do.  I also have 14 piano students this year, which is a great help to our family financially.  Along with their academics, the kids are in band again, and we joined a new co-op so the kids could take a few more classes.  Yep, the calendar got full without even hardly trying.  Paul is also about to finish up an advanced law degree, so with his practice, school, and being in the Reserves, he has quite a full calendar too.

In the midst of it all, finding time to "Be still and know that He is God" becomes a daily challenge.  I find my mind clicking from one calendar item to the next, one school subject to the next, one song to the next.  I wish my mind clicked as quickly from one Bible verse to the next, one attribute of God to the next, one great life-altering truth to the next.  That takes far more discipline, but the funny thing is that the spiritual discipline has such an effect on the way I view our lives and activities.  I can very easily become overwhelmed and do everything in my own strength without pleading daily with God for help with each little item.

So the Lord is opening my eyes to see that this is going to be my challenge this fall-- to "be still" in the midst of a schedule that is anything but still.

I sit here this morning with my coffee beside me, pleading for that grace to find the stillness that will give the peace I need in the midst of swirling days.

On we move into fall, and I'm leaning in to hear the Voice that echoes above all the busy days-

"Be still and know that I am God."

Friday, August 9, 2013

From Tricycle to Mercedes

I just got a new cell phone last weekend.

It is amazing to type that sentence.  I have had the same Pterodactyl of a pre-paid phone for more than seven years.  It barely even sent text messages (and to send one was terribly difficult).  Half the time it didn't work because the minutes ran out or expired, and things have been so tight that I just couldn't add more.

Consequently, I have spent most of the last several months without a working cell phone-- a frustration to be sure.  Believe it or not, in this world where everyone is constantly connected to everything, I actually had some really mean things said to me because I didn't have a smartphone and couldn't check my e-mails the instant they arrived.  What a first-world problem, right? But I still managed to bite my tongue and plug in my dinosaur of a phone.

The funny thing is-- I was content with that dinosaur of a phone, because even though it was inconvenient sometimes, I didn't mind the simplicity of not being constantly connected to all the noise of life.

As it turns out, Paul's very old phone finally started to die (Yes, his was really old too, but newer than mine), and since that is his business phone, we had no choice but to purchase him a new phone.  Costco had a special that made the phones free, so my husband got me a new phone when he got his.  I couldn't believe it!

Can I tell you that I am loving my snazzy new phone?!  I've taken video of the kids' ball games and pictures of them at the beach.  I can even send a text message.  Imagine the wonders!!  I can text!  How's that for jumping into a whole new century!

It's like going from a tricycle to a Mercedes.

I am very thankful.  I was content with the old phone, but the new one seems like a wonderfully special little gift from God.

Yep, I was pedaling away and now I feel like I'm roaring along the information highway.

I still refuse to take it out of my pocket every two minutes, though.  A girl needs a scenic overlook on the information highway every so often, right?  It's just that now, when I stop to smell the roses, I can take a picture too!  And text it to you... (hee hee!)

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Minion Cake

 It has been awhile since I posted any pictures, so I thought I would start with a recent cake!

Our family loves Despicable Me, so it was no surprise that Isaac wanted a minion cake for his birthday in April.  The second movie hadn't even come out yet, but our family had a ton of fun watching the trailers over and over.  In one scene, there is a fire on Gru's desk, and a minion comes in to put the fire out saying "Bee-doh, Bee-doh, Bee-doh."  Here is the "Bee-doh" Minion that Isaac wanted, complete with flashing lights.

I made several small layer cakes in little 6" round pans, and baked the top rounded part in a small glass bowl.    The frosting is just basic vanilla frosting tinted yellow (our family doesn't prefer the taste of fondant, so I always just use frosting!).  The eye is an oreo with one half of the cookie removed, and all the black details including the feet, hands, smile, hair, and goggle straps are black licorice.  The overalls are made with blue fruit roll-ups, the arms are yellow fruit roll-ups, and the tongue is Laffy Taffy.  Paul found some little battery-operated, clip-on backpack lights, so the red lights on the minion's head were actually flashing when Isaac came around the corner.  This may be my favorite cake yet!  The happy little minion makes me chuckle every time I look at him!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gardens and Grace: When God whispers through the weeds

I've said many times that God always talks to me when my hands are in the dirt.  I confess that my hands haven't been in the dirt too much this summer.  I've been buried under a lot of other things that were pressing in on me, so Paul has done most of the gardening the last couple of months.  I've hardly been out in our garden at all.

We recently had about 10 days of company, and I happened to look out the window last weekend and realize that the weeds had completely overtaken one of my flower beds.  We've had a ton of rain, and it didn't take long for those nasty weeds to overwhelm the good plants.

So I got out there on Monday and started ripping weeds out of the dirt with a vengeance.  And there, with my hands in the dirt, my face toward the Son, the time for listening had come...

"These weeds are crazy.  How do they grow so fast?  (Like the weeds in my heart-- discontentment, worry, anxiousness, lack of trust.  How quickly they block out the good things- the love, joy, and peace.)"

"The good plants look positively anemic.  How do the weeds do so well?  Those rust spots on the hollyhocks-- they're killing the whole plant, and the flowers would be so pretty otherwise."

"I have to get down so close to the dirt to yank out that root.  Those sticker weeds really hurt."

And then the Lord whispered to me through the weeds...

"I know some of the things you are going through really hurt right now.  I have to get down close to the dirt to yank out the weeds.  That discontentment is killing you.  That anxious worry, it's destroying the beauty of Christ in you.  Your nourishment comes from the Son, and these weeds in your life are blocking that nourishment from reaching deep to the root of your heart.  They are growing up and stealing the life from the good fruit that I'm working out in you."

And then He whispered, "I know those sticker weeds really hurt.  I remember some thorns that really hurt too, but I bought you with the blood shed by those thorns, and if you abide in me and let me weed out the worry and discontentment and anxious care, I promise I will bring forth much fruit."

Oh, dear Lord, keep whispering.  How I need to hear You through the weeds.

Friday, June 7, 2013

I'm a Visionary (or I'm really just that far behind...)

Just a little while ago, I sent my twins to the basement to find the bucket of summer decorations.  I have all these cute little patriotic things, sea shells, and summer pictures that are normally stored in a gray bucket that is ultra-cleverly marked "Summer Decorations".

My son came back to say that he never found the ultra-clever gray bucket, but he did find the decorations.  They were strewn on the floor in front of the shelves in the mind-blowing chaos that is the basement workshop.

I suddenly realized that we had never gotten the decorations put away completely at the end of last summer.  They just got carried down to the basement and set on the floor because the bucket was otherwise occupied with something that wasn't "Summer Decorations".  (Insert a deep sigh here for the poor gray bucket that is now somewhere in my house having a year-long identity crisis.)

Yep.  I'm that far behind.  Last summer's decorations just sat out all year waiting to be properly put away.

The funny thing is that it really doesn't bother me that much.  If you know me at all, you know that normally it would bother me a lot, but not this time.  I actually think it is absolutely hilarious!

Either I'm just too tired to let it bother me, or I've finally come to grips with the reality that life happens, and the decorations aren't too high on the list of priorities.  Making dinner and teaching math trumped summer-decoration organization.  (And I'm OK with that.)

Maybe I was actually just thinking ahead instead of being that far behind. After all, look how easy it was to get out the summer decorations this year:

Step 1:  Walk down the stairs.
Step 2:  Step over other piles.
Step 3:  Pick up decorations off the floor.
Step 4:  Dust off and carry upstairs.
Step 5:  Put out around the house.

Last fall when I left them on the floor in front of the shelves, I bet I was actually thinking ahead to this summer...

Yeah, that's it.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I'm just going to think of myself as a decoration visionary.

And guess what?

If you went down into my basement right now, you would know that I'm also a Christmas decoration visionary.  Those strings of lights will be right handy come December!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

1,003 Words- Puppy Playdate

Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I'll only add three of my own:


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finally-- A Moment to Breathe


June has finally come, and the whirlwind of May is behind us.

It feels really good to say that!

As I started into May, there wasn't a single day on the calendar that didn't have something scheduled.  We don't usually allow the calendar to get that full, but this last month was a bit beyond our control.  Then a few more things got added to the picture, and the result was a blur of a month with very little time to blog. 

Now I sit on the other side of May (the sunny, summery side, I might add!), and I find myself exceedingly grateful for the way the Lord has sustained us through a long and difficult school year.

I haven't meant to write so little this last year, but on many days, all I could do was plod and pray, doing my best to keep a truth-filled, God-glorifying perspective.  I admit that I failed in that task on many days, but I've learned a lot through the falling and getting up again.  The summer respite couldn't come at a better time. 

Last night, something happened that hasn't happened for awhile now.  I sat at my youngest boy's baseball game, feeling the sun on my back, looking up at the blue sky, and then...

...I took a deep breath.

For the first time in months, I filled up my lungs and just breathed.

By God's grace, we made it.

We made it to the time for bucket-listing and writing, reflecting and gardening, biking and just loving on my family without a lot of other schedule commitments that usually exist during the school year.  Today I find myself thanking God for deep breaths and a chance to blow away the strain of tough months.

June is here, and God has given a grace-filled moment to breathe.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Monday, April 29, 2013


It is never my intention to be gone so long.  The days get away from me, and before I know it, weeks have passed since my last post.  Can it really be almost May?

We're coming down to the end of the school year now, so I was studying the May calendar this morning.  It is a full month!  We have several end-of-the-year events, my piano students have a recital (I have to learn my recital piece too! Yikes!), and we are on a fast track to finish our academics before the sunshine and springtime lure us away from the table and out into the yard.

The Lord reminded me of a verse today when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed.

"He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it."  (I Thess. 5:24)

Surely.  Not maybe.

When the schedule is full, the tension is high, and the to-do list is long, I can rest in the truth that the things God has called me to do (like mothering, homeschooling, leading a choir, and teaching piano) are also things that He will equip me to do.  What a blessing that He writes the list and then faithfully gives the resources to accomplish it.

Yes, May will be busy, but I'm not heading there alone.

I love the last part of that verse:

He will surely do it.

I hear it ring every time I think about that calendar.  Surely, not maybe.

Is there a "surely" in your May calendar?  If He has called you to do something, He will surely do it!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hope is the Thing With Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
                                      --Emily Dickinson

Anyone that has been around my little blog for awhile knows that I love when spring finally arrives.  The dark and dreariness of winter gives way to the blooming and blossoming of springtime, and I find such delight in watching the world come alive.

One of my favorite parts of spring is the coming of the birds.  I never loved birds like I do now, but I could sit and watch them flit around my yard all day long.  (The puppy actually does this, but I think she's more delighted at the prospect of chasing them!)

This morning I took the puppy outside and was met with the beautiful sound of many birds.  A couple of weeks ago, it was just one lone little black-capped chickadee singing his little "Hee-hoo".   Now it is a little chorus mixing all their calls and songs together.  Somehow I'm not in as much of a hurry to go back inside as I was a few weeks ago!

I think I understand what Emily Dickinson meant when she wrote that "Hope is the thing with feathers".  There is nothing that signals the welcome hope of spring like the return of the birds, and it seems fitting that she would use the metaphor of a bird to speak of hope itself.

For me, though, the birds sing an even sweeter song, because in their little calls and trills, I hear my Jesus say yet again, "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?" Matthew 6:26

Are you not of more value than they?

Yes, dear Emily.  For me this morning, hope is the thing with feathers, or rather, hope is the One who made the feathers.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Standing Behind the Canvas- Day 3: Abide With Me

We were gone most of the day yesterday, so I never got a chance to sit back down to continue recounting the ways that God has been active lately.  Hence, I'm calling this Day 3!

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I'm learning to play the trombone in the beginning band that we joined this year.  I sit between a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old and battle my way through each new piece the band director brings to us.  Despite the humbling nature of being a complete beginner, it has been great fun learning to play a new instrument.  I'm still not very good, but once in awhile a sound comes out that could roughly be called music.  I guess that means I'm making progress!

As we approached our most recent concert, the band director asked me to play with the intermediate band because he needed some lower instruments to fill out the sound.  I believe that the Lord providentially led him to choose the hymn "Abide With Me" as one of the pieces we played.  I have loved that hymn for many years, and the director crafted a beautiful arrangement that had a prominent trombone part in one section.

Isn't it just like the Lord to bathe my soul in the balm of a beautiful hymn as I labored to learn that trombone part?  I was the only trombone, so it needed to be mellow and clear.  The part was high and difficult for me, and I had to work incredibly hard to play some of the notes.  Consequently, I spent a good bit of time practicing that particular piece.

As I struggled to make it sound beautiful, I heard the words of the hymn over and over:

Abide with me, fast falls the even-tide.
When darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fade and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Believe it or not, the hardest notes for me were at the line, "When other helpers fade and comforts flee..."  As I played those measures over and over trying to get the notes exactly right, the Lord played that lyric over and over in my mind.  I don't think there was a single child in that band that knew the words to the song, but I did, and God brought comfort each time I played it.

"Help of the helpless, O abide with me."

As I stand behind the canvas, I see the Artist move His hand once again, still painting a picture I can't see, but all the while creating a masterpiece of His own design.  Ah, but the point is that His hand did move, and as He painted, I heard Him sing softly to me.

This time it sounded a bit like a trombone.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Standing Behind the Canvas- Day 2: The Amazing, Empty Ink Cartridges

I wrote yesterday that our life the last few months has been a bit like standing behind a canvas while an artist paints a picture on the front of the canvas.  You can see the artist's hand move, but you have no idea what he's painting.  In the same way, we can see God's hand moving right now, but we have no idea what the final picture will look like. At some point, He'll turn the picture around and we'll see that all the recent grays have added depth and texture to a beautiful masterpiece.

It is my hope to share a few of the ways we've seen God's hand move lately.  While we may not know what His plan is, we do know He is active.  That by itself is a great comfort.  He hasn't left us off.

So today, I start with a story of miraculous provision.  There is nothing in the world that will ever convince me that this event isn't an absolute miracle.

A couple of weeks ago, my printer ran out of ink.  It was bone dry, and the things I printed were completely blank.  For a couple of weeks, I tried to make do without any copies, but last Monday I just needed to make some copies for the kids for our school.  I haven't had the money to replace the ink cartridges, so I just stood beside the printer and asked the Lord to give me just a few copies-- enough to get through the week.

And then I started to copy.

And copy.

And copy.

At last count, I've made about 170 copies.  With empty cartridges.

I just kept copying ahead for the next few weeks figuring that the ink would run out eventually.  It hasn't yet.

The kids keep coming in and saying incredulously, "Is it still making copies?"

Over the whirr of the printer, the only words I can hear are, "Bless the Lord, O my soul."

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

And the Artist's hand moves again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Standing Behind the Canvas- Day 1

It's been awhile since I shared anything on this little blog of mine.  I'm still here plodding away, but some days are so full of busyness and strain that I can hardly find words.  I do know that God is active, and I praise Him for giving grace to move on through each day.  I record His blessings every day in my journal, but I decided that I'm also going to spend the next week sharing a few of them here too.

The last several years have been really tough, yet we've watched the Lord do great things.  Even though we don't see the road ahead very clearly, we do know He's active.  That is a great comfort.

The only way I can describe it is this:  Our life right now is a little like standing behind a canvas instead of in front of it while a painter paints.  You see the painter's hand moving, yet you have no idea what he's painting.

So this week I'm going to try to share some of the ways I've seen the Painter move His hand recently.  I have absolutely no idea what His picture will turn out to be.  I can't even begin to imagine.

And my hope in all of this uncertainty?

I know that whatever He's painting, it will be beautiful.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Romans 15:13

Romans 15:13-- May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

God of all hope,
Do this for me--
Fill me with joy
In uncertainty.

God of all hope,
Grant this to me--
Peace where the road
I cannot see.

In valley deep
My heart is lost,
Fearful, frail,
By harsh wind tossed.

And looking round,
The way concealed.
No path is seen,
No end revealed.

So looking up
My only trust--
Great God of hope,
See You, I must.

God, You alone
Make me abound
In hope
When there's no way around.

God of all hope,
Do this for me--
Give joy and peace
And victory.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

He Giveth More Grace

The text of the following hymn has been with me for many weeks now, playing over and over in my thoughts and heart.  Somehow, the Lord lets the needle on the record player of my mind get stuck at,  "He giveth and giveth and giveth and giveth and giveth..."

Maybe that by itself is part of the giving.

He Giveth More Grace
By Annie Johnson Flint

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase,
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow'r has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow'r has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Much to Say, Nothing to Say

I haven't meant to be gone so long.

I think about this little thinking-and-writing spot of mine so often.

Yet, on some days, I have much to say and nothing to say-- all at the same time.  Sometimes the "much to say" is uttered in breathless, care-filled prayer to the Lord-- a groaning and sighing more than a speaking.  Sometimes the "nothing to say" is because I think that there's not much excitement in writing about our little trivialities of living and learning.  These are hard, uncertain days for our family, and it seems that right now in particular, life is more just plodding than anything-- one muddy footprint following another, with few grand adventures or great epiphanies to report.  The days are cold and gray, my garden is asleep, and I am inside tending the child-garden with the tools of grammar, science, math and Chinese checkers.

Oswald Chambers says, "Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God...We do not need the grace of God to withstand crises-- human nature and pride are sufficient for us to face the stress and strain magnificently.  But it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living and ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus.  It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God-- but we do not.  We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people-- and this is not learned in five minutes."

I love that quote.  I drink deep from it often and am reminded that being sanctified is a life-long process, not a quick sprint.

That line of muddy footprints... they're mine.

By His grace, we'll keep plodding.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Back to the Blog

It's been a few weeks since I've had the chance to add to this little blog of mine.  Between Christmas concerts, Christmas preparation, finishing up school, church activities, family activities, and a trip to Minnesota to see my sister and her family, I haven't had a lot of sit-down time to think out loud and write about life.  Today we finally started getting back into a regular routine.  I feel like the theme of my day is "back to school, back to schedules, and back to the blog"!

So here I sit, almost a month after my last post, reflecting on the busy weeks and the work of God in the life of our family.  Exactly a year ago today I brought Paul home from the hospital after the surgery in which the doctors removed a perforated portion of his colon.  What a life-changing start to 2012.  I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving to ponder the grace that has been poured out on our family this last year as God has healed his body, provided for us, and brought us past those terrible digestive episodes that were such a part of our daily existence for more than 2 1/2 years before the surgery.  Praise be to God for His healing of my husband and His miraculous provision for our family.  The last year was a time of immeasurable growth in all of us, but sometimes it was so raw that it was hard to find the right words to express it here.

As we move into 2013, I plan to be here at my blog as often as possible, reflecting on the things God is teaching me and the ways that God continues to be active in this family with whom I share my days.  I never want to portray our life as picture perfect, because it's far from it, but instead I want to be honest through the work in progress-- each of us falling on the grace of God at every turn for help as we venture through this life.  We are a real family with real messes, real dust, real laundry piles, real days where we just want to give up, real fears, real joys, real blessings, and above all, a real God who carries us on this journey heavenward.  We don't plod alone, and along the way, I'm learning a bit about finding the sweetness, even on hard days.  I hope you'll join me as we adventure on through the months ahead!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Concert Debut

Today I make my concert debut on the trombone.  I will get up there and play "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with the Beginning Band and hope that the 9-year-old trombone player next to me doesn't laugh too much.  It is amazing the number of sounds that can come out of the end of a trombone!

I'm now totally convinced that every adult needs to try something completely new for the following two reasons:

First, it keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously.  I am seriously bad on the trombone, but in the midst of all the homeschooling and ministries and other heavy responsibilities, I am having a grand time learning to play it!

Second, for the sake of the little people in our lives, it helps us remember what a hard thing it is to learn something new.  When you can sit down at a piano and play a Chopin waltz "just because",  it is quite a humbling eye-opener to discover that "Jingle Bells" is such a difficult song.

I'll let you know how it goes and post some pictures in the next few days.  This should be good hilarious!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Silly Saturday: Road Trip Bliss

Over Thanksgiving, we drove to South Carolina to spend the holiday with Paul's parents and siblings.  The kids are great travelers, but this was our first time traveling with the puppy.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that she is a pretty good traveler too!  She was in heaven on her little bed cozied up to the kids in the back seat.

The picture below is one I snapped at some point during the drive.  I guess next time I need to get her some headphones so she doesn't feel left out...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gardens and Grace: The Tree in That Other Yard

A few weeks ago, I took a morning walk with the puppy before anyone else had gotten out of bed.  The air was crisp and clear, and the streets were still moist with dew.  It was an absolutely lovely fall morning to walk around my neighborhood.

The last couple of months have been busy, so I haven't walked as much.  Somewhere along the line, summer melted into fall, and the world came alive with color.  I was thoroughly enjoying the beauty of all the hues and textures in the neighborhood landscaping until I rounded the corner and saw it-- a glorious red tree in the front yard of a house on the next block.

Tall, stately, majestic and beautiful-- this grand, flaming-red tree.

In the midst of my admiration-- in the midst of my praise of a Creator who had the paintbrush and creativity to give us good gifts like crimson trees-- where did my fickle, weak heart want to run?

"I wish I had a red tree like that in my yard."

There it is.  I'm ashamed to admit it, but that discontentment had reared its ugly head yet again.

I thought about this all the way home.  How is it that my heart jumps so quickly to comparison, discontentment, and longing instead of thankfulness?  I've been given so much.

A few minutes later, I rounded the corner to my street and was struck by the colors in my own yard.  No, I didn't have a red tree, but the burning bushes and burgundy mums were vibrant and beautiful.

  Some white mums had actually taken on a lovely lavender tinge.

Some of the big trees had already lost their leaves, but plenty of gold remained on the other ones.  Gazing down the block, all of the colors jumped out in their glory-- one long continuous stream of fall beauty.

How is it that I see the gifts in other people's lives so much more quickly than I notice the ones in my own?  As I come to the end of the month of Thanksgiving, I'm struck again by the need to be thankful in all circumstances-- to be content with the things I have.  The Bible says that godliness with contentment is great gain, and I'm learning that the key to contentment is a spirit of thankfulness.

It's not even remotely productive to compare myself, my house, my yard, my children, my possessions, my husband, or my talents with the gifts God has given to others.  It is a tool of the enemy to get me to take my eyes of Christ and put them squarely on myself-- which usually just ends in disappointment and sinful attitudes.

As I pass into December-- the month of Advent and reflection on Immanuel-- I have a renewed desire to count my blessings-- to gaze intently at Christ as the first and best gift, and then be thankful for each good gift that God has given me beyond that.

The yard is now put to sleep, the lawn bags have been loaded on the truck for their composting adventure, and the time for listening in my garden has grown short, but the grace poured down continues.  Spring will come again, but for now, the winter provides time for listening in a different way.  Will I have the ears to hear?  I pray so.