Monday, December 31, 2012

Day 61

New Year's Eve... A time to reflect on the past year and anticipate what's in store for the year ahead. What am I reflecting on? God's faithfulness with The Thankfulness Experiment. I'm just in awe of what He's done... Over 6,000 reasons for being thankful, how He faithfully provides me with words each day, what He has taught me, and how He continues to bless me each day, whether I am being obedient or not. I wonder what you have learned so far...

As you reflect on 2012, make sure to look through the lens of thankfulness. Even through our toughest trials, God promises to never leave us or forsake us. My prayer for you tonight is that you will see God's fingerprints all over 2012 and that you will continue to see His fingerprints in 2013.

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1. God never leaving or forsaking me
2. For each of you joining me in The Thankfulness Experiment
3. Praying for my friends
4. The power of God's scripture
5. Friends choosing hope in the midst of trials
6. Naps
7. Appetizers ready to be eaten
8. My phones
9. Catching up
10. Forts
11. Bagels
12. Having New Year's Eve plans
13. The ability to type this blog in the car

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 3,189 to go...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 60

Don't you love it when someone tells you thank you?  It makes you feel good to know that something you did made a difference.  My three year old came in the other day and said "Thanks for washing my beach shirt and my kicking pants."  That was all he wanted... to let me know that he appreciated the fact that his favorite clothes were washed and ready for wear.  It was so sweet, especially because laundry can be one of those tasks that you don't get much thanks for.  It's something that can easily be taken for granted.  But wow - when someone notices, it makes you wanna do it more... OK, maybe just a little bit more if it's laundry...

I think God takes great delight when we give Him thanks.  He blesses us in so many ways that we can't even begin to count them.  The fact that I'm sitting at my computer typing while my heart beats completely on its own, or the fact that I can see with glasses, or that I can hear the TV playing in the living room, or that I can taste the yummy popcorn and hot apple cider I had while watching a movie tonight.  These things don't usually make it on my thankful list because I take them for granted.  But when we do notice these simple blessings and let God know, I think it brings Him great joy just like my son thanking me for doing his laundry brought me joy.  I love it that we can thank God every day, all day long by putting 1 Thessalonians 5:18 into practice:  Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus

So tonight, as you post your thankful list, I'd like to encourage you to include some things that you might take for granted.  Let God open our eyes to even more blessings that He is pouring over us each and every day.  Let us say "You are my God, and I will give You thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt You.  Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."  Psalm 118:28-29

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  My heart beat
2.  The ability to breathe on my own
3.  My ears that hear noises all around me
4.  My voice that I can speak
5.  My hands that I can write, type, cook, hold, touch, and feel
6.  My eyes that I can see
7.  My health
8.  My family - intermediate and extended
9.  A warm house that's filled with everything we need
10.  A fireplace that not only works, but is also in use right now
11.  My hubby who serves God and loves my boys and me so much
12.  Sunshine on a cold day
13.  Going to the grocery by myself
14.  A new recipe to try for New Year's Eve
15.  Heat in the car
16.  Red Robin
17.  What's Your Story
18.  God working in our lives each and every day
19.  Compliments
20.  Six ladies registering for the Winter Retreat today
21.  Christmas decorations still up
22.  The love of friends
23.  God knowing everything that goes on and His presence hovering around us at every second
24.  God's faithfulness to me... even when I wander or doubt
25.  The power of speaking out when you struggle and how that can help set you free
26.  Clean water
27.  Hot water
28.  Indoor plumbing
29.  Microwave popcorn and hot apple cider
30.  Family movie night
31.  Snuggling

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 3,308 to go...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Day 59

Our neighborhood was transformed into a winter wonderland this morning.  The ground was covered with snow... the perfect kind for building snowmen.  The trees were decorated in white.  It was beautiful.  I love how snow can transform the winter landscape from one of harsh lines to one of beauty.  It's just like God to use something simple to transform what we see into something new and breathtaking. 

My sons and I bundled up to build our first snowman of the year.  And I was excited because we got to put my Christmas snowman kit to use.  I have to confess that I'm not the best snowman builder.  Our snowman was unique... in that it was a mini-snowman.  He turned out cute with a Hershey Kiss looking hat thanks to the help of our neighbors.  And here's a picture...

When I was putting my son to bed tonight, he was bummed.  When I asked why, he shared that he wasn't happy with our snowman because it was a small one.  You see, after we built our snowman, we checked out our neighbor's snowman that was life size.  And my son became disappointed with ours because he was comparing it to theirs.  Have you ever been guilty of this kind of thinking?  You aren't satisfied with what you have because you think someone else has something better... maybe it's a house, a car, a vacation.  Or maybe it's a job, or someone's looks or size or talents.  When we start comparing ourselves with others, our contentment can slowly start to disappear... and thankfulness can quickly go out the window too. 

My son and I chatted about how God made each of us unique, just like our snowman was unique.  And we talked about the dangers of comparing ourselves to others.  I even tried to convince him that he should be excited that we had a snowman like no other... but it didn't work.  But the conversation we had was a good reminder to me to watch the comparison trap, especially if I want to be thankful.  And how can you snap out of the comparing mindset?  Be thankful!  I asked my son to list three things he liked about our snowman.  He did it, and while it didn't result in an "Oh, you're so right, Mom!  Our snowman is the best!", at least he thought a few positive things about it, right?  I'll take small steps in the right direction...

In case you're caught in a comparison trap right now, let Psalm 139:13-16 from The Message remind you that God created you and you are fabulous just the way you are... because there is no one else like you in the world!  How's that for something to be thankful for?

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

In addition to celebrating our first big snow in Kentucky, we are also celebrating our 6,500 thankful reason milestone.  I'm so thankful that your reasons keep pouring in each day.  Sixty-six days is a long time... and yet you continue on this journey with me... celebrating how much we have to be thankful for on a daily basis.  Your commitment to this experiment encourages me and touches my heart.  Thank you so much for faithfully choosing thankfulness each day!  Here's a picture of our 6,500 ornament.  It's the dark ornament on the far left.

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  My hubby getting up with the boys this morning so I could sleep in.  It was wonderful!!
2.  A productive day at home
3.  Building a snowman with the boys
4.  Using my new snowman kit
5.  Watching my boys and my neighbor's kids play in the snow... snow angels, snowball fights and rolling in the snow
6.  Catching up with my good friend
7.  Two sweet cards I received in the mail today
8.  Watching basketball with my boys
9.  Listening to my three year old cheer:   Yea!... ahhh (when they took a shot and missed)
10.  My seven year old getting into the basketball game... during the first half
11.  Brothers who enjoy playing together
12.  Giggles while playing
13.  Pizza for dinner
14.  Watching Mater's Tall Tales and listening to my seven year old quote the movie
15.  My three year old telling me to watch what's coming in the movie
16.  God's reminder to not compare myself with others
17.  How thankfulness can help me keep my mind on the right things
18.  God blessing me every day... even though I don't deserve it
19.  The beauty of freshly fallen snow
20.  Being able to talk to God anytime and knowing that He hears every prayer
21.  How my hubby manages important things for our family... and does it so well
22.  God creating me to be unique and one of a kind

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 3,546 to go...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day 58

I am not good at remembering names.  I want to remember names, but apparently not well enough to employ name recall strategies.  Often when I meet someone new, I've forgotten their name during the midst of our first conversation.  I've even had to say "I'm sorry, I'm not good with names.  Can you tell me your name again?"  Yeah... got some work to do on this one.  Can any of you relate? 

I was reading Psalm 147 today and verse 4 jumped off the page at me:  He (God) determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  This verse just blows my mind!!  Have you ever been out in the country and looked at the sky on a clear night?  The stars are everywhere... some big, some small... and it's quite spectacular.  And to think that we just see a small snapshot of ALL the stars at that moment.  There are stars out in the universe that we can't even see with the naked eye.  Any guesses regarding the number of stars in the universe?  One website claims that there are between 10 sextillion and 1 septillion stars in the Universe. (Read more:  And guess what?  God not only knows the total number of stars, but He also has a name for each of them!  And to think that I can't even remember one person's name after I meet them.  Our God is so incredibly awesome! 

Here's another detail that shows how awesome our God is.  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies [fn]? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrowsLuke 12:7-8  God knows us so well that He even knows the numbers of hairs on our heads.  Doesn't it make you feel so loved to know that God is in tune with the tiniest detail about you... like the number of hairs on your head?  My mind can hardly scratch the surface of comprehending how much God loves me. 

These verses remind us to put Psalm 147:7 into practice:  Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.  Let's give God thanks for being All-Knowing, All-Powerful and Everywhere.  What an awesome God we have!

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  God knowing the number of stars and having names for each of them
2.  God knowing me so intimately that He knows when a single hair falls out of my head
3.  God knowing everything
4.  God is always with me... I am never alone
5.  Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)... He truly is All-Powerful
6.  My son falling back asleep this morning
7.  My three year old's creativity with a large rectangle of cardboard
8.  Getting the bedrooms cleaned today
9.  Two boys picking up their rooms so I could dust
10.  Reading "My Brave Year of Firsts" by Jamie Lee Curtis with the boys and stopping to notice all the silliness in the illustrations
11.  Mixed nuts
12.  Having dinner with our good friends at my hubby's favorite restaurant
13.  Advil
14.  Cottage Pie on a cold winter's night
15.  The chill of a single snowflake hitting my skin
16.  Driving with snowflakes rushing at our windows - beautiful!
17.  My handy hubby that can fix anything
18.  God's Word
19.  Christian Authors
20.  Who is my Shelter?  by Neta Jackson
21.  Hearing my hubby's text ring... it makes me smile every time

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 3,560 to go...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 57

Do you ever have days that you're just grumpy?  Days where you don't even really have a reason to be grumpy, but you are.  Yep, that was me today.  I had lots to be thankful for... a shopping trip with my mom with 4 kiddos in tow, Chick-fil-a for lunch, my son getting a jogging suit that fits, getting milk at Target so I didn't have to make an extra grocery run, and FINALLY finding the three drawer storage chests I've been looking for... but I still had little patience and was grumpy.  Not a good way to be.  And unfortunately, I was not putting 1 Thessalonians 5:18 into practice: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  Maybe if I was choosing thankfulness, my mood would have been better...

Some days, it's hard to be thankful.  Sometimes, you really have to work at it.  Today was one of those days for me.  I ran across a great Psalm that helps me remember why I should be thankful.  It's Psalm 145.

Psalm 145[a]

A psalm of praise. Of David.

1 I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b]
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

9 The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.[c]
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.
Wow!  That's a thankful list if I've ever saw one!  And it's a reminder to me that when I'm not feeling very thankful, I should read Psalm 145 out loud and it can help me shift my thoughts to things that are true, right, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).  I like how verse 5 reminds me to meditate on God's wonderful works.  Ouch!  I was not meditating on God's wonderful works today.  But I can start doing this in the future.  I love how God's word gives us tips on how to become more thankful.  Let's meditate on God's wonderful works and praise His holy name!!
Tonight, I am thankful for...
1.  A shopping trip with my mom with 4 kiddos in tow
2.  Chick-fil-a for lunch
3.  My son getting a jogging suit that fits
4.  Getting milk at Target so I didn't have to make an extra grocery run
5.  FINALLY finding the three drawer storage chests I've been looking for and they actually fit where I need to use them!!
6.  Discovering that a meeting needed to be rescheduled today rather than later
7.  Flexibility of others
8.  Psalm 145
9.  Praying scripture
10.  God's forgiveness
11.  God's grace
12.  I can have a fresh start with being thankful tomorrow... and even right now
13.  My son's excitement about helping his Daddy with a project
14.  Watching my sons learn new things
15.  God's design
16.  God's patience with me
17.  God not expecting perfection
18.  Closet cleaned and organized
19.  My son helping me with the closet organization
20.  Clean sheets and towels
21.  Chatting with a dear friend tonight and cracking up over our graduate school memories
Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 3,697 to go...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 56

I am very blessed to have great parents.  They raised me to know Jesus and they love me and my family so much.  We see my parents at least once a week.  I can call and talk to them any time... and I'm super blessed because we live in the same city.

Don't you love how we can talk to God anytime too?  We don't even have to have a phone... we can just pray silently in our heads or we can speak our prayers out loud.  We can journal our prayers or even rant to God to share what we're feeling.  We have an all access pass to the God of the Universe... to the Creator of the World.  Isn't that incredible?

Just think about it... if you want to meet the President, the most powerful man in the United States, what would you do?  I don't know what it would take to meet the President, but I imagine it would requires lots of red tape, a security inspection, and supervision while you were there... just in case.  Yet God, who is All-Powerful, is available to us every second.  Can you even begin to comprehend this?  He loves us so much that nothing separates us from His love (Romans 8:35-39). 

Colossians 4:2 tells us to "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."  I love the simplicity of this verse.  It reminds us to be in communication with God and to give thanks.  One of the things I'm learning is the privilege we have to pray on behalf of others.  God invites us to participate in His work and one way we can do it is through prayer.  You know what is really cool?  That sometimes when we pray on behalf of others, God allows us to see the answer to our prayers.  Experiencing God's answer to our prayers is so powerful and it reminds us to give God thanks for taking action... for answering our prayers.  And while His answers may not be what we hoped, we get to choose to trust Him and remember His promise in Jeremiah 29:11:  "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Let's take full advantage of our ability to speak to God whenever we want... and to take time to thank Him for all He's doing in our lives and in the lives of others. 

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  Boys being so good during my quiet time this morning
2.  Playing Quarkle with my seven year old
3.  Reading to my three year old
4.  Breakfast for dinner - and everyone ate without complaint!! 
5.  Getting lots of laundry done
6.  Getting to pray for my friends
7.  Seeing God answer prayer so quickly
8.  Praising God for how He gives us so much more that He has to... His love is so amazing!
9.  Staying in our jammies all day today
10.  My seven year old going on a special errand with his Daddy

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 3,858 to go...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Day 55

Merry Christmas!  We have a birthday tradition at the Snider house.  My boys get to have doughnuts or muffins for breakfast on their birthday, complete with a candle to blow out because often we don't have their party until the weekend.  It's a simple way for us to make the birthday morning special.  And since today is Jesus' birthday, we celebrate for Him too.  So, last night, I was making muffins for our Happy Birthday Jesus breakfast.  My three year old came into the kitchen and wanted to help.  When I told him that the muffins were for Jesus' birthday, he quickly replied "No, they're not."  And I said, "Yes, they are."  He was a bit confused.  He asked if we were going to heaven to celebrate Jesus' birthday.  Wow - what a question!  And while Jesus wasn't physically here this morning as we sang Happy Birthday and each boy blew out a candle in His honor, He did come to earth 2,000 years ago.  He left heaven for earth.  The song, Leaving Heaven by Matthew West, describes some of what Jesus gave up for us.

Leaving Heaven by Matthew West

Well, it’s been real nice living way up here
In paradise, over the atmosphere
But I can’t stay long, gotta make my way
I’m leaving Heaven today

You see the world is dark and it needs a light
I’m gonna hang a star in the eastern sky
So everybody’s gonna know where I touch down
I’m leaving Heaven right now

I’m gonna walk around that broken Earth
Trading in these streets of gold
So if you ever wonder how much you’re worth
You should know
That you’re the reason why I’m leaving Heaven

Ain’t gonna be no kingdom, ain’t gonna be no crown
Just a little old manger, in a little old town
But it’ll do just fine for this humble King
I’m leaving Heaven let all the angels sing

I’m gonna walk around that broken Earth
Trading in these streets of gold
So if you ever wonder how much you’re worth
You should know
You’re the reason why I’m leaving Heaven

And when my time comes to an end
I’ll lay down my life like a truest friend
And when I get back home, I’m gonna make some room
So, don’t you worry, ‘cause I’m coming back for you

And you will say goodbye to that broken Earth
You’re gonna walk on streets of gold
And if you ever wonder what my love is worth
Well you should know
That I’m the reason you’ll be seeing Heaven
Oh, you’re the reason why I’m leaving Heaven
I’m leaving Heaven

Perfect Paradise for pollution of sin... Kingdom for a manger... that's what Jesus left... all because of His great love for us.  It amazes me.  I can't imagine it.  I am so thankful for it.  And Jesus didn't just come once.  He's coming back to take us home if we've invited Him into our hearts as Lord and Savior.  This year, Christmas has resonated with hope for me... the hope that comes with Jesus' birth.  His entrance into the world was humble... His death was well publicized... and His return will be jaw-dropping.  And all of this began on Christmas morning. 

Thank you, Jesus!  You gave up everything for each one of us.  Your love for us trumped Heaven's paradise.  Your love for us required sacrifice and pain.  Yet You willingly embraced it all because You couldn't bear to spend eternity without us.  Thank You for preparing a place for us.  Thank You for Your example while You were here on earth.  Thank You for teaching us the truth.  Thank You for keeping Your promises.  Thank You for a love that is unconditional.  Thank You, Jesus, for Your birthday that opened the door for hope and eternity with You in Heaven.  In Your Name - Amen!

In addition to celebrating Jesus' birthday today, we are also celebrating milestone 6,000.  Yep, over the course of 55 days, we have over 6,000 reasons for giving thanks.  God is showering us with blessings and I love how we can let Him know how much we appreciate Him through our thanksgiving.  Thank you for your daily lists.  I'm so thankful for each one of you!!  And here's our new ornament:

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  The delight of Christmas morning
2.  My three year old jumping on the bed and singing Jingle Bells
3.  Starting the morning off around the Nativity to remember why we were celebrating
4.  The most thoughtful and meaningful gift from my hubby and the boys
5.  Being humbled and in awe of God's great love for me
6.  Happy Birthday Jesus breakfast
7.  Celebrating with extended family
8.  Appetizers for dinner - fun and yummy!
9.  Funny gifts
10.  A snowman kit ready for use... if it snows tomorrow
11.  My hubby's amazing ability to create a duck tape wallet
12.  The delight of the person receiving the duck tape wallet
13.  Hope that comes with the true meaning of Christmas
14.  Most places are closed in honor of Jesus
15.  So many new, meaningful Christmas songs this year that God used to teach me
16.  Reading Mo Williams books to my sons - what fun!
17.  My son's generosity
18.  Peace that can only come from God
19.  James 1:5

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 3,914 to go...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 54

I love listening to Christmas music.  We play it all the time starting after Thanksgiving... at home, in the car... and I especially love to hear my seven year old rock out to the music.  He has quite a voice and hearing him sing warms my heart.  You should here him jam to Marshmallow World - it's super cute!

God has really opened my heart to hear Christmas songs in a new way this year.  Jesus' birth and what it means beyond His actual birthday is so real to me.  I'm in awe at what God did for us... the unexpected nature of the birth... how humble the circumstances were... how the birth was introduced to shepherds by an angel choir and to Magi by a star.  The birth of our Savior was unique and memorable.  I'm so glad that we get to celebrate His birthday.

I heard a new song this year called Bethlehem Skies by Dara McLean that reminded me of God's love yet again.  Here are the lyrics:

Bethlehem Skies by Dara McLean and Jason Barnes
Dry your eyes the King has come
Death has lost and victory won
You were born to change it all
A warrior though frail and small

Just a baby
sleeping in a manger
All the world was waiting for You to come

Holy, Holy, Silent night
Peace has come to all mankind
All of this with me in mind
Under Bethlehem skies

Oh the role you came to play
Born to give your life away
Soon you'll set the captives free
But tonight's about your welcoming

Oh listen
Hear the angels singing
Glory in the highest, the Lord has come

Holy, Holy
Hear the angels sing
Come now our King

The line "Holy, Holy, Silent night; Peace has come to all mankind; All of this with me in mind" stirs my soul.  Even though Jesus was born 2,000 years ago, He had me - Heather Snider - on His mind in 2012.  This perfect gift was for me.  And this perfect gift was for you.  Imagine the best gift ever, wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a manger... and your name was on the gift tag because Jesus came just for you.  He came unconditionally... no matter what we have done - good or bad - He came just for me and just for you. 

Christmas day is our opportunity to pause and welcome Him... the Savior of the world coming as an innocent, helpless baby.  Incredible!  Let your heart be filled with thankfulness as we celebrate the one birth that forever changed the world.  And humbly acknowledge that He came just for you... you were on His mind that first Christmas night.  Let our praises ring! 

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  Breakfast made for me this morning
2.  Making gingerbread trains with the boys and their Oma
3.  Watching my three year old lick the candy before putting it on the train - priceless!
4.  Seeing Christmas train display - one of our traditions
5.  Safe travels home
6.  Leftover buffet for dinner
7.  Making muffins tonight so I don't have to do it in the morning
8.  All the thankfulness lists that poured in today
9.  Family time tonight
10.  Reading Christmas books before bed
11.  God hearing our prayers and answering them
12.  The humble nature of Jesus' birth
13.  Jesus coming to earth with me in mind
14.  Getting cookies and milk ready for Santa
15.  Wrapping paper, tape and scissors ready for a wrap-a-thon tonight
16.  Fire crackling in the fireplace
17.  Resisting the temptation to get super frustrated over the milk I spilled while making muffins... thankfulness is making a difference I think
18.  The blessing of my senses that makes like so enjoyable
19.  Fun and relaxing Christmas visit with the in-laws

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 4,021 to go...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 53

How are you with expectations? I'm an expectation kinda gal. For example, my hubby and I took a parenting class before my first son was born and they explained that if you followed the plan, your child should sleep through the night at three months. Well, being the rule follower that I am, I did what the plan said. And when he didn't sleep through the night, I was devastated. Can any of you relate to being devastated when your expectations weren't met?

My pastor, Buddy Howard, gave a powerful sermon on how the birth of Jesus was unexpected in many ways. For example, the fact that Jesus, the King, was born in a stable in Bethlehem was unexpected. The fact that Jesus' birth was announced to shepherds, who were outcasts in society was unexpected. And the thing that really struck me was the unexpected response of the shepherds after meeting Baby Jesus. They went around town telling everyone what they had witnessed (Luke 2:17, 20).

When we had our children, we spread the word to our friends and family, but we didn't go around to everyone at the hospital announcing their birth. And when we brought them home, we didn't go door to door to let our neighbors in on the good news. The shepherds saw that Jesus was special...that they needed to tell the world that Emmanuel had arrived. And quite honestly, shouldn't we be the same way? Shouldn't we be sharing the good news of Jesus with abandon like the shepherds? I know I'm not there yet, but what a great example they are to us. We need to " Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born." Let's make sure to keep Jesus' birth as our main focus as we celebrate His birthday and take time to give thanks to God for the most amazing gift we could ever receive.

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1. Not getting more than a bruise when I slipped on ice this morning
2. A sermon that was so encouraging to me
3. Unexpected treasures in friendships that I have
4. Safe travels
5. Something I expected to happen today didn't, and I was able to prepare to handle it, just in case, through prayer and my hubby's compassion and grace
6. Gifts given that were appreciated
7. Hot chocolate that I love and the effort put into getting the gift for me
8. Watching my boys open presents that delighted them
9. My sons getting to play with their uncle
10. Boys laughing
11. Watching a Christmas movie with extended family and laughing together
12. A beautiful sunset
13. Receiving an unexpected gift today... A beautiful handmade Christmas tree
14. Diet Dr. Pepper
15. Sunshine
16. Jesus... His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 4,176 to go...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Day 52

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have a baby around Christmas?  While the birthdays of my sons are not around Christmas, one of my good friends actually delivered her son today... and I got to visit them at the hospital.  Their baby was so precious... sleeping soundly as he was passed around to the adoring adults in the room.  The tiny hands... the baby sounds... the cute nose... the toes.  Getting to see a newborn this time of year makes me think about Mary in a new light. 

Have you ever thought about what went through Mary's head as she anticipated the birth of God's own son?  I wonder if she thought he would have a certain glow about Him (like some pictures of the Christ child do).  This was her first child, so I imagine she didn't quite know what to expect.  But after Jesus arrived, I bet she drank in every feature... treasured every coo and sweet sigh as Baby Jesus slept.  I bet it was a magical moment as the reality of Emmanuel (God with us) was cuddled in her arms. 

The song You're Here by Francesca Battistelli touches on some of Mary's potential emotions.  Can you relate to any of them?

Hold on now, I gotta take a deep breath
I don’t know what to say when I look in your eyes
You made the world before I was born
Here I am holding You in my arms tonight

Noel, Noel
Jesus our Emmanuel

You’re here
I’m holding You so near
I’m staring into the face of my Savior
King and Creator
You could’ve left us on our own
But You’re here

Don’t know how long I’m gonna have You for
But I’ll be watching when You change the world
Look at Your hands, they’re still so small
Someday You’re gonna stretch them out and save us all

Noel, Noel, God with us Emmanuel

You’re here, I’m holding You so near oooh oh
I’m staring into the face of my Savior
King and Creator
You could’ve left us on our own
But you’re here, you’re here

Someday I’m gonna look back on this
The night that God became a baby boy
Someday You’re gonna go home again,
But You leave your spirit and flood the world with joy

You’ll be here, I’m holding You so near
I’m staring into the face of my Savior, King and Creator
You could’ve left me on my own, but you’re here… You’re here
Hallelujah, You’re here
Hallelujah, You’re here

The line "You could’ve left me on my own, but you’re here" really struck me today while I listened to this song.  How true it is!  God didn't have to send Jesus to earth to save us.  He wanted to because of His great love for us.  It just blows my mind how much God loves us and the extreme measures He went through to ensure we could spend eternity in heaven with Him IF we invite Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior. John 3:16 explains why God sent Jesus:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

And 1 John 4:10 shares more on God's love:

This is love:  not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This love in action all began on Christmas day 2000 years ago with the birth of Jesus.  How incredible!  Christmas is the beginning of our hope... our joy... our salvation.  A new addition to any family changes things... and Jesus' birth was no different... except His birth changed not only His family, but He also changed the world.  Let's allow the wonder of Jesus transform us this Christmas. 

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  Getting my haircut
2.  My hairdresser reminding me that I needed to get stocking stuffers... and having time to get them all today
3.  A much needed Girl's Day Out... and it was all day too!
4.  Seeing God answer prayers over the birth of my friend's son
5.  Getting to meet this precious baby boy
6.  The power of music
7.  Mexican food
8.  Watching my all time favorite Christmas movie today
9.  Watching Christmas specials tonight as a family snuggled up on the couch
10.  God loving us so much to send Jesus to be a living example of God here on earth
11.  The Holy Spirit living in us when we invite Jesus into our hearts
12.  Funny text from my hubby
13.  Daddy fun day with my hubby and sons
14.  New wrapping paper

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 4,278 to go...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Day 51

We hit the 5,500 milestone today! Wow! I love that we get to celebrate thankful milestones in 500 reason increments along the way. Each one of us has so many things to be thankful for and I enjoy reading everyone's unique approach to thanksgiving. You make this journey so much more exciting. Thank you for partnering with me in The Thankfulness Experiment. Our latest milestone is on the lower right branch.

Tonight, my family got to experience a unique Christmas event here in Louisville, KY. It's called KaLightascope at The Galt House Hotel. Imagine larger than life colorful, animated, automated lanterns in Christmas scenes. It reminded me of 3D stained glass windows. They were beautiful... there was Santa on a snowboard, dancing gingerbread girls, skating snowmen, toys and a Merry Christmas sign. But my favorite part of the display with the one about the true meaning of Christmas. There was an entire scene of Mary holding baby Jesus with Joseph at her side, angels and Wise Men. It was beautiful and a great reminder that Jesus really is the reason for the season. Here's a picture:

One of my favorite classic Christmas songs is What Child is This? which syncs up with the picture above.

what child is this
who laid to rest
on Mary's lap is sleeping
whom angels greet with anthems sweet
while shepherds watch are keeping
this, this is Christ the king
whom shepherds guard and angels sing
haste, haste to bring him praise
the babe, the son of Mary

he lies in such a lowly place
where ox and ass are feeding
the end of fear for all who hear
the silent word is speaking

this, this is Christ the king
whom shepherds guard and angels sing
haste, haste to bring him praise
the babe, the son of Mary

so bring him incense,
gold and myrrh,
come peasant king to love him;
the king of kings salvation brings,
let loving hearts enthrone him.

this, this is Christ the king
whom shepherds guard and angels sing
haste, haste to bring him praise
the babe, the son of Mary

raise, raise the song on high,
the virgin sings her lullaby:
joy, joy for Christ is born,
the babe, the son of Mary.
As I was listening to this song today, the picture of shepherds being the first ones to greet Jesus took on a new meaning. God reminded me that Jesus was the good shepherd (John 10:11-18), so while to us, it may seem odd that those guarding sheep were the first to welcome Jesus to the world, it actually makes more sense now. This connection never occurred to me before. Jesus' birth was to save everyone one... from the lowly shepherd to the Leaders of the world. And both groups welcomed Jesus... shepherds in Luke 2:8-20 and Magi in Matthew 2:1-12. It's so exciting to learn new things about the Christmas story. The birth of Jesus is our reason for hope and one thing that we can give thanks for each day. Let's experience the Christmas story with thanksgiving this year as we celebrate the most important birthday ever on December 25th.
Tonight, I am thankful for...
1. Winter Break
2. Sleeping in
3. Knowing my friends are praying for me and learning how the Holy Spirit lets them know just what to pray
4. Making Christmas cookies and candy
5. Laughing with my mom during the baking process
6. My generous parents treating my family to dinner and KaLightascope
7. The smell of gingerbread
8. Hearing the kids say "This is fun" while helping with cookies and candy
9. Learning that non-perils are NOT the best topping for sugar cookies...imagine the tiniest bouncing balls everywhere
10. Sprinkle mountains on cookies
11. Praying for others
12. Knowing God hears our prayers and Jesus advocates on our behalf too
13. My hubby who knows the ins and outs of technology... because I don't... and how he helps me
14. The joy of kids running down the pedways
15. Jesus' humility and love that just blows me away!
Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 4,354 to go...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 50

Don't you love to see a beautifully wrapped package?  And this time of year, they are everywhere.  I have to admit that I'm not the best present wrapper.  I've gotten better over the years, but I'm far from perfect.  The paper sometimes rips while I'm trying to tape the sides... thankfully, invisible tape can make it all go back together again.  If you're looking for a beautiful present, then Von Maur is your place.  Not only is it free... yep, you read it right, they wrap presents for free... but it's also professionally done complete with a color coordinated ribbon.  Beautiful!

When you receive a beautifully wrapped present, it stirs up excitement.  I wonder what's inside?  It can be the most delightful of gifts... something you really wanted.  Or, it could be something that you can't wait to return.  I've received gifts from both camps.  I bet you have too. 

Amazingly enough, the greatest gift ever received did not come in a beautifully wrapped package.  As a matter of fact, it arrived in conditions that we would equate to a haphazardly wrapped gift.  A baby... born in a barn... to a poor family... and whose bed was a feeding trough filled with hay... the animals were the only ones around to greet the baby... and the first visitors were shepherds.  No professional gift wrapped with a color coordinated bow here.  This was God's own son, Jesus, arriving in the most humble of conditions (Jesus Calling p. 371). 

The truth behind this is mind blowing to me.  God's plans are so different from ours.  Yet His plans are best.  I heard "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" today with fresh ears.  Take a look:

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Hail, the heaven born Prince of Peace
Hail, the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King


Two phrases stood out to me.  The first verse introduces Baby Jesus and tells His purpose... God and sinners reconciled.  This precious baby is Savior.  His birth is the reason we can have eternal life in heaven if we invite Him into our hearts as Lord and Savior (John 3:16).  Isn't it mind blowing?  That's enough to stir some thankfulness in my soul.

And then this phrase:  Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.  What King today chooses to live with the common people?  Dine with the common people?  Dwell with the common people?  Yet Jesus left heaven and the presence of His Father to come to a broken earth... all to save us.  And not only that, Jesus was pleased to do this because He loved us so much He wanted to spend eternity with us.  There is no one like Jesus, is there? 

I don't know about you, but this ignites a new appreciation for Jesus as we approach His birthday in five days.  Just think about it... what He gave up to come to earth as a baby... what He endured to save our souls... how He lived and taught and loved.  His birthday was the beginning of hope for us. 

Thank you, Jesus, for being pleased to dwell among us.  Thank you for enduring so much on our behalf.  Thank you for being perfect, because we are not.  And thank you for willingly dying on the cross, then raising from the dead so we can spend eternity with you.  Your love is more that we can comprehend.  Thank you... In Your Name, Amen.

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  Rain-X
2.  Safe travels in the rain today
3.  Giving gifts
4.  Celebrating
5.  Weekend plans
6.  Generous parents who helped with my son's school party
7.  Watching kids dance
8.  Pizza and movie night with the family
9.  Listening to the the boys and their Daddy giggle hysterically at Home Alone
10.  The sound of the wind... and how even though we can't see it, we know it's there
11.  Fire in the fireplace
12.  Warm house
13.  My mom watching my three year old so I could go to my seven year old's party today
14.  Hark the Herald Angel's Sing sung by Josh Wilson
15.  God's quiet whisper

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 4,527 to go...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 49

What is your job?  I am a wife, a stay-at-home mom, and the Women's Ministry leader at my church.  My tasks include managing the home, planning and making meals, doing laundry, taking care of my sons, planning events... and lots of other things.  I have to admit that I'm better at some tasks than others.  I wonder if any of you can relate? 

I ran across an interesting verse in the Bible and I want to share it with you.  You'll understand how it relates in a minute...

He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel... 1 Chronicles 16:4

King David gave some of the Levite priests the job of being thankful.  How cool is that?  Thanksgiving is kinda like a job for me right now.  Writing The Thankfulness Experiment for 66 days is helping me make thanksgiving part of my daily routine.  And oh, how I want thanksgiving to be a task that I'm good at...

During this experiment, I've learned that even if I have a tough day, I need to choose thanksgiving.  It's not always easy to do, that's for sure.  But thanksgiving is so beneficial.  It helps me "... take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Thanksgiving also reminds me think about things that are true, right, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).  And it inspires me to not take things for granted.  We are so blessed... may each of us take on the job of giving thanks and praising the Lord as we go through our day. 

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  The beautiful sunrise this morning and sharing it with my boys
2.  Cousins playing so nicely together... and me getting some prayer time in while they played
3.  God answering my prayers about finding Rolos... yep, we're making Christmas candy this weekend and I desperately did not want to make another grocery stop!
4.  Cold-eze
5.  Cold medicine that helps
6.  Lunch at Qdoba
7.  Homemade soup for dinner
8.  Getting presents made
9.  Wrapped presents ready for delivery
10.  My son's excitement about giving me a present he made for me at school
11.  Phones that allow me to chat with others when I can't see them face to face
12.  The power of talking through situations with others
13.  Being in awe of God's love and goodness this morning
14.  God providing just what I need
15.  Love

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 4,605 to go...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 48

I've mentioned several times how much I love my "Jesus Calling" devotion by Sarah Young and today I want to share how I found it.  It all began on Black Friday 2011.  My mom and I were on a Black Friday shopping spree... but let me qualify this.  Our version of Black Friday shopping begins around 10 AM... so we're often missing the biggest crowds while still getting the good deals.  We ended up at Lifeway Christian Bookstore and the line was really long.  In fact, it was the longest line we stood in all day, I think.  But God had a reason for us being in the long line... We ended up chatting with the ladies around us and somehow we got on the topic of the Jesus Calling devotion because it was on sale that day.  The gal in front of us shared that she loved the devotion because God often used it to share just what she needed to hear that day.  Then another lady chimed in, sharing that she agreed and loved it too.  And I thought, well, if it's that great... and because it's on sale... I'm gonna buy one too.  I also bought the kid's version.  And so, my "Jesus Calling" journey begins...

What I've discovered is those ladies were so right about how God uses this devotion to speak right to my heart.  It's amazing how I'll find a quote on thanksgiving that resonates since I'm working on this experiment.  Or it might provide encouragement I needed to hear... or scriptures that speak truth or provide clarity.  I'm so very thankful that God used those ladies in the Black Friday line to introduce me to this devotion.   

Today, the devotion hit the spot for me.  I had a really tough day yesterday and today's devotion focused on giving thanks even when you have problems.  Let me share a few excerpts with you...

In faith, thank Me for your problems... Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down.  On the contrary, your thankful attitude will lift you up into heavenly places with Me.   (Young, p. 369)

Just what I needed to hear...  Choosing thankfulness during a problem can change my perspective.  It can help me choose a positive attitude.  It can remind me of Who God Is and how He can use anything... even my problems... for good. 

And so, while I was still weighed down this morning with emotions from the previous day, God used these words to remind me to BE THANKFUL.  So, I played 10,000 Reasons on my iPhone while dropping the boys off to school and we sang it together.  Then, I flipped through the radio channels, and it was on again and I whispered "Thank you, God, it's just what I needed."  I focused on singing praise songs and not just listening to them, because singing them fills my mind with the truth even more.  And I used my sword of the spirit (aka Bible verses) to remind me who I am in Christ to defeat the lies that were knocking around in my head.  And you know what?  God was so faithful.  My mood began to change.  I started to notice more things to be thankful for.  God is good and I'm so glad that the simple instruction "... give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18) can have such a powerful effect on my thoughts and my attitude. 

Thank You, God, for helping me experience the benefits of choosing thankfulness today.  And remind me of this in the future, because thanksgiving puts me in such a better place!  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  The message in Jesus Calling today (December 18th)
2.  10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman
3.  Middle of a Miracle by Francesca Battistelli
4.  Smell of fresh baked bread at WW Cousin's
5.  Lunch with my mom and niece
6.  My mom's creative strategy to get my son to eat his lunch... and it worked!
7.  A sweet text from a friend at just the right moment
8.  Wearing sunglasses today
9.  Hearing my son sing Marshmallow World in the car
10.  My boys getting new PJs and ornaments tonight from my parents and their delight in the presents
11.  Cousin PJ fashion show and pictures in front of the Christmas tree
12.  My son singing me a song before bed
13.  Christmas cards halfway finished
14.  Knowing that bedtime is right around the corner
15.  Seeing my son with antlers and a red nose when I picked him up from school today... hello Rudolph!
16. Encouraging words

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 4,828 to go...

Young, Sarah.  Jesus Calling.  (2004)  December 18 (p 369).  Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 47

We hit our biggest milestone yet today... are you ready for it?  Drum roll please...we hit 5,000 reasons!!  We are halfway to our goal.  It's exciting to think about how far we've come on our thankfulness journey.  I can't thank you enough for joining me in The Thankfulness Experiment.  I know that time is so valuable, and not only that, it's limited.  The fact that you choose to take time out of your day to read this blog and log your own thankful list is humbling to me.  I'm honored that you choose to test the power of thanksgiving each day.  Thank you for holding me accountable and inspiring me to keep being thankful each day.  I appreciate you so much!  Here's our updated Thankfulness Tree.  The 5,000 is the dark circle on the left. 

This afternoon, my three year old gleefully spotted a rainbow in the sky.  He was so excited to point it out to us.  And it was a wide rainbow... completely straight... and it would have been easy to miss because it was behind a tree.  I love that he wanted to share the beautiful sight with my seven year old and me. 

Thanksgiving can be the same way... it's something we can share... and it's beautiful too.  We can be the rainbow that brightens the lives of others.  Maybe you point out something a friend can be thankful for when they're going through a hard time (in the kindest of ways, of course, and without judgment).  Or maybe you give them a reason to be thankful by writing them an encouraging note, giving them a hug, offering to pray for them... and then praying right on the spot so they can hear you advocating on their behalf.  Maybe you just share some things you are thankful for or how you've navigated through a tough time yourself and how God carried you through it.  God invites us to join Him in His work.  Be on the lookout for ways we can help others experience the benefits of thankfulness.  Let's be rainbows in the midst of rain.

Tonight, I'm thankful for...

1.  Family hugs that make me smile
2.  My hubby who fights on my behalf
3.  My Ephesians 3:20 mug filled with hot tea that reminds me of truth
4.  Friends who pray for me
5.  Knowing that God hears and answers prayers
6.  Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Pretzel Thins
7.  Conversation with a dear friend
8.  Rainbows
9.  Reaching our halfway milestone today!  WooHoo!
10.  Getting to type a 4 as the first diget in the "Only 4,914 to go..." number because that shows we're officially past the halfway point

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 4,914 to go...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 46

My new favorite Christmas song is Middle of a Miracle by Francesca Battistelli from her 2012 Christmas CD.  It tells the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, from a perspective that had never crossed my mind.  See for yourself:

Pain ran through her body
Questions filled her head
All her fears were whispering
Will this manger be His bed
An unexpected ending to a trip so long and hard
As she looked around the stable in the dark

Mary couldn't hear the angels saying
Peace on earth, good will to men
or the Shepherds running breathless
Let us go to Bethlehem,
But there was a perfect plan in motion
As there is for each of us
Sometimes we can't see that we might be
In the middle of a miracle

This life we live's a journey and a Faithful Father leads
And the only guarantee's uncertainty
It takes patience
It takes faith
For we never know what God has on the way

Joseph didn't know about the wise men who'd soon be at his door
Or the Star that they were following that
Led them to their Lord
But there was a perfect plan in motion
As there is for each of us
Sometimes we can't see that we might be
In the middle of a miracle

There's a perfect plan in motion
We've just got to trust
There's a perfect plan in motion
For each of us
Sometimes we can't see that we might be
In the middle of a miracle (1)

Did you catch how Mary was dealing with the reality that her baby boy was being born in a barn with a feeding trough for His bed?  And how she couldn't see that God was announcing the birth of Baby Jesus with multitudes of angels to shepherds in the pasture?  Everything about Jesus' birth was completely unexpected... but while it was unexpected to Mary, it was all part of God's divine, perfect plan. 

Can you relate to Mary?  I know I can.  I've experienced how God's plans can go completely against my own plans.  I've been devastated over the circumstances that came my way.  I've struggled, wondered, wrestled, settled... and then, after 5 years, God showed me that I was in the middle of a miracle.  And the situation that was once so devastating to me was transformed into a blessing that He has used to for good.  God truly did immeasurably more with my circumstances than I could ever ask or imagine... and now I can honestly thank Him for the circumstance that I never thought I could. 

Maybe you're in the midst of circumstances that you can't possibly imagine good coming from.  Please don't lose hope.  I've experienced the miracle God can bring... just trust and ask God to open your eyes to the miracle.  And realize that the reveal may be down the road... it took 5 years for me.  Cling to God's promises, believe with all that you've got, choose thankfulness moment by moment, and watch God work out His plans for your life in ways that you never thought possible.  We are all in the middle of a miracle... I wonder what yours is?

Tonight, I'm thankful for...

1.  Having little elves help me make cookies last night
2.  Hearing Middle of a Miracle sung live at my church this morning... it was so beautiful!
3.  Receiving a surprise card and gift card - what a blessing!
4.  Watching my seven year old sing "God's Not Dead" by the Newsboys and play air guitar with passion
5.  Impromptu lunch with friends from church arranged by my two boys
6.  Getting to rest this afternoon
7.  Father/son building project
8.  Starting to address Christmas cards with help from my seven year old
9.  Upcoming movie night with my hubby tonight to watch our first Christmas movie of the season
10.  My hubby

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 5,068 to go...

(1) Middle of a Miracle by Francesca Battistelli/Ian Eskelin/Tony Wood;  2012 Word Music, LLC, Francesca Music (ASCAP) (All rights on behalf of itself and Francesca Music adm. by Word Music, LLC)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 45: Hope in the midst of Hurt

I just got back from Stage One's Production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  I was excited about attending the play because this was one of my favorite books as a child.  In fact, I remember reading the entire book in a single day way back when... and this may be the ONLY book I read in a day when I was younger.  The story is a simple one... the town church puts on a Christmas Pageant each year and the kids dread it.  It's the same, old thing each year... until the town bullies get enticed to church by promises of dessert and end up volunteering to be the entire cast of the pageant.  Everyone is certain this will, in fact, be the worst Christmas Pageant ever because the Herdmans (aka the town bullies) are known for stealing, lying, cursing, and smoking cigars. 

At the first rehearsal, as parts are assigned, Imogene Herdman stops the director and says "Hey, can you start from the beginning?"  Much to everyone's surprise, the Herdmans have never even heard the Christmas story before.  And so, the director reads the story of Jesus' birth from Luke.  And the Herdmans are filled with questions... like who's the bad guy?  Why can't we go take Herod out?  What are wadded up clothes?  It was so eye-opening to be reminded of the mystery of the Christmas story through the questions of those hearing it for the first time. 

The night of the pageant was one of low expectations... yet everyone came to see what the Herdmans would do.  And that's where the beauty of the Christmas story appeared.  Imogene saw the stained glass window of Mary cradling Baby Jesus and learned how to be gentle with this precious child.  She walked in burping the baby and while the story unfolded, she never took her eyes off the child.  She caressed him and even cried.  The rough, tough, cigar smoking gal was transformed by Baby Jesus.

The Herdman Wise Men came bearing the gift of their Christmas Ham, complete with a red bow.  And this wasn't just any ham, it was the ham they received in their welfare basket.  After the pageant, they wouldn't take it back because it was a gift and you don't take gifts back.  They learned the importance of giving through the story of Jesus' birth. 

The "church goers" were humbled by this rendition of the pageant.  They judged these kids... had no hope for them... no forgiveness... no one reached out to them at all.  The list of Herdman offenses was long and surely no good could come from the bullies, right?  Yet the Christmas Pageant had more meaning through the actions of Herdman kids giving their all to the One who gave His all to us that very first Christmas.  And as everyone left, they all agreed that something was different about the pageant that year... and it was all due to the Herdmans.

Tears were streaming down my face as Imogene walked in burping Baby Jesus, as I watched her tenderly adore the doll that posed as the Son of God.  This rough and tough girl was gentle now.  The entire Herdman clan was changed by the message of Hope.  The only reason we have hope is because of Christmas day.  We have hope because Jesus, God's own son, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lay in a manager... because of His perfect life and His horrific death... and most importantly, because He rose from the dead on the third day... WE HAVE HOPE if we invite Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior (John 3:16).  When we do just that, our eternal destiny is secure.  We have the promise of heaven... a place of eternal joy, free from crying and pain (Revelation 21:4)... waiting for us when our earthly bodies die.  Can we ever thank God enough for this? 

As I consider the Connecticut tragedy, I'm clinging to 2 Chronicles 7:14-15:

... 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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

God is our only hope during this tragedy.  We need to humble ourselves before God.  We need to ask for forgiveness, for ourselves and on behalf of others.  And we need to beg for God to heal our land.  We, as Christians, need to unite in prayer.  We need to let go of our judgement... for we are told not to judge (Matthew 7:1).  We don't know the stories behind the story.  But we know our God.  We know that He has brought good from tragedies in the past.  And we know that He is the God who keeps His promises.  We have to choose gracious gratitude and we need to invite Him to fulfill the promises in His word. 

I'd like to invite you to join me in prayer.  Please pray these scriptures over those suffering in Connecticut right now.  And be on the lookout for God to do what He says He will do... for our God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). 

  • Thank You, Lord, that You are close to the brokenhearted and You save those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18 
  • Thank You, Lord, that You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.  Psalm 103:8
  • Thank You, God, that You can deliver us from all our fears.  Psalm 34:4
  • Thank You, Father God, that You can work all things for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose.  Romans 8:28
  • Lord, thank You that when we lack wisdom, we can ask You, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to us.  James 1:5
  • Thank You, Father God, that nothing is impossible with You. Luke 1:37
  • Lord, thank You that You can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20
  • Father God, thank You that over time, You can turn wailing into dancing; and that You can remove our sackcloth and clothe us with joy just like You did with David in Psalm 30:11.
I'm so thankful that I know Jesus... because not everyone does.  Let this tragedy light our fires to go tell the world about Jesus... because if the story of Jesus' birth can transform the Herdsman bullies, it can transform anyone. 

Today, I am thankful for...

1.  Another precious day with my family
2.  For my mom, who is more than my mother, because she's also my friend
3.  For weekly outings with my mom and niece
4.  Jesus, our reason for Hope in the midst of our Hurt
5.  God, who is faithful and always does what He says He will do
6.  God's forgiveness
7.  God hearing our prayers
8.  God reminding me that Jesus transforms lives through a simple Christmas play
9.  God's divine timing with seeing the play today
10.  Experiencing the play with my boys and hubby
11.  Eating lunch in the trolley at The Old Spaghetti Factory
12.  Receiving Christmas cards in the mail
13.  The power of praying scripture
14.  Knowing my eternal destiny is in heaven with Jesus
15.  Middle of the Miracle song by Francesca Battistelli

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 5,135 to go...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 44

So today, I had a major flashback... to the 1980s.  And not just to the '80s, but to the styles of the '80s.  Let me explain.  Tonight I was talking to a friend at a Christmas party and somehow we ended up discussing fashion trends of the 80s.  Let's see if you remember any of these styles... Guess jeans, Tretorn shoes, Bellini shoes, Davies Bags (remember the navy flat bottom bags with leather handles and you mailed off to get your initials?).  We were laughing at the expense and efforts we went through to fit in.  Now it seems kinda silly... but back in the day, it was so important.

My son doesn't have the flexibility to wear name brand clothes to school like I did.  He can wear two different colored pants and three different colored polo shirts.  That's it.  I must admit that this keeps his school clothes budget much more economical than those Guess jeans I used to wear...

Here's what I discovered about thankfulness tonight.  It's a command, not an option.  Much like wearing a uniform to school, we are told to wear a uniform of thanksgiving by this command in in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  

But 1 Thessalonians is not the only place we are commanded to give thanks.  Any guesses how many times we're told to give thanks in the Bible?  Are you ready for this?  Thirty-three times.

Can you believe it? This thankfulness stuff is pretty important.  From 1 Chronicles 16:4 in the Old Testament:  He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, to Revelation 11:17 in the New Testament:  "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign," we are commanded to give thanks. 

Thanksgiving needs to become part of our DNA... we should be "overflowing with thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:7).  And when we get to this point over time, it won't matter whether we wear name brand clothes or clothes from Goodwill, because our heart clothes will be radiant with thanksgiving.  Thanks for wearing thankfulness with me each day.  Who knows... maybe thanksgiving will become the new trend...  How cool would that be? 

Tonight, I am thankful for...

1.  Christmas shaped pretzels
2.  Pretzel appetizer and pretzel dessert
3.  A tried and true recipe... and a new recipe that turned out to be good
4.  Picking up my Christmas cards
5.  Receiving Christmas surprises in the mail
6.  Photo books that capture memories from the past
7.  Creating connections
8.  God orchestrating all the details for an upcoming retreat and being just in awe of how He's at work
9.  The blessing of my friend watching the boys tonight
10.   My three year old's opinion about the music we listen to on the radio
11.  My seven year old's love for other children
12.  Memories of vacations
13.  Wassail
14.  Holding hands
15.  Hugs

Here's to 10,000 reasons... Only 5,167 to go...