Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Trying to Be a Blessing

I just celebrated 18 years of marriage with my precious husband and best friend, Les. I am so honored that Les chose me to share his life and his name, and I can't imagine doing that with anyone else. I wish I could say that was always true, but we've had quite the bumpy ride throughout our marriage -- celebrating and rejoicing, crying and shouting...It's not always been easy trying to carve out a life that is a shared identity when fighting against our own individual selfishness and fleshly cries.

Though the road has seemed to take many winding and twisting turns and curves along the way to this place, today, we have somehow -- by God's grace alone! -- managed to weather a number of storms. The loss of two babies, a mother (or for me, mother-in-law), two of my grandparents. Financial failure. A child in trouble. What seemed at the time to be almost insurmountable peaks we have conquered -- together -- in many ways. I think that is because we still clung to our vows and promises inasmuch as we could or even dared to at times when things were rough, and God blessed that determination to not give up and increased our love for one another. Love is a choice, and God can take that love and commitment and bless it abundantly.

I know that there were many times in the past when Les needed encouragement but I was too blind to see and he was too proud to spell it out so I could provide that encouragement. And vice versa too. Because we are humans, with a fallen sin nature, sometimes it takes a depth of despair in the middle of a crisis for us to admit to ourselves and our spouse that we need some strength beyond our own. We can cling to God in those difficult times, but it's also in those valleys that we can learn to cling to one another. "Two are better than one...a threefold cord is not quickly broken." ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12. Sometimes in this state of sin and pride and flesh, we easily forget that we were created to need one another. God gave woman to man so he would not be alone. As a helpmeet. The intimate relationship and bond between a husband and a wife goes far beyond the physical. We are to need one another, support one another, love one another.

I can look back and see many times where I was not the blessing my husband required. Not respectful, though not necessarily always meaning to be disrespectful. Not helpful, though not always meaning to be more of a burden than a help. The saying goes "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." I have found that there are times I didn't intend to do just the opposite of what was needed or required. In fact, I'd venture to guess there were times that, in the middle of my own selfishness, I just did not see it, or maybe I didn't want to see it. Or maybe I saw it, but my own needs surpassed those of my husband in my eyes, so I set his aside. Well -- I am making it my intention this year to be a blessing, not a curse. God, the wonderful and merciful Father who gives abundant love and forgiveness, has restored us - our marriage has truly weathered some terrible tempests and yet we are still standing, I believe because we built on that Foundation which is wholly unshakeable -- God indeed in our midst.

I want to be the kind of wife Les should have had all along. I am trying to be a blessing to the wonderful man God put in my life, the husband who has more integrity and compassion than anyone I've ever met, who has an excellant work ethic, who has morals and values that stem from his belief in the One True God. I hope I am able to be more than what he needs or expects, both now and every day, and that I am able to crucify my fleshly self in living out a life that truly ministers to him.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Saved by...Tomatoes??

You know, it's been one of those years where a lot of discouraging things have happened one after another...the kind of year that can really depress a body not grounded in Christ. We've been in some pretty awful situations before, but it seemed that when we were just despairing some light broke - the silver lining, if you will - and things didn't seem so dire. However, the past year has just brought an onslaught of bad news and even worse hit to our finances. I can't say it's been the absolute worst, but I can say that I now recognize a pattern -- whenever Les and I and our precious children start to be intentional about pressing in to the things of God and dive deeper into our relationships with Christ, stepping out beyond our comfort zones to follow what we know are His plans for us, the enemy is not far behind us trying to undermine our efforts - and our family. I think of the story of Job and am thankful that God restores, although I wonder at times why my Father allows so much testing!
And as if that were not enough, there's more...Like most women who strive to be Godly wives and mothers, I've done enough brainstorming and such to try to find ways to ease the burden my husband bears day in and day out when he runs off to work his labor-intensive job as an HVAC technician. And with the hot spell, everyone definitely "needed" their A/C! So he works hard all day and worries all night. It is such an unfair burden to him at times, because in the past I have to admit I had been pretty spoiled. I didn't always see it that way -- there were times I truly thought that I was "entitled" to at least some of the things I desired and craved...I did not give much thought to how little respect that showed my sweet and patient husband for his love and hard work. My unthoughtful pouting, or little comments from time to time, did not encourage him at all, but increased his worry that he could not give me what I want -- not at all the picture I wanted to present!!!! I want him to know he can safely trust in me at all times, not just to spend our money wisely and make better choices, but also to not discourage him and to be respectful of what he does for our family.

I am not always good at it. It's hard for me to let go and trust sometimes, although I can honestly say that in my marriage I have no reason not to trust my husband with everything, even my very life, because he truly does love me as Christ loved the Church. I have no doubt whatsoever that Les would lay down his life for me and the children if it was required, and so I struggle with why I'm so untrusting and where that all comes from. But more than worrying about where it comes from, I can unfortunately see where it goes at times...
I was recently praying about this after reading a post on Homespun Heart about the topic of respect from Proverbs 31:23. (http://thehomespunheart.blogspot.com/). It really touched my heart that I was not always having a good attitude, and that I was letting so much worry about our financial situation consume my thoughts so that I was unintentionally being more dis-respectful. This stemmed from being unable for some reason to really trust that God would provide. (There's that whole trust thing all over again, sigh!) So I prayed. One thing I've seen as I've grown in my walk with the Father is that God is good. Yes, He's just and righteous, but He's also merciful and compassionate. AND He's my Heavenly Father, who wants to give His children good gifts...So as I was praying God brought to mind a time last year where we were really, really struggling to keep ourselves afloat. I was not sure what our financial picture was going to look like day-to-day, let alone in a year's time. I had, in desperation, cried out to God to find some way that I could feed our family of eight not only cheaply, but healthy too. It's almost an oxymoron at times to do that, especially with eight of us. The rising cost of groceries makes it seem like we should multiply our grocery dollars x400% just to incorporate adequate nutritional meals for our growing family. I think many people would be surprised at how much we set aside to spend, and even the dollars budgeted are often a stretch.

Anyway, one day during a sweltering rush of heat in the heart of last summer, Les came home at the end of the day with a huge -- and I mean HUGE! -- box of tomatoes. Because of Les' job situation, that amazing guy drives all over the county, on roads I've never even heard of in the almost 18 years I've been here! I looked at the box with admiration for a quick second, and then in a panic -- our grocery dollars were few. In fact, I hadn't even shopped that week and we were out of bread, milk, eggs and other staples and I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to even buy what we needed. I almost wanted to make a comment, but I thankfully bit my tongue. The tomatoes in the box looked near-perfect. They were the kind you could pay a small fortune for in a store, or even at a farmer's market (I know, I'd priced them!). I was frustrated and almost in tears because I'd been praying to God for help, and I was sure Les had spent that week's whole grocery budget on this box of tomatoes...I could not imagine that we'd even get to them all before they started to turn so I envisioned ending up having to give some away - or worse, throw some away. My heart sank.

Les stood there calmly, trying to guage my reaction - which I'm sure was a puzzle at the moment, having first appeared pleased and then all of the sudden looking really quite the opposite - and asked if I could even use them and what could I do with the huge box of tomatoes sitting in the middle of our kitchen. I started rattling off a litany of things I could make: BLTs, tomato tarts or quiche, maybe soups. Then I thought I could figure out canned tomato sauce, canned salsa, canned ketchup...Just to try to keep from wasting our dollars, and if I could even get to them before they rotted. But still, in my mind I kept thinking how much cheaper ketchup from the store would have been, because I was sure my darling husband had spent way more money on this box of tomatoes than we could afford. I know that thoughts that were disrespectful were starting to pile up in my heart. I felt miserable because I could see that my husband had tried to be helpful. All of the sudden in the middle of my list, he blurted "Not bad for $3 worth of tomatoes!"

WHAT?! God had really come through for us that day, and He actually fed us quite nicely the rest of the summer as Les continued to stumble upon little off-the-beaten-path stands. Some examples were a 50 pound bag of potatoes for $12, another box of beautiful tomatoes for $3, a basket full of green peppers (which I stuffed as a "thank you" to my husband, who loves them) for $4...The list was endless, truly. One day we went to a farmers' market near the end of the day and got some deals we didn't usually see, even at that time of day -- a basket of Vidalia onions for $2, three heads of lettuce for $1 and about 10 pounds of bananas for $1 -- all of which I paid for with change I'd scrounged from couch cushions and under the bed!!!! God came through for us last year with oodles of healthy food for close to nothing. Les, it turns out, had been praying to God to meet our needs too. My grumbling and worry about the food dollars made us both desperate to reach for the One who could help us.

But I still needed to repent -- and still do at times -- of what kind of message I am sending not just to Les, but to others, about how he provides for us and what kind of man he is. Others may hear my little gripes when I don't get my way maybe because we have to put money toward bills or because we don't have this or that, and get the wrong picture, thinking that Les is not a good provider or that I feel he's somehow not adequate as a husband and father. I really do NOT EVER want to send that message!!! Les is amazing, and I am so thankful for him! But...

Whenever I think of how my husband's income has blessed us, I also have to couple that with how blessed we are that God provided him with ability to work not only in the position he has but also at the company he works for. I need to keep telling myself that God WILL provide and that God DOES care for His children. And when I do that, I remember to be more of a blessing than a curse to the man who swept me off my feet and gave me the honor of becoming his wife almost 18 years ago (June 26th!!!)

I pulled out the next-to-last jar of canned tomato sauce the other day and looked at the shelves in the jelly cupboard that are still not wholly bare, but are getting there. I am not afraid for me or my household because I know I have a God who provides, through the efforts of my hard-working husband, and that I am blessed to know God in a deeper and more intimate way because of my husband. I am so grateful that my Father can use a jar of canned tomatoes to prove His love for me, to teach me to respect my husband by trusting in God to meet our needs and not always grumble and worry, and to teach me to trust because He will not leave me nor forsake me, so what is there to grumble and worry about anyway?!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Eat from the Pantry Challenge Revisited

Blessings to all...Wondered if anyone wanted to try the Eat from the Pantry Challenge with me - or at least hold me accountable? My goal is to eat what is here and NOT run to the store except for dairy, eggs and maybe a few fresh veggies. I want to try to do this through July so I have more money to spend on produce to can. I pulled the next-to-last jar of tomato sauce out of the jelly cupboard and want to be able to have funds to do that all again. I think I may have missed out on strawberries this year (sigh!) but I am still on target for peaches, pickles, tomatoes, maybe even blueberries and such. I have a list of things I want to try, and if I ever remember to look for my pressure canner, I am praying to finally try to can green beans now while they are so very plentiful at a reasonable price.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Great Valentine...

I was awakened this morning by sunlight streaming across my pillow. I wanted to pull the blanket back over my face, to stay snuggled in the warmth of my mattress and just be a tad bit lazy, but I looked over at my husband and realized that I had purposed to get up and prepare his breakfast and pack his lunch box before he headed off to work. Out of duty? Maybe. Out of love? Absolutely!
That may sound a little strange to some of you who have always done such things to bless your spouse. Early in our marriage his work schedule had awful hours -- he left for work at 4:30 and I was not that -- ahem -- ambitious enough to wake and see to his needs. I was too busy being selfish in part. Maybe a little sleepy. Maybe confused as to how the mechanics of our relationship should work, being newly wed and thus new to surrendering my will to another as one. Over the last few years I have finally learned that his understanding of love - his picture of true love - was demonstration through acts of service, and I have tried more often than not, barring sick days, to be just that type of wife. The wife he needs and desires. I hope I am succeeding.

Anyway, I had wanted so much to be a blessing to Les on this Valentine’s Day, and so I shrugged off the warmth of the covers and my slippers plodded softly down the stairs into the kitchen to begin my day by being a blessing to my husband, and where I was immediately grateful that love for my husband had prompted me awake.

Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day anyway? The holiday started centuries ago, originating from pagan rituals of fertility until it was Christianized in about the third century. These days we don’t really relate the holiday with anything religious, but we do ascribe sentiments of love, usually giving choice gifts to our sweetheart. That was what amazed me about this morning…

You see - He sent me a gift this morning -- a beautiful Valentine's Day sunrise – as if I were His sweetheart. It was extravagant, punctuating the space between the horizon and the far reaches of the heavens. I have been awake enough times to see the sun rise in my life, but this one was exceptional in the way that He painted the clear morning sky with swirling shades of pink fading into the heights of the azure sky closest to the stars. It was such an awesome sight, this gift of a sunrise, and it made me stop in a moment of thanks and feel the blessing wash over me as gratitude for something so pure and lovely that is often unnoticed or taken for granted. Just like His love…

It’s true – there are so many days when I pray and I think He loves me and know He loves me and it is just a deep truth that I say when I thank Him for His grace and provision and mercy. But how often do I reflect on what that really means, that love? I would venture to guess that when I was first introduced to that knowledge of His saving grace, when I first understood what it really meant to know Him in a way that I’d never known before, like that intimate connection that is prevalent in the closest and most cherished of relationships, I probably thought about it often and dwelled on it and turned it over in my mind. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). How often do we hear it? How precisely can we quote it. But there is so much in that small verse…Such a powerful statement…He loved me. ME!

Sometimes it’s still such an astonishing thought when I think of the sinner that I am, selfish and always striving to be selfless, thankless and always striving to be thankful, never coming quite close enough to what I think I should be…impure and imperfect with little blotches of sin and stain that, though washed white by the Blood of the Lamb, still are visible to me every time I fail…I cannot always comprehend such love -- such unconditional and sacrificial and perfect and pure love. A love so great that it has no end.

I am reminded of Romans 8, where it says in verse two: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death…” Free. Love that produces freedom. I do not have to dwell on my failures. I am free. I am free. It takes a moment for it to sink in, for the simple truth of it to dawn on me once again, like a new revelation, only not new but merely rediscovered. Amazing. Grace. Oh! And after a moment, I realize it…Amazing grace. Set in to motion by His love…

And then in verses 14 and 15 we read: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Children. We are His children. Undeserved and selfish, but adopted as sons and daughters. Grafted in. Held in His Holy Hands. Adopted. What does that mean?? I think of my own adopted children – three daughters, two sons. How much I love them. How they are my own children. How I love them as much as I love my only biological son. Les and I have accepted them, knit them into the loving circle that is our family. Love….Again, that word. And I am adopted! Into His family. I am His child!!! I am loved by Our Father.

Verse 31 says: “…If God be for us, who can be against us?” What first comes to mind is His presence, always, that brings peace through His protection. His shelter and His banner, covering me with His love. Safety. Security. Peace in the midst of storms. I am reminded of the low points in my life when I was needed someone to protect me. How I often didn’t know where to turn in my imperfection for fear of being rejected. How there were times when I was scared and I didn’t know how things were going to play out in the drama of my life…How I needed a hero to rescue me from all that was tumbling around me. How I finally found all of that in Him! He became all for me because of His great and abiding love. I didn’t need to fear anything. He was there, carrying me through my troubles, bearing my burdens. Holding out His precious Hands for me to collapse into, weary with emotion and drained by life, and rest my very soul. He refreshed me. He gave me His shelter…protection. I was able to finally rest in His peace because He came to my rescue. Rescue...

Further I read, hungry and eager, the words filling my soul with truths that cannot be denied. I search. I seek. Ah…Verse 32 begins the beauty of it all – the miracle. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Gave up His Son…for us all. All. That means for me, too! I am not excluded. I am not forgotten. I am not left out of this great and perfect love. I am His child, saved by His grace, through the death of His Son. Grafted in and afforded His protection, His shelter, His mercy. Oh unspeakable and amazing joy!!! I think of my own children. How would it be to give up a child for love’s sake? Could I do it? Could I so selflessly let go of the little ones that I’ve raised, without hesitation? Could I bear to see their suffering, even while recalling all the precious moments I have savored and treasured in my heart? How could He do it? I look again at the words. He freely gave. For us all. Because of His great love for us. Oh, to really see that love, that perfect gift from the Father. To remember Him in that special moment and feel the truth of all these things sink into my soul…He has loved me with an everlasting love and I KNOW IT! My soul rejoices with this truth, this treasure that I hold to my heart and lock in there. I am loved! LOVED!!!!

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Need for Grace...

I open my Bible day after day and wonder. I read an article about His grace and mercy -- how it saved a man from addiction and sin, how it brought hope to a man condemned for murder, how it brought healing and forgiveness to a marriage scarred by adultry -- and suddenly I am so thirsty for it, hunger for it...I know I need it desperately. I turn page after page of the Book, seeking for the only words that can comfort me and give me hope.

I share with a friend that I am desperate for that grace, that forgiveness and blessed relief that can cleanse my soul and make me new again. I hear "How can you possibly need grace? What have you done that's been that bad? You're just busy." I guess on the outside, I look normal. I'm a wife. A mother. A member of the community. I go to church. The me that most people know seems okay. Everyone knows I am not perfect. I'm a little quiet at times, mistaken for shy in some situations. I have ideas that bubble forth that seem interesting. But internally I wrestle with myself. Almost daily. There is sin there. I know there is. Being a generally "good" person cannot hide it.

Not when I consider that there is no "sin scale" next to God. He does not measure a little white lie as a mere nothing and then measure taking His Name in vain as something far worse. No. The Ten Commandments are equal in value. God is perfect. He cannot live with sin. Not even what most people would consider something trifling. Sin is sin. It blackens the soul, spots that can only be removed through His Son, who gave His life to wash those specks and blotches and thick dark stains with the beauty of His blood.

It started in the Garden, when the serpent appealed to Eve and she and her spouse neglected to be obedient to the One who made them -- who blessed them with all kinds of beauty and treasure in that Garden. One tree was forbidden. Was it a test of their love for Him? Or merely a test of their obedience? Or was it a combination of those things? We should look to obey BECAUSE we love Him...Not because we have to. Because He did give us the freedom to choose...But Adam and Eve chose poorly, tricked and tempted by all the lusts of the flesh that we all struggle with daily. They were blinded to His Creation when they gave in to discontent, focusing on what they could not have rather than all of the things they could have.

It's easy to grow discontent when your main "job" is one that does not always produce immediate results. Being a stay-at-home wife and mother is harder than any corporate job could ever be. There are so many roles to embrace, not all of them "fun" or "interesting". I'm more a creature of creation than a creature of habit. I prefer to create beauty -- crafts, words, baking, anything -- than succumb to the drudgery of cleaning. It's mundane. Even when it gets nice results. But it's not my gifting, not my strong point at all. And we have a large family -- eight people in one house. That's a lot of meals, laundry. Cleaning. Hours of homework help. Juggling schedules to try to spend time with everyone.

I know it's been done on larger scales and smaller scales, but this is our scale. We had talked dreamily years ago of the large family we would have. And God knit together a wonderful family for us! Five adopted children first. Beautiful, healthy children. With emotional issues and some learning issues. Then one biological child. A happy child. Ironically the one who is sick most often. And two babies after that who did not have the chance to be born, but who we lost through miscarriage. It's been rough. I question and cry, even as I try to accept. And I lose my temper. Sometimes quite easily. It's hard to see immediate results in parenting. Most things you do for your children won't be recognized until they are older. It's a lot of work. Some people say it's a thankless job. I wouldn't agree with that, but it's definitely not one that always produces immediate results or immediate gratification. And I struggle with that. I like to feel appreciated and I even enjoy being thanked for what I accomplish. But...I don't do everything I should do in a day. And I stumble in my efforts to feel like I belong overall. I feel awkward when I talk to other women. Some of them seem to juggle their careers and their families quite nicely. Some of them do one or the other, but not both. I just never know what to say when someone asks how I am, because I think most of the time I go out of my way to step out from what I think I ought to do. But what I ought to do and what I actually do are not always the same.

I've discovered something. Finally. I wish I'd known it earlier in life. The world says that I can have it all. I know that I cannot. The world says that I can and should expect -- even demand -- "me" time...But that's not necessarily true. If I really want to embrace the role that I've been blessed to have - and often take for granted - I need to be selfless. To rise when I might otherwise sleep a while longer. To stay in and get things done around the house when I might otherwise go out and shop or sit at the bookstore or a cafe somewhere wasting time. To save money when I might otherwise squander it on something for myself. To forego the cozy chair and good book so I can help with homeschooling or homework or just participate in a family night activity. To run children to practices, games, friends' houses or even school, if the three who attend public school miss the bus, instead of staying in my nice, warm house. To forego a nice steak dinner for two out at a fancy restaurant in order to feed the whole family on our limited budget. To choose to bend to others' desires in myriad ways when I might otherwise choose to put myself first...

When I choose me above others, I am not putting Him first. I am neglecting the Greatest Commandment -- to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke 10:27). To live this out -- to put this into practice daily -- means being able to be self-less, even if the rest of the world is encouraging me to be self-ish.

And this is where I fall short so many times! The need for His grace, so that I can pick myself up and walk rightly with Him, is so evident, so crystal clear. And for that I am ever so thankful! Because it wasn't always clear. There were days when I didn't consider that I was walking outside of His commands, even while I was neglecting the one thing He was calling me to do -- to give up myself willingly, lovingly even, and pour all I had into serving others. And not just my own immediate family...There is a whole world of hurting, lonely, bruised and battered people who need His love brought to them through tangible means, and I had not realized for so very long -- for too very long! -- that I could be the one to carry that blessing, to lift up my brethren, to offer the message of hope and redemption, to show compassion and point toward the Cross as the ONLY WAY to find life...

No, I was too busy being judge and jury toward others who I felt did not merit my time and attention. I was too busy rushing to please myself through whatever means -- a shopping spree, "me" time...other things that consumed my thoughts and then my actions. The adversary tailored his trap just for me...He knew I had been pampered and spoiled and therefore expected certain things to go my way or I'd cry foul and get easily frustrated and give up my walk...I hate that he was so right...

Which is why His grace is something I crave. I cannot get enough. And the amazing thing about grace is that the more you experience it, the more you want to share it with others. You finally start to become the selfless person you were intended to be...Instead of hoarding that last piece of chocolate cake so you get your fill and fair share, you want others to taste of it, to experience the richness of it...To crave it for themselves and therefore seek it too. You find yourself open to His prompting to smile at family, friends, strangers...To give more generously of your time and talents and even possessions. To let go of the clenched fists so that your hands are open to the blessing. To want to turn your life into a gift for others because of His gift to you. To live the way He intended -- loving the Lord God and your neighbor. With your whole heart, no longer reserving any of it for yourself but offering it as a sacrifice of praise to Him, the Creator who gives grace. Abundant grace. Amazing grace. Merciful grace. Loving grace. Grace!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


We all have them...or so we think. We line up "must do this" and "have to do that" til we have no other time to do, well, anything...We are busy from sun-up to sun-down. Our moments are filled with the busy-ness of life. We rush in this hectic and fast-paced space we've carved out for ourselves and our family until, at the end of the day, we tumble into bed exhausted. And just before drifting off to sleep we hear that still, small voice that has been pleading for time with us...His voice. Calling. Beckoning. And we...

Well, we forgot. We simply didn't have a second to remember -- not with all of the appointments and errands and work, the raising of children and the cementing of marriage and the fostering of community taking up oh-so-much of our day -- that He wanted to spend time with us. That He, the Creator of the Universe, who knit us together and breathed His life and love into our very souls, wanted time. With us.

But it's too late, the day is gone, another day left behind in the dust where we may have accomplished much or may have accomplished little, but the one thing -- the most amazing and most important thing we could have done -- was left undone and lacking. We neglected Him. We failed to set aside a holy time to commune with Him. We abandoned Him to our own set of skewed priorities and "must do" lists and went on our spinning selfish way barreling along through the day and now, finally at the end of the day, we realize that we neglected the one thing, the very thing, that could have refreshed and renewed us!

Are your "priorities" robbing you of your time with the Heavenly Father? Or is He your priority?

I pray that you will set aside a special time to spend with the One who made you, who loves and desires you, who is jealous for you.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Overflowing with Gratitude...

I am thanking God. Intentially. Thoughtfully. Purposely reflecting on all that He has accomplished, all that He has done, for me and through me. My heart overflows with gratitude that I often leave buried there, waiting...waiting like a caterpillar, cocooned. But in the busy-ness of everyday life, wrapped deep in the worries and cares of this world that I should abandon, I sometimes lose sight of those blessings. Yet...just as the butterfly eventually breaks free from that shell and bursts forth, a new creation at last, so this gratitude bursts forth from my soul. Today my soul finally removes itself - at least for now - from all the burdens and all the problems and all the myriad and mundane things that life has offered of late that the adversary uses to try to steal my joy - and I am able to lift my hands to the great expanse of the heavens where my Creator -- my FATHER -- sits and leans His ear closer to me -- to ME! -- to hear this love and this gratitude and this praise roll from my lips like the deep belly laugh of a child, a joy I can no longer contain.

He has been exceedingly and abundantly merciful over and above anything I could ever have dreamed or have dared to hope for myself, and I know this -- I know it way deep down in the very crevices of my soul, where shadows of doubt have tried to cling but can no longer remain, for I have experienced this miracle and my soul is illuminated with grace and the knowledge -- oh blessed and beautiful knowledge! -- that He has noticed me, that He has heard my desperation and lifted the darkness from my situation, that He has rescued me...That HE LOVES ME! He beheld my fear and trembling and called me into the shelter of His wings where I am safe -- so safe at last! The situation is no longer the conquerer. I need not flee from His covering...I can dwell there, secure in His promises.

Yes, I have so much to be thankful for. My heart overflows with thanksgiving for so many blessings, little things I had tucked away in my heart. I pray to my gracious and merciful and loving Heavenly Father that every single day I will present Him with a ceaseless river of praise, for He has delivered me and given me unspeakable joy, and I am filled to the brim with gratitude for His great love and compassion!