"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Grateful Heart

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances or this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Over a year ago, I began a gift list sparked by reading Ann Voscamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. Cataloging God’s blessings in my life commenced a journey of awareness. It was easy to fill up a page or two…hubby, children, friends, home—you know what I mean. Eventually, I ran out of ideas and that’s when I had to dig deeper. I opened my eyes a bit wider to everything around me—scanning the horizon for evidences of God working. Looking below the surface meant delving into areas in which finding anything good is a challenge. What good is there in pain and suffering or divorce and disease? Yet, God does ask me to give thanks “in” all circumstances.

My journey thus far has taken me to number 908 gifts:

881.     Alix graduating from high school with honors.

882.    Enjoying time with my parents.

883.    Savoring yummy Amish cooking.

884.    Car trips playing “Categories” naming every candy bar in the world.

885.    Preparing a graduation party with mom and my future daughter-in-law.

886.    Leisurely mornings and great conversations with mom.

887.    Lots of coffee and chocolate.

888.    Playing dozens of games of cards with the family.

889.    Strolling through shops in Nashville, Indiana.

890.    God’s grace in giving me amazing parents.

891.     Tough conversations that end in prayer.

892.    Barn swallows protecting their babies until they fly.

893.    Mommies and daddies protecting their babies until they leave the home nest.

894.    Bowing the knee desperate for God’s guidance and discernment.

895.    Husband who loves his wife well.

896.    A godly, gentle father who loves me unconditionally.

897.    Chatting with the best brother ever on Father’s Day.

898.    An amazing father and stepfather.

899.    Internship opportunity for Nick with his stepdad.

900.    Kids in VBX reminded that heaven is their true home.

901.     Soaking in sun and precious friends at the pool.

902.    Reading with Maddie.

903.    Spontaneous discussions with Alix.

904.    A son who works hard and expends every last ounce of energy.

905.    A focused hubby studying diligently for his upcoming test.

906.    A growing garden

907.    Praying through a horrific headache.

908.    God’s mercies, new every single day! 

Gratitude brings joy as I focus my thoughts on all the ways God has blessed me, even in the painful parts of my journey. For when I ask the question, “What is the good in this tough situation I am facing?” The answer is clear—God’s abiding presence is always the blessing. Even when I can’t find one other gift about the difficult, the pain, the hard, I know He is with me!

Start counting your gifts…

Monday, June 18, 2012

Barn Swallows and Babies

The barn swallow headed straight for me, like a war plane honing in on its target. It zoomed in close, veering off at the last second. All I wanted to do was turn the sprinkler on the bone dry garden. Instead, I held the sprinkler up in the air fighting off a half-crazed bird intent on pecking me to death. I don’t know if the neighbors could see the spectacle—the bizarre wet-headed blonde waving a sprinkler yelling, “Get away from me. I’m not going to hurt your babies! Get away!” At least no one from the mental hospital drove up to take me away. What I do know is that I dropped the sprinkler and darted into the house without turning on the water.  Thirsty vegetables weren’t worth risking my life. I sure didn’t want to be the next day’s news, “Loony lady pecked to death by savage swallows.”

Mama or papa bird surmised I was a tad too close to their precious nesting babies. Every year, barn swallows build a mud nest right below our deck. Every year, we wait for the eggs to hatch, peering frequently through the slats to view the progress. As they grow, nearing the time when they will leave their protected life, the parentals make frequent flybys, swooping in close to ward off any potential danger. I know I won’t hurt their little cargo—and frequently vocalize that to them—but they definitely don’t understand my message. Their instinct screams, “Danger alert!” Locking on their target, they whoosh down towards the victim, who scrambles to safety.

As parents we act the same way with our babies. Our protective nature heightens when we sense threats to our own children. When our children are toddlers, we keep a close rein on them in malls, grocery stores and when crossing streets. Before play dates we perform thorough background checks and submit fingerprints of those living in the home. We carefully cross examine our teens with who, what, when, where and why before they are allowed to leave our presence. Our suspicious antenna is constantly raised at outside forces seeking harm to our children, no matter their age.

Let’s face it, whether our children are two months old or 18 years old, we keep our eyes peeled for predators. When my 11 year old was a toddler, she meandered through stores without a care in the world.  She had no concept of danger. She talked to strangers like they were her best friends and placed trust in anyone.  Thus, when we traveled to Disney World we purchased a harness for her to wear. She called it her “doggie.” I’ll never forget as we entered the gate to Animal Kingdom a woman commenting with disgust to her daughter when she saw our little munchkin attached to this leash.

“I would never have put you in something like that!”

I, overhearing her words, responded, “That’s my daughter, and she wears that for her own protection. Otherwise, she would wander away without once looking back to see if her parents were following her.”

That sufficiently shut up the sassy simpleton.

Parents, like mama birds, protect their young as long as they remain in their care. Before I became a parent with the responsibility of protecting and caring for children, I was a fairly passive person. Not a lot ruffled me. However, I quickly became like the bird diving to ward off enemies once little babies were my concern. I wouldn’t always fight or stand up for myself, but I would go to bat for my children! Until my kids are grown and gone, I will continue to watch for and ward off adversaries.

And the baby birds? A week later, and all is quiet underneath my deck. The babies spread their wings and flew away, the barn swallow parents accomplishing their mission. For a week, I refused to risk my life and stayed away from the fledglings learning to fly. Now I venture to the backyard, gaze at the empty nest and pray for a successful flight for my little ones as well!