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Posts Tagged ‘gratefulness’

In 2012 our youngest son graduated from high school. He applied to only one college his senior year, and by God’s grace, he was accepted! The day that my Dad took his last breath on this earth, Blane got a call from the college, asking if he would be interested in coming down for the second session of the summer work program. They called him before Dad passed and so I said, “Of course!” without even a thought. God was so gracious to allow that call to come BEFORE my Dad passed away, otherwise, I am not sure I would have had the strength to tell this super excited young man yes.

Fast forward 2 years…this (soon to be) 21 year old son of ours calls again with incredible excitement in his voice. College of the Ozarks just announced that there would be a Patriotic Travel Trip to Vietnam this fall (2014). So Blane wrote an essay, which I will post for your reading pleasure. Out of the submitted essays, 12 students would be chosen to accompany 12 Vietnam Veterans to a 13 day trip to Vietnam. In this essay they were to include their reason for desiring to go on this trip. So, of course, Blane wrote about my Dad and Dad’s impact on his life.

Patriotic Travel Trip – Vietnam Essay

Blane R. Bias

     “Above all, Vietnam was a war that asked everything of a few and nothing of most in America…” (Myrna MacPherson, 1984). My interest in participating in the Patriotic Trip to Vietnam stems from my grandfather, Gary B Whitehead. He served as a Combat Medic with the 25th Infantry Division during the Tet Offensive in 1968. On August 4th, 1968, he was wounded when he and his men stepped on a booby trap. In the moments after landing back on the ground, he army crawled to the other wounded men, and bandaged them all up. By the time the helicopter arrived, my grandpa’s wounds were the only ones that had not been attended to. For this heroic deed, he received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. During my childhood, my grandpa instilled in both, my brother and I, a deep respect for the soldiers who fought for the United States, especially the soldiers that fought in Vietnam. My grandpa also taught me to have a huge sense of patriotism, duty and pride for America. I remember my grandpa sadly recounting how the soldiers were treated when they arrived back home from Vietnam. With glistening eyes he said that people spit on them and called them “baby killers”. This made me really sad to hear that people back then did not understand that they went there to die for their country. I want to go on this trip so that I can honor my grandpa’s memory.

     I would like to go on this trip so that I can see some of the places that my grandpa may have been and experience some of the places he told in his stories. If I am chosen to do on this trip I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the things that the soldiers went through over in Vietnam. Also I want to honor the service of the Vietnam Veterans who we will be accompanying and learn about some of the struggles that they have been through. I would be grateful for the privilege of honoring them by listening to their stories and sharing in this time with them.

     On June 12th 2012, my grandpa died after a 7 year battle with Lewy Body Dementia, a disease in which patients slowly lose both their cognitive skills and mental thought processes, along with their ability to communicate. Ironically, he died two hours after someone from College of the Ozarks called me to let me know that I have been given the second summer work session. By God’s grace, in 2010, my grandpa went with Central Missouri Honor Flight out of Columbia, Missouri to Washington D.C. to the World War II, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. Grandpa went because he wanted to honor the men that did die in Vietnam, and to say he was sorry to the ones that he could not save. As I recount all of this, I am reminded of how much respect I have for my grandpa and for those that have fought for my freedom.

 

I can gratefully say that Blane was one of the students chosen to take this trip. They will leave September 25th and return October 8th, 2014. He will celebrate his 21st birthday in Vietnam (HOW COOL IS THAT??). We are so excited for what God will do in Blane’s life, the lives of all that are on the trip and those that they will encounter while they are gone. Blane is taking 18 hours this semester and has 15 hours per week to work. All of the students on this trip must have their class work done that they will miss BEFORE they leave, and he will have to make up the 30 work hours that he will miss while he is gone. We would appreciate your prayers for all of them over the next month. I will be posting the link to the blog that the students will be writing while they are gone so that we can keep up with how their trip is going.

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Fall is, by far, my favorite season of the year. The cooler weather, breezes blowing through the trees, bon fires, the changing of the leaves…bright yellows, magnificent oranges, and fiery reds…what an amazing array of colors that warm my heart in a way that no other season can.

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Despite my love for this time of year, there have been many things that have happened throughout the years that have threatened my joy during this wonderful season. But God (which is an amazing statement alone) has taught me to “Choose Joy Now”, no matter what may be happening around me. One way I have learned to do that is to find things to be grateful for, even during the toughest of times. Often these are obscure things that are hard to notice without careful attention, other times God displays them proudly, right in front of me.

It’s almost as if He knows I need to see His Hand at work. I know He understands fully my need to trust Him even deeper than yesterday. Trust…it has become my word for the last few years, it has been a long journey, but one that has not quite come to an end just yet. And in all honesty, I can say I am glad that He is not yet content with my trust in Him.

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Recently my friend’s husband left home for a one year deployment to protect our country’s freedom. My heart has been heavily burdened for them as they waited for the day of his departure to arrive. I have been praying, but God was pressing me to do more, so as I left for work this morning I asked the Lord to show me a different Bible verse each week that I could pray for my precious friend and her family. As I was praying, I jokingly mentioned that God would need to be creative in how He showed me a verse this week, as I have not been the most diligent each day to read His Word. I finished praying and began singing praises to God as I continued my drive.

When I walked into work I began coughing, so as I was digging through my purse looking for a sinus pill, I came across a small yellow paper that was crumpled and a bit worn.

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On the paper was,

Isaiah 41:10
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

As soon as I read it I began to smile…I knew this was the verse that God intended me to pray for my friend and her family this next week. It took me a while to take all this in, because, as you see, I had written this Scripture on the torn half sheet of yellow paper back in March of this year (2013), when I was struggling to trust God with a difficult situation that was happening. That verse came to me as a welcomed relief back in March when I heard it and I quickly jotted it down on the scrap piece of paper. I was reminded back then how much God must love me to give me that verse at that exact moment when I so desperately needed to know that He was holding me…did I mention that was SEVEN months ago…??? This morning when I found this paper in my purse, I had this overwhelming sense of peace of God’s love for me and for my friend as I wondered how exactly God had gotten that piece of paper into my purse after all of these months…?? I clean out my purse at least once a month. I KNOW I had taken this paper out, but for such a time as this, God saw fit to get it back into my purse so I would find it this morning. He knew that on the way to work I was going to ask for Him to show me a verse to pray. I just shook my head as I took all of this in this morning…and by the way, my coughing, which is why I got into my purse to begin with, has stopped by this time…

 

So I quickly shot my sweet friend an email to explain to her how much God loved her (explaining the story to her quickly. Imagine, if you can, how encouraged my faith was when she sent the following text and then email to me…
“Isaiah 41:10 is the verse we are “claiming” as a family for this deployment. The boys’ necklaces say “FEAR NOT” and [my husband] wrote out that verse for them right after we found out about his deployment. We both came across Isaiah 41:10 as a verse we should use separately. God reminded me when you sent me this verse that He knows me. He is good.”

 
The following came in an email…”I don’t feel like my text adequately explained what a gift this was. Instant tears came to my eyes as soon as I saw the verse…not out of sadness, but out of humility that all mighty God cares for me that much. I shared it with the boys this morning. I want them to know God is here and at work, and that He loves us. If in the end they have a better knowledge of Him and His faithfulness, then all of this is worth it. Thanks for praying and asking God for guidance. Oh, what a difference it makes. Love you much. “

 
Honestly, there are not adequate words to color for you the joy, faith, comfort, peace and love that flooded my heart when I stepped back and took all this in. There were so many cool things that God brought together in these precious moments this morning. I was even able to go back and thank God in a different and deeper way for the trial that we went through back in March, for if we hadn’t walked through it, I wouldn’t have been desperate for that verse and I wouldn’t have written it down. God just set me at awe this morning. I never cease to be amazed at Him.

 

As I sat there taking all this in, God brought a song to my heart that I began to sing. It is a song that God used to encourage my heart after my dad died. Click on the following words to hear the song:

 
“Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone”

 
I smiled as I considered that God loves my friends so much that He is demonstrating His love for them as they begin this journey.

A journey that will be long and hard.

A journey that will require much faith and tenacity.

A journey that will test them in ways they’ve never been tested before.

A journey that will grow them in ways that nothing else can.

A journey that only God can walk them through and bring them out better on the other side.

And the cool thing is that they will never walk alone throughout the whole journey, even though they are apart from each other! God is good, just as my friend said.

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Airplane trails can be seen all across the morning and evening sky, the sun brightly marking their paths.

I ask Freddo why I have never seen so many at one time before, as I have this past year.

When I look to count them, there are 12, 13, 14 and counting. There is this childlike grin on my face and anticipation growing within me as I count them all. I tell Freddo, “Truly, I have never seen this many in the sky at one time before this past year.”

He gently says, “That’s because you are slowing down to see. You know, taking time to count the gifts”.

There it is, a reminder of what Ann Voskamp testifies of, “counting gifts slows down time”.

Even my sweet husband notices that counting gifts slows me down, proving what Ann has told so many in her “One Thousand Gifts” book…that “counting gifts slows down time”, which brings about joy.

For years I have sought this slippery word, joy, never before had I been able to grasp how to have the “joy of the Lord”.

Then I read about it in Ann Vokamps’s book. Slowly, as I soak up the book and begin to count my own list of gifts, simple, everyday things, this joy that has always been such a mystery to me, begins to show itself. Joy, not happiness.

Joy, a state of mind, that comes even when life is hard, and yet it stays despite the sadness of the days, such as were my days last year when Dad was slowly dying and Blane’s high school years were slowly draining away.

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Despite anything I tried, the days of those two lives that I desired very much to hold tight, continued to fade from my sight.HPIM1798

Any Daddy’s girl and mother of that last child at home would have felt the same, I believe…that sadness that comes when seasons are over. Gone. Never to return.

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Even then, in the tear-filled days of those fading seasons, counting gifts brought joy into my life.

By God’s grace I had learned a way to stay fully awake in the moments and have joy even though I was sad. Great is my gratefulness for finding that direct link to constant joy, Eucharisteo: thanking God in all things, bringing about grace, gratitude and joy. The journey has been hard, but I am so glad that God’s plans allowed me to walk this path, despite the pain.

And just today I was reminded that this slowing down, finding gifts, it really isn’t even about the gifts, but about the God that gives the gifts. The entire purpose of this totaling of gifts with daily persistence is to point me back to Christ with each gift I list.One thousand gift shelf

Something I am learning is a life totally focused on and fully trusting in Him is always right on target! And who wouldn’t want that?

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{Joy Dare} for Week #5 of 2013

1-21 a gift in sky, water, and memory:

#121 sky: two bald eagles taking in the scenery from two trees on our gravel road, so cool!

Eagle shot edited

Eagle in flight edited

#122 water: warm shower

#123 memory: recalling the times that we went to see the eagles with friends of ours, how small our boys were then…

#124 Hardwood floor warm from the woodstove’s fire

#125 My friend’s bathrobe, soft and cozy around me as I read my devotion

#126 Fan, noise I don’t like, forcing the warm air throughout our home

#127 Sunrise colors, hues cast all across the sky

 

1-22 a gift wrinkled, smoothed and unfolded:

#128 wrinkled: my face, showing that I have lived, laughed and loved

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#129 smoothed: floors, removing all the wood and dirt

#130 unfolded: God’s continued blessings in my life

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1-23 3 gifts found in Christ:

#131 acceptance

#132 wisdom

#133 gentleness

#134 bowl of Cheerios with a banana in it

 

1-24 3 gifts blue:

#135 brad nailer my hubby used to build a crate from scratch from materials we had in the shop (won’t be long until he will be able to make our crate coffee table, yippee)

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#136 finding Red’s bed, it was out in the shop (we had forgotten it was out there)

#137 plastic tote that holds wood for the stove

#138 14 quarts of homemade V8 juice canned today

#139 hearing a sermon yesterday telling us all that we need to ask God for wisdom when we lack it, something I needed to pray for two times today, so grateful God gave me that reminder last night at church!

 

1-25 a grace borrowed, found, and inherited:

#140 borrowed: canning colander

#141 found: a Hannah Whitall Smith book in Mom’s closet

#142 inherited: wooden bowl that my dad made when he was in school

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#143 cabin themed buttons to hot glue to a lamp shade

#144 opportunities to show love to others that don’t feel they deserve it

 

1-26 a gift before dawn, at noon and after dark:

#145 before dawn: sleep

#146 at noon: salsa made and jars in a hot water bath

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#147-150 after dark: crispy and thin homemade pizza, ice cream sandwich dessert, laughing with friends and planning a trip out west

#151 cozy home with warm lighting, #iloveourhome

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1-27 3 gifts in the kitchen:

#152 “new to us” microwave that some friends gave us

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#153 indoor/outdoor thermometer

#154 wooden silverware holder

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Several years ago we purchased a wonderful picture for a couple’s wedding shower. As soon as I saw this picture, I longed to have it to hang in our bedroom. My mom surprised me for Christmas that year with the picture. From that moment until this past weekend, I had this idea in my mind that I just couldn’t figure out how to do economically and yet in a way that I really liked.

I researched using canvas, spray painting frames, using metal and wood. I looked all over the internet and pinterest. Finally, I decided to use the different ideas I saw and come up with my own ‘plan’.

Here is a picture of what the final product looks like:

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I first chose several pictures, then opted to print them in sepia. We purchased a pine board that was 1×8 inches. We could have purchased a 1×6, but I just didn’t know what size I needed until we got it home and looked it over. This board  cost about $5. My husband, Freddo, cut the boards 4×6 for me. I sanded each piece. I desired to that the edges a bit rounded and smooth, so I used his Ryobi hand sander to do this. He cut as many pieces as one board would allow. It sure didn’t take very long to sand each one.  In this picture the board on the left has not been sanded, the one on the right, obviously has. 20130119_124806

I wiped each board down to get the sawdust off, then took them inside to paint them. I was looking for a deep wine color, but I only had brown, black, white and a cherry color acrlic paints. I know nothing about mixing colors, but by God’s grace, I created exactly the color I was looking for.

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I didn’t paint the whole board, only did the sides and a part of the front that would show once I trimmed the pictures and put them on the board.

Using modge podge and a sponge brush, I covered the top of the board with a layer so that I could attach the picture. By the time I got the last picture attached to its board the first one was dry enough to put the first layer of top coat over the sides and top to preserve the picture. After the first layer dried, I did do another layer of modge podge to make it a bit shinier.

Next we cut ribbons and used a staple gun to attach them to each board so we could hang them.

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There were so many pictures that it was a bit overwhelming when we went to hang them all. In hind sight, I would like to move the “Always Kiss Me Goodnight” picture down and place the pictures around the pictures. It would also have helped if we took more pictures vertically.

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But all in all, it was fun talking to each other about the stories behind each picture before we turned the light of last night and kissed each other good night…always.

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My week of {Joy Dare} gifts from God:

1-14 3 startling graces of God:

#85 a small job to bring in some money

#86 my thoughtful husband writing me a note and making us dinner

#87 the tape roller that went flying out of my hand unintentionally right at Freddo’s head, but missing…and the loud laughter that broke out immediately between the two of us

#88 kind encouragement from a friend

#89 time with him…priceless

1-15 a gift worn, given away and shared:

#90 worn: “College of Ozarks Mom: sweatshirt

#91 given away: chocolate peanut butter banana shake

#92 shared: prayer request

#93 hugs that ease stress

#94 finally finishing the count of my gifts found that helped me find joy and live in the moments of 2012 despite the good and bad that came…a total count of 3610 Gifts. 3610 Blessings. 3610 Joy. 3610 offerings of Grace.

1-16 3 witnessed blessings:

#95 lunch with Freddo’s dad

#96 3 different paychecks coming in one day

#97 spending about 3 hours visiting with a young lady that is a blessing, so full of desire to be a great wife, great way to spend an afternoon!!

1-17 a gift bringing laughter, prayer and quiet:

#98 bringing laughter: a video of some guy that obviously had too much to drink and some silly tv reporter recorded the interview anyway

#99 bringing prayer: the President of the United States issuing Executive Orders yesterday in regards to guns, reflecting today on the meaning of it all,

#100 bringing quiet: cooking one of Dad’s best meals (Beef Stroganoff) at my parent’s home this morning while Mom was getting ready for an appointment

#101 getting grocery list almost complete

1-18 3 gifts from God’s Word:

#102 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:1, 4 ESV

#103 “…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Ephesians 5:20 NASB

#104  “…This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:29 NASB

#105 groceries purchased

#106 Freddo getting glasses so he can clearly all the time

#107 a friend’s husband getting two job offers, God showing them which to choose, despite any confusion that came as it all played out

1-19 3 gifts that might never had been:

#108 having 18 friends at our home this evening, food and laughs galore, had God not helped me to be grateful for our home, no matter how small it is.

#109 pictures of Freddo and I hanging the wall in our bedroom, had I not been willing to begin a project I was completely unsure of.

#110 a great friendship with a sweet friend, had neither of us been unwilling to open ourselves up despite our past pain.

#111 a husband that helps and helps, just to make me smile

1-20  3 gifts only seen up close:

#112 that not everyone’s life is as perfect as it appears from afar

#113 the joy that comes to a heart when a small child snuggles up and falls asleep in your arms

#114 raw beauty when a group of people open up a bit, reveal hurts and become real with each other, taking off our masks within a community of believers, truly beautiful because this is where true healing is found

#115 wonderful lunch with friends

#116 realizing that I am a selfish person that desires to please people instead of God to change my heart

#117 hearing a sermon on overcoming anxiety, painfully convicting, especially when the pastor said, “You must recognize that anxiety is a faith battle”. I knew this, but it was eye widening when I heard him say it.

#118 that my husband is a police officer, a great one, and that I don’t have anything to fear when something strange lurks, I have confidence that he will do all he can to protect me.

#119 “love is always ready to endure whatever comes” quote from “Walk to Remember”.

#120 Discontentment begins with my unwillingness to be thankful to God for whatever He chooses to give. (A gift I learned this week)

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Last weekend Freddo and I had the best roasted chicken.

My Aunt Julie made it for us during our visit to their home. She used a vertical roaster, to cook the chicken. We were both amazed at the moistness of the chicken, even the white meat. We were excited to buy ones just like hers when we got home.

Imagine my disappointment when we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and they only carried “The Beer Can Chicken Roaster”.

Seriously? We are good Southern Baptist people…we don’t drink!! What choice did I have? There were two chickens thawed and ready to be baked at home, so we chose to buy them. They were only $5.99 each, I didn’t think that was too bad!

After arriving at home I began researching the kind of vertical roaster we had just purchased. So the next day Freddo headed to the store to get two cans of…soda. From what I read I did not need to soak the chicken in brine water since I would be putting water in the cans, the water would infusive the chickens from the inside.

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I rinsed them, patted them dry, then sprinkled the inside of the bird with lemon pepper.  I separated the skin from the breast and stuffed minced garlic in there. With the cans about half full of water, I placed the birds over the rack with the legs down, as shown in the picture.

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The chicken cooked at 350 degrees for 1 & ½ hour. When the timer when off, I sat the chickens on the stovetop and set the timer for 20 minutes. One important detail I’ve learned recently is that after cooking meat, it is important to let the meat rest when it first comes out of the oven to help the meat maintain moisture.

Since I was cooking two chickens, I should have cooked it for another 30 minutes or so. They were done, but I would have liked them to be cooked a bit more.

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Another thing I would have done was put more spices, salt and pepper on the chicken. It just didn’t have the wonderful flavor I was looking forward to. One thing I read about was to put Rosemary, Thyme and Lemon juice in the water that I put in the cans.

I must say that they were very moist, that part was not at all disappointing. I am so grateful that my aunt shared several cooking tips with me. We had such a fun time with them; it was so relaxing. God has given them the gift of hospitality.

On Saturday and Sunday of that weekend, we visited with some friends of ours that also live in Springfield.

We had a blast playing games and visiting. We laughed a lot. They may no longer be our friends after I post these pictures. It was so fun playing Head Bandz that I had to post these silly pictures. After the kids went to bed, the adults played Wits and Wagers. It is also a fun game.

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It was so fun and comforting being with my sweet friend, Traci that I hated leaving on Sunday. We were blessed to be able to worship with them at their church.

 

me and my sweet friend!

Traci, Sheila and Selah

It is such a wonderful thing to have family and friends that we don’t talk with regularly, but can spend a weekend with and it seems as though we have not been apart.

Freddo and I are so grateful for how God has blessed us.

I decided this year to try to post my Joy Dares once a week. Below you will find my list of gifts that God has blessed me with in the first week of 2013.

Joy Dare 2013

1-1  3 gifts heard:

#1 Mom telling me about doors God is opening for her

#2 Blane telling me his grades for his first semester of college (A, B-, B, C, C)

#3 my aunt calling to give me a recipe and the encouraging conversation that followed

 

#4 Freddo reminding me of his love

#5 college son’s voice in our house just before bed, he’s home again!

#6 fire crackling hot in the woodstove on a cold night

#7 a friend of Freddo’s helping us out with a situation that was totally the fault of one we love. God allowing him to take full responsibility with consequences to follow, but not anything that will harm his LE career.

1-2  a gift outside, inside and on a plate:

#8  outside: fire in the fire pit at Stephen’s Lake we warmed ourselves by while others were sledding

#9 inside: ebooks on my tablet, being able to do my Bible study on it each morning

#10 on a plate: pretzel snaps and peanut butter snack, makes me smile cause it reminds me of how Mom used to make these little sandwiches for Dad all the time

1-3  3 graces observed:

#11 our younger son deactivating his FB account to help himself be more accountable with his time

#12 Mom taking time to encourage a sweet family whose husband has suffered a stroke, it is wonderful to see her ministering to them

#13 Freddo watching the new Bible study DVD with me. Remarking that he would like to read the “One Thousand Gifts” book himself. Love this!

 

#14 blane’s help getting house clean

#15 the peace and easy breathing that comes when our home is clean

#16 daily planner that is going to help so much

#17 friends reaching out

#18 seeing a friend finding joy amidst a difficulty in her life

 

1-4  a gift old, new and blue:

#19 old: the love between Freddo and I, it is 25 years old, and yet it seems new. We both still get butterflies at times when we catch the sight of each other.

#20 new: low sugar, high fiber ice cream bars dipped in chocolate made with probiotics

#21 blue: my new One Thousand Gifts journal from a Christian bookstore in town. The front says “Joy for Today”, it seems very fitting.

 

#22 snow glittering shiny in the head lights this morning before dawn

#23 finding shampoo and gel for a friend’s son

#24 spending some time today with my man

#25 Rueben casserole, quick and easy fix for dinner and it’s delicious

#26 conversation with a new wife, so eager to be a blessing to her husband

#27 not having to spend much money on groceries this pay period

 

1-5 a gift you are reading, making, seeing:

#28 reading: “The ‘Do What You Can’ Plan” by Holley Gerth,  “Anoymous” by Alicia Britt Chole

#29 making: vertical roasted chicken

#30 seeing: snowflakes falling softly to the earth with no ill affects

 

#31 taking a shower this morning, getting clean pajamas on, fixing my hair and getting to stay home all day to play

#32 Freddo getting the berry pomegranate crystal light made

 

1-6 one gift in your bag, your fridge, your heart:

#33 bag: lip gloss

#34 fridge: cookies to make for church

#35 heart: renewed and vibrant love for my Lord that was once slipping from my grasp

#36 singing “Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
                           I’m running to Your arms
                           The riches of Your love
                           Will always be enough
                           Nothing compares to Your embrace
                           Light of the world forever reign”    with my arms high and heart abandoned this morning in worship

#37 having hands that are able to serve God

#38 upfront discussion with a friend that brought relief and tears

#39 being able to set a bit of money back

#40 planned Sunday School social at our house Saturday night, looking forward to having our home full of friends and laughter

#41 having a husband and two boys that love deeply and strong, and are able to shed tears when their hearts are hurting

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