Category Archive: Giving thanks

Joy and Pain in Tandem

I was part of an extended family who lived together in the ghetto, in men’s and women’s staff homes. We ate together, worshipped together, and ministered together. When one of us, or of those to whom we ministered, was hurting, we all hurt. When we learned of incest, of some of our young teens selling their bodies, of the death of some we loved, we shared the pain.

  • In case you don’t recognize me, I’m the one sitting on the floor, top right photo; and the blonde on the right, lower left photo.

When gang members threw bricks through the women’s staff windows and we received threats of death or mutilation, our staff guys came and sat with us ’til two or three in the morning, until we were calm enough to sleep for a few hours.

When our teen girls taught us white Mennonite girls (who didn’t dance) their moves, I was the proud winner of the dance contest. Yes, there were only three of us in competition, but still …

When a few of us drove down the street and saw a woman in a phone booth, bleeding, we stopped to help.

We laughed and shared retreats, Bible studies, and music together, within our staff and with our teen choir. We prayed and saw God answer prayers for us, and for community members. We led Bible studies, teen and children’s clubs, distributed food and clothing as we became aware of specific needs.

Many teens, and some adults, committed their lives to Christ during the ten years I served there. And while it was a time that eventually resulted in burnout, fatigue, a decimated immune system, and some long-lasting painful effects, there is still so much for which I am thankful.

I’m thankful for …

  • The God whose heart is for reconciliation, so much so that He sent His Son, Jesus, to be sacrificed to provide the way of reconciliation between God and mankind … for me, for the world.
  • Co-workers who ministered together amid fear, joy, and the reward of seeing children, teens and adults reconciled to God through Christ.
  • These dear friends who challenged me, and each other, to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
  • Those who came to faith in Jesus Christ, who now have established Christian homes and are living out their faith in their communities.
  • The opportunity to serve, to rely on God in unfamiliar situations, to watch Him work through my weakness.
  • Deep friendships that were broken for a time, but have been renewed, reconciled, and are meaningful and rich with love.
  • Family and friends who prayed for and supported us in the ministry and its challenges (and after!), and for the wise, godly counselor who helped me heal after leaving this ministry.

So, sometimes joy and pain co-exist. The loss of a dear spouse, when there is joy for the years spent together and that suffering is over, alongside the agony of loss.

The pain of illness along with the joy of growing nearer to Christ.

The loss of a friendship along with thankfulness for God’s presence within the pain. And sometimes, the reconciliation of those friendships.

Can you think of a time when you felt both pain and joy in a situation? When you experienced reconciliation? How did that encourage your heart?

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

II Corinthians 5:18-21; II Corinthians 12:9-10

Thanks Giving

My third-grade kids were seated around a table in the school gym. I asked questions about keeping promises. Several related incidents in which someone had kept a promise.

Then Erica spoke up. “I promised to be Tracy’s best friend forever, but now she’s not my friend any more.” Erica had confronted Tracy about some behavior and Tracy told her she’s no longer her friend. Matthew, who can be disruptive at times and has a very short attention span, turned to her. “I’m sorry that happened to you.”

I was amazed and thankful for his sensitivity and kindness.

I found a poem on the back cover of a book about my heritage: Jacob’s Journey, edited by Barbara and Timothy Dyck. The poem’s author is not named so I assume it is unknown. But it touched me as we think of all who have gone before and prepared the way for the lives, freedoms, and the hope with which we live. I am copying it here.

“Lord, we keep forgetting all those who lived before us,

We keep forgetting those who lived and worked in our communities.

We keep forgetting those who prayed and sang hymns in our churches before we were born.

We keep forgetting what our parents have done for us.

We commit the sin, Lord, of assuming that everything begins with us.

We drink from wells we did not find,

We eat food from farmland we did not develop.

We enjoy freedoms which we have not earned.

We worship in churches which we did not build.

We live in communities we did not establish.

This day, make us grateful for our heritage. Amen.”

SONY DSC

So, as we enter a week when we focus on giving thanks, I am grateful for third graders who have a tender heart toward others, for the children with whom I have the privilege of sharing God’s love and mine.

I am grateful for my forbears, who fought for freedom, who left a country where they could not worship as they chose to establish roots in a place where they could, and I can, worship the God of our fathers.

I am grateful for my husband and family, whose love has challenged, encouraged and sustained me through the years.

I am thankful for you, my readers, who respond and give feedback to my ramblings.

I am eternally grateful for the love of Jesus Christ, which gives me hope, forgiveness, salvation, peace, love, joy … and who will continue his good work in me until he returns or takes me Home.

” …being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6 NIV

For what are you most thankful?

Unexpected Interruptions (they’re always unexpected aren’t they!)

I walked out of my meeting, stepped into my car, and turned the key. The engine sputtered and died.

After trying to start the care several times without success, I called Triple A for a tow. I was pleased that one of their first questions was “Are you and your car in a safe place?” (We were.)

My mechanic determined the car had a fuel pump failure, then went above and beyond to ask the dealer if this defect might be covered under warranty. After haircuts and lunch with stepson Brad and his wife Cathy, I once again called Triple A.

Don and I waited about two hours at our mechanic’s until the truck arrived to tow the car to the dealership. Charlie told me if it turned out to be a defective fuel pump it would cost me nothing to repair. If it was not that, it could run me about $3000. Ouch! My car has been wonderful, reliable, well maintained. This was not something I had planned for, nor could I afford it.

So Don and I had already lost two days to wait time/ tow trucks/ car trouble. But we were thrilled when the dealer called to tell us the repair would be fully covered. Thank you, Lord!

They did find two other repairs that needed to be done and we authorized those–but at a significantly lower cost than the possible $3000 had the fuel pump repair not been covered.

Today was a full day. Don and I had an appointment, then breakfasted at Le Boulangerie. After that I took a sputum sample into a lab in Los Gatos (I give these monthly to check on a non-contagious lung infection that is very difficult to eradicate and which I’ve had for several years already).

The car dealer called and told us the car was ready for pickup, so Paige and I returned home, I picked Don up and we headed to pick up the car. Although they had projected keeping the car for five days (over the holida), waiting for delivery of the needed parts, the parts arrived Saturday morning and the repairs were complete!

I have my car again, hopefully good for many miles to come. And I’m thankful for my auto mechanic who goes beyond “We’ll fix it for $___” to research ways to help customers save money and get effective corrections made.

Thanks Bill, Fiona, and Charlie! And thank you Lord for caring for my smallest needs, ensuring this didn’t happen the day before we leave on vacation, or across the hill, or at night …

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

I Peter 5:7 NLT

May we recognize in those difficult moments the grace of God that sustains, provides, and cares for us.

Thanks-giving

Do you feel stuffed after all the delicious Thanksgiving vittles?

I’ve managed pretty well with food this week; but I do feel fat with friendship! There is much for which I’m thankful this weekend. For one, California has gotten rain, blessed rain, this week. While that makes it more difficult to look for human remains among the horrendous fires we’ve had this month, it helped contain the fires and clear the bad air quality that’s hovered over many of us. While we continue to pray for, and grieve with, those who have lost loved ones, homes and pets, it has been refreshing to see blue skies once again.

  • I’m thankful for a kind-hearted, gracious, fun and thoughtful husband
  • That my almost 97-year old mother is still with us
  • For loving families and friends
  • For our Paigey
  • For the desk my husband, his son and my nephew moved to our new home this week; so glad to be getting more organized and have increased usability
  • Most of all, I’m thankful that God loves me enough to pursue me, even when I feel distant from him. He gave his son, Jesus, to pay the price for my sins and to give me hope, a future, and the promise of eternal life with him.

And I realized something else. Now that Don and I live in an over-55 community, I’m using the “Nextdoor” internet application more than in the past. I found our new veterinarian through online recommendations. Don and I just made reservations to take Mom to a special event at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts for her birthday and Christmas (two days apart). She’s having increased difficulty walking, so I researched wheelchair rentals. Then I remembered the “Nextdoor” online site, where I posted a request to borrow or rent a wheelchair for one day. I’ve received about 15 responses, from “The Villages Medical Auxilliary loans them out free of charge;” to “I have one you can borrow.” What a wonderful resource! It is meaningful to have a community I can ask for recommendations, to borrow something, or for information.

I think we need a “Nextdoor” for local Christians. We could request input on challenges, ask for prayer, encourage each other, or seek practical help i.e. rides to church, meals for ill folks, respite for caregivers …

But wait! That’s what the Church is called to be. We’re exhorted to hold each other accountable, to pray for, hold each other up, encourage and challenge each other as we all grow into maturity in Jesus Christ.

The most meaningful relationships in my life have been those in which sharing was open and vulnerable and responses were loving, God-honoring, challenging me to be all God wants me to be in word, thought and deed. Trust is a key factor in this kind of relationship, which can be with a marriage partner or a same-gender friend. Confessing my faults, fears, hopes is not for the purpose of gossip or even of sharing externally for “prayer,” but to open myself to another so God can work His life more deeply into mine, knowing what is shared remains inviolate.

And so I am thankful for my husband and for those women God has put into my life for mutual encouragement. Some of you know who you are. Thank you! I can be deceived and give in to wrong thinking or actions. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (NIV)

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV

Question: How have others encouraged or challenged you in your faith? Have you thanked them for building into your life?

 

Complaints–or Gratitude?

Thankfulness–I’ve been remiss! I realized this morning in our church service that I’ve been grousing about our move, the effort and time it is taking, etc., etc., etc. I’ve been only half-joking when I say I hope I don’t have to move again until I transfer to heaven. Instead of complaining, I should be thankful. And I am. Let me count the ways:

  • I’m thankful we have a lovely home and are able to move into another beautiful spot for a new season of life. Many do not have the option to live anywhere other than where they are.
  • I’m thankful for my darling husband, whose birthday is today. We celebrated with tapas at our local Tortilla Flats. We’ve been married eight wonderful years and are both still active and enjoying life together. I cannot imagine trying to make this move alone!
  • I’m thankful we had the opportunity to choose where we will live.
  • I’m thankful for family and friends who love, pray for, and help us along the way! As I write this, one of our friends is on the scaffold my hubby built to put on our truck bed in order to power wash our house prior to putting it on the market. Other friends have helped me pack. I’m deeply thankful for many who are giving of their time and energy to help us prepare for our move.
  • I’m thankful we can give things away that we no longer need, and hope they will bring joy or help to others. I think one of the blessings of moving is sorting, determining what is still important or necessary, and saying “Thanks and goodbye” to the rest. There are so many in need. We can help some by what we do with our excess.
  • I’m thankful we will have less to deal with in our new home. “Stuff” can weigh us down emotionally, physically, spiritually.
  • I’m thankful for the memories we’ve built here, the friends we’ve made, the family and people needing respite whom we have been privileged to host and learn from, and the beauty that surrounds us in the foothills near Santa Cruz. And I look forward to the new memories we will create in The Villages.
  • I’m thankful we’ll be nearer my mother, brother and two nephews; and one of Don’s sons. While it will take time to unpack and settle in, we will relax a bit more, take more walks together, and have less property to care for.
  • I’m thankful for a wonderful church, Twin Lakes in Aptos, which we’ve been part of for the past six years.  Both Don and I were touched this morning as Pastor Rene gave a very clear update about the safety of children in the church’s Sunday school as well as K-8 classes. We grieve at news about children becoming victims of teachers and assistants and even church workers. Rene wanted to ensure that parents, grandparents, perpetrators, and the church know that Twin Lakes will not only not cover up any reported abuse but will expose it to the proper authorities for investigation and justice; that our children WILL be safe in the TLC environment. Having known of situations in which predatory behavior was overlooked or covered up, I’m deeply grateful for a church that stands for righteoussness and truth in EVERY area. We will miss so much about this church but trust God will lead us to one closer to our new home where we can learn and serve.

    New children’s building we helped with at TLC

  • Photo by Tong Nguyen van on Unsplash

    I’m thankful we don’t move often! (chuckle)

    It’s easy to get mentally overloaded with too much to do, to think of, to follow up on, and allow the really important things to slide–quiet times with God, walks with loved ones, playing ball with Paigey. Then I need to take inventory, review my priorities and start to say no, whether to activities, to deadlines, to busyness.

I choose to be thankful.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  I Thessalonians 5:18 NLT