21

I was issued the “Thankfulness Challenge” from two friends. And I will admit, it IS a challenge for me, but not in the way you might think.  The challenge was to come up with 3 things I am thankful for every day for 7 days…That’s 21 things. (Yep, I did the math, be impressed.)  ONLY 21? THAT’S the challenge!  How do I pick ONLY 21?  Thankfully, I have much to be thankful for! (That one doesn’t count, by the way.)

The other challenging part for me would be to try to prioritize them. As a chronic editor (occupational hazard), I knew I trying to group my blessings three at a time would bring me great angst, so I’ve decided to take a little license with this challenge and list 21 here.  I hope you’ll indulge me for the sake of my sanity. The writer in me simply can’t do it any other way.

1. Grace – This has to be my number one. Without grace, I am nothing. Less than nothing. Honestly, even with grace, I’m nothing too impressive, except in God’s eyes.  To Him, I’m precious and perfect, loved and redeemed, but not because of anything I’ve done. ALL because of Grace. I blow it every day. Every hour. Every minute. We all do. That’s why we need grace! I don’t even pretend to be “good”. I have NOT kept the Commandments. I can’t; you can’t. That’s the bad news. But Jesus did! THAT’S the GOOD NEWS! The Bible tells us that “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) But, OH, AMAZING Grace, how sweet the sound! THAT saved a WRETCH like me! I could stop here – that’s all I need, really… but I did promise 21.

2. God’s Word – We live in a world of many voices. I am so thankful that there is ONE constant voice I can turn to that I know is true. Oh what a treasure trove of wisdom lies within! I have God’s infallable, complete, unchanging, Holy Word recorded and available to me 24/7. How cool is that? And I don’t need anything else besides the Bible! Nothing more, nothing less! It says so!   

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” – Romans 15:4

3. Faith – Are you sensing a trend yet? Good. Yes, I am abundantly thankful for my faith in Christ alone. He is my “rock, my strength, my shield.” But MY faith has little NOTHING to do with me. My faith is a gift – given to me, by Grace, through His Word!

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” – Romans 10:17

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  – Ephesians 2:8-9

4. Marriage – Another gift God created and has given to ME! I have had the underserved blessing to be married for over 21 years (hey… there’s that number again!) And guess what – it hasn’t always made me happy. You know why? Because we are both selfish sinners!  Yep. Every marriage has ups and downs, but we made a VOW before each other and God. We’re in this for the long haul – for better or worse. I think it’s been mostly “better”, but I don’t always bring my A-game, so we’ve had our share of “worse,” too.

5. Mike – He’s stuck with me. Not sure there are two more opposite people around. The introvert, quiet, sensible, jock accountant and the extrovert, loud, impetuous, klutzy teacher. An unlikely pair to say the least. Our common denominator? (More math! I’m out of control!) We both love Jesus. Having that at the center of our marriage has made everything better – because we both realize: it’s not about US. It’s not about our happiness. It’s about bringing Him glory in all things – today and for eternity.

6. Motherhood – Another undeserved gift.  Holy cow, I am one blessed woman!  That God would entrust me to actually raise two human beings is a little overwhelming.  Have you met me?  I can’t even keep fish alive. (Seriously, Rainbow Swimmy Longtail, I’m sorry I let you go down the sink.  But I’m NOT sorry that I hit the disposal button instead of sticking my hand down the drain to get you out, because you were a fish and fish are slimly.  Yeah. Sorry, not sorry.)  Somehow, in God’s infinite mercy, he has blessed us with two of the most amazing kids in the world and we get to love them and try to raise them in a way that is pleasing to Him!

  • Ryanne is quite simply the most diligent and disciplined kid person I’ve ever met.  It might be easy to chalk her successes up to “luck” or even “talent,” but others don’t see the HOURS of practice she puts in daily.  This teenager rarely watches t.v. or movies, instead she reads classic literature and blogs about it – all the time.  And, honestly, she was born this way.  That a disorganized, easily distracted mom would be given a kid who actually asked for a LABELER for Christmas is evidence not only of God’s unmerited favor but of His sense of humor.
  • And Seth – I know at 15 it’s not “cool” to call him sweet, but that kid has a heart of gold.  I wish I saw the world the way he does.  A friend once described him as “without guile.”  Oh, to be without guile!  To think the best of everyone and everything?  What a gift!  His accomplishments don’t always come with a blue ribbon, but he is a 1st place friend.  Loyal to the core and faithful to the end.  You seriously want Seth as your friend.  He would give you the shirt off his back, unless you want his “More Cowbell” shirt… he might keep that one.

But beyond any traits they might have or accolades they might earn, the biggest blessing is that they both love Christ and have committed to following Him and honoring Him with their lives.  That’s enough.  Anything beyond that for me is icing on the cake.  (Oh, and I’m thankful for cake!)

Okay, I’m going to pick up the pace now…

7. Family – Thankful for amazing parents and wonderful inlaws. That both Mike and I were raised in Christian homes is a blessing for which we are both grateful. We have incredible extended family, far and near, too. We love and pray for all of you regularly!

8. Our church – We may not have a building (yet), but we belong to the most amazing fellowship of believers! Thankful for a church where God’s Word is faithfully preached and imperfect people come to learn about and serve a perfect Savior! This is our forever family! Love our STBC peeps! Need a great church? Look no further than San Tan Bible!

friendship19. Friends – To have ONE friend is a blessing. To have MANY?  Oh, what a joy!  I know I’m “a bit much” at times… maybe all the time. But I’m thankful for friends who know me well… and love me all the same! My dance card is NEVER too full for another friend.  If you think of me as your friend, know that I’ve got your back!  Thanks for having mine!

10. Prayer – People, if we know Christ as our Savior, we can “boldly approach the throne of Grace!” Whoa…. We have, in Jesus, a savior,  a friend, AND the ONE high priest who intercedes on our behalf. Isn’t that AWESOME?! Seriously, I can’t even…. Can I pray for YOU? I consider it a privilege and an honor. Will you pray for me?

11. Laughter – Oh, what a gift. We MUST laugh EVERY day… not because every day is fun, but because there is always reason to rejoice. I hope I make you laugh from time to time. Laugh with me, laugh at me. I’m a dork; I own it.

12. Music – Is there anything better? From those first “Twinkle, Twinkle” notes of a budding musician to a full Beethoven symphony… it’s all glorious to me!

quotes-about-music1 13. Babies – Their smiles, their smells (the good ones), their eyes, their laughs – if only someone could figure out how to bottle baby laughter. Oh, how can you look at the face of a baby and not know that he or she was intentionally, deliberately, miraculously created by God?

14. Teaching – I just love it. The end.

15. Struggles – Wait, what? Yes. I’m thankful for struggles. You know what has grown me most? Trials. What has strengthened my faith? Hardships. What leads me to depend more on the Lord? The “bad” times. And I’m thankful for YOUR struggles, too, because they can draw you closer to Him… if you’ll let them. Just don’t waste your struggles. Use them, grow from them, share them (just don’t always do it dramatically on facebook, because that tends to just be whining. K? K.)

16.Beauty – In creation, in art, in poetry, in music… Yes, there is ugliness in the world, but there is also great beauty! Take time to look for the beauty in people and the world around you!

17. Failures – Yes, thankful for those, too. Because they keep us humble… and I’m humbled ALL the time. We can’t give up. As a wise fish once said, “Just keep swimming!” failure 18. Ice cream (which sometimes helps with failures).

19. Literature – Read. But not just anything… something GOOD! Oh, how I love a good read!

20. Technology – Admittedly, a blessing and a curse. To be able to connect with someone around the world as easily as around the corner? Priceless. Technology can make the world small. Use it wisely.

21. Grace – Oh, did I mention that already? Well, it’s worth mentioning again, because I not only am thankful that I receive it, I’m thankful that – because of Christ – I can extend it. I blow it. You blow it. Just know that if you ever blow it with me, I’ll forgive you. I’ve been forgiven so much, how could I not?  I hope you’ll extend the same to me. Grace… it’s a most wonderful thing!

Thanks for reading my thankfulness list! I’m thankful that you did!  🙂 And if you did – I challenge YOU!  Share them however you want, even if it’s just a few things.  But be thankful – in everything!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

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“A kid at a time, a school at a time, a year at a time.” Yes. Just. Yes.

I am a fan of Tim Challies, am a frequent reader of his blogs, and have learned a great deal through his “Discerning Reader” site.

As a Christian family with two kids in public school, we have often found ourselves having to defend our schooling choice.  It was not a choice we made without great, ongoing consideration and we have never regretted that decision, but it is nice to have someone else articulate our position.

We have thoughtfully and deliberately placed our children in public schools.  Our oldest will graduate – strong faith firmly intact- with top academic, music, and volunteerism honors next year. Our youngest will start high school in the fall.  Yes, there have been a few bumps, but that’s a part of growing up.  We have had mostly wonderful, caring, and competent teachers – and have yet to encounter the radical “indoctrination” so often claimed to be the norm (typically) by those outside the public school system.

One of the greatest blessings we have seen is that our children are both regularly commended for their character and leadership among their peers.  They are both bothered by the hypocrisy they see among peers who claim Christ one day and deny Him with their behavior the next – some of those peers are in public schools, some attend Christian schools, and some are home schooled.

As a “retired” secondary teacher with a degree in English, a Master’s degree in curriculum design, and various specialty endorsements, I am probably well-equipped to home school, but we did not feel called to that.  However,  I have told many friends who have had a desire to home school that God always equips those He calls – rather than always calling those who feel equipped.  I wish the same grace would be extended to us.

I have always contended that the most successful kids come from loving homes with engaged, involved parents – regardless of where they learn algebra.  We know some fantastic, smart, lovely children who have been homeschooled – as well as some amazing public school kids.  We also know homeschooled kids who are arrogant and condescending as well as public school kids who are disrespectful and lazy…all products of their home environments.

Every time there is a shooting at a school, at least one homeschooling friend will typically post something like, “That’s why we home school.”  Really?  Is that also why you don’t go to malls or movies?  This infighting needs to stop.  Supporting families raising kids in the admonition of the Lord should not lead to intramural insult.

So, thank you, Tim Challies.  Honestly, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

http://www.challies.com/articles/10-lessons-from-10-years-of-public-schooling

A Dream Deferred: A Reflection and a Resolution

No, this was not the summer we envisioned.

God is in control, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t disappointed, sad, frustrated.

Proud of my girl’s response (her blog post below) and thankful the outpouring of support by friends and pianists near and far.

A Dream Deferred: A Reflection and a Resolution.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  – Psalm 34:18

Countdown to Summer…

Ah… April in Arizona.  The time when “spring” temps start to creep into the upper 90s and kids begin their countdown to freedom.  As of today, we have only four weeks left of school.  Four weeks full of tests and projects and papers and assemblies and concerts and fieldtrips and… how in the world will we survive it all?  Something is sure to slip through the cracks.  At least, if you are at all like me it will.

Last week (in my excitement over surviving another tax season – Boo-ya!), I forgot kid #2 at school.  Not forgot a little, forgot a LOT. Forty-five minutes after school got out I looked around and realized “something” was missing… apparently it was my brain.  Sent the DH out to get him and found that he was nearly home, drenched in sweat, and slightly sunburnt.  (I did point out that if he had remembered his cell phone, he could have called to remind me that he needed a ride that day… so maybe technically it was HIS fault I forgot.  He didn’t buy it, but you can’t fault me for trying.)

Later, same kid reminds me that he needs materials for a big science project they were starting in class in the morning.  “Tomorrow?  And you’re telling me this at 8:00?!”   Yeah… he had given me the supply list two weeks earlier and I had promised to get right on it.  Strike 2.  Good thing Target is open late.

These things never would have happened in September. September Mom would have been early; April Mom is much less responsible.  I will admit, it’s good to know that at least I’m not alone.  Enjoy this hilarious blog post from last year and hang in there, moms; it’s almost summer!

http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/30/worst-end-of-school-year-mom-ever

A Dash of Color

What color are YOU reading?

A Bookish Charm

When we think about books, especially about what type of books we prefer, we tend to categorize them into genres, time periods, literary movements, etc. Today, during a visit to the library, my school librarian commented that The Maze Runner and Divergent are silver. This seemed a completely logical statement to me and I added that I needed a silver book as ebony (such as the works of Charles Dickens) was too deep a tinge for the moment. Then, I realized: books truly can be described simply through colors (and the occasional pattern.) This sounds whimsical, but to any serious reader, whimsy and sense are actually quite similar.

Anyway, my thoughts took the loveliest turn this evening as I considered which of my favorite books are best represented by which colors and I came to some entertaining conclusions. For example:

Anne of Green Gables– a pale, minty green speckled with purplish…

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The Trophy Generation

The year was 2002. A tall blonde girl with colorful ribbons tied in her hair that matched her jersey stepped onto the basketball court for what would be her first and last season. She “played” in every game, yet never scored a point. In fact, she only attempted two shots and rarely even touched the ball since she would duck and scream every time a teammate made the unfortunate choice to pass it her direction.

“Shoot it! Shoot it!” We screamed idealistically. Game after game. Alas, it was not to be.

If you are expecting a great comeback story or a tale about the triumph of the human spirit, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The truth is, this kid just wasn’t good at basketball and she couldn’t have cared less.

League rules required that each player participate for a minimum amount of minutes per game, so she was guaranteed time on the court. League rules also guaranteed a trophy at season’s end – win or lose – for every player. So the girl proudly stepped forward, posed for the team photo, and accepted her prize.

ball

For what? Attendance? Heavens, give me the trophy. I’m the one who drove her to practices. I’m the one who sat through loss after loss with the forced smile and the “you’ll get ’em next time” attitude. I’m the one who organized the team snack schedule. I’m the one who avoided making eye contact with the parents of kids who actually knew how to catch and throw…Where’s my trophy?!

We’ve all heard the saying “If everybody’s special, then nobody is.”   Well, that’s only partly right; no, everybody can’t be special at EVERYTHING, but everybody can be special at SOMETHING. The key is to find out what that something is. And not all somethings give trophies, but that’s okay.

You see, the ribboned girl who was miserably bad at basketball would have much rather have been home playing piano or reading a book. So, not surprisingly, those are the areas in which she has excelled.  She’s earned numerous awards for music, writing, and academics. But you know what? She tends to question their significance. “Well, there were only ten other entries.” “I don’t think they must have been scoring very hard.” “I’m not really sure I deserved this.”

What have we done? Perhaps the “prizes for all” approach has more damaging effects than we imagined.   Perhaps giving trophies for everything affects our perception of accolades for anything. Maybe those early “wins” designed to spare littles’ feelings have resulted in making them feel that there really aren’t honors to be earned, but rather that every certificate, ribbon, and medal lacks true significance because so many are simply tokens of participation.  Not only are legitimate prizes devalued, but often the work needed to achieve an actual goal is undermined.

I get it. We don’t want six-year-olds to cry. But perhaps we should worry less about hurting their feelings and more about preparing them for life. In the real world you don’t get a trophy for showing up. In grown-up land, you are expected to show up and accomplish things.  In fact, you are PENALIZED for not doing so. Better to learn this lesson early.

I fear that society is already reaping the rewards of the “trophy for participation” generation.

I work with young adults who want to enter the teaching profession. To be fair, some of the twenty-somethings I work with are really, really impressive. For example, I supervised a young man last year who was bright, articulate, responsible, wise … oh, yeah, all while battling leukemia. He never made excuses. He never missed a deadline. He was never anything other than mature and competent.

Give that kid a trophy.

Actually, he doesn’t need one. He’s got something better going for him. He’s earning a living and establishing his professional reputation. How? By being really good at what he does every day. By showing up when others don’t, but not expecting any special recognition for doing what people have been expected to do for generations – their jobs.

Sadly, this young man seems to be a rarity among his peers. It has been my experience that many twenty-somethings expect to be given an “A” for effort… and sometimes not even that. They don’t seem to realize that when they don’t show up, complete the work, meet the deadline, or work well with others, it reflects badly on them and affects other people. They expect to be told “great job” regardless of how many mistakes they make. They want a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum academically or professionally and sometimes even CRY when their errors are pointed out. Seriously.

They seem to believe that “really wanting something” is the same as “really earning something.” It’s not.

We would do well to teach this generation about working hard and that includes expecting failure from time to time and growing from those experiences. And maybe we should think twice about just giving them all trophies so that they will know what it feels like to actually earn something of worth… so that when they do, it will actually have value and mean something rather than just being another mass-produced token of nothingness.

As the old Smith Barney ad used to say, “We make money the old-fashioned way. We EARN it.” Hmmm…maybe they had something there. We can’t afford another entitlement generation. Something’s got to change.

Oh, and don’t be surprised if you see a teacher-of-the-year named “Jake” in a few years. Because there are still good reasons for trophies. I’m okay with that.