Monday, March 28, 2011

Counting Gifts -- Week of March 28, 2011

"I remember the days of old,
I think about all Your deeds,
I meditate on the works of Your hands.
I stretch out my hands to You;
my soul thirsts for You like a parched land.
Let me hear of Your steadfast love in the morning,
for in You I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
for to You I lift up my soul."
Psalm 143: 5,6,8

I have gone back to these verses many times this past week. They so perfectly give the progression of the heart that SEES. To remember and think about what He has done, to stretch out open hands for more. . . it all brings me full circle to want more, to hear more, to trust more, to follow closer. . . and to lift my soul to Him in gratitude, worship and praise. And so the list continues. . .

131. Veggie plants still growing --- I haven’t killed them off yet.

132. An always smiling, happy UPS lady.

133. Peach iced tea and my old rocker on the porch. I’m sounding so old!!!! I remember as a kid thinking only old ladies sat on their porches, doing nothing but rocking back and forth. How did I get here so quickly?

134. Watching Buster with his “big blue ball”. He’s had it since the very first day I got him. He still attacks it, runs with it, taunts me with it, and runs some more.

135. God’s patience as I learn to be thankful. As I learn to SEE thankful. As I learn to pray thankful.

136. An email of encouragement from a friend. Load-lifter, burden bearer, bright light in a dark corner, a hand that pulls me along when I’d rather hang back.

137. Reading. I had almost given up. I always loved to read, always had a book. But something seemed to affect my ability to concentrate and I gave up. Perhaps chemo, I don’t know. But I’m so thankful to be reading again. Learning, studying. . .all a passion of mine.

138. A new book --- really, an OLD book --- called, The Valley of Vision. It is a book of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. I will admit and confess to you, I’m a nosey person. If I see a book in your hands, or on your table, or in a picture, I want to know what it is, is it good, and I want to read it. I saw this book in a picture on one of the days of Ann’s postings over at Holy Experience. I think she also quoted a few lines from it.
Strange that I would say this, but I don’t often read books of prayers, or memorize someone else’s prayer, etc. I say “strange” because most of my own personal writings, poems, etc., are words from my heart directly aimed at Heaven and God’s ears. Why would I not read the prayers of others???? So I began. One by one by one, I felt as if I were being taken to the very Throne of Grace. If it be true that we learn to pray by hearing others pray, then, Oh Lord, open my ears and teach me as I read these.

139. Thank you, My Father, for prayer. For listening. For asking me to come. For hearing prayers as short as, “Wow, Lord, did You see that?!” all the way to the soulful, tearful, unending cries of my heart.

140. Thank you for teaching me Who and What you are. Abba -- Daddy! El Elyon -- the Most High God, and all Your most precious Names. What a profound, unique way to teach your children who and what and where you are --- names that describe You, what you are like, what you can do, and how you relate to to me.
Today, I call you El Roi -- the God who sees ME. Sees me as I am in my imperfections, my fears, my lack of trust, my stumbling, my fumbling ways. The God who sees it all, and still -- again and again -- bends down and whispers “It is I who sees you, who will pick you up, and open your eyes to see ME.”

141. A sunset beyond beautiful -- beyond any that I’ve ever seen. There it was, as It turned into my street, the biggest ball of flaming red sinking slowly in the west and into the Gulf.

142. Endless singing of birds! Am I just more aware of it this year or do we just have VERY happy birds this year? Cardinals, Mockingbirds, titmice, chicadees, wrens -- add a few woodpeckers, a crow here and there. . . It’s never ending!

143. Spinach! Last year, I tried growing some New Zealand Spinach. I know, it’s not REALLY spinach. But it is supposed to be close, and it’s supposed to grow in warmer climates ---- hence, my trying it here in Florida. It grew last year, but very slowly, and I lost interest in the heat of summer, etc. I left it in it’s pot like a left over weed. This spring, I dumped the pot of dirt into the wheelbarrow, mixed in new compost, dirt, etc. and filled another pot. Before I could plant something new, the spinach came back. Not only came back, but filled out this HUGE pot with lush happy branches. And it’s perfect ---- almost like a silk plant. I’ve already cut it once and loved it raw in my salad. But here it is, hanging all over my pot and ready to be cut again. Now I wish I had planted more.

144. The never ending drumming of a determined woodpecker. Sweet little thing! Turning a dream of a new home into a headache and a reality!

145. Digging in my trash for cans I threw out yesterday. I want to make Tammy’s bread, all baked up nice in cans. You can find her post here:

146. Skype call with big sister!

147. Coffee with little sister!

148. It’s official. Came in writing in the mail that mammogram is normal. I figured that no call from the Dr. was good news, but . . . I just wanted to know . . . For sure. I say I trust. “Oh for grace to trust You more!”

149. I mourn the loss of three who recently lost their fight with this dreaded disease. But I am thankful for their brave and heroic fight, their fearless hearts, their faith and their grace. And in my thankfulness for my gift of another day, I look for more. . .all around me. . . More graces, more gifts, clearer vision. I wonder, did I live worthy of this day? Worthy of the gifts given to me freely and abundantly?

150. Looking back. Where I came from. All the way back to memories of my grandmother’s basement apartment. I could still hear her yelling, “Don’t slam the. . . .” as the screen door with the spring went BANG! Back to hiding in large, dark closets, back to hiding my fears. All the way back, looking at my footprints as they journeyed on . . . On to the cross. And I ask why? Why choose ME? Why wear a crown of thorns for me? Oh love, that wilt not let me go. . . .

151. My “littles” in life -- all the things that seem “everyday, take-for-granted” things. Like dish soap, sugar for my coffee, finding the right sized lid to the right sized pot, remembering to buy laundry detergent, ink in the printer, and enough shampoo for one more shower (please, Lord, don’t let me forget on the next trip out!)

152. Did I mention Spinach??? I picked enough for dinner, along with more mustard greens. Just the best ever! Even Buster likes it, silly dog.

153. Good news! REALLY good news! A friend who was going through all kinds of tests because Dr.s thought her Breast Cancer had returned, got her results back. NO CANCER! Thank you, Lord! When I had not heard sooner, I feared the worst! I am NOT good at waiting. I did continue to pray, though, even through my doubting and worst of fears. Why do I just see the Lord smiling right now with a “Will she ever learn” type of look on His face.

154. Watching tiny Sycamore leaves growing bigger every day.

155. Watching squirrel pulling on tiny Sycamore leaves and eating them!!!!!

156. Putting out seed for hungry squirrel!

157. (Next morning) Squirrel sitting in empty feeder threatening to rip more tiny leaves if I don’t hurry with more seed!!!!

158. The sound of my coffee maker dripping. Not sure which I like better, the sound of an old perc coffee pot on the stove or the automatic drip. My Aunt Jen made the best coffee in her little aluminum perculator pot on the stove! Years back, my sister always used a glass one. Me? I’ve either bought it out or used the automatic drip. Never learned the art of true coffee making!

159. A meaningful Bible study continuing in I Peter 2 with a chocolate chip cookie.

160. Fellowship with people who bring chocolate cookies and who are eager to hear God’s word and do what it says.

161. All that I have is all that I need.

162. Knowing that tomorrow, if there is anything else that I need, He will see to it that I have it.

163. Streams of sunlight through the trees bring birds who awaken with a song. Always a song first. . . Then check the feeders. Where did I hear that before????? Give Thanks BEFORE the blessing????

164. Macaroni salad. All mixed up with sun-dried tomatoes, celery, onions, relish, eggs, mayo, relish, mustard -- touch of cayenne pepper. . . .I’m in Heaven!

165. Pan fried pork chops, saurkraut all sautéed with bacon, apples, and apple juice.

166. Green. Everything is green. That new, fresh, springtime green. Do we just get used to it as summer comes on, or does the green change? It’s just so. . . . .GREEN right now!

167. Little chips of wood floating to the ground! I look up and there he is. A little downy woodpecker has pecked a hole in the tree. He’s gone far enough to be totally inside, flinging out unwanted “stuff.” Wood chipper for free!

168. A week of devotionals that are delivered in my email box. They are taken from the book by Ann Spangle about the Names of God. This week, they were about The Bright and Morning Star. I went back several times and reread this particular week.

169. Fellowship and worship with believers.

170. Finding out my sister has read 1000 Gifts and is counting.

171. Music night at our church. Once a month, “music night” alternates where we have it -- either our church or another “sister” church in our area. We were the hosts last night. The church was full, the music was great!
Add to that, a baptism. Perhaps one of my favorite services to witness. It always reminds me of the day I was baptized, reminds me of my own confession of faith. But to hear the testimonies of others is just wonderful. I love the stories of others -- where they’ve been, how they came to know the Lord, their growth and desire to follow Him. Tonight was special --- two men I’ve come to know and respect greatly were baptized.

172. Good food and fellowship afterwards.

173. Jello salad that didn’t set in time. More for me on Monday.

174. Making roasted potatoes, carrots and onions with sausage and a bunch of deviled eggs. Isn’t it always the way ----- just when you are taking eggs to a church function, you get a batch that just won’t peel pretty??? NOT a good thing for the “crabby gourmet” here. Buster got a good amount of eggs yesterday!

175. Waking up to rain! It’s been so dry here lately. And I didn’t listen to the weather reports over the weekend, so it was truly “showers of blessings.” Nothing better than the sound of a slow rain and the dripping off the roof.

176. Tree bark that turns all dark when wet, set against the bright clean and shiny green leaves of spring.

177. Squirrels that seem to know there are little rivers of water flowing down in between the bark. It’s so cute to see them hanging on, getting little drinks with cupped hands. And watching them instinctively run for the underside of a branch when it rains too hard. Nature’s umbrella!

178. The sound of splashing puddles as cars fly down the street.

179. Inspiration and thoughts of obediently following:

To bend the knee and have to put it down,
to pick up thorns to weave a painful crown,
to cast aside a jewel for nails placed in my hand --
His way is best, and better than I planned!"

To leave behind that which is not a cross,
to count as gain what seems a heavy loss,
to bear the scars of wounds from long ago --
His way is best, it’s all I need to know.

To choose to stay, to burn within the flame;
see! gold comes forth to glorify His name.
Unnoticed, cast aside are ashes cold --
dreams I longed to keep but could not hold.

Tears that burn, but still I choose to sing;
blistered feet yet still, I’m following --
Stepping in His footprints in the sand --
His way is best, and better than I planned.

There is nothing better than going from blog to blog and reading the lists that others are keeping. I feel that I'm standing in one big, continual shower of blessings that I just never saw before. You can find all these gratitude counters at Ann's blog, A Holy Experience, by clicking on the following link:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I am, I think, I Know. . .

I am, I think, I know,.....

I am: A two year survivor (no WARRIOR) of Breast Cancer.
I think: about food all the time.
I know: less and less every day. I learn more about what I what I don’t know or what I thought I new.
I want: to be able to live so that no matter when that last day comes, my life will have counted for eternity.
I have: a hard time moving out of my comfort zones.
I dislike: when I see someone teased, belittled or bullied.
I miss: Eating anything I like and as much of it as I like and still be skinny (like when I was a kid).
I fear: Doing anything in public.
I feel: Very deeply about other‘s feelings and their pain and suffering..
I hear: Songs. Always in my head. Always the birds outside.
I smell: not anymore, I just showered.
I crave: Anything sweet. I would rather sweet than the best meat and potato dinner in the world.
I search: For my purpose in life. What God wants from me with this “second chance” at life.
I wonder: Is this it? Could it be He‘s done with me?.
I regret: Sweating all the small stuff in life. REALLY small.
I love: My roudy, misbehaved, anxiety-ridden, disobedient, self-willed Lab, Buster.
I care: About people who are hurting.
I am always: hours early.
I worry: about my tomorrows. I know I’m commanded not to. But it’s there.
I remember: almost everything from childhood.
I have: All that I need and it‘s always enough.
I dance: Never. Two left feet. They don’t move in any form of coordination.
I sing: Always. If not outloud, in my heart, but not in public. Old hymns pop in first.
I don’t always: Put on my happy face or use my inside voice.
I argue: About what‘s for dinner ---- every day.
I write: poetry. Letters then hit “delete.”
I lose: grocery lists, a lot. Keys. Tops to pans.
I wish: I could buckle down and lose the rest of this weight. I’m always on the fence.
I listen: for quiet.
I don't understand: War, abuse, killing, torture, neglect.
I can usually be found: at home or at my sister’s home.
I need: A new car.
I forget: everything. I used to have the memory of an elephant.
I am happy: A deep happy - yes. On the surface, I’m quiet, don’t smile much, and people think I’m Unhappy, mad, or depressed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gifts of Gratitude - Week of March 21, 2011

Never lose an opportunity for seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting -- welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, And thank God for it as a cup of His blessing.: -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Though I feel I'm becoming much more aware of the blessings that continually pour into my life moment by moment, I'm afraid I've missed so many more. I don't write them down immediately, thinking I'll do it later because I won't forget THAT one --- and I do forget --- a blessing lost. One that I clutched in my hands for a moment but never offered my thanks or thought it worth of a moment of my time to write it down. Strange paradox going on inside of me -- the more thankful I become and the more I SEE, the more aware I am of my unthankfulness. I think of the song we used to sing every single day when I was in the third grade:

Father, we thank Thee for the night,
And for the pleasant morning light;
For rest and food and loving care,
And all that makes the world so fair.

Help us to do the things we should,
To be to others kind and good;
In all we do, in work or play,
To love Thee better day by day.

I had not thought of that little song in a million years (yeah, I'm THAT old!). But it has been going over and over in my head lately and I wondered about third grade. It was the year of huge changes in my life -- my mother died, our household increased from 5 kids to eight as my aunt came to care for us, changes in schools, etc. Hard things for an 8 year old to grasp and put into the perspective of thanks to a God who allows all things for my good. Yet, I had a teacher who taught us songs of thanks, to pray simply, and to live to be kind and good. Thank you, Miss Chilton!
And so my list continues:

99. A men’s chorus of 4 cardinals, all serenading 1 little female. I wonder if any one of these impressed her enough to set up housekeeping with. The song was beautiful, and she sat with perfect manners and listened to the end. Reminded me of the judges on American Idol!

100. A stinging hurt with questions of why? To embrace it means to hug tightly a bush full of thorns. Can I do that? I’ll have to come back to this one. It’s here -- in writing -- so I won’t forget and sweep it under the rug!

101. A gift --- from Sylvester --- my neighbor’s cat! I’m feeding him while they are away, and his thoughtful thank you gift for all my troubles was a rat. He was thoughtful enough to kill it first, and to remove the head. I’m so sorry, Cheryl. I tried. But I just COULDN’T pick it up and toss it!

102. Promise of prayers and words of encouragement from a dear friend.

103. Fresh, tender mustard greens. Weeks ago, while shopping through Lowe’s, I saw little mustard green plants. I bought 6 and planted them. I didn’t know they are considered “winter” crops here in Florida.
But I left them in anyways. We’ve had some cooler weather, so they did well. I picked as many leaves as
I could without killing off the plants, and cooked them up for supper tonight. Barely ‘nuf for one, but they were just the best ever. NOTHING like the canned, or the frozen in bags, or the bitter, old “fresh” stuff from the grocery store. This was sweet and tender. . . . Drooling good!!!!

104. And to go with my tiny serving of greens --- Harvard beets, left over diced baked potato rebaked in olive oil and seasonings, baked chicken breast. All the very best!

105. Blogs, more blogs, more lists of gratitudes. . . . All heart lifters, soul refreshers, eye fillers, and day huggers!

106. God’s constant provision from unexpected places. Answered prayer for one sends ripples of blessing to many. . . Including little old ME!

107. Sunny mornings, Buster squinting (does he need sunglasses???)

108. Finding a $100.00 Savings bond in an old book of mine. Why in the world would I put it in a book, of all places???? As if I would remember that. Can’t remember where I put my keys, no less a savings bond. But it’s been safe and unspent all these years. Like getting a gift!!! No, it IS a gift!

109. A HUGE garbage bag full of burrs pulled from my backyard. I thought I pulled them all last year. . . . Hmmmmm!!!! I was having a hard time saying thank you for this one as I was standing on my head in the hot sun pulling these little suckers, but now that I’m cooled off, I’m VERY thankful they won’t be in my feet (or Buster’s).

110. A friend who went out of their way to mail me an “absolutely, positively has to be here by Saturday” item that I needed for a gift.

111. That Jesus “let go” of everything for ME! Thank you, Craig! Isn’t it just like the Lord to bring something onto someone’s blog that just strikes you like this, and then. . . . WHAM! Like a slap on the back of my head. . . I need to let go of some things. There stands the Lord with the list. . . And a gentle, “Will you for MY sake?”

112. Pastor’s testimony of leading hard-core bikers to the Lord this week. God has given him a special gift and a special ministry to reach these guys. It is amazing and jaw-dropping to hear the stories and how God arranges it all. Even more amazing to see the depths of tenderness and concern and love in this biker/pastor’s heart.

113. Mac and cheese, meatballs and sauce. Comfort food to the max!

114. Waking up to a bird’s song --- long before sunrise. Unusual for me to be up so early. It’s light now, traffic has begun, and this guy is still singing away. Sometimes low and soft, almost like muttering to himself, other times loud and proud. I wonder how many songs he knows and which he likes best???

115. Buster’s thumping tail when he realizes I’m awake. Nothing else moves. Just wide eyes waiting and a thumping, happy tail!!! Why did I open my eyes???? He saw my eyes. I’m so loved!

116. A greater awareness of the Cross, the cost of the grace offered me, the love that embraces me.

117. Learning to keep my prayers simple, honest and “without ceasing!”

118. Learning patience while waiting for radish plants to produce radishes.

119. Having to say good-by as the wisteria blossoms drop to the ground one by one by one. This was a hard one.
I’ll have to wait a whole ‘nuther year.

120. Saying hello to unexpected roses. As hard as I try, I can’t seem to kill them off!

121. A surprise deep in the woods. A young Magnolia tree (teen age in size) had survived the unusual freezes of our winter. I couldn’t help but wonder how it got there --- I don’t think any of our neighbors have magnolia trees. One little seed one day just happened to land there and let God do His thing --- all alone and in silence where no one would notice, appreciate or give thanks! Probably years had passed with changing seasons of drought, rain, cold, warm -- never offered even a caring glance. Today it changed. I saw, I noticed, and I gave thanks. Not so much for the tree, but because I really SAW!

122. Teamwork! On my way to the grocery store, I saw two people who seemly were trying to climb a telephone pole! I recognized them immediately from church and they were putting up signs that would direct people from the community to our picnic/cookout on Sunday! I don’t know why, but it just made me start laughing. I’m not sure who ended up with the easier job --- the crabby gourmet trying to make ten pounds of potatoes into potato salad (ME), or these two climbing telephone poles!

123. Potato salad. MOUNTAINS of potatoes, LOTS of peels for the compost pile. LOTS of looking forward to tomorrow’s picnic after the morning service. LOTS of thanks to the Lord that this job was done!

124. Help of a friend cutting onions, celery, peppers, etc.

125. The most beautiful day you could EVER ask for for an after church cookout.

126. Seeing people stop by, young and old, bikers and suits, and welcomed with hugs, hot dogs, and horse rides!

127. Liz and Dan who took on a servant’s heart and joyfully went above and beyond to make today one we all will never forget.

128. Pastor’s sermon this morning! I’m not a person who shows much feeling on the outside. I was raised by very strict, Dutch parents who believed that you kept your mouth shut, your feet still, your arms by your side while in church. No “Amens”, no raised arms or hands, etc. I got many an elbow in my ribs for just crossing my legs too many times! But today? . . . . It had to rate up there as being one of those times when I felt I wanted to at least shout, YES!!!! There it was . . . Of all places, in II Kings 6:18. Elisha prayed to the Lord for his servant saying, “Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.” And the story ends with the servant opening his eyes and seeing the horses and chariots of fire. First, I thanked the Lord for yet another conformation from Scripture of Ann’s book. Second, I asked Him to open MY eyes to see, REALLY see that He is always there in every situation. Third, I asked that somehow, no matter how hard or difficult it may be, that I would be changed through each one.

129. For sweet fellowship and the testimony of a lady’s love for the Lord. Hardships beyond that I could ever
Comprehend, yet a trust and thankful heart for all that God has done for her.

130. The grace of deep cleansing and the love of forgiveness. Over and over again. Always given. But at such a price!

There are hundreds of people who just keep counting the gifts they have learned to see in the moments of their lives. I've found it the most soul-lifting experience to read these lists. .. . perhaps you would like to read them too! You will a list of these gift counters by cliking on the link:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gratitudes and Gifts on Mondays

Give your life away in exchange for many lives, give away your blessings to multiply blessings, give away so that many might increase, and do it all for the love of God. Ann VonKamp from her blog entry 3/10/11

I spent more time than I should have traveling from one blog to another reading the multitudes of gratitudes lists posted each Monday. I’m so glad I did. I have read of broken hearts that somehow found the grace to thank the Lord,. I have read of hard situations and times of struggles that praised God over and over for strength and courage and provisions. I have read of happy, good times, times of growth, times of doubt, times of fun. All with hundreds and hundreds gratitudes offered up to the Lord. It’s been an amazing week for me. My faith has deepened greatly, my eyes seem to be open wider and the doom and gloom blurry haze seems lifted to where I can see --- really SEE --- the goodness of the Lord in all things, and my hands have loosened from a clenched fist to being at least a little open and ready to receive “all things” as good gifts from His hand. And so I continue to share my list, giving credit to Him because “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17

69. Lunch! A mixture of leftovers. A little baked potato, a little spam, some pepper cheese, fresh eggs. Oh, I just didn’t want to break those beautiful, fresh eggs. They were so pretty. But lunch was even better all baked together!!!!

70. Bird seed. The whole neighborhood of my feathered friends must stand watch and pass the word quickly. I’m no sooner back in the house and there they are -- splashes of red, blue, gray, brown --- each looking for their favorites on this free for all, all you can eat, buffet!

71. Mailman. A smile as bright as his shiny blue truck. Always remembers. . . . Always asks how I’m doing, waiting for a REAL answer. . . Always willing to bring my mail to the door, remembering days when I couldn’t make it all the way to the mailbox and back.

72. Catbird. I don’t see him often, as he’s skiddish and a loner. But today, he had one thing on his mind. I guess there was a bug in my wisteria. Mr. Catbird had NO appreciation for the beauty of my flowers, but rather, one by one, plucked the blooms off and let them drift with the breezes. He finally found his lunch and was on his way. So I’m minus one cluster of flowers. It was worth watching this guy find his free lunch.

73. Struggles that make me stronger.

74. Doubts that make me dig until faith is sure.

75. The BEST quesadillas!!! (how in the world do you spell those things???) Sauteed onions and peppers, add pieces of cooked turkey. Heat through. Mix up shredded cheese (the kind with the hot peppers in it), dried cranberries and a smidge of honey. Put flour tortillas on cookie sheet, spread onion/turkey mixture on each, then top with cheese/cranberry mixture. Put another tortilla on top. Place in oven and cook till cheese melts. The absolute best!!!!

76. A Skype session with my sister! Always a guaranteed laugh, big smiles, and great conversation. Even Buster made his face known, climbing up on my shoulder and smooching while looking at his face on the screen!

77. Breakfast out with another sister. Stopped at Lowe’s for eggplant plants then wondered WHY???? A good breakfast, then the grocery store.

78. Squeaking of a new toy for Buster! Always a good day when a new toy is found in the grocery bag.

79. Learning how to pray for someone, when you really don’t know what to pray for. I need to give credit here to someone who posted about this a few days ago, but I have no idea where I was, what blog it was on, or whether I read it in a book or what! All I remember, I jotted down, “ Colossians 1 -- how to pray for someone when you don’t know what to pray for.” I knew right away this would be my next memorizing challenge.

80. Small, tiny sycamore leaves popping out on my tree. The long, winter’s nap is over and it’s time. What amazes me most is how small these leaves are, yet perfectly shaped like sycamore tree leaves! They will grow quickly, keeping that shape, and will hang on for about 8 or 9 months, waving their huge hands at me constantly. A perfect shade tree, a sheltering tree, a place of bird feeders, squirrel gymnastics, a pulpit at the top for a crow to preach from. . .but most of all, a tree full of memories.

81. An unexpected gift from a very dear friend! There it was. All wrapped so beautifully in a vintage hankie. Tied with a bow. A copy of Ann’s book, 1,000 gifts. I have felt so selfish because I did NOT want to pass my copy on to anyone. I’ve been clinging to it, going back to it again and again. But now, I have a “special” one to keep and I can give mine away. Lea B! You are a treasure in my life, just as you are to so, so many! Wrapped up in you are more than 1,000 gifts, but the most cherished of all is the one called “friend.”

82. Thursday night Bible study, spilled coffee cleaned up with laughs and smiles, fellowship so sweet, new faces, new babes in Christ -- can it get any better than that?

83. Soft strumming of a guitar, Amazing Grace softly sung with a friend.

84. Morning coffee with a dear friend and neighbor. Sharing hearts, God-moments, and glimpses of “life in the rear view mirror” --- what can be better!

85. A huge, heavy box full of Bible study reference books! Some so old --- from the 1800’s. I love the smell, the yellowed pages, the quaint language. I just love holding them. But the print is soooooo small. How in the world did they read these books by candlelight?

86. French toast made with farm fresh eggs, a little butter, a little honey. . . . Oh, so good!!!!

87. Katy’s quote on her blog, “God made you as you are! He placed you where you are! So you can best serve and glorify Him just as you are, where you are.” Why do I always think a million things have to change before God can use me, that I always need to be “better”????

88. A brisk walk down a little dirt road with my sister. . . And, oh yes, Gypsy, the cat following all the way speaking her mind that we were getting much too far from home for her, titmice yelling at us to get the cat out of their territory, and the wind blowing a chill through us making us wonder if our veggies would freeze tonight???

89. Buster’s little nightmares and whimpering at my feet! Maybe they are big to him, I don’t know. He has had these since I got him as a puppy, and I hug him close every time and remind him that I’m right there. He heaves a big sigh, gives me a kiss, and goes back to sleep. Such a reminder to me to say, “What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.”
How much more He cares for me that I can ever care for Buster! (and that’s a LOT)

90. Tacos!

91. Safety and security. In light of the disaster in Japan, I was reminded today of Psalm 91 -- “HE WHO dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].
I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!
For [then] He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
[Then] He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His truth and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler.” I wonder if it were me, could I sing, “It is well with my soul?”

92. Jo Ellen -- another breast cancer hero celebrates 1 ½ years since treatment! Her tender heart finds ways to encourage others going down the same horrible pathway
while still fighting herself! Thank you, JoEllen for your courage, faith, and your caring spirit!

93. No damage from frost on my little veggie plants! It reached 34 degrees last night and stopped going down. They shivered a little, but seem ok in the warming sun today.

94. The mockingbird learning new songs. It’s amazing that he does this --- sits on the same utility pole every morning and lets it all hang out. On and on he goes, one song after another. But today was the limit -- the ultimate! I thought it was the crow that wouldn’t shut up. But when I looked???? -- you guessed it --- Mr. Mockingbird has learned this one, too! One bird’s caw is another bird’s song!

95. A message of comfort and hope from a tender-hearted Pastor. To allow the Savior to touch us in all the worst of our situations of life, just as He did the leper in Matt. 8. It took me so long in life to learn about His gentle, comforting, safe touch. I tried so hard to fix everything myself. It’s only when I found myself in the situation where He was all I had that I found out that He was all I needed.

96. An email packed full to running over with encouragement and love. Someone who can just stir up the gifts within you like an old cook with a wooden spoon.

97. Watching a squirrel take a leap of faith from a branch that is just a little too far from the roof. Just barely made it --- hanging by little claws to the edges, pulling himself up.

98. A shared lunch of fish sandwiches from the drive up window at Wendys. Isn’t it neat how you just do certain things with certain friends? And this had always been our thing --- drive up windows, eating in the car, people watching, etc. It’s been a while, and it was great to sit in the warm Spring sun and enjoy a sandwich together again.

I took the time this past week to read as many of the other gratitude counters' lists as I could get to. I can truly say, I did not go away from even one unblessed. There is just something about these lists that lift your heart and cause you to soar for the day! Please click on the banner below to find all these thankful hearts:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Counting Gifts - Week of March 7, 2011

I’m learning. I am SOOOOOO learning. And I’m fighting. Somewhere deep within my soul there is a war raging. So far in the past few weeks since reading this book two and a half times through, I have gone from awestruck, deeply convicted, doubting, this is for me, this is way beyond me, everything is right about this, this just can’t be right, this woman is crazy, this woman is so right on, I will do it no matter what, everything will change, nothing will change . . .. Well, you get the picture. But I can’t get away from it.

I open my Bible and there it is -- grace, thanks. I look at the cross and there it is -- all good, all grace, all for me, all the time. I look around me -- all blessings, all filtered through a hand of love, even what I don‘t understand, what I would turn from, what I would want to push away. Pastor’s sermon yesterday was out of Matthew 6, about the wise man who built his house upon the rock. Back to foundations again. Back to my life being built on God’s Word -- A Word that tells me God is love (was not that the first verse I ever learned?), God is light, and in Him is no darkness. And we CAN walk in the light, as He is in the light. And we can SEE. And no matter how fierce the storm, it’s the ROCK, all we know and believe and trust in to be true, that holds us up. He doesn’t always take away the storm, but He changes us as we stand firm on that foundation of His Word, and somehow, we come out of it all looking just a little more like Him. And so I keep on counting. . . One by one by one the gifts of grace keep piling up and I open my clenched fists a little wider to accept more. . .

40. Wild berry bushes in full bloom in the woods! I never knew they were there. I never slowed down to look and SEE! I can’t wait to go back when fruit appears. Will I beat the squirrels and birds????

41. Big holes dug in my newly planted bean gardens! Caught in the act! Isn’t it enough that I fill feeders every day? Or was he searching for the acorn he had stored away in that dirt???? Sorry, mister squirrel, I got them all out before planting my beans. Replanting today!

42. A surprise rain. Waking up to puddles, glistening grass, very green new leaves, and the smell of spring! Sunshine after rain, morning after night, add the duet of a wren and a cardinal, and you have a little bit of Heaven on earth!

43. Turning around in the post office only to find a dear friend, arms out holding a hug!

44. Taco salad for lunch!!!! Can’t get much better than that! Sorry Doc! I ate it all and it wasn’t diet! I’ll try better during the next 3 months! But for today my heart is sooooooo thankful for taco salad and for whoever invented these things!

45. Enough and a little more! He ALWAYS provides enough!

46. First signs of life on my Kiwi vines and Fig Tree! I was so sure those nasty freeze days had sucked the life out of these two and was ready to pull them out. But little green sprouts are pushing through the vines and branches and screaming, “We made it through!” I remember when I bought the Kiwi vines on an impulse last year. After planting, I read the info on these --- “may take up to 7 years before it starts producing!” Can I wait that long, tending to something that will take 6 more years??????

47. Crabby looking owl with his head all squished in his birdhouse doorway wondering what all the rucus is with the squirrels in the middle of the day!

48. Big, wet, smoochy kisses from Buster! Everyone needs a Buster in their life -- someone who thinks the world revolves around you, can’t live without you, howls and moans when you are gone. . .!!!

49. A great visit with my oncologist! (see Friday’s post). Always a time of thankfulness, gratefulness, memories, and a reminder of ALL God’s graces and goodness throughout my life. (An added thank you -- they forgot to weigh me!!!)

50. Baked potato with creamed peas. Comfort food to the max for me!!!! It had to be the BIGGEST of all potatoes I’ve ever seen. Smothered in butter, sour cream, salt, pepper. And creamed peas. . . . If you have never had them, you are missing the best of life!

51. Spam! I just KNOW most of you are going YUK! Here. But I am one of the few in the world who just loves it!!! Sliced nice and thin, fried crispy, etc. I love Spam burgers with fried onions, peppers, melted cheese on a fresh bun. I love it just on my plate with my potato and creamed peas. Any which way, I just like Spam. I can remember back “in the day” when we sliced it so thin you could see through it. One can would always have to do for everyone. Now, I don’t have it very often, but when I do, it goes on the list of thank you’s.

52. Word studies in the Bible. I never lose the awe and excitement of how a verse opens up like a flower and just blooms when I finally “get it!” I’m like a little kid who just learned something in school and wants to tell everyone!

53. The sound of my washing machine filling. Remembering those days waaaaay back when . . . . I’d help my Mom separate heaps of clothing into color groups, then we had an old wringer washer and we dumped the first pile in. I can still hear the constant warnings of keeping my fingers and hands away from the wringer!
Oh, what a process that was! It took forever! To say nothing of hanging it all outside in the freezing cold. My Mom’s hands were all red and wrinkled and chapped from being in that soapy water all day and then out in the weather with wooden clothespins, heavy baskets, and icy winds. Thank you, Lord, for my washing machine and dryer. Fluffy, soft, sweet smelling towels and sheets! I am so blessed!

54. Wisteria! OK, I know it’s been on every post this week, but what can I say? The scent is out of this world!
Today? It’s the pods. I’m fascinated with the tons of pods this vine produced this past year. Long, thick, velvety green pods hanging all through the winter. Not one fell off. But with the warmer days came “explosions!” Sounded like little cap guns. (remember those???) The harder-than-wood pods exploded, and seeds went flying, leaving a spiral twisted pod. I’m going to soak and plant a few seeds and see what happens.

55. Megan! A good week with chemo and a fun week with make-up!

56. Prescriptions and God’s grace in providing for me!

57. Baby squirrels playing --- in and out, in and out of their birdhouse home. Now I know where the saying came from about kids being too “squirrelly”!

58. Peppers --- Last year I had an abundance of green peppers, so I sliced them up and froze them for use later on. So glad I did! Today, they were $1.59 EACH. I think I will plant more pepper plants and guard them with my life and baby them through the summer! Who ever thought a stuffed pepper for supper would become so expensive to make?

59. Cawing of two crows at dusk. Can’t really call it a song, can you? But nobody ever told these two that they couldn’t sing!!!! There they are, on top of the highest pine tree, singing to each other their God-given song. I think they are in love!

60. Two cardinals at the feeder. I can hardly see them as the shadows fall into darkness. Always the last to feed at night and always the first to show up for breakfast.

61. Being washed in Heaven’s rain. Whiter than snow. Always available. No cost to me. Cost everything to God. But given in grace, lavishly.

62. Beautiful spring rain throughout the night bringing with it cooler, refreshing springy air.

63. Birds bathing in the new puddles in the driveway. So much fluff and splashing!!!!

64. My play list. Soul-settling music that melts frustrations to where I can “see” what is really in this moment and thank the Lord for it. As I learn to see what is in my moments, that all is from the Lord and given in grace, I’m finding I can at least SEE the futility and waste in the time and effort of being frustrated, up tight, and even downright crabby. When we get the point, that first step, of saying, “this is not worth it,” we can work on it. It’s just a miracle, simply amazing how a simple opening of the clenched hand to receive a gift of the moment can change everything! How did this get from play list to . . . .???? Maybe it’s the first song, “Moment by Moment, I’m kept in His love. . .” Such an old song and not heard much today.

65. The sound of eggs boiling on the stove as they gently hit the sides of the pan. Light blue, white, light brown, tan --- I love the colors ---- Perfect for decorating ---- shades of eggshell brown with a splash of light robin’s egg blue! I can see me now at the paint store with eggshells!

66. A young child teaches me how to pray. How many times now has it been the trusting prayer of a child that has moved me so deeply? Where did it all change --- the moment I thought I had to pray like a “grown-up?” When was that awful moment when I believed the lie that my simple, child-like prayer was not sufficient for God’s ears?

67. More hugs than I could count. A moment of kindness. A forever-imprint on my heart.

68. Songs and hymns that take me back ---- WAAAAY back. Like comfort food for the soul. Sung so many times growing up that I know all the verses. I never tire of them. They never grow old. Only deeper. I thought the hymnbook was boring as I grew up. I wanted the new songs, the new song books. Why is it, now that I’m old, out of date, out of step, and out of breath, I find my hymnbook always next to my Bible? Comfort food -- that’s it. If you are young, you won’t understand. If you are old, you are probably wiping tears like me when you hear, “Be not dismayed what e’er betide, God will take care of you!” Those are weird words when you are young -- “e’er betide” . But when you hear your ninety something year old grandmother singing it with tears running down her cheeks, somehow, “e’er betide” loses it blur and you just know what it means. . .!

Each week, hundreds of "gift counters" join together and make their lists available for others to see and rejoice over their findings. It has been such a blessing for me to get to know these people, to see what they have seen, and hear the testimonies of how all of this . . . all the graces bestowed on children of God. . .have drawn us closer to each other and closer to our Savior. Just click the button below and you will find the links to gift counters all over blogland!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Great Giveaway!!!

Patty over at My Mountain Blessings is having her first ever giveaway and it's a doozy!!!! I can't believe she is being this generous --- but that's just Patty --- a big, overflowing, loving, generous heart! Please take the time to visit her blog, sign up for her giveaway, but above all else, take the time to catch up on her posts and get to know her better. It will be well worth your time, I assure you!

Check out Patty's site! You won't be sorry!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Great Visit with the Oncologist!

I always hate these three-month visits to the Cancer Center. But I can never cancel because I have to have the chemo port flushed every 6 weeks, so I have to show up. The last time I asked him when I could get that thing taken out, he told me, "Never, so don't ask again!" And I haven't asked again! Oddly enough, I hate these visits because I have nothing to talk about. It's like, "How are you?" "Fine, thanks!" Then lots of dead air. . . . and "You're looking really great!!!! How about --- see you in 3 months?" "OK!" And it's over.

This time, he was more talkative. As he examined the mastectomy site, he said, "This is just so amazing! Do you know how far you have come from with this???" I answered, "No --- because you would never TELL me how bad it was!"

It's hard to believe that it is now almost 3 years since I started that journey with a tumor so big that it was breaking through the skin. I've found so many blogs where ladies are just starting or in the middle of treatment, and it brings back all the memories (or should I say, nightmares) of those horrible, dark days. I can't thank my blogging friends enough for all the prayers, love, faith, and encouragement that you sent my way, and I always want to pass that on to these ladies that are going through it now.

Connie, Megan, Stacy --- believe me when I say I understand, believe me when I say you can do it, and believe me when I say there is a Savior who walks the whole way with each of you, just as He did with me.

In Ann VanKamp's book, 1000 gifts, she talks about the "hard eucharisteo" -- the giving of thanks for the hardest, darkest, unexplained things in our lives -- only because ALL things comes to us in love from a God who is ALL love. No, we can't understand that. I can't understand cancer and the suffering and loss it brings with it. I can't understand the tears. I can't understand the ripping away of loved ones. And saying "thank you" means opening my hands to receive the grace of even these hard things.

If I've learned one thing in my life it's this: All that God has taught me of His promises in the light, I can trust He will keep His word when I walk into the darkness.

Some time ago, I asked this oncologist a question about my cancer and it had ". . . if it comes back. . ." in the question. He said something that rocked my foundations: "It's not a matter of IF -- it's a matter of WHEN!" At that moment, I was faced with a choice -- Do I live each day with the dreaded fear of cancer returning, or do I live each day with a thankful heart that I have yet another day? To a doctor, it's IF or WHEN. To me, FEAR or THANKS.

I've chosen THANKS!

Today, I stood in the breezy sunlight of this, a beautiful spring day and stuck my nose into the delicate flowers of my wisteria. Have you ever smelled such a beautiful, soft, gentle scent????? Surely, they must be climbing all over the jasper walls of Heaven and entwining themselves around the Pearly Gates! These are my "thank you" flowers. Flowers that bloomed in the darkest of times, bloomed again the next year during healing times, the next year during moving-on times, and now this year during grateful heart times.

The question I ponder is Why? Why ME? I could have asked that during the dark days. I could have asked that when I had no hair, couldn't get up out of a shower, couldn't eat, etc. I could have asked that when I was burned to a crisp. Now I asked it in term of, Why do I get an extension on my life? If it is to learn
the "hard eucharisteo", the giving of thanks for the pain we do not and never will understand, then I say, Thank you, Lord. If it is to learn to trust deeper still, then I say, "Oh for grace to trust You more!" If it is to help but one scared woman through the dark valley of breast cancer, then I will grab that hand and show her that there IS a way. Thank you, Lord, for today. May I never miss ONE moment that You have given me in the present because of regrets of the past or fears of the future!

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. -- Psalm 4:8