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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas movies

One of my favorite parts of this season is the ability to watch lots of Christmas shows and movies.  I always enjoy waiting for the classics like Frosty and Rudolph and Charlie Brown.  These days abcfamily makes it so much easier by having their "25 Days of Christmas" and showing Christmas movies all month.    Now, these of course, are mostly secular, but they are still fun.  And, they do have things such as Little Drummer Boy and Nester the Long Eared Donkey.  Of course, I will have to use my own personal copy to watch The Nativity which I think we'll watch as a family on Christmas day.  There are some movies that are holiday favorites and I want to watch every year (like the classics and the Santa Clause Trilogy).  There are also some new ones that have fast become favorites that I want to see every year (like Prep and Landing).  

Last night, we watched a movie that most people wouldn't consider a Christmas movie.  We saw The Lion of JudahAlthough it is mostly about Easter, it does talk about Christmas and the animals featured in the movie were present in the stable at the birth of Jesus (the King).  The movie was so well done and brought up so many questions from my children.  It was a great way to spark a conversation about Jesus (the reason for the season) and not only Him as a baby, but Him as our King and Savior.  It was an amazing evening.  Check out this movie. It was a perfect Christmas movie for us because the Thriving Family Advent readings that we are doing this year talks about a different name of Jesus each day and we had done Lion of Judah earlier this week.  Check out the Advent activity calendar at

What are your favorite Christmas shows/movies to watch?
Which ones do you want to make sure you see every year?
Which ones do you want to share with your children?

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Thanksgiving for today
241.  Watching movies that prompt thought[-provoking questions about Christ
242.  Family movie night
243.  Book It
244.  Helpful spirit
245.  Wanting to give more than receive
246.  Hearing music coming from my keyboard

Friday, December 7, 2012

Peace in the World

"Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others.  And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world."
                               --Etty Hllesum

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Thanksgiving for today:
239.  One stop shopping
240.  Free Classifieds  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Count Your Blessings Talk Video

The video is finally up!!!

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Thanksgiving for Today:
234.  Aleve
235.  Inspiration
236.  Recorded sermons so I don't miss anything
237.  Lists
238.  Recognition of growth

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Giving thanks as you wait

Take time during this season of long lines and waiting in traffic and otherwise to take that time as a gift to slow down, look around, and give thanks for the blessings around you.

What wonders of the season can you find as you wait in traffic or in line?
What is your normal response to waiting?

I've decided waiting just gives time for more Christmas music.  What do you do while you wait?
Can you enjoy being still while we are forced to do it?

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Thanksgiving for Today:
225.  Suprises in lunch boxes
226.  Working toward personal goals together with your child
227.  Kids challenging themselves
228.  The Christmas City of the High Plains
229.  Christmas music ringing out through downtown speakers
230.  Giving Spirit
231.  Jump Drives
232.  Massage
233.  Moms in Prayer

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Music Fuels the Soul and Calms the Mind

I know not everyone loves Christmas music, but I do.  I can't wait until I hear the first strains and put all my Christmas CDs in my kitchen by my CD player the day after Thanksgiving.  I am more than thrilled that there is a holiday music channel on our cable TV.  I can have Christmas music no matter where I am in the house.  This year, it has meant even more to me as my piano students prepare for their Christmas recital and I have been looking up the stories behind the songs they are going to play.  You really should look up the stories or at least really listen to the words.  My advent reading for today was about music and says, "Music fuels the soul and calms the spirit.  Music is universal.  Christmas music is timeless."--Ace Collins

What has Christmas music meant in your life?
What is your favorite song?
Do you take time to listen to the words?

Here is a song I really listened to the words for the first time today and was impacted.
Listen to the words and let me know what you think.

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Thanksgiving for Today:
220.  Dr. Matt
221.  Ability to sleep in the car
222.  Seeing God continue to connect the dots
223.  "Mom, This is good." in response to dinner
224.  Naps

Monday, December 3, 2012

Count Your Blessings Talk

We are working on getting the video of this online, but haven't so far.  So, here's the written version--not exactly like the talk, but close.  So, have a read and hopefully we'll get the video up soon.

I attended Women of Faith this month and was so inspired by the entire conference, but especially by one session.  Ann Voscamp has written a book, 1000 Gifts and shared about it at the conference.  I left that session thinking that everyone I know should hear about it.  At first, I thought I would come home and share it with Jerod and he could share it with all of you.  But, before I left Women of Faith, God had convinced me that I should be the one to share it with all of you.  I gave God all the reasons I couldn’t do that, but He countered every excuse.  I bought the book and started reading it on the way home.  My first excuse was that I couldn’t fill up time just sharing a book report.  But, before I had finished the book, I was convinced by God that it was time to share my personal testimony and why this book had impacted me so much.  And, there is so much more in this book that you won’t hear from me today.  God told me this was the perfect year since Advent doesn’t begin until next Sunday and we actually have a Thanksgiving Sunday this year.  But, when Jerod told me he was going to be gone and was looking for someone to speak, that sealed the deal.  In We Bought a Zoo, Benjamin Mee said, “You know, sometimes all you need is just 20 seconds of insane courage.  Just literally, 20 seconds of just literally embarrassing bravery.  And I promise you, something great will come of it.“  So, I took 20 seconds of courage and shared with Jerod what I was feeling from God and we talked it over and here I am.  

The big premise of the book is that Thanksgiving is more than just a holiday.  It is a way of life.  We should be looking for, identifying, and thanking God for all the blessings or “gifts” in our lives.  Turn to Colossians 3:17.  It says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  (NIV) We need to make this a purposeful, daily activity.  Some days it is definitely easier to do than others.  But, as with anything, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.  

Before I completed the book, I realized why this had more of an impact on me than on others who heard the same talk.  I have been doing this, giving thanks, and never put words to my experience.  Ann Voscamp explained what I had been experiencing personally and just never put into words.  Now, I did not write down my blessings, but I did practice finding them and thanking God.  And, I did not make it an intentional, daily habit.  So, I can speak from experience the difference in your life when you are giving thanks and when you are not.  But, before I get to that, I should probably share a little of my story.

My life began wheelchair free.  I grew up in Norton, attended the Church of God, and was in the same district as this church.  I was in the District Youth with many of your children and with your Pastor.  J  After high school, I went to Mid-America Bible College, married Eric, began our life in the ministry, had our daughter, and was expecting our son.  Then, my life changed dramatically.  June 7, 2004, Eric and I were in a car accident on our way to lamaze class.   Instead of heading to lamaze, we ended up in the ER with the emergency ceserean of our son 10 ½ weeks early, and myself with several injuries and in a medicated coma for about 6 weeks.  I came home 3 months later with a traumatic brain injury, nerve damage on my right side, and with a wheelchair.

There is a verse that my mom clung to throughout my whole adventure.  It eventually became my life verse as well.  Look up
 I Thessalonians 5:18.  If you know it, you  may know the KJV “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The NIV reads “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  The Message says, “Thank God no matter what happens.  This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”  Notice none of them say Give Thanks FOR everything.  They say Give Thanks In Everything or all circumstances.  When I was unconscious and unable to give thanks myself, my mom was thanking God for things like 

Lifewatch Helicopters
The ER and ICU
NICU and Doctors and nurses
Ronald McDonald House
Hospital Cafeteria
My orthopedic doctor who was only in Tulsa for the short time I needed him and was able to call a collegue to perform a surgery with consultation via cell phone.  Before surgery my chances of having my pelvis repaired to normal enough that I would not be bed-ridden were slim.  After the surgery, he was so pleased it was close to normal.  We all know it was God’s hand in all of this.  
Every sign of improvement, no matter how minute.
That I recognized the people in my life when I woke up--the doctors tried to prepare them that with my brain injury, I may not remember anyone.  Again, we know that was God

I am thankful there were people giving thanks even when I couldn’t.  Then, I am thankful that people were giving thanks when I was at the beginning of my recovery and I just wouldn’t.  Mostly, I am thankful that I got to the place where I am giving thanks on my own.  I am experiencing life everyday and trying to be thankful for the gifts I am given daily.  Some days that is easier than others.  It wasn’t really until I was preparing these thoughts that I went back to thank God for the gifts He gave over the past eight years.
I give thanks for:
An off-duty paramedic came upon our accident before the ambulance
Eric had presence of mind to call friends and family and call Hannah’s babysitter to tell them not to come down their road
Eric being able to get my Cds out of the CD changer in our totaled car
That Noah (& I) survived insurmountable odds
The NICU nurses who loved Noah so much they took great care of him and even came up to visit his mom
The NICU nurses and my mother-in-law preparing a gift from Noah to me
The Ronald McDonald House that took such good care of my family
Friends and family who took time out of their own lives to come help see me and take care of my family
My father help my neuro-surgeon see me as a person by making the connection as Noah’s mother.  He was Noah’s neurosurgeon too.
Family taking such good care of Hannah to help keep her 2 ½ year old life as normal as possible.
Eric refusing to allow anyone to take Hannah to the zoo because that was a special mom/daughter activity
Hand hugs
That the clothes I was wearing were maternity clothes, so I didn’t miss them when they had to be cut off
Good friends took special care of my wedding rings that first night and then my mom cared for them for 3 months
My parents came as soon as they were called and made it safely to Tulsa, my Dad time and time again
My mom for spending the summer in the hospital with me
My aunt and grandma for spending time with me when Mom went back to work
My sister for making time to come see me between her trip to Africa (where she was when the accident occurred) and her wedding that fall
That Noah and I were able to make the trip to Indiana to be in Cassie and Perry’s wedding
Music playing constantly in my hospital room (many times my sister was singing to me)
Laughter in the midst of everything
The hospital helping arrange a special 9th anniversary celebration for Eric and I (including Red Lobster)
Thickening liquid and swallow therapy that allowed me to get back to eating whatever I wanted (like Red Lobster)
Getting rid of thickening liquid so I could enjoy Dr. Pepper again
Losing my baby weight without hard work while in the hospital
My family being willing to take me to some special spots in Tulsa before heading home (Red Lobster, the scrap booking store and to get my ears repierced.)
Therapists that came to my home in Oklahoma
A speech therapist who believed my speech could improve and used some special tools to massage my vocal cords to help wake them up
God sending us back to Kansas where I could have superior traumatic brain injury rehabilitation
Care attendants, friends, and family members who help me become more and more independent
Finding great friends and a disability community through Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 
God healing my voice so that I can be understood when I speak
God leading us back to NW Kansas closer to family, to a community that allows me independence, and a culture I understand.

Some might say it is easier to identify the gifts looking back.  Hindsight is 20/20 after all.  I wouldn’t say it is easier.  For anyone that has experienced a traumatic event, it’s pretty typical to shove the memories way back in your brain and shut the door.  Reopening the door and letting the memories come flooding out even to identify “gifts” and give thanks is not easy.   Opening the floodgates can lead to a literal flood of tears.  But, God told me that is OK--even if you see them today, that is OK.  God never promised us an easy life here on Earth.  What he does want is for us to be obedient.  So, that is what I am attempting to do.  Turn to Phillippians 4:6-7.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  I have been giving thanks off and on for the past several years.  I can testify from personal experience that when you are giving thanks, your heart is full of thankfulness and the peace of God.  When you are not giving thanks, your heart is full of other stuff like worry, anxiety, fear, doubt, stress, anger and other negative feelings.  When I am not intentionally giving thanks and looking for blessings, I tend to focus on myself and what is wrong in my life.  My heart is not full of gratitude and peace.  In 1000 Gifts, Ann Voscamp talks about when your heart is full of thanks, there is no room for fear.   Philippians suggests that the “peace of God” comes after thanksgiving.  
Now, we do “give thanks in all things,” but I have found it is easier to be truly thankful when I am looking for and naming all the small gifts in my life.  I am thankful for the “big” things as well--like salvation, family, friends, but it is really when I start taking time to really look for everything small or big and giving thanks, that my heart is truly at peace.  In 1000 Gifts, Ann Voscamp says, “Life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.”  I don’t believe any of us will start living a life of thanksgiving until we start looking daily for small gifts as well as the big ones to be thankful for.

In 1000 Gifts, it states repeatedly that “thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.”   Before the feeding of the 5000 in John 6:11, “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and  distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.  He did the same with the fish.”  He gave thanks and then the miracle happened.    In John 11, at the tomb of Lazurus Jesus asked that the stone be removed, then He thanked the Father for hearing Him, and then said, “Lazurus, come out.!”  Once again, thanksgiving preceded the miracle.  He thanked His Father and then Lazurus came out.

Turn with me to Luke 17:11-19.  This is an interesting passage, because all 10 were healed of their leprosy.  But, Christ says to the one who returned, “Your faith has made you well.”  I don’t think He was referring to the physical healing here.  All 10 had been cured of leprosy.  The peace of God that fills your heart when you give thanks.    His healing was more than just physical, more than just what could be seen on the outside.  He was “healed” spiritually as well.

We  refer to the Last Supper as the Eucharist.  The Greek meaning can be translated “thanksgiving.”  In Luke 22:19 it says “And He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’”  Most of my life is was explained to me that Christ was commanding us to take the bread and the drink “in remembrance of me.”  What if the command includes “giving thanks?” I believe we are commanded by Christ to give thanks to the Father.  After all, the greek meaning of the word we use for The Last Supper or Communion means thanksgiving.

It is important not to just give thanks when things are good.  We shouldn’t just count our blessings when blessings are easy to find.  We need to practice looking for blessings when the world would say things are so terrible there are no blessings to be found.  There are always blessings to be found.  We just have to practice looking for them and giving thanks.  Jesus gave thanks at the Last Supper just before His arrest and crucifixion, knowing what was coming.  If He can give thanks at that time, we can give thanks in our darkest days.  Remember, it’s not FOR everything, it’s IN everything.   It is possible and it is what we are supposed to do.

“Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.”   It is important to remember to be thankful for things even in the midst of struggle, but then also remember to be thankful when the miracle comes.

I have a challenge for each of you.  Join me in looking for God’s gifts, the blessings in our lives.  Even when it is hard and seems impossible, take time to stop and look for the touch of God in your situation.  Every time you feel fear, worry, anxiety, doubt, frustration, anger, stress,  any negative feeling, stop and look for the blessings and give thanks.  Slow down and pay attention to the moment.  Live in the present.   I believe gratitude and peace will fill your heart and will not allow room for those negative feelings.  No matter how often they come back, repeat the process.  Practice, practice, practice.  God is faithful and blesses us constantly, let’s thank Him for all the gifts He has given. Ann Voscamp says,  “Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on.“ Let’s start by doing this today as we prepare our hearts for communion.

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Thanksgiving for Today:
216.  Heater in the vehicle
217.  Online banking
218.  Advent calendar
219.  Making dinner with enough leftovers to use in make-over meals for the rest of the week.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Celebrating the Reason for the Season

I realized something today as I began some of my advent readings for today.  Officially Advent does not begin until tomorrow, but some Advent readings begin the first day of December.  It finally dawned on me why I was getting stressed about decorating for Christmas.  I realized I like to have all my shopping and decorating done before Advent officially begins so that I can spend this month focusing on the reason for the season.  As I'm looking at my tree with decorated presents underneath, I feel peace.  Why, because my tree is up?  Because my shopping is done?  No.  Because I know that no time will be taken from the time needed to focus on celebrating Jesus and spending time making this Advent special for my family.  Advent means anticipation of HIS coming and that is what I want to focus on this year and every year.  I want to spend time thinking about what God did for us--coming to Earth and becoming human and then dying on the cross so we can have eternal life with Him in Heaven.  I want to spend time thinking about what it is I can do for Him while I am here on Earth.  I want to think about what it means to be obedient to Him? .

What are you doing to celebrate Advent this year?
How much of this season do you spend thinking about the Reason for the Season. ?
Have you ever thought about how helpless and dependent on humans God was when He came as a baby?
Have you ever thought about Mary and Joseph's great responsibility?
What is God calling you to do during your time here on Earth?

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Thanksgiving for today:
203.  Fresh smelling laundry detergent
204.  The promise of a new, clean piece of paper
205.  The hope and joy radiating from a bride
206.  The giving spirit
207.  The bright, shining sun to warm the day
208.  Sounds coming from children's Christmas practice
209.  The waiter who brings me Mango Lemonade without having to order
210.  Knowing songs from hymnal without looking at the words
211.  Children willing to sing a special 
212.  People willing to serve
213.  Women feeling comfortable enough to open hearts and genuinely share needs
214.  Planning continued women's fellowship
215.  Friends willing to manage my wheelchair and provide a ride to special events.