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Reflections

Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving

Here we are! Thanksgiving week already! Do you have any exciting plans? Are you traveling? Hosting? Having a quiet day of reflection? Shopping? If you live outside of the U.S., what are you up to this week? Do you have a celebration of thankfulness in your culture, or anything similar?

Regardless of your traditions or plans, I’ve got a challenge for you. I realized that my list of things I’m thankful for has stagnated. Don’t get me wrong, each and every item on my list is a gift from God. I just haven’t put much thought into it lately. I’m always thankful for my family and friends, pets and paychecks, shelter, and such. This year, I want to make my list more unexpected and meaningful. Will you join me?

Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

There are some things for which we seldom stop to give thanks. But God is good, and He wastes nothing in our lives. I want to recognize the blessings in places I don’t usually think to look. I have 3 examples to show you what I mean.

Pain

The other evening I was out jogging. (Yes! I’m still at it! If you read How An Eerie Scene Provoked Me to Run and Keep Running, you know the crazy story of how that came about.) Anyway, I thought I heard something in the bushes beside me and as I turned toward it, I inadvertently looked directly into the setting sun. It was so bright! Instinctively, I threw my hand up to shield my eyes and the motion aggravated my bum shoulder. Pain shot to my fingertips and my arm fell limp at my side.

My arm has been doing this the past several weeks. I’ve learned that if I stay still for a few minutes, the pain goes away. So still I stayed. Then, perhaps emboldened by my stillness, the most majestic deer stepped out from behind the bush. It stood looking right into my face. We studied each other intently for a while and then it slowly went back about its business.

Deer: Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving
Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com
This is not my photo. I didn’t dare move to grab my camera. But this is much like what I experienced (minus the spots and second deer in the background).

The pain in my arm caused me to stop. Without it, I never would have experienced the wonder of looking into those wild brown eyes from just a few feet away. I was – I am – genuinely thankful for the pain. I can’t say I’ve ever put pain on my Thanksgiving list before. What an amazing thing!

Busy work

I work in a lab. I get to do incredible things every day. Science is fascinating! But lab work generates piles of paperwork and time-consuming cleanup. The busy work is not nearly as fun.

I realized this week that busy work never comes up on the list of things I appreciate in life. But why not? I enjoy the job I have. The paperwork and cleanup testify to all that my team and I are accomplishing every day. For the first time, I truly understood that I have many reasons to be thankful for all that busy work. What an incredible realization!

Conflict

I try to avoid conflict. It rattles me. But, let me tell you, there is nothing like it to make me fall to my knees. I need God to help me understand it, navigate it, and handle it well. I feel that I’ve had an unusual amount of conflict lately. Have you heard this saying?

Sometimes, God uses difficult people, like sandpaper, to rub the rough edges off us.

Power sander: Finding Thankfulness in Unexpected Places this Thanksgiving
Photo by Thijs van der Weide on Pexels.com
The abrasiveness of sandpaper smooths and softens

It is not pleasant, but it is effective. Conflict smooths my jagged edges and softens my corners. In it, I see ugliness in me that I must confess and give over to God for refurbishing. I usually start by asking God to change the situation or the other person and end up being so thankful that He changed me. This Thanksgiving, my recent and ongoing conflict is high on my list. God is so good!


Those are a few of my examples. What about you? Where can you find hidden blessings? Are there things for which you haven’t yet thought to be thankful which belong on your list?

If you ask God to show you, I’m sure He will. He loves to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in His people. Will you join me and take up the challenge of finding thankfulness in unexpected places this Thanksgiving?

You’re welcome to join in, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. Thankfulness is always in style. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

“Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100:3-5
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Recommendations Reflections

The One Most Important Ingredient for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep

Hello, precious person! Welcome to the back porch. If I were to give you a cushy reclining chair right now, with a pillow, and a soft blanket, would you be likely to fall asleep? As much as I’d love to provide a nap for you, I’d rather talk to you about why you’re so tired. You’ve surely heard the saying:

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

Attributed to different authors

Sharing tools to help you sleep, night after night, will serve you better in the long run than giving you a few minutes to nap right now.

I’ve had some sleep issues and as I’ve worked to resolve them, I’ve discovered a few tricks. But first things first.

There is one most important ingredient for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep.

It is my belief that if this one thing is missing, even if the rest of the recipe is flawless, satisfying sleep will elude you. That most important ingredient is peace.

Peace is a must for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep.

Do you struggle to sleep because you feel vulnerable? Anxious? Angry? Confused? Conflicted? Helpless? Hopeless? Are you subject to every whim of the media, politicians, bosses, teachers, and other voices who can’t agree with each other, let alone impart understanding to you?

Please hear me right now. None of them created the universe. Not one of them knows what tomorrow will bring. None of them, even less all of them, will ever bring you peace.

“I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

Job 3:26
Alert puppy: The One Most Important Ingredient for Relaxing Rest and Satisfying Sleep
Photo by Martin Dufosset
Without peace, we remain on high alert.

The only way to have true inner peace, is to be indwelt with the Prince of Peace.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6

Any other suggestion is a sham. Call me simple, call me dependent, call me whatever you like. I won’t lose any sleep over it because Jesus is my peace. And I would love nothing more than to see you relaxed, able to sleep, and resting in His peace as well.

There are many counterfeit means of peace being touted out there – alcohol, drugs, relationships, wealth, notoriety, what else can you think of? People hope that when they achieve what they’re striving for, they will have peace and be able to relax. They’ll rest then. I’ve heard people say they’ll sleep when they die. But even that is an unrealistic expectation.

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…”

Hebrews 9:27

And all of this fails to mention that it is almost impossible to achieve our high hopes and gallant goals if we can’t sleep. Without rest, we lack the energy we need to reach for our dreams, let alone succeed in them. So many people are running on empty and jumping from disappointment to disappointment. Is that you? Would you like a complete reset?

Jesus is the Source of peace.

Friend, how can anyone sleep without peace? How can one have peace without forgiveness? Is there a way to forgiveness without confession and repentance? Jesus wants to wipe your slate clean. He would love to set your feet on His path to purpose. A reset from Him is the only way to have relaxing rest and satisfying sleep. And the amazing news is that He literally died to give it to you.

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Colossians 1:19-20

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Psalm 4:8

If you haven’t accepted the salvation that Jesus freely gives, none of the other tricks I’ve learned will solve your sleep problems. There can be no true rest or enduring satisfaction of any kind apart from Him. I believe that to the depths of my soul.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 14:27

If you do not know this peace, but would like to – or even if only your curiosity is piqued, check out this post. It contains more detailed information on the Gospel of Peace. You can also contact me via the ‘Contact’ button on the top of the page or using the comments section below. There is a saying, which is oh-so true, which says:

No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know Peace.

With ALL of that said, even Christians have trouble sleeping. We know Jesus. We possess inner peace. We have confidence in God’s plans and the brightest hope for the future. So why are we… why am I… lying awake at 2am?

I’ve been asking myself this question and praying for wisdom about it. I’ve tried some things which did not make much difference. But there are 5 habits I’ve worked to hone that seem to really be working. Please join me back here Friday to talk about them.

In the meantime, if there is anything I can do to help you with this one, most important ingredient for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep, let me know. The 5 tricks I have discovered are all dependent, and built upon, a foundation of peace. It is imperative to have this piece (this peace!) firmly in place before we move on.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face towards you
and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26
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Reflections

Who is in Charge of My Future? Am I Making Plans or are Plans Making Me?

The other day my granddaughter said to me, “Mima, did you know I have a boyfriend at school?” I blinked the astonishment out of my eyes and cocked my head with interested confusion. She’s five. I hadn’t planned this conversation until well into the future.

Her words flooded my mind with questions. The one that screamed its way to the front was “How do you know about boyfriends?” but I decided not to verbalize it just yet.

Instead, I went with “No, I didn’t know that. What’s his name?”

“I don’t know”, she responded.

“You have a boyfriend, and you don’t know his name?” I was beginning to relax.

“No, I don’t actually have him yet”, she said. “That is just what I plan to do.”

“Oh, do you have anyone in particular in mind?” I wondered.

“Not yet. But I do know a lot of boys.”

I was relieved and a bit distraught, but more than anything, I was amused. This precious child was making plans for something she knows very little about and talking as if she had already accomplished it.

“Silly girl!” I thought. But then I quickly realized, “Oh dear, I’ll bet she gets that compulsiveness from me.”

I think that way. I decide on something for my future and it’s pretty much a done deal in my head. And when I tell God my plans, His face probably looks a lot like mine did; astonished eyes, head cocked in playful dispute.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

Woody Allen

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:21

I really do like to have settled plans and a direction to be heading. I do not enjoy that feeling when things are ‘up in the air’. But it is one thing to make plans, and quite another to allow the plans to make me. Sometimes I get in a hurry for the future and rush out in front of the Lord. I make decisions and begin acting upon them with tunnel vision as if they were in charge.

Weekly planner: Who is in Charge of My Future? Am I Making Plans or are the Plans Making Me?
Photo by Jess Bailey Designs

I’m working on it. God is working in me. He spoke to me about it a few years back and I wrote this little rhyme in response. It helps to read it every now and then to remind myself to ‘stay in my lane’ so to speak.

Ask Instead of Tell

I wake up in the morning, the "list" commands my day.
I quickly show it to the Lord and ask He bless my way.
He wraps His arms around me and brings me to my knees,
And lovingly requests I "let go of my plans, please".
He says "Thank you for inviting Me to join with you today,
But things will go much smoother, if we live this day My way."
Its important to remember, with my schedule I'd do well,
To take it all before the Lord and ask instead of tell!

I do believe it is ok with God – I’d even go so far as to say it is wise before God – to have direction for my future. But the key is to hold it loosely. I can make plans as long as my plans don’t make me. They are not in charge. I don’t want to be so invested that I can’t be flexible when God’s plans require a different direction than the one in which I was heading.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Corrie Ten Boom

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm for ever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

Psalm 33:11
Planner and flowers on desk: Who is in Charge of My Future? Am I Making Plans or are the Plans Making Me?
Photo by Kaboompics.com

Right now, I have 1-year, 5-year, and ‘down the line’ plans for which I am consistently laying ground work. But honestly, I don’t know if I’ll live that long or whether God has different priorities for me. If the past is any indication, He’s chuckling at what I envision, knowing how different it is from His perfect vision.

And that’s pretty exciting when I stop and think about it. The Christian life is definitely an adventure. I need to relax a bit and enjoy it more.

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ 

James 4:13-15

 “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Benjamin Franklin

So far, Benjamin Franklin has been correct, but I’d narrow my declaration a bit further. The only thing I can say about my future with absolute certainty is that I’m going to see Jesus face to face. That is the joy of my salvation. I’m thankful that the one thing I know for sure is such a glorious thing.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12

I want to live in such a way as to influence my granddaughter to say, “Mima, did you know I’m planning to have a boyfriend at school?”

To which I can reply, “I hope this is at least a 10-year plan! Let’s pray about it.” I’m sure boys will come and go from her life, but I consistently pray that Jesus will always have her heart.

I would love to help her make plans, but I don’t want to see plans make her – unless they are God’s plans. If He is in charge of her life, that is the best I can ask for. His plans give her the future she was created to live!

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“Oh Lord, please guide me to be the example you want me to be. I desire that my plans for the future always bend to yours, and for you to always have charge over me. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.”

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Reflections

The What, Why, and Wonder of Every Day Facades: Part 3

Happy Friday! I’m thrilled that you are here! Have you read parts 1 and 2 in this series about everyday facades? We defined the term, talked about what those false fronts might look like and considered some reasons why we use them. Feel free to click below if you need a refresher.

Today is the glorious and victorious conclusion of this series. Part 3 is about the Wonder of everyday facades. This is where we find freedom for ourselves and others.

The what, why and Wonder of everyday facades: Part 3 – The Wonder

Everyday facades are not material. When I use this term, I am not referring to an actual mask or costume. These facades are false fronts which we use to create illusions about who we are.

Façade (noun)a way of behaving or appearing that gives other people a false idea of your true feelings or situation

merriam-webster.com

The Wonder of everyday facades

This Wonder, with a capital W, is God, Himself. He reaches right through our facades to connect with us. Have you experienced that? If not, let your guard down and be real with Him. He can handle it. He sees you and knows you and you can’t fool Him, no matter how cleverly you try.

“I am looking for the one I can’t fool.”

― Kamand Kojouri

Four wonderful examples in the Bible where God saw through the everyday facades of people

Jonah

God told His prophet, Jonah, to go to Nineveh and give the people of that city a message. Jonah didn’t want to go, so he got on board a ship heading in the opposite direction. He put on a plain façade and tried to blend in. God knew exactly where he was and brought him to repentance, obedience, and restoration. If you’d like to read the story, you can find it here.

Hagar

Hagar was a mom who was treated poorly by her boss and fired. You can read all the sordid details here. Her reality was cringeworthy and she was trying to run away from it. God saw through her façade and met her right where she was.

“She (Hagar) gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”

Genesis 16:13 (parenthesis mine)

The Samaritan Woman

Jesus struck up a conversation with the Samaritan woman. He asked her to go get her husband. She casually said she didn’t have one. She hid behind a façade of half-truth. Jesus saw straight through it and told her what He knew to be true about her – past, present and future. The story can be found here.

The Disciples

The disciples had seen Jesus crucified. They’d experienced His empty grave and His resurrected form. They’d been given the Holy Spirit and they’d witnessed many other miracles. But they went fishing, which was how they’d spent their time before they met Jesus. They went back to the comfortable façade of their old habits. Jesus knew where they were and He met them there. You can read about it here.


Mask unworn: The what, why and Wonder of everyday facades...
Photo by Ibolya Toldi
When we encounter the Wonder of who God is, we can leave our facades behind.

God loves us too much to leave us hiding behind our everyday facades. We might fool each other, but God sees us. He meets us where we are just like He did in the four examples above.

Each of those people were changed by the wonder of their encounters with God. He saw their need, removed their reason for hiding, and gave them purpose. They emerged from behind their facades to see and be seen.

Precious friend, God sees you behind whatever façade you raise. He wants to draw you out, restore and renew you. He will change you from hider to seeker, so you can help others too. God is the Wonder of our everyday facades.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
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Reflections

The What, Why, and Wonder of Every Day Facades: Part 2

Hey there! Happy Wednesday! I’m so happy you’re here! Did you read Monday’s post about everyday facades? We talked about what some of those look like and how we might see through them. Feel free to click below if you need a refresher.

Thank you so much for coming back for Part 2. Today, I hope you’ll converse with me about why we use everyday facades. I think this is a critical part of understanding ourselves and others.

The what, why and Wonder of everyday facades: Part 2 – The Why

Everyday facades are not material. When I use this term, I am not referring to an actual mask or costume. These facades are false fronts which we use to create illusions about who we are.

Facade (noun)a way of behaving or appearing that gives other people a false idea of your true feelings or situation

merriam-webster.com

Why do we put up facades?

We all need companionship, connection, and love. We were made by our loving Creator by plan and with purpose. So why do we jeopardize it all with our facades? I can think of four quick reasons.

Fear of rejection

Fear of rejection is the reason for most of the facades we use. We are afraid that if others saw the real us, they’d be disinterested. We use facades to either attract their interest or provide a faux persona for them to reject. If they reject someone who is not the real us, it is easier to deflect the pain. But if we attract them to an alter ego, we live with the fear that eventually they will figure us out. Rejection seems inevitable.

“Having grown up so familiar with creating a pleasing facade, I now end up compelled to reveal things inside and say, ‘Okay, now you really see me. Do you still love me?’”

― Kathryn Harrison

Desire to be sensitive

This is a tricky one. Sometimes celebrating our blessings seems to be insensitive to others who have not received the same things. Pregnancy, promotions, happy marriages, etc. These things can cause us to put up a muted façade so as not to appear too celebratory in front of those who would like to have what we have. When we are not careful, we can come off as ungrateful or flippant, and that works against our desire to be sensitive.

Protection of privacy

To protect our privacy, or that of someone else, we resort to everyday facades. We use them to deflect attention and steer people away from the information we wish to hide. This goal can be a worthy one, but we need to proceed with caution. It is easy to cross a boundary into dishonesty.

Hesitancy to accept reality

Oh friend, sometimes our reality is just not what we wish it to be. When we are hesitant to accept the truth, our tendency might be to live as if things were different. There is a saying that advises to “fake it until you make it” but this is a dangerous way to live. If we are honest about what is, we are more likely to find a real path to improvement.

“I feel confidence in myself, but at the same time there’s these cracks in the façade and those little things underneath that are unstable.”

― Pete Wentz
Family wearing paper bag masks: the what, why and Wonder of everyday facades- part 2
Photo by Daisy Anderson

Can you think of more reasons why we might use facades instead of presenting our true selves? Do you think facades are effective around you? Do you tend to respond to people according to how they present themselves? Sometimes I think I do.

Even when I clearly see the façade, I might treat an acquaintance in accordance with it. I assume that I’m being respectful of their wishes. If they went to all the trouble to put up their façade, I don’t feel the need to call them out.

But as I get to know someone better, I don’t want to let them hide. I want to show them that I see them, and I appreciate them. I want them to feel confident that they are valuable just the way they are. I hope I am looking deeper than what they are presenting on the surface.

This is critical relationship stuff with which I’m wrestling in my own life. Is it relevant to you? Have you noticed facades in your circle of acquaintances and friends? If so, why do you think that is?


I sure hope you’ll return to the Back Porch on Friday to discuss one more facet of our everyday facades? What do you suppose could be the wonder revealed by them? Feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss the conversation. You are precious to me, dear friend.

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Reflections

The What, Why, and Wonder of Everyday Facades: Part 1

Hello everybody! It’s November 1, and this is one of my favorite days of the year. Today, in the USA, we turn our hearts toward gratitude. And, as if we need a place to begin, candy is 50-75% off in most stores. (Hey, if you like peppermint and happen to see bite-sized York Patties on sale, grab a bag in preparation for an upcoming story and recipe post!)

In yesterday’s How to Have a Healthy Hope and a Happy Heart article, I said Halloween costumes remind me that what we see is not always what we get when it comes to the people around us. It is easy to look through an obvious disguise and realize the person inside is vastly different from who or what they are pretending to be. But the facades we hide behind every day are more complicated.

The what, why and Wonder of everyday facades: Part 1 – The What

Facade (noun)a way of behaving or appearing that gives other people a false idea of your true feelings or situation

merriam-webster.com

Everyday facades are not material. I’m not referring to an actual mask or costume. These facades are false fronts which we use to create illusions about who we are. Here are some examples.

Masquerade masks: The What, Why, and Wonder of Every Day Facades: Post 1
Photo by hitesh choudhary

What are some everyday facades?

Fancy facade

Do you know someone who goes to incredible lengths to present perfection? Sometimes (of course, not always!) someone who is obsessed with fancy clothes, or degrees, or some other impressive thing, can be hiding feelings of inadequacy. These people get abundantly noticed for their efforts, which often drives their resolve to continue.

“It’s easy to get by on a facade of fancy style, but sooner or later, people are going to see through it. I’m trying to be as honest as possible.”

Jim Carroll

Happy façade

I present this façade every day. I am in the habit of answering the simple question, “How are you?” with the deceptive answer “Great! How are you?” And I usually get “Good, thanks!” in return. None of it is completely genuine. But it is easier to paste on a giant happy smile and quip cheerfully than to answer with thoughtful truth. Feigning happiness does not bring joy. In fact, it often does the exact opposite because we fail to connect with others in a meaningful way.

Grotesque façade

This one is near to my heart. There are precious people in my life who rely on grotesque façades to hide deep, painful wounds. They use shock and repulsion to keep our eyes diverted so we don’t see their actual pain. They expect we would cringe in disgust at their real plight, so they create a different reason for us to turn away. And when we do, they stay alone in their misery.

Plain façade

A plain façade is effective for anonymity. If someone can blend in, they can hide in plain sight. When they are disregarded, they stay away from scrutiny, and nobody sees what they perceive to be their gaping flaws. They often wish someone would care enough to notice them, but they simply are not willing or able to put themselves out there in a way which makes it easy for people to pay attention.


Friends, so often you and I hide our real selves. Do any of the everyday facades above hit close to home? What others can you think of?

I know for certain that the God who made us does not make mistakes. When we hide ourselves and try to put a different face forward, aren’t we cheating the world out of the contribution God intended us to make? If we spend our efforts maintaining our everyday facades, aren’t we robbing ourselves? The greatest joy comes from fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.

Will you join me on Wednesday and Friday this week to discuss this topic further? Let’s consider why we hide behind everyday facades. And what do you suppose could be the wonder revealed by them? Feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss the conversation. See you then – have a great week!