Gratitude ~ Writing it Down

Years ago, a young woman new to bible study, I read for the first time:
"Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:19-20
Thanks for everything?  That began a deeper quest to understand gratitude that continues to this day.

Now, fifteen or more years later, my prayers almost always begin with "Thank you..." and not only has that changed the way I understand my world, it is reflected in my children's prayers as well.

Imagine my joy when I began to see gratitude journals popping up all over the blogosphere, a river of thanksgiving driven by a precious daughter of the King whose life has also been changed by having a thankful heart.

How can I not gleefully jump into this river of bounty and ride, bobbing and splashing, with my sisters in Christ!  Blogging my thankfulness, yes, yes!

So here I am, far from our dry Texas farm, in Hawaii, the state in which I was born, but to which I have not returned for twenty years.  Easy indeed it is for me to start my gratitude list here...

1 ~ my father's generosity in bringing our families to this beautiful place for a shared vacation

2 ~ papaya, pineapple and rice for breakfast

3 ~ the friendship between my husband and brother

4 ~ clear blue waters

5 ~ a growing friendship with my sister-in-law

6 ~ the smell of flowering trees wafting past my nose while worshiping in church

7 ~ newly met brothers and sisters in Christ on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific

8 ~ seeing, touching, cooking and tasting breadfruit for the first time

9 ~ seeing with my own eyes the green flash as the sun set over the Pacific

10 ~ coffee made from freshly ground beans grown right on this island

11 ~ a little boy overcoming his fear of the water

12 ~ my creative husband inspiring our little one to be brave by pretending to be knights slaying dragons

13 ~ long stretches of silence with only the wind and waves in my ears

14 ~ the exhilaration of riding a wave

15 ~ an island resident who bought a turkey for us before we arrived so we'd be sure to have one for Thanksgiving dinner

16 ~ a long shoulder and back rub from my gifted sister-in-law

17 ~ smiling long haired children covered in wet sand

18 ~ plumeria flowers scattered over the ground and tucked into my hair by my little girl

19 ~ a gas station bathroom smelling sweet and filled with fresh flowers

20 ~ a rainbow over Honolulu as we flew to Moloka'i, colorful gift from the Gift Giver

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 66 ~ And Yet Again, Chocolate!

Two bars of organic dark chocolate tied together with a red ribbon.  For two people I love, tied together with the bonds of marriage.

It has brought me much joy watching my brother and sister-in-law, with us on a family vacation, spend time with our children.  They are the beloved aunt and uncle, young, energetic, full of life.  Ready to have adventures and play.  The children adore them.  

I am being sprinkled watching them with the kids.  They will make wonderful parents.

And they will eat chocolate.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 65 ~ Chocolate Again

This time it was my mom who found chocolate with a bow on her pillow.  With almonds, becuase I know she loves them.

You may be wondering why chocolate is pervading the sprinkles this week!  We are vacationing with our extended family and not knowing what my time and resources might be, I packed small surprises to bring with me.  Since just about everyone in my family likes chocolate, it has become a theme.  Apparently a welcome one.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 64 ~ Soothing Bath

Spending holidays with extended family is a great way to get to know your in-laws!  I am blessed to be able to spend some extra time with my sister-in-law this Thanksgiving.

She works very hard helping my brother run their two new businesses, so I was looking for something relaxing for her.  I bought a calming lavender bath pouch, added a small loofah sponge and a ribbon, then snuck it onto their bed.  I hope she will enjoy a long relaxing soak during our vacation.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 63 ~ Treat for my Boy

Farmer Boy likes chocolate.  And mint.

Dark chocolate mint bar + sprinkle note + ribbon = smiling teenager.

Do you sense a theme here?  What is it about chocolate?  Almost everyone loves it, and considers it a special treat.  I know I do.

It does make sprinkling easier.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 62 ~ Memories via Sugar

I was at a specialty food shop recently, and found a kind of candy bar that The Bard and I used to enjoy when we lived in Germany.  Obviously it shouted "Sprinkle!" at me.

Left it on his pillow.  Yum!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 61 ~ Surprise in the Back Packs

We had a bit of a trip today.  A long journey to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones.  We got all ready last night, knowing that our wake-up time was o'dark early.  After the kids were asleep, I snuck a little something in each back pack.

My children enjoy crafts, and making something creative is a great way to pass the time on a trip.  So for Farmer Boy, some Wikki Stix.  For The Princess, a small wooden loom and some yarn.  And for Little Warrior a mosaic sticker set.  I found all of them at the Dollar Store, so it was not a big financial investment.

I think they enjoyed finding something unexpected in their bags, and having something to do with their hands as they sat.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 60 ~ Chocolate Surprise

Old friend... far away... loves chocolate...

You guessed it!  Wrapped in ribbon and accompanied by a note, off flew two bars of Godiva chocolate (her favorite brand) to Arizona.

Happy nibbling, Angie!  I'm thankful for you!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 59 ~ Encouraging a Creative Mama

I've mentioned before that this month I am thinking about people for whom I thankful.  I am thankful for all the men and women who spend time with our children each week at various extra classes and activities in which they participate.

Today I decided to sprinkle one of Little Warrior's Sunday School teachers.  She is boundlessly creative, most recently displayed at a remarkable Reformation Party that she co-hosted with another awesome homeschooling mom, and to which she invited the entire church.  She also decided to organize craft days to make items to sell to benefit our local Pregnancy Resource Center.

I was in Half Priced Books (one of my very favorite places) and saw the book Sweater Renewal.  This is just the type of craft Becky is working on right now.  I snatched it up.

Packaged in a bright flowery bag, with a note included, I brought it to church.  She was surprised, and excited to have new inspiration.  She is a blessing!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 58 ~ A Letter Remembering

Saturday dawned gray and cold on our Texan farm.  The color and chill mirrored my emotions as I prepared to go into the city for a funeral.

I sat at my computer, wondering if I would have time to talk with our friend's beloved after the service.  I imagined she would be surrounded by a sea of people wanting her attention, and wondered if I'd be brave enough to persist until I spoke with her.

But even if I were able to speak, I wondered if my mouth could find the words.  Forever the words tumble and bumble out of my mouth, my helpless hands wishing to snatch them out of the air and stuff them back in.  Forever I disappoint myself in expressing my heart while speaking.

I thought of all this... the people, the busy-ness, the bumbling... and I thought of my hands.  The words from my hands bumble too, but I can sit with them for longer.  They can be taken away again and moved and replaced until maybe, maybe an inkling of my heart is captured.

So my hands began to make words on the screen.  I spoke my memories with my fingers.
I remember stopping at a steak restaurant with you both and thinking “I really and truly am in Texas now” as we searched to find something a vegetarian could eat.
As I wrote, more and more memories came back.
I remember dancing with John at a Youth Night at church... I was dressed in a 1940’s outfit to match the theme.  He told me my hair reminded him of his mother’s.
 Some were hard to remember.
I remember John’s tender hug when we lost our second child, his solemn voice as he pulled back, and looked deep in my eyes while holding on to me, “Are you okay?”
I fumbled through.  I printed.  I brought it with me.

Perhaps this seems a strange thing to consider a joy sprinkle.  This was never on my idea list.  It wasn't on a hope-to-do or want-to-do list.

But our real life includes unexpected sorrows, and if it is joy, it can be found in the midst of sorrow.  Where love can be found, joy will be found waiting nearby.

Writing this letter moved onto my need-to-do and right-to-do list.

In the end, I was brave enough.  At the very end, in fact.  After most everyone had left, I went to her and stood with her.  We held hands and I walked her to her car.  I slipped her the envelope with my letter as I left.

photo credit ronnieb

I Can Sing and Make Music, But Always Give Thanks?

Originally written on November 25, 2003, edited November 25, 2010.  I continue to be awed by the abundance hidden in my sorrows...

This is the time of year when we are inundated with reminders to be thankful.  We make crafts with our children, send cards, prepare feasts, recite blessings.

It is right to be thankful for our abundance, for our obvious blessings. 

But consider this:
"Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:19-20
Was Paul serious that we should be thankful for everything?  Everything? 

What would that look like?

Should I be thankful for headaches?  For my child being injured?  Thankful that my friend is suffering through a divorce?

What does it mean to always be thankful for everything?

I can not begin to imagine every possible scenario, and I know that there are those that horrify.  The trials that some go through are beyond my comprehension. 

Yet I come back to "be thankful for everything."

When I first began to consider this scripture, I tried something new in my prayer time.  I began to give thanks for the bad things that happened in my day. 

I didn't say, "And thank you for the demeaning way I was treated at work today."  Instead I would pray: "Thank you for the reminder I had today of who sets my value. I am so glad that you are my judge, and that I ultimately work for you.  Please help me to love my employer the way you love him." 

Sometimes I might have to pray, "Please show me what there is to be thankful for in this situation, or about this person."

At first this was hard, but over time it became easier.  And remarkably, the trials seemed a little less, well, trying.   It was as if a sharp edge was being been rubbed off them.  I didn't feel as angry.  A tenderness was growing in me.

Then I ran into a personal loss that was too big. 

How could I thank God for the death of our second child, when I was 13 weeks pregnant?  After the first shock of grief wore off, I was confronted with this problem.  I knew that somehow, somehow, God was calling me to have a thankful heart in the midst of this tragedy.  But how?

It took a long time for the sharp edge of that pain to become dulled enough to even consider allowing God to show me how to be thankful.  But eventually He led me there, (with sobs and resistance). 

I came to see that there were things to be thankful for even in my grief:
- that our baby was born at home, and that I was able to see him
- that his death dropped me to my knees so hard that my life was turned toward God in a new way forever
- that I know in a deeply personal way what it means to be comforted in the arms of Jesus
- that I can minister to and love women who experience miscarriage in a much more personal way
I am not suggesting putting on a happy smile, and making bad things look good.  I am talking about true thankfulness in the midst of tragedy.  About real life, real pain, and really being thankful.

So, when people go around the table and count their blessings, are you going to pipe up with one of your worst experiences of the year?  Not likely!

But in your quiet time (or your noisy time, as my time with God often is), take a moment to open your heart to thankfulness.  Pick something that is heavy on you right now, a burden that you feel you can't bear, and ask God to show you what to be thankful for in that situation.

Watch and see what He will do!

Praying that you will find the abundance hidden in your sorrows....

Please, don't wait to reach out

Wednesday afternoon.  That time of day when my energy is low, and I need to be getting in the kitchen to start dinner.  Just a little down time first, I think, just a minute, and log in to facebook.

Skimming over the news feed, my eye trips on the first line of an old friend's status...

Lost a dear friend today but rejoicing that he is with our Lord.

My heart stops, then a thump of panic.  No, not... but I read on, and my worry turns to sorrow.

I read the words over and over.

was so kind
I will miss him
lost a dear friend today
with our Lord

I stare at the screen.  My throat is squeezing tighter and my heart is flopping like a fish on land.  Because it happened.  What I have feared for three years happened.

I have lost a dear friend.  Who was so kind.  And I will miss him.

But I didn't tell him.  I didn't even know he was sick.

My disconnect from this kind Texan gentleman, who took two wide-eyed young Yankees under his wing long ago, was bitter fruit of a painful parting from my beloved church home three years ago.

Shall I bore you with a theological treatise on the problems of church schism?  Shall I unload the grief of that parting here?  Like an old scar, that scab has fallen off now, the wound part of the shaping of this child more into the image of her Holy Daddy.

Behold, he makes all things new.  What the enemy intended for evil God has worked for good.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.*

I did not wish it to be as it was, but the circumstances were beyond my wishes.  I did not wish it to impact relationships, but life has a way of making one choice ripple out like water and cause even small things to bob.  And some to float away.

My dear friend whose post brought me sad news is one of those we left, but she, and many others from that time in our life, comfortably navigate social media, and we have reconnected through facebook.

Our departed friend was 78.  His was the world of face-to-face.  But we lived an hour away from each other.  I wasn't going to run into him in the grocery store.

Why didn't I call him?  I can't answer that question.  I hadn't forgotten him.  I thought of calling many times.

If I drill down deep in my heart, I find there something worrisome.  It is a fear.  I think it might be named Rejection.  I turn that idea over in my mind and wonder how that could be.  Never once did he do anything even hinting at it.  Yet time and pain have a way of wrapping things together that I don't quite understand.

And in the center of that fear are lies...

not good enough




Saturday morning.  I am driving alone in my van to the city.  As the minutes tick by, I find myself feeling a growing sense of dread.  Soon I will be at the memorial service.  Will I be able to hold myself together?  Will I be able to hold myself up?

As I turn into the parking lot I catch a glimpse of the back of a not-seen-for-three-years head and my hands begin to shake.  I draw a breath and it comes jagged, catching in a constricting throat.  Why is this happening?  Why can't I just be calm?

I park and pray and try to reason with myself.  Be sensible.  Be calm.

It doesn't work.  I pick up the phone and dial my prayer partner, my spiritual EMT.  With gentle yet strong words she settles the oxygen mask of prayer on me and I begin to breathe normally again.

I take up my bible, clutched between crossed arms like an old teddy bear, and walk to the front door.  I begin to see familiar faces.  I exchange quiet hugs.  And then I see his beloved.

I walk over to her, inexplicably nervous.  I put my hand on her arm and she turns.

Patti!  she says, a smile brightening her tired face.  And I know that I am welcome.  We exchange brief words, I lean in to hug her, and she whispers I never forgot you.

I am shaking now.  My hands trembling, my eyes overflowing.  Through a blur I race to the bathroom where my whole body shudders with sobs.  I am a muddle of emotion...

grief... joy... pain... love...

I pray, and amazingly, there is where I leave my tears.  A gift of grace allows me to walk back, with my red nose and eyes, and sit calmly through the service.  It is a time of remembering.  Remembering our friend, and remembering what God's word says about his forever life.  Singing "Amazing Grace"...

When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun.

After the service, there is a reception.  Friends and family members gathering to reminisce and to catch up.   A swirl of people.  Repeated questions:  How ARE you?  Still way out there on the farm?  How are the kids?

It is love.  So much love.

I sit with older friends and talk and listen.  I hear about frustrations, being stuck at home, not being able to drive, missing grandchildren.

And I realize they are afraid of being forgettable too.

I grab that thought with both hands.  My heart cries "I will not forget them!" I ask if we can come visit.  I make sure that the whirling blur that is my young family will not overwhelm.  I confirm phone numbers, emails, addresses.


Later, at home, I worry that the rushing current of life will distract me from doing what I feel an urgent need to do.  So I look at the calendar, pick dates, write emails, make plans.

The current never stops.  It just gets faster.

Hear my story, friends.  Let its truth sink into your heart.  Time is passing.  Your love is needed.

Please, don't wait.

Don't forget.  The days are short.

*Revelation 21:5, Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28
photo credit bjwebbiz

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 57 ~ Secret Package... Arrived!

Well, I can't tell you what this one is quite yet, but while you're waiting, go check out a few previous secretive sprinkles that can now be revealed.

There was Day 22 ~ A Surprise

And Day 23 ~ Another Surprise

You might be on to something if you noted that both of those were mailed surprises....  :-)

"Ssshhhhhhh... be vewwy vewwy quiet!"

Update!  The package arrived, and my sprinklee even blogged about it!  So you get it straight from the source...  Jennifer aka The Fairy Mum.   I am so happy she felt the love!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 56 ~ Helping Foster Children

I learned a few days ago about a young single woman who has opened her home to three children  Their mother is in jail for six months.  This young woman does not have the "child infrastructure" in place, nor the funds, to provide for these girls, but she clearly has the love.

Not knowing what stores she might have nearby, or the specific needs, I picked up a Visa gift card to send to the new for-six-months-family.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 55 ~ Thankful for a Teacher

To help inspire ideas for the joy spreading challenge, I have been thinking of people for whom I am thankful.  This prompted me to give the children's piano teacher a little something from my kitchen, along with a note expressing my appreciation.

For Day 55, The Princess' theater teacher came to mind.  This woman is utterly amazing, a calm smiling presence in the midst of the swirling energy of children of all ages, children whose class time is almost entirely spent moving, in a very small room. Children with speech delays, behavioral issues, extreme shyness, strong egos...

And then there are the mothers.  Mothers who want to help.  Which is not always... helpful.  She is usually able to manage even the mothers with grace.

I can't imagine how she does it.  Sometimes I listen to the clatter and clamor and just want to put my hands over my ears and crawl under a big down comforter and breathe.  But she smiles and sings and dances and coaches, and they adore her.

This is not something I could offer our daughter.  Nor could I provide the big creaky wooden stage in the real theater in which she is privileged to perform.  I have learned a tremendous amount from this teacher myself, about watching for children's gifts, about letting them pick their pace of risk-taking, and then sometimes, pushing them a little harder, and watching the bud bloom.

I even, {gulp} got on stage myself this spring, because the class lacked enough actors to stage the script they had chosen.  It was hard for me, and my old brain.  Hard for me to memorize lines.  In the end I loved it.  I wanted to do it again.  Some day I will.

So... to sprinkle... not much.  A fresh loaf of homemade bread.  A jar of homemade jam.  A little note, that was altogether too brief, and as I reflected on it, entirely unsatisfactory.  So perhaps I will send her to this post.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 54 ~ Donation to Pregnancy Center

Another gift card... something to give to a mother in need.  Our local Pregnancy Resource Center was the recipient, and will pass it along.

Who defines me?

Some day I will say it and it will be true...

I am no longer defining myself.

I will be far enough along on my spiritual journey.  I will be completely free.

Today, there are parts of myself that I am still hanging on to.  Wanting to be liked.  Wanting to be understood.

Despite the reality that all that I have given up of myself for His use, He has turned for greater joy in my life.

Still, I look at outward signs, and I measure myself.

This is what I long for, glimpses I've seen, but have yet to fully grasp with both hands...

To lean only on God for strength

To not worry if others misunderstand me

To be a quiet yet strong voice speaking truth

To trust every detail to Him

Less of me, Lord.  More of you.

Take my weakness Lord.  Send your holy fire to burn my pride. 

Beauty from ashes.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 53 ~ Happy Breakfast to You

Ever since the Princess turned nine in October, Little Warrior has been begging for breakfast in bed.  Part of our family birthday tradition is that the birthday girl or boy can opt to be served breakfast in bed on a tray, while leaning back into as many pillows as we can stuff behind them.  It's a fun way to start a special day.

This morning Little Warrior woke up and called me into his room, deviating from his usual morning routine of stealthily creeping around the couch then flying into my waiting arms.  He whispered "I want to have breakfast on a tray, right here," and patted the bed.

"Well, your sister is still sleeping."   Think think think... 

I wrapped him in his comforter and brought him to the couch, propping him up with pillows.  Lucky for me, I had made a quadruple batch of pancakes on Saturday and there were still a few left.  Add a tray, some colorful dishes, a glass of juice, and a little bottle of maple syrup, and we had the breakfast of a four year old's dreams. 

The Bard and I even sang "Happy breakfast to you" as I brought the tray to the couch (no candles... apple juice and maple syrup were already pushing my comfort limits).  And while this picture is not the sharpest, I can't resist posting it because it so perfectly captures his emotions of the moment...

That's not a lazy stretch and yawn.  That's a double fist pumping "YES!"

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 52 ~ Hot Chocolate

Our church anniversary party was held outside Sunday night - a fairly chilly evening - at a nearby camp.  I knew the adults would have coffee and tea to warm them up, but for the kids there was water and lemonade.  What could I do to make things cozy for the little ones?

I decided that in addition to our food contribution to the potluck meal, I would bring a hot water heater, some hot cocoa mix, and a spoon.  Hot chocolate for all comers!

And they came.  Happy kids, warm kids, and, well, messy kids.  We had chocolatey kids, chocolatey table, chocolatey floors... and they all smelled delicious!  ;-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 51 ~ Movie Night with Ice Cream

We don't watch much television.  This makes a surprise movie night very exciting to the three youngsters residing in our home. 

Especially when they get to eat ice cream at the same time.

Tonight I am the best mother in the world.  I'll let you know my status tomorrow when I am trying to get everyone to do their farm chores, eat, bathe and look presentable for church, all by 7:30am.  On second thought...

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 50 ~ Another Gift Card

Day fifty.

Half way.

I can't believe it.   I feel like I've hardly done anything.  I have many ideas for the next fifty days.  But I always have days when I am absolutely stumped.  Fifty days gone - hardly anything.  Fifty days to come - seems like a lot.  Funny how that works.

Today I had a plan.  That was superseded by another plan.   By the time the second plan was proven impossible, the opportunity to carry out the first plan had long passed.

Happily, I had a gift card to WalMart that I could donate to our local Family Crisis Shelter.  I hope a family in need will be able to use it for something they enjoy.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 49 ~ Sharing with a Sweet Mom

This past summer I started hosting dinners for moms in my home once a month, just a time to be with other women who have similar lives (most of us homeschool), and discuss things that are important to us.

One of the sweet mothers who comes regularly was not going to be able to attend this month because her husband is traveling.  She has four small children, and while she does an amazing job of cheerfully accepting this frequent challenge of solo-parenting, she seemed a little worn down this week.

There really wasn't any way I could think to include her, but then I had an idea.  What if I brought her the meal in the morning, so she could have the same thing for dinner and feel like she was somewhat a part of it? 

So that's what I did, and it blessed me, the queen of procrastination, by getting me to cook well ahead of time.  Happiness all around... are you sensing a trend here?

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 48 ~ Homeless Bicyclist

The Princess is outgoing, and very in touch with her emotions, so it was no surprise that she fell in love with the stage.  For the past few years she has been attending classes, which amount to rehearsals for plays, at our local theater.   Her theater class is the highlight of her school week.

This week, as I was just beginning preparations to leave for theater class, my phone rang.  It was the mother of some of The Princess' fellow classmates, wondering where we were.  Somehow, we had missed the change in class time, and were supposed to have arrived 45 minutes early.  The class had already started.

We raced around, throwing everything together, and rushed out the door.  As we drove down our country road, I noticed an unusual shape where the road met the highway.  Drawing closer I realized it was a bicyclist, bending over by the side of the road.  As I watched, he slowly moved out into our road, holding something in his hands.  It was garbage that had blown into the gully.  Then he got off the bike, bent over, picked something off the ground... and ate it.

He was practically in the middle of the road, but he appeared oblivious to the approach of my van.  I slowed down and drove past him; he still didn't raise his eyes.  The man was gaunt; he had packs and rolls tied onto the back of his bicycle. 

I stopped at the intersection to the highway and looked in the rear view mirror.  He was slowly pedaling toward me, ready to turn back on the highway and continue on his journey. 

I can't really tell what went through my mind at that moment.  Something like, "hungry. garbage. homeless. tired. crackers."  I put the van in park and jumped out. 

He was still riding toward me but didn't see me.  It took a few attempts before I got his attention.  I asked, "Do you need some food?  Are you hungry?"  His face went from tired to worried to suspicious to relieved as I watched.  "Oh.  Yes.  That would be great."  "Hang on, I'll get you whatever I can find."

I ran to the van and grabbed all the car snacks I had.  One granola bar, a package of peanut butter crackers, and an already opened sleeve of Ritz crackers.  I brought them to him, his hands cupped to receive them.  "It isn't much, I'm sorry.  I keep snacks in the car for my kids."  He looked at them like he was holding a treasure. "No, this is great.  Really, thanks."

"Where are you headed?" I asked.  "West," he said.  "No, east.  That way."  He waved his hand in the direction he was traveling and half-smiled almost apologetically.  "Just, well, you know, going." 

But I really didn't know.  Couldn't imagine.  "Blessings on your travels." I smiled, and jumped back in the van to speed my little actress to her class.

My mind was like a gigantic cave with words and emotions careening off the walls and into each other. 

"Blessings on your travels... that sounds so trite." 
"He didn't even notice my van driving toward him or me talking to him because he was so hungry; he can't focus, how will he be safe on the highway?" 
"I have never ever even once seen a homeless person in this community, and here he was at the end of my country road." 
"I never would have met this man if theater hadn't been early, and we had missed the change." 
"Divine appointment." 

It was one of those moments that simultaneously terrifies and uplifts.  I have some sort-of strategies for dealing with homeless people in the city who ask for help (more about that soon), but this was so totally unexpected and out of context.  And he didn't ask for help.  I saw him, I was stunned... I just acted. 

It was very moving.  I can't really say why.  If theater class had been at the regular time, I wouldn't have been there.  If I had known about the time change, I wouldn't have been there.

It touched me deeply that the opportunity for our lives to cross was a matter of seconds.  There it was.  And then it was gone.  How many times has God given me moments like these that I have missed? 
“Wake up, sleeper,  rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14
For some reason, this time, He got my attention.

The Power of Prayer

Prayer mystifies me.

Why would the creator of the universe care about my feeble words? Why would He tell us to pray on all occasions (Eph 6:18) and to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:16-18)?

Not knowing the mind of God, I can only guess because of how prayer has impacted my life.

I recently came across a dozen or so personal prayer requests I had written in my journal 6 years ago. I was amazed to realize that God had answered each of those prayers over the intervening years. 

I have experienced the power of prayer.

I have prayed over spiritual matters, I have prayed over practical matters.  I have seen prayers answered immediately, and I am still waiting for answers to prayers I have been praying for decades.

For whatever reason, God wants us to engage with Him in prayer.  Prayer is a living thing, and as such, it would be impossible to reduce its blessings to a simple list.  But here are a few of the things that I have experienced through prayer....

  1. Prayer draws us closer to God, and makes us more dependent on Him
  2. Like a familiar voice on the other end of the phone, the more time we spend in prayer, the easier it is to recognize God's voice speaking to us
  3. When we praise God in prayer we are taken out of ourselves and our focus is turned on Him
  4. Intercessory prayer turns our attention away from our own needs and to the needs of others.
  5. Prayers of confession grow us in humility
  6. Prayers of gratitude help us see how blessed we are.

And so much more.

Prayer not only affects those for whom we pray, but it changes us, from the inside out.  It is a mystery that I will never fully grasp, but for which I am profoundly grateful.

Earlier this year I felt God strongly impress on my heart that I needed to dedicate time each week to be in prayer with a dear friend.  We have known each other for a long time, and have prayed together often.  But with the exception of a short-lived church ministry, we haven't prayed together regularly, only as urgent needs arose.  She moved six years ago, and now lives in Canada.

I asked, and she heartily agreed.  She had been sensing the same need.  And despite the time change, phone issues, 3000 miles, and our busy homeschooling lives, we have managed to pray for at least an hour together, on the phone, almost every week since March.  We put our prayer time into our calendars and work other things around it.  We have prayed in calm and in crisis, in our homes and in our cars, and even as we traveled.  I budget those minutes into my cell phone use and it affects how I make my phone calls throughout the entire week.  It is a priority.

As I look at what has happened in both of our families this year, I am overwhelmed.   We have witnessed massive personal breakthroughs, healing in relationships, new ministries being born, material provision just in time.  If I could choose just one word to describe the fruit of this time, it would be peace.  Not only peace for my sweet friend and for me, but also for the people for whom we are praying.  Over and over when we check in on someone for whom we've been praying, the response is that they have felt peace.  Even if they hadn't known we were praying for them.

It is remarkable.

For whatever reason, God wants us to partner with Him in prayer, and blesses our response.

I encourage you, not only to be diligent in praying yourself, but also to reach out to someone and make a commitment to meet in prayer regularly.  It truly will change your life.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 47 ~ Surprise Outing

My kids were the recipient of the sprinkle today.  At 3:00 this afternoon I told them to put away their books, do chores, wash up, and load into the van.  They were excited and curious, but I didn't tell them where we were going.

The oldest guessed correctly before we even left on our hour+ ride, but the younger two didn't understand until we arrived at my brother's brand new frozen yogurt shop.  They had never been there before.  Oh the squeals!  Oh the hugs!  Oh the frozen yogurt!!

Good to the last drop!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 46 ~ Meeting a Need

I have mentioned a few times that I am trying to develop a relationship with a woman I don't know well.  When I visited her last week and asked her what she needs, she had one very large financial need, and one fairly simple household request.

Today I was able to pick up the household item she needed and drop it by her house.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 45 ~ Time

I purposed to spend some focused time with my little ones today.

Little Warrior wanted to teach me how to shoot arrows (tinker toy rods) from his homemade bow (a stool/elastic combo).  I didn't do bad.  He was very encouraging and told me what a good job I did.  :-)

I pulled up a chair at the piano and watched and listened as The Princess played through a new piece.  She liked that I was stopping and focusing completely on her, and not just listening while I worked.

In kids' economy, time = love

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 44 ~ Extras for a Bake Sale

Ready to go in the oven
I baked again for a fundraising bake sale, and was trying to figure out how to add a something little extra to make it special.  You know, bring a little more joy into the world?

Truthfully, I don't know if my goal was achieved, but what came to me was to make my offerings prettier.  So instead of just making round white sugar cookies, I picked out cute cutters and used colored sugar.  I put lots of bows and fancily cut tags on my baked goods.  Here are the results....

Ready to go in the mouth!

That ubiquitous bake sale item - Rice Krispie Treats

Mini Pumpkin Bread Loaves

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 43 ~ Pumpkin Bread Success!

The piano teacher was coming today, so I tried to make her pumpkin bread again. This time it didn't burn!  Hooray!

I knew she liked pumpkin, hence the repeat attempt.  I wrote her a note telling her how much I appreciate her work with the children and how pleased I am with their progress.  Tied a little bow on the plastic wrapped bread, and it was ready!

A happy side effect was the delicious smell that pervaded our home... mmmm....

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 42 ~ Something for the Hubby :-)

My sweet husband works so hard.  When he is not working his day job (or traveling/commuting to it), he is working on the farm, or working on music for our church.

Believe it or not there is already eggnog in the store.  When I saw it, my eyes lit up, knowing a special someone who would enjoy it.  I grabbed a bottle and brought it home for him.  Last night after a tough day at work, he was able to kick back, put his feet up, and have a little treat.

I love you, wonderful man!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 41 ~ Something for the Kitty

A few days ago, when I visited the lady in need, she told me about her cat.  He is an old cat whom she has had for a long time.  She has no family closer than a three hour's drive, and she doesn't have a car.  Her cat is her family.

She told me she is thinking of giving him up because she can't afford to feed him.  Silly though it may sound, this really bothered me.  The comfort of a beloved pet is not to be underestimated.

So I bought him some food and some kitty litter and dropped it off.  Truth be told, I'm not sure it made her happy.  She doesn't smile.  But I hope her kitty will be around for a long time to give her the snuggles she needs.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 40 ~ Living History and Hot Glass

Mini-van + these kids = anachronism!
Took the kids to the Texas Renaissance Festival today.  This is the week RenFest holds their annual School Days, where the educational activities increase and the inappropriate clothing decreases.  It's the only time I'll take them.

This was our fifth year to go, and honestly, I didn't feel like it.  It was cold and rainy when we woke up, a two hour drive each way, and I wasn't feeling well.  But still, with a quick prayer request sent out, we loaded up and headed to Plantersville.

The children each had something they wanted to see or do, so we made sure to hit those special requests.  But unlike previous years, we didn't barrel around at top speed trying to make it to everything.  One advantage of going every year is that we have seen much of it, and the older children remember.  In the next few years, as Little Warrior gets older, we'll revisit those lessons and demonstrations.

In the end, we spent the most time watching glass artists this year.  We watched a narrated demonstration of an artist blowing glass.  And Farmer Boy hunted down another glass artist he met last year who makes small figurines using a blow torch and glass sticks, a technique known as lampworking.  The children watched him at length, then at the end of the day, when there were fewer people, they returned to watch and asked questions.  Farmer Boy wants to learn how to work with glass now. 

The prayers worked, and the rain held off until our drive home.  The children were happy and I was satisfied that a little something extra had been added to their lives.  Sometimes it's worth it to just soldier through on those dreary mornings.  And thank you Lord for caffeine!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 39 ~ Food, a Question and Some Sunshine

I spent some time today with a woman I know only slightly.  She is someone who is in great need, and I wanted it see if I could figure out how to help her.  Before I went to her house, I bought her some food.

We spent some time sitting on her porch.  She is in a difficult situation.  I asked her what she needs.  I listened.  I prayed for her. 

Little Warrior was with me.  He brought her something too - he brought her sunshine.  She has never smiled at me.  But she laughed at Little Warrior.  He wore his purple super hero cape and declared that he is building her a new house.  He detailed all the tools he would use.  She loved every second of it.

I may have brought her food for her stomach, but my little boy brought her food for her soul.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 38 ~ A "Just Because" Donation

I picked up a gift card at WalMart for our local Children's Advocacy Center to give to a family who could use a little something extra.  I really want to spread joy amongst those who are suffering and needy but honestly I am struggling to figure out how to do that in my community.  I want to impact the lives of those I know already, but also to reach out.  I know money isn't everything, but sometimes money is just what is needed.  It's not much, but maybe it can help.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 37 ~ Call to Italy

Today I made a call to a very old friend who lives far away.  She was my college roommate, and someone I don't get to communicate much with at all any more, in great part because she lives in Florence (no, not Texas - Italy!)

She was very surprised and happy that I called her.  We were only able to chat for five minutes or so, but it was lovely to hear her voice and do a little catching up.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 36 ~ Pumpkin Bread Attempt #1

Today I baked pumpkin bread for the kid's piano teacher but it burned!  I was so disappointed.   I will give that another try next week.  I wanted to do something, though, so I decided to write a letter.  I guess you could say that's my fallback sprinkle plan.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 35 ~ Stealth Rose Spreading

I have gotten behind in updating my progress with my 100 day challenge.  In the past I have set the post to the date of the "sprinkle", but that has kind of bothered me (doesn't seem quite honest), so I am not going to change the posting date any more.  This means that thanks to my real actual life there may be several days of sprinkle updates posted in one day.  No telling how many there will be today.

Here we go...

Sometimes my plans don't go off as expected.  This sprinkle was planned and set up for day 35 but was unable to actually be implemented until a few days later.  I am "counting" it as day 35, though, because I had a different plan for the day I was able to do it, and I did that too.  This is my real life.  :-)

The Bard was on a business trip on The Princesses' birthday, and wanted to give her 9 pink roses.  It was less expensive for me to buy a dozen at the store, and then put 9 in a vase and present them to her with his card.  I knew right away what I wanted to do with those extra three flowers.

I wrote three notes that said "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Jesus loves you!".  I put the three flowers in water in a vase, and then into a cooler, and headed to town to do errands.  With my heart pounding in the grocery store parking lot, I put one flower and one note on three random cars.  I couldn't believe I was so nervous.  I mean, everyone who knows me knows I am crazy, but this was advertising it to strangers! 

My favorite was the beat-up old car with the windows open.  I laid the rose and note on the driver's seat.  It was truly beautiful seeing that lovely pink perfection in the midst of grungy disaster.  Profound.

And that's it.  A random act of flowering.  I'll never know how it was received.  But this is one I think I want to repeat. 

What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

The Princess has always been a helper.  One of her God-given gifts is a servant's heart.  When she was four, her baby brother was born, and she went instantly into mini-Mama mode.  On the one hand this was sweet, and I wanted to encourage her.  But we often faced the dilemma of her help being a hindrance.

I had to teach her to ask me before jumping in and doing something when it involved the baby.  Because she was little, she was not always able to make good judgments.  It was a safety issue sometimes, a practical issue others.  "Help is only helpful when it is needed" we'd say together.  I wish I could tell you that I was always sweet and gentle with her about it, but I must confess that at times my irritation showed. 

Occasionally we still face this issue with her.  This weekend it became clear to me that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Our family was working on a farm project on Saturday, and my husband, The Bard, had a frustrating problem.  I jumped in to help him and immediately made the problem worse.  He was mad.  I backed off and apologized, then without thinking, did it again not ten minutes later.  Not surprisingly, he was mad again. 

Did I think, "Oh, of course, help is only helpful when it is needed"?  No, of course not.  I thought, "Why is he being so mean!  I am just trying to help!  Aaaargh!"  I knew that it was in everyone's best interests, given my emotions at that moment, to clear out.  So I went for a walk.  As I walked I fussed and prayed.  I was embarrassed and frustrated.  That man... so impatient... it just wasn't fair!

As I turned to head back it dawned on me.  I had never asked him if he wanted help, and if he did, what might be most helpful.  I just shoved myself into the situation, not having all the information, and made things worse.  It felt very familiar.  Not only did it remind me of my experience with The Princess, it reminded me of myself just about every day.

That kind of self-realization is a bit uncomfortable, to say the least.  And it wasn't done.  The very next day, I stuck my nose into another situation where it didn't belong and was called on it.  Ouch!

The alarming thing to me is the underlying arrogance in this habit.  Yes, I have long prayed for a servant's heart, and I believe God wants me to help others.  And there are times when I am going to need to make a judgment call on how best to help, without the input of the other person.  But to operate under the assumption that I know best how to help others is just plain arrogant.

This morning I was praying for wisdom to help a woman in dire circumstances.  Her situation and background are so profoundly outside my realm of experience that I am completely at a loss.  As I was praying, God brought to mind His own son.

Mark 10 recounts the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus.  As Jesus came near where he was sitting, Bartimaeus cried out repeatedly, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you." Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus.
And answering him, Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!"
And Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.  (Mark 10:49-52)
"What do you want Me to do for you?"  Jesus, who knew most what was needed, who of all people never had to ask that question to know the answer, still asked.   There are all sorts of theological implications of this - we must desire to be healed, God never forces us, it is a relationship, we are cared about as individuals, and more.

But for me, today, what stands out most clearly is the fact that He asked.  What an example.  I too need to be asking, "What do you want me to do for you?"

Like Bartimaeus, I want to regain my sight.  I want spiritual eyes that will see my world and myself rightly.  I want to see when my outside actions, no matter how righteous they might look, are driven by inner sin, and I want to expose that sin to God's healing touch.

Because I know what God is seeing:
"God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
Today I am going to go to the house of the woman I was praying about.  She doesn't have a phone, so face to face I am going to ask her what she needs.   Would you pray for me?  I am out of my comfort zone.  I don't know her well, and it is difficult for me to communicate with her.  But I feel strongly that this is what God is calling me to do.

"What do you want me to do for you?"
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...