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Entries in Gratitude (13)

Tuesday
Nov082016

A Thankful Heart Produces a Blessed Life

I've observed Julie Watson go through a severe testing of "waiting," and then the blessings God poured into her heart and life. In this special UPLIFT, she shares one of the things the Lord taught her during the long wait: Thankfulness.

“Whoever said ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ must have been one difficult Mother-In-Law to impress!" Julie says. "I believe a more accurate description is ‘Thankfulness is next to godliness.’”  

The two thoughts that came to my (Dawn's ) mind when I read Julie's post today were: I think any child would want a mom like Julie; and I want to be a more thankful person!

Julie continues…

Thankfulness, gratefulness, heartfelt appreciation for all that God has blessed me with is something I think about almost every day. It’s an attribute of Christ I wish to instill in the hearts of my children. *

The words “thank you” are said in my home at least 20 times a day, or at worst, a gentle reminder to do so is given to an otherwise distracted and forgetful child.

But, let’s be honest. Having a thankful heart is hard to have on difficult days, especially when you find yourself in the midst of an unexpected life storm!

We recently finalized the adoption of our three beautiful children just a few months agoPRAISE JESUS! It was such a blessing for our family to finally be official

What a difficult, nearly two-year journey it had been. There were many days I was thankful during that time:

  • Thankful when my oldest, who was filled with anger, stopped chasing his sister around trying to rip her hair out. 
  • Thankful when my youngest son stopped hiding behind furniture when he didn’t want to talk, or more accurately, “grunt” at us for something he wanted. 
  • Thankful when my daughter, in tear-filled panicked cries, stopped screaming for me not to leave her, as her bio mom had done so many times before.

I slowly learned to be thankful for every small step in the process. In fact, it is still what keeps me in check today! 

Ultimately, seeing the huge progress my kids have made in the relatively short time we’ve had them has given me such a sense of joy and contentment.  I feel blessed!  It helps me stay focused on the good stuff and not so much on the obstacles in front of us.

However, it wasn’t always this way (and at times, I still struggle).

Between the temper tantrums, power struggles, constant lying (still working on this one), destruction of our property, issues in school with stealing and cheating, and days where I just felt completely alone with three little "monsters" ready to drive me into an early grave—I seriously have WAY more gray hair than I ever expected at this age—I can honestly say, I was NOT thankful.

Many tears were shed during my quiet times with God, begging Him to reconsider this path He had placed me on.

This Ministry of Motherhood He had bestowed upon me after waiting 17 years was NOT all it was cracked up to be! 

I remember telling Him quite clearly that He “had picked the wrong mom for this job.” And, “You’re crazy, God, if you think I can do this!” 

Looking back, I’m sure He just sat up on His heavenly throne saying, “Wait... just wait, child. What I am doing through you will be more amazing than you could ever imagine!”

That is truly where the thankfulness begins. 

Trusting in God as you wait upon Him during those hard days...  those life storms! Being grateful for each small victory and not focusing on the mountain still before you. 

Every day after that it’s simply a choice.

You have to CHOOSE to be thankful in all things. You have to PRACTICE it

You have to rely on the goodness and faithfulness of our loving Father who has something so amazing, you won’t believe it—until you do. 

A thankful heart produces a deeper, more intimate walk with Christ and a blessed life.

Here are some verses to encourage a thankful heart:

  • "O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" (1 Chronicles 16:34, also Psalm 106:1)
  • "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).
  • "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
  • "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected it it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Are you struggling with being thankful? Do you have a hard time trusting God to complete a good work in the midst of a life storm? Remember He cares for you and will speak to your heart if you open His Word and simply listen. Start thanking Him for some small victories today!

Julie Watson worked in women’s and children’s ministries for 10 years and as an Executive Director and Grant writer before becoming a stay-at-home mom to three beautiful children. She and her husband, Shawn know these children were hand-picked by God to be their own, and officially adopted them in the spring of 2016.  God is good!

* Note from Dawn: I had never actually thought about thankfulness being an attribute of Jesus, but it is! We see Him giving thanks in John 6:11, and in many other places in scripture He offered private and public appreciation for the good deeds people showed—He thanked the Father and He gave credit on earth where it was due—a wonderful example for us.

Graphic, adapted, courtesty of HotBlack, Morguefile.

Tuesday
Jul262016

Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 1

What are your "Prime Relationships"? In this Relationship UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages the kind of "investments" in these relationships that reap powerful results—so it's important to know what they are.

[Note: For a more detailed version of this post with scriptures, see my other blog: Heart Choices Today.]

Investments are not only about money. Investments are akin to watering what you want to grow! We can invest in relationships!

When we invest in someone's life, it likely to cost us something. But investing is wise!

  • Someone invested invested in my life this year with her time, helping me with a project.
  • Another someone invested in my life using her financial resources.
  • And another invested encouragement, motivating me to see the big picture when I was so focused on one failing day.

I want to invest in others' lives too, with time, talents, finances, prayers, words, truth ... and so much more. I'm asking the Lord to help me see needs so I can "invest" wisely. How about you?

In this two-part post, I want to share some practical ways we can wisely and faithfully "invest."

These are the first two "investents."

          Investment #1. INVEST in YOUR LORD

Don't forget: this is your prime relationship! 

Jesus said, "...what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). 

We can store up treasures and yet not be "rich toward God" (Luke 12:21).

1. Know the Lord.

  • Examine your heart. Do you really know Him, or just know about Him? 
  • Seek Him. Pursue Him. Be intentional. 
  • Grow in your intimacy with Him. 

2. Deposit Your Life with the Lord.

  • Trust His character. 
  • Appreciate His love. 
  • Celebrate your security (in Christ). 

3. Seek to Please the Father.

  • Yield Your body to Him. 
  • Be obedient to Him.
  • Follow Jesus' example. 
  • Discover how to be like Jesus! 
  • Bear good fruit! 
  • Love others well. 

4. Cherish His Word.

  • Use your Bible. 
  • Stand for truth. 

5. Rely on the Holy Spirit.

  • Don't Ignore God's Gift. 

          Investment #2. INVEST in  YOURSELF.

Viewed correctly and biblically this isn't selfishness.

If you don't invest in your own health and well-being, how will you find the strength to invest in others?

Loving others as yourself assumes you've learned how to love yourself biblically (Mark 12:30-31). 

1. Take Care of Yourself!

  • Nurture your body.
  • Move your body.
  • Relax.
  • Get some sleep .

2. "Paint the Barn."

  • Maintain the Temple... reflect the beauty of the Lord who created you. 
  • Style yourself for a simple, attractive appearance.

3. Expand Your Horizons.

  • Discover your strengths and weaknesses ... your spiritual gifts.
  • Develop some new skills and explore creativity options. 
  • Expand your knowledge.
  • Further your education.

4. Plan for Strategic Dreaming!

  • Plan to decompress.
  • Plan in daily "breaks" to rest and recharge.
  • Give yourself permission and time to dream. 
  • Be a FINANCIAL investor.
  • Set aside some "dream" money.

5. Practice Gratitude.

  • Look for things to appreciate. 
  • Train yourself to notice God's goodness. 
  • Be thankful for grace.
  • Worship in thanksgiving.

We'll continue with three more "investments" in the next post. [Note: for a longer version of this post with scriptures, see my other blog: Heart Choices Today.]

Meanwhile, do you need to invest more in your relationship with the Lord, in your own well-being, or in your husband? Which of these tips might help today?

Dawn Wilson,  founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is contracted researcher for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Thursday
Jan142016

A Scriptural Attitude Adjustment

In this Attitude UPGRADE, Liz Cowen Furman, a speaker, author and artist who also runs a motel in Wyoming, tells how she changed her whole outlook on life by doing two simple things.

“I wantedno, I neededa serious attitude upgrade," Liz said, “But I didn’t know how to make it happen.”

Do you identify with her words, like I (Dawn) do? Have you ever needed a change of attitude but couldn’t summon the wisdom to make it happen?

Liz continues . . .

I used to read the Bible dutifully.

But our pastor suggested that, instead of making a bunch of New Year’s resolutionsas good as they might bewe consider a new approach.

He said “Get yourself a blank journal and start reading your Bible in Psalms. Read it with an eye for something that speaks to you. Then jot that verse in your journal and write a few lines about how it affects you or ask God to reveal something to you.”

Many times, I would get to the end of a chapter and realize I hadn’t heard a word of it, and would have to reread it.

Since I started this approach, I have fallen in love with the Scriptures. I started in the Psalms but have been through the whole Bible a couple of times now.

Reading the Bible, listening for something that spoke to me, made it feel like a letter written just to me.

Talk about attitude adjustment! A total game changer.

The second thing I did that fostered a new attitude happened quite by accident; except that I had been praying for help in this area, so maybe it was by design.

The members of the Bible Study I teach chose to study One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp. As part of that study we were instructed to write down 1,000 things we are thankful for.

We all thought this exercise would be an easy assignment.

I purchased blank journals for us to write these “easy to identify” blessings, and we began. The first couple hundred came easily, then we really had to start looking to write them down.

We asked ourselves, “What would you miss, if everything you didn’t thank God for was taken away?”

By the time I reached 1,000, I saw a blessing in almost everything in my life.

I have continued the exercise. I write five things a day I am thankful for, and plan to continue until Jesus calls me home. Knowing that I will be logging five every morning keeps me on the lookout for things that I appreciate. And, since whatever we focus on increases, this has been an amazing exercise.

I now see the silver lining in situations I would have thought terrible. I now notice and appreciate the many blessings showered on me daily by a God who loves me (and you) so much! Plus, I have a legacy of thankfulness to leave to my family.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

If your attitude needs a tweak as we start the New Year, as mine did a few years ago, may I suggest you try these two exercises, pray for help, and then watch what He will do to transform your outlook.

Start now! What are five things you are grateful for today?

Liz Cowen Furman is an author, artist, encourager, mentor, teacher and speaker. Writing is like the balm of Gilead for Liz. When she is not working on a book, she is writing articles and blogging. She has published three books, is a member of AWSA (Advanced Writer Speaker Association) and a graduate of Christian Communicator’s Conference. She has written humor for The Christian Pulse magazine and for AWSA’s Suicide Blog. Liz’s new Bible Study, Trusting God in Everything: A Bible Study for Women Who Wonder If They Can, released May 20, 2015

Wednesday
Nov252015

On-Purpose Thankfulness...in the Midst of Reality

Joan C. Webb and I have joked that we must have come from the same blueprint. We both care deeply about making intentional choices. In this special Thanksgiving UPGRADE, she encourages "on-purpose" thankfulness.

"When a holiday like Thanksgiving rolls around do you ever ruminate too much?

     Over what you did or didn’t do at the last family get-together?
     Or how your house or cooking skills don’t measure up?
     Or how others don’t help like they should?

"Perhaps different concerns bother you when you lay your head on your pillow at night," Joan says. "Like others (myself included) maybe you’d like to hush your racing mind and relax."    

Uh huh. Describes me (Dawn) perfectly.

Joan continues . . .

As a child I memorized Philippians 4:6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 It seemed like such a wise way to live. I liked it.

Yet, I never dreamed how challenging it would be to pray, ask, thank, and experience peace. All while trying to manage relationships, hormones, major life decisions, job and financial challenges, health issues and inevitable disappointment.

What was Paul really saying to the people in the Philippian church (and you and me) in these verses?

After studying the original Greek, I think he’s encouraging us to—when we’re feeling annoyed and anxious about what happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow:

  • Take full advantage of the grace-gift of prayer, available to us because of Christ’s rescuing work on the cross.
  • Admit both unpleasant personal and corporate needs to God.
  • Pause and slow down, offering the bold combination of requesting and gratitude as an act of worship.
  • Do this intentionally with active, on-purpose thanksgiving.

But sometimes we wonder how to do this?

Here’s a practical habit to cultivate: Develop a Gratitude Journal.

1. Buy a simple spiral notebook.

Start slow—with one journal entry per week. You can expand to additional days later.

2. Name one thing you did recently that you’re thankful for.

This is a vital step in your gratitude process, yet you might find it the most challenging. It is for many.

We ask God to help us grow to be more like Christ; to be healthier emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically. Then, when there is evidence that God is working in us and we’re responding in obedience, we shrink from acknowledging the progress for fear that we’ll become too self-focused. Yet we negate a part of ourselves and who God is when we refuse to thank Him for what He’s doing in us.

You might write something like: 

  • “I acknowledge that I’ve been working hard with preparations and need to rest. Thanks that I took time for a nap this weekend.”
  • Or “I recognize that I finished this report early. I’m grateful.”
  • Or “Thank you that I was honest with my spouse about my thoughts/feelings without yelling.” (Maybe for you, it was “without withdrawing,” because that—not yelling—is your normal non-helpful style.)

3. Then jot down one thing that someone else did that you’re grateful for.

This will be enlightening if you’re used to ruminating on how your boss, sister, spouse, parent disappoints or irritates you.

4. Last, list five things for which you’re grateful.

Your friend’s encouraging text. Last night’s rainbow. The new supplement you’ve started. That you had a headache-free day.

Will you exercise these intentional gratitude steps during this holiday season 2015? Maybe you’ll want to keep it beside your nightstand. Watch for signs of an increased sense of well-being and peace. And then thank God for that, as well.

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right, The Intentional Woman and a devotion titled, It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. As a Life Coach who specializes in working with writers and communicators, Joan helps set people free to become who they were designed to be and from what holds them back. For more information about her books, services and teaching, visit www.joancwebb.com

Graphic adapted, young woman with book, Pixabay.

Tuesday
Nov252014

Just a Little Bit More

In this affluent society, we're always trying to add just a little bit more to our lives. More wealth. More stuff. More prestige. In this Thanksgiving Upgrade, Dawn Wilson encourages us to add a bit more gratitude.

Last summer, Sharon Jaynes wrote about I Thessalonians 5:18: Give thanks in all circumstances. "We read that verse and think it rather nice," Sharon wrote, "So we slap a sloppy coat of thanksgiving on life and go about our day. In reality, most of us are thankful for very little."

Instead of expressing gratitude, we complain. A lot.

I focused on not complaining this summer for one whole week. I didn't think I was a natural complainer. I've since discovered everyone is. It's that nasty sin nature rearing it's head.

That's why Paul instructs, "Do all things without murmurings (complaining) and disputings" (Philippians 2:14). Complaining devastated the the Israelites (Exodus 16:8; Numbers 11:1-4; Psalm 106:25; 1 Corinthians 10:10).

Complaining has many negative consequences. It messes up our relationships and conversations. It focuses on the negative, sees the worst, darkens our spirit and zaps our energy. Complaining increases stress; we just can't seem to "release" our grumbling. Even when we complain just to ourselves, we are essentially making excuses for our lack of gratitude.

So I'll admit it. I struggled with that week of "not complaining." I was surprised how many complaints entered my mind in such a short period.

I found it extremely difficult to stop complaining. Until I started thanking.

Thanksgiving made the difference. I was allowing God to transform my thinking (Romans 12:2).

Gratitude is a choice, and it can root out an ungrateful, murmuring, complaining spirit. We're not commanded in scripture to feel more grateful, but we are instructed to be thankful.

"Gratitude changes the lens through which we see circumstances in our little slice of time," Sharon said. "Thanksgiving changes our perspective despite broken dreams, broken relationships, tumultuous circumstances and unfulfilled longings."

Repeatedly in the Psalms, we observe David move from a place of depression or sharing his complaints with God to a better place. His perspective seems to change as he praises God or expresses gratitude:  

In Psalm 57, David complains that his soul "is in the midst of lions" (v. 4). His enemies are trying to destroy him. He's in pretty bad shape, emotionally.

Yet in verses 9-11, what a turnaround!

"I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!"

We see this same turnaround in Psalm 42:10-11 and Psalm 62:3-7. David consistently moved from grumbling and all sorts of negative emotions to praise and gratitude.  

He chose a different perspective and got a different result. And in that change of attitude, God was honored and glorified.

Another thing I discovered in my week of no complaining. Even a little bit of gratitude makes a difference.

Like a stream of light through an opening door, gratitude diffuses the darkness of our grumbling.

It's not slapping on "a sloppy coat of thanksgiving." It's getting honest with God about our needs, and then stopping to recognize God in the midst of our circumstances. To praise Him. To thank Him.

Think about the complaints you've made even this week. Can you add a bit more gratitude? Will you choose to thank God in your situation, even if you don't feel thankful?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.