I have written this post over and over in my head. It always sounds so good but then I forget and each time I sit to write the words seem to be dry and cracked. I will write from just that place in my heart, a place where even as much as I wish I could lead and speak from example, it is right where God has me too and I will grow right beside any of you who consider these words, and wish to hear my heart.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12
After the death of Shiloh a little over a year ago my soul went to darker places than it has ever been. Doubting places, places where I could not see God as LOVE or even hear of anyone else's pain but my own. I was blind because of the suffering that my own soul felt, I was numb to others, oblivious to life outside myself. Over the past year, but especially in the last month my heart has healed. Something in me changed- I call it the growth of a thankful heart. A thankful heart doesn't look constantly at its own pain, it looks beyond to be with others in rejoicing and weeping. A thankful heart does not envy other people's lives, it thanks God they have received blessings.
The biggest hurdle that I have overcome is, I believe, one we all chose to hop over or crawl under every single day. It is the hurdle of coveting. Wishing for what someone else has. Wishing, hoping and wishing- never content. It festers bitterness, hardness and a lack of joy.
Definition of COVET
1 : to wish for earnestly
2 : to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably
1 : to feel inordinate desire for what belongs to another
It is a commandment, and so often is my heart drawn to covet. There are so many chances to covet, some are born of the envy of pinterest decor walls, others from different kinds of blogs, or the ever involved facebook stalking. I covet. I covet and then I am discontent with where I am, what I have, who I have, and who I am. Bigger than any other problem is that I am discontent with God. I find him unable to give to me all the things that I admire, those things that I wish for earnestly, that I covet. When he doesn't give, I just give up on Him. I harden my heart and decide He does not have good in mind for me. I am void of joy.
So over the last month a bud has formed. I need to nurture it, tend it but something has changed in me, a seed sprouted-thankfulness. The ability to see the blessings God has given to me, the ability to see God's goodness even in hardship. I realised how often I covet other people's blessings and how infrequently I realise those come with the price of their trials as well. Do I desire to hold their pain in my heart too? Their grief? Their shame? Their loneliness? Then I need to let their joys cause me joy too, they do not deserve it, but neither do I deserve any of the good gifts I get. I have no ownership of what He gives me. I deserve nothing.
From that place of undeserving I gift has been given me which is better than any outward gifts, it is the gift of the beginnings of a joyful and contented heart. It is the dawning of a new day of thankfulness. I am owed nothing, and yet when I am given so many treasures I want to be more grown up than that spoiled child who casts my toy away when they see the joy of another child at receiving their own newer toy. I don't want to be the dog we all remember hearing about as children who drops the bone into the water to exchange it for the bigger and better bone, which is merely a reflection.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
In order to start to look to God and grow a thankful heart I have started recording my blessings. I am visual, so it works best to do it in images, but I just take a picture of the things I am thankful for and write a quick caption. I have been using instagram and have used the hashtag #undeservedgifts2013 (along with some sweet friends of mine) to remind myself that I am not owed a thing, not one good gift, and yet in His goodness and mercy He gives me more than I will ever be able to see. I encourage you to find a way to record blessings. This isn't a new concept, and many others have brought it up before, including a book that I read a while ago by Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts (which I really recommend if you have not read it yet!!). Find a journal, a notebook, the instagram app (use the hashtag #undeservedgifts2013 if you wish, don't if you don't wish), start a blog you can record on, whatever you choose and start looking at what you've been given, so that your heart can grow thankfulness and neglect to water the seeds of covetousness. Consider taking a break or fast from blogs, social media or other things that encourage the growth of envy or bitterness in your own heart. We all have different triggers. Pray and ask God what yours are.
If this spoke to you leave a comment, or email me, or just let it sit and ruminate in your heart. I pray each person that reads this is filled with joy for the gifts God has given them, even through the heartache, His goodness is so true.
One year ago was the hardest day of my life so far. The 10th of January 2012 the hopes I held crumbled. A year ago I gaped in disbelief as the Dr. tried and failed to find a heartbeat. Our youngest son, Shiloh Maxwell had died. I never knew this road was so hard to walk. I never have felt a pain so real before. Sharp in the first days, now it is almost a nagging pain, like elderly complain of in their knees when the weather changes. It comes and goes in the most confusing way. Today I am fine, tomorrow I am not. I feel joy in life and love and then sometimes I feel so numb- just waiting to crack and let the sadness pour out. Odd things are a trigger for me. I even push the trigger myself. "At least I don't have a baby waking up at night," I tell a friend and then look away before my eyes fill. Things come out, hurtful words. I do not blame anyone, for I say them even to myself. "We're all here", someone says at a family gathering- but my heart knows the truth, we are not all here. One of us is not. I feel a hole. A pang.
Through the whole year friends have held my arms up, lifted me with laughter, smiles, food, compassion and pure goodness. But no matter how much any of them try, this is a burden I have to carry alone to the loving father, they care and that is what matters to me.
Today I picked up my devotional and read what it had to say. I cannot think of a more perfect message today.
"Streams in the Desert"
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Romans 8:18
I kept for nearly a year the flask-shaped cocoon of an emperor moth. It is very peculiar in its construction. A narrow opening is left in the neck of the flask, through which the perfect insect forces its way, so that a forsaken cocoon is as entire as one still tenanted, no rupture of the interlacing fibers having taken place.
The great disproportion between the means of egress and the size of the imprisoned insect makes one wonder how the exit is ever accomplished at all–and it never is without great labor and difficulty. It is supposed that the pressure to which the moth’s body is subjected in passing through such a narrow opening is a provision of nature for forcing the juices into the vessels of the wings, these being less developed at the period of emerging from the chrysalis than they are in other insects.
I happened to witness the first efforts of my prisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. During a whole forenoon, from time to time, I watched it patiently striving and struggling to get out. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted.
Very probably the confining fibers were drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter on its native heather, as nature meant it to be. At all events I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, and I resolved to give it a helping hand. With the point of my scissors I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a very little easier, and lo! immediately, and with perfect case, out crawled my moth dragging a huge swollen body and little shrivelled wings.
In vain I watched to see that marvelous process of expansion in which these silently and swiftly develop before one’s eyes; and as I traced the exquisite spots and markings of divers colors which were all there in miniature, I longed to see these assume their due proportions and the creature to appear in all its perfect beauty, as it is, in truth, one of the loveliest of its kind. But I looked in vain.
My false tenderness had proved its ruin. It never was anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully through that brief life which it should have spent flying through the air on rainbow wings. I have thought of it often, often, when watching with pitiful eyes those who were struggling with sorrow, suffering, and distress; and I would fain cut short the discipline and give deliverance.
Short-sighted man! How know I that one of these pangs or groans could be spared? The far-sighted, perfect love that seeks the perfection of its object does not weakly shrink from present, transient suffering.
Our Father’s love is too true to be weak. Because He loves His children, He chastises them that they may be partakers of His holiness. With this glorious end in view, He spares not for their crying. Made perfect through sufferings, as the Elder Brother Jesus was, the sons of God are trained up to obedience and brought to glory through much tribulation. –Tract.
I am so thankful for each kind word, each smile, each hug and prayer. Your words and prayers mean the world to me. My heart is so tender they all seep right in and meet its core. I praise God for each of you. I have felt your support and love.
This will show you what our family is going to do for our devotions for the 30 days leading up to Christmas day. Which means you need to start now. I have made my ornaments out of felt, but you can make them out of whatever you choose, or have your kids draw pictures and hang them somewhere in the house. There are other options, so don't feel you can't participate in this tradition if you don't have everything together. We've been doing the Jesse Tree for at least 5 years now and I still don't have all my ornaments made!! The most important part is the bible reading, even if you can just do that it is something that will change your Christmas celebrations.
Each night we sit around the tree and read the scriptures and discuss it. I am writing a little devotional with some added verses because every year I look up verses and then don't write them down or work with them. This is not an exhaustive list, and if you have other scriptures that you think go with the themes I've found for the different days please do let me know and I will include them in the daily devotional as I see fit. The Husband and I have been looking up and writing this during our personal devotional times, and it is such a blessing to us to share with our boys.
Day 1 The Tree
Introduction of The Jesse Tree
Read: Isaiah 11:1-10
Jesse's son is King David, he is the smallest of Jesse's boys, the youngest one and his father didn't even count him as acceptable for the challenge- but he was who God was raising up, the one He chose. God chose him over those who would have been more adequate to human eyes. King David is the shoot that springs up to begin the family line of Jesus. Lets set aside this Christmas season to celebrate one who was long awaited. Without Him we would not have been redeemed. This redemption came as a miracle through generations of average or less than average men and women who we will learn about in these days leading up to Christmas. God chose them to be a part of his story, the story of His son, the story of our freedom.
Read: Ruth 4:13-17
The story of Ruth and Boaz also shows God's redemptive plan, you can think of it as a parable of our redeemer. We are blessed for God did not leave us without a redeemer. Ruth and Boaz are Jesse's grandparents, King David's great grandparents. And the beginning of the most amazing gift we can ever receive.
(We don't have an ornament for this first day, for our ornament we use our tree, our actual Christmas tree.)
Day 2 Dove or Earth
God and Creation
Read: Gen 1:1-2:3
In the beginning there was nothing except God. Then through creation God set us up in a place to enjoy being together. He said the words and it all came to be. He has all authority, and he chose to make something beautiful for us. He placed us in the garden where we could feel his love, see his love and walk and talk with Him in person. He loves to delight in us, loves to take care of us, that will never change.
Read: Romans 1:20
Creation all around declares the glory and majesty of God. Just by seeing its vastness one is aware of God. On the seventh day after He had created man and woman He rested. Not because he was tired, but because He wanted to enjoy everything with them. God still longs to sit and rest with His creation, he longs to sit and rest with each of us. This brings him pleasure, that we take a break and are just there with Him.
Today let's thank God for all that He did to make this world so beautiful for us to enjoy. Take a moment to think about the last time you enjoyed being with God, weather just sitting and thinking about how amazing he is, or what we can do with him in heaven. Maybe drawing a picture about whatever comes to mind when you think of him, or just laying and resting in his presence in prayer. How about getting the whole family to dance before the lord and enjoy being crazy and deliberate in your praise. However you choose to do it today, just take time to be with your creator, he is always ready to spend time with you.
(Ornament is a Dove or a Globe or whatever other symbol for creation you'd like!)
Day 3 Tree of Good and Evil
Adam and Eve and the Fall
Read Genesis 2:1-9, 2:15-25, 3:1-24
Adam and Eve had everything they needed or could want. The only thing that was off limits was one tree. The urge to have more consumed them. They chose to eat of it, this was their act of disobedience that would separate them from God. The sin that they committed took Adam and Eve from a place of longing to walk with God to immediately feeling an urgency to cover up and fend for themselves apart from Him, to hide from Him. It is true that their eyes were opened, but not as they had wished. They were filled with fear, shame, pride, blame.
Read Romans 3:23-24
We are no better than Adam and Eve. We have fallen short, not met the mark- but that is what Christmas is really about. A gift that wouldn't have been as special if we didn't need it so incredibly bad. God loved us and sent his Son that we may walk in His freedom.
Sometimes we still fall into the urgency to cover up, to hide from Him to be made right on our own. Sometimes we pick up those spiritual chains of shame, fear and pride and wrap ourselves in them. This is so silly!! God takes us just as we are. He loves us, always has, always will.
Today help us learn to lean on you God, that we would trust you to be our hope, our joy- our everything.
(For this ornament we use a tree ornament, it could be a fruit ornament or a different ornament of your choice to depict Adam and Eve and the fall)
Day 4 The Ark
Noah and The Flood
Gen 6:5-8,13+14, 7:1-8:22, 9:11-17
God chose to speak through his servant Noah to warn of the flood. There had never been a flood before. It had never even rained, up until then God had watered the earth with a mist. As Noah proclaimed what God told him to say to the people, that they should repent of their sin and have changed hearts, they mocked him and only his family believed and entered the ark. It made no sense to the minds of men, and so they made a choice to not listen. Again, as Eve did, man thought he was wiser than God and could do life without Him.
So God kept His promise to flood the earth, after two of each different kind of animal, bird, and beast entered into it along with Noah and his sons and his sons wives the door of the ark was closed by the hand of God.
It rained for so long, then the land was still flooded for still longer.Noah kept trying to see if there was a place to land, and it seemed nothing was working. But God remembered Noah. (8:1) He may not have felt as if God was thinking of him when his life changed so quickly, and all that he knew was destroyed- but God's plan is the perfect plan. Even in our own lives God lays things before us, brings us to places that we would rather not go and still the whole time He is thinking of us, remembering us in our darkest most desperate times.
Each time we see a rainbow God says that it is a reminder of his faithfulness to us. Today if there is anything in your life that seems too big for even God to handle, give it to Him because you trust Him and not because you know how it will end up. Pray and ask that He would show you how to trust Him in everything and for everything. It is so hard because we like to know the outcome, but there is nothing like trusting in God fully- laying back and letting Him carry you through it all. He will remember you too, your flood is not too deep.
Day 5 Field of Stars
Abraham and the Promise
Read: Genesis 12:1-7, 15:1-6
God called Abraham to a place he did not know, and told him he would give him land for descendants that he didn't have. Abraham trusted God, and believed his word as truth.
Read: Galations 3:5-9
Read: Hebrews 11:1-3+ 8-12
What does it mean to have faith, the kind of faith Abraham is commended for? It is a faith that believes without doubt in the unseen, the unlikely, even the impossible. This is the only kind of faith that God praises us for. Any other faith is not really faith at all. Faith is a choice to believe, not to believe in faith itself, but believe in the promises of God as though they had already come to be. True faith is an amazing blessing too, there is so much strength and security in faith. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). When we live full true faith, that is how people around us know the strength of the God that we serve.
Pray today that your faith would increase, that you would trust God in things and with things that you have never been able to give to Him before.
(Our ornament today is a Field of Stars)
Day 6 Ram
Offering of Issac
Read: Genesis 22:1-18
After Abraham waited so long for a son, when that son came, Abraham loved this son so much. He was the fulfillment of God's promise to him. But then God asked something very difficult of Abraham, he asked that he give him back this son. Often, maybe always, it is extremely difficult not to be mesmerized by the blessings, the gifts, or the grace and forget He who gives these gifts to us. This is what Abraham was being taught. Not an easy lesson. Clinging to Christ instead of what he has given us, adoring the Creator more than what He has created, living with a heart completely given to the Father- that is the most beautiful melody a human's life can sing.
Read Hebrews 11:17-19
God wants to give us all the good gifts, but he wants our hearts to always belong to him and not the blessings that he gives us. And when he asks us to give up a blessing, or release it for a season, any pain that comes from that separation- he will meet that need, if He is the one we cling to.
(Ornament is a Ram)
Day 7 God's Inheritance
Jacob and His Ladder
Read: Genesis 27: 41-28:22
Jacob flees his brother and God blesses him. It is often easy to read about people in the bible and wonder what God was thinking when he chose them. Jacob was fleeing from his older brother because he had pried his brother's blessing away from him, through lies, tricks and bribes. And yet can't it also be our story? We do not deserve the inheritance that we have in Christ. We had absolutely no way of receiving the gift of life, because we are sinners. Christ chose to give up his home for a season, and walked among humans, limiting his power and humbling himself to give to us the blessing which we are not owed.
Read Galatians 4:31- 5:1
Because of this blessing of life, that is ours if we have asked Jesus to be our Lord and our Saviour, we have an inheritance of freedom and not of slavery.
(Our ornament for today is a ladder)
Day 8 God's Providence
Genesis 37, 39:1- 50:21
When God gives dreams and then it looks like the opposite is happening it can cause doubt to grow in our hearts, unbelief even. But the story of Joseph shows that there is no place too deep, dark or forgotten for God. Nowhere is outside of his covering or to far from his presence. He sees all the pain, and he meets it. When the time comes the beauty that will arise from that pain will spring forth the dream, and not any dream we could have reached on our own.
(Ornament is a coat or a sack of grain)
Day 9 God's Leadership
There are so many things that we can let hold us back from God's calling in our life. Moses didn't talk right, that was his excuse. And yet God desired to use him to free his people from bondage. God even wanted him to speak in front of the Pharaoh and his court. It doesn't matter what we are good at without God, on our own, God loves using the parts of us that are the most raw, unpolished, and maybe even painful- because it is through the process that we come to trust His touch, his voice, and start to let go of our own desires and failures.
Moses was not the man for this job, God made him into the man for the job. The process of refining is so beautiful, and no matter the mistakes God sees that finished product and loves to watch our character form as we are made more like him.
(Ornament is a burning bush)
Day 10 Passover and Exodus
The Israelites prepared for Passover, they prepared a special meal and painted the door posts with a lamb's blood. This is what God asked of them. Do you think that he didn't know where they lived? Why did he ask for this? It seems so frequent throughout these devotionals, but God desires obedience. He could have just told the angel of death where to go and where to stay out of, but he wanted his people to choose to obey him. God loves it when we make the choice to obey him. Even today there are so many times when we are given a tough choice, but in which we know what is right and what is obedience.
He asks for obedience from us not because of himself, but because the choice to obey is where we learn to deny ourselves and our sinful nature and take on his nature. Obedience is where we claim him as father and fall into his arms instead of choosing our selfishness.
1 Samuel 15:22
(Ornament is a lamb)
Day 11 The Fall of Jericho
Joshua 1:1-11, 6: 12-24
When the Israelites marched around they were not labouring in their own strength. He longs for us to rest and trust in Him for what we need and not our own humanness. Marching around the city didn't do anything that the people could see. They were mocked and made fun of, but they trusted God could do as he had promised and because they trusted, they obeyed and because they obeyed they were able to see the Lord work on their behalf.
(Ornament is a trumpet)
Day 12 Unlikely Heroes
Defeat can fill a life even when there is fight left. The Israelites were defeated because the had hard things happened to them and were currently even physically enslaved. But God called Gideon to defeat the oppressors, he was not adequate of himself, he was the one with the smallest tribe, he wasn't trained, he had about as many excuses as we all have. But God called him.
Gideon rounded up a small army of men who would fight. But God wanted an even smaller army, that no one could claim that victory was even a possibility. How do our victories look? Do you attempt to make God smaller or bigger as he fights for you? He wants to show you his power. He desires us to know he is the deliverer. He goes before us, his hand is upon our lives and come what may God is good. He wins our battles for us. We can't predict what is ahead, but he sees the end even before the beginning.
(Ornament clay water pitcher)
I am starting out with all we have so far....I will update this post as we are able to find the verses and write about them.
If you want to look ahead to the basic scriptures we'll be using for our jesse tree.
Do you have more verses to add?! Go for it!!! Comment below and I'll add them.Pin It
The Chunky Friendship Infinity Cowl Pattern
- Size crochet hook (11.5mm)
- 100 – 110 yards of Super Bulky Yarn. I used 2 skeins of Lionbrand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick.
FCH – Foundation Chain (or single crochet): Chain 2. Insert hook in the first of two chains. Yarn over, draw through loop (chain stitch just created). Yarn over, pull through two loops on hook. (Single crochet created). You now have two fch completed. *Insert hook in upper loop of stitch just created. Yarn over, draw through loop. Yarn over, pull through two loops on hook.* Three fch completed. Repeat from * to *across for desired number of chain stitches.
HDC – Half Double Crochet. Yarn over, insert hook in next stitch. Yarn over, pull through two loops on hook. (This will be a little awkward, but it’s correct. You might have to use your left thumb and forefinger to really hold the stitches so you can pull through both of them.) Yarn over, pull through two loops on hook. So see it go here.
FCH 77. Do not join. [If the foundation chain scares you, just do a regular chain - it won't really matter to your cowl!]
Round 1: Chain 2 (counts as first HDC now and throughout). HDC in each stitch across. (77 HDC)
Round 2: Chain 2, turn. HDC in the BACK LOOP ONLY of each stitch across. (77 HDC) Working in the back loops only creates a slight ribbed effect.
Repeat Round 2 seven more times.
Fasten off, leaving a 12 inch tail. Lay piece flat in a long rectangle. Grabbing either end, bring short sides together. Add a twist by flipping the right side once. Match up sides and whip stitch together. Weave in ends.
If you have any questions please email me or comment on this post and I will try and clarify. Also if you run into any problems with this pattern, please let me know- I am far from a perfect crafter!!
Enjoy this fall season!
The best silence is one where there is so much to do that words seem unnecessary. Maybe that is just the way I am, or maybe it is how we all are. The end of the summer and the beginning of fall mean a lot of work to preserve from the harvest what I can for the colder months when the vines and bushes are no longer ripe with fruit. Then it will be time to sit and think and type and enjoy a warm cup of tea.
30 Lbs of Dried Pears
4 Lbs of Dried Apples
24 Quarts Apple Sauce
5 Quarts Apple Butter
15 Half-Pints Pear Butter
11 Half- Pints Jalapeño Jelly
17 Pints Strawberry Freezer Jam
1 Gallon Frozen Rhubarb
4 Gallons Frozen Raspberries
3 Gallons Frozen Strawberries
4 Gallons Frozen Marion Berries
3 Gallons Frozen Blackberries
7 Gallons Frozen Cherries
80 Half-pints Tuna
7 Lbs. Smoked Tuna
36 Quarts Tomatoes
11 Quarts Tomato Soup
14 Pints BBQ Sauce
35 Quarts Pickled Asparagus
29 Pints Pickles
17 Pints Bread and Butter Pickles
That is what my pantry holds this year. I am so very blessed and incredibly thankful.
The opening out and out,
body yielding body:
through which the new
above its shadow
on the piling up
darkened broken old
husks of itself:
bud opening to flower
opening to fruit opening
to the sweet marrow
of the seed--
from what was, from
what could have been.
What is left
is what is.
(Broken Ground by Wendell Berry)
Sometimes too many words clutter life. These only fill us too full of fluff, leave our heads overly saturated. To much talk to say too little. So today I will cut to the chase. I still feel broken often, not always anymore, but pain comes in waves. Healing does too.
Life rises where it is planted, where there is trust, and love. I am a seed, growing, learning. Layers are peeling away. Here I am waiting openly for the healer to call forth a gentle rain. He summons it for me, out of love. I know it. I feel it. I believe His promise.
If you read this post and it blessed you, let me know-it blesses me so to hear it, or send me an email if you would prefer.