Sunday, November 22, 2015

The practice of thanksgiving...

My youngest grandson, at eighteen months old, has a few words in his repertoire now.  My daughter and son-in-law are working hard to make sure that please and thank you are among them.  So, each time he wants something or receives something, they make him say it.  He will only learn this habit if he practices it.

It's the same way with us.  Lets face it, it's all too easy to go through life without even noticing the blessings of the Lord in our life much less to thank Him for them.  It takes practice. You're not going to become a person with an attitude of gratitude by taking time to give thanks one Thursday out of every year.  However,  if you take time each day to notice at least three things to give thanks for, if you write them down, if you actually take time to thank God for them,  your eyes will begin to see blessings all around you and you will be well on your way to learning the discipline of thanksgiving.  

Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my little green journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-shiplap on the wall for a cozy corner in the dining room
-a big pot of Middle Eastern rice for the work crew at our house
-a nice hot bath at the end of a busy day

-my new gas range
-this blustery rainy day
-Panda Express for dinner and grocery shopping afterwards with my husband

-our new stove installed, thanks to lots of help 
-cleaning up the construction mess with help from my husband and granddaughter
-cooking a good dinner with the new stove

-my monthly meeting with my mentoring friend 
-the fireplace mantel installed
-our new to us house is starting to feel like home

-Friday-our day off 
-Thai food for lunch with our daughter, son-in-law and youngest granddaughter
-stopping in at the Starbucks where our youngest daughter works
-an evening together with our church elders

-the first frost
-the morning light through my kitchen windows
-writing time
-a bill that was way less than expected

-a great time of worship
-God is always at work
-pink sunset

gratefully yours,

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A sacrifice of thanksgiving...

I call them key turning points, small decisions to obey that radically shift something.  It was our Job season.  We had lost our beautiful newly built church building in an ugly denominational squabble.  Friends we had for years were lost as we made a decision to separate from that denomination, and in their minds, separate from them. Loss and hurt and pain seemed to blanket every area of our life, spiritually, emotionally  relationally, financially.  

It was Christmas time, and our faithful congregation had hung together through the loss of our building, and moved with us into a rented space in a dark and gloomy strip mall in the bad part of town.  There weren't enough twinkly lights or tinsel to make that little sanctuary look appealing.  My soul felt as dark and gloomy as our surroundings.

Towards the end of that particular Sunday morning, over the sound system my husband had chosen to have Whitney Houston's version of Joy to the World, the one from the movie The Preacher's Wife, played.  I felt no joy, only deep sorrow and mourning for all that we had been going through.  However, in my spirit I felt the urging of God's Holy Spirit telling me to worship, to give thanks, and to dance.  Though we come from a belief system where none of those acts were considered unusual, no one else was doing it at the time and I certainly did not emotionally feel like doing it.  But, something in my spirit rose up and teamed together with my will and grabbed my emotions by the nape of the neck and I began to worship, give thanks and dance.  When I obeyed, when I gave a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, my garments of heaviness fell off, and a new sense of peace and joy flooded over me.  That experience marked me forever. (read the rest of this post on Sunday, November 22nd over at Woman to Woman Ministries where I write a weekly "Sunday Soul Food" post.)

still following,
Barbie Swihart

Scripture and Snapshot

Also happily linking up with the lovely Lisha Epperson 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dissatisfaction, lessons from the book of Ezekiel and some more lessons from home renovation...

Ezekiel is one of those books of the Bible that I rather dreaded reading as I'm reading through the Bible this year with She Reads Truth's 365 Days of Truth Bible reading plan.  I've been pleasantly surprised at how much I've been getting out of it, how much God has spoken to me through this often confusing prophetic book.  And I can't recommend enough the practice of getting a journaling Bible and doodling and/or note taking in the margins as you read.  This has transformed my journey through God's Word this year.  When I read through the Bible previously, it all too often felt like something I rushed through in order to check it off my list.  Journaling my way through the Word, right there in the margins as I read, has caused me to slow down, to meditate and focus on that day's reading in a way that has made this year's journey through the Bible so special.

Ezekiel chapter 16 is one of my favorite chapters in the book.  In it, God is telling His people how He found them like a baby tossed aside in a field, covered in blood.  He gathered her up and cared for her and provided for her and as she grew He covered her and adorned her and made her His bride.  However, she continually leaves Him, taking the very things He provided for her and using them to worship idols.  God laments, "How sick is your heart" and in this chapter the phrase, "you were not satisfied" is repeated three times.  That's the phrase that stood out to me.  As you read this chapter you see how God not only rescued Israel, but provided for her lavishly.  He adorned her richly.  But instead of being satisfied in His love and care and provision, she continually wandered away after other lovers.  

Now mind you, yesterday I was reading this chapter in my home office with the door shut, while in the kitchen a contractor and our engineer friend were in my kitchen noisily trying to adapt the kitchen cabinets in order to install my brand new double oven gas range that God provided for me in a totally unexpected and wonderful way. After working on the cabinets all day, it's still a tad too tight, so more work will have be done today. Also, one of the burners on the new stove is not igniting properly so the manufacturer is sending out a repairman, who can't come until the day before Thanksgiving! In spite of God speaking to me so clearly through Ezekiel 16 about being satisfied in Him, I had a little inner hissy fit that yet one more thing in our house renovation project is more complicated, messier, and taking longer than expected.  While wondering how Israel could so easily turn away from God, I was seeing an all too familiar trend in myself for me to lose my inner peace when things don't go my way, when they take too long, get too complicated, or get too messy. (I have a very low tolerance for messy, unfortunately.)  I think you realize I'm not just writing about house renovations now, but about life circumstances in general.  

After everyone left the house and my husband and I had vacuumed up a bit of the sawdust, we decided to brave the blustery weather and grab a bite to eat at Panda Express and do a bit of grocery shopping.  Sitting in the booth at the restaurant and nibbling on my teriyaki chicken, my husband helped to put things in proper perspective.  He reminded me of all that God has done for us through this whole move and transition.  Rather like God does in Ezekiel 16 as He walks Israel back through her history of His intervention in her life, my husband walked me through the story of all of God's faithfulness and provision for us through these past few months.When we walked back into our home with our bags of groceries, I walked in with a better heart attitude, in spite of the monster sized gas range still sitting in the middle of my kitchen.

still following,

Darling Downs Diaries

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rosehip November...

(edited with Kim Klassen's savor texture, 50%opacity)

On my walks around the neighborhood I see rosehips on rosebushes growing in yards.
I always want to gather some to use in my autumn decorating, 
but I don't think my neighbors would appreciate me sneaking in their yard to steal their roseships.

(edited with Kim Klassen's elevate texture, hard light, 60% opacity)

New Seasons Market had some for sale with their flowers.
I know most people use them in an arrangement with other flowers,
but I'm fine with them all by themselves in an old ironstone pitcher.

(edited with Kim Klassen's gift texture, 70% opacity)

We are nearing the end of the renovations on our new to us house.
We'll be doing a few more things come spring, but for now,
 the majority of the big, and messy, jobs are done.
I'm excited to show you what we've done!

still following,
Kim Klassen {dot com}

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Giving thanks in all circumstances...

What a week it's been in our world.  From horrid acts of violence in many places in our world, (not only in France), to earthquakes. Our world is sin-ravaged and hurting. While praying for our world and doing what we can do to help,  it's not selfish, self absorbed or insensitive to continue to give thanks.  We can mourn with those who mourn, weep with those who weep, and still maintain an attitude of thanksgiving in all circumstances.  I'm thankful that God is still on His throne.  I'm thankful for all of those who help the hurting, the police, the medical professionals, etc.  I'm thankful for all of the prayers that are being prayed all around the world, and I'm thankful that God hears and answers those prayers.  
Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my little green journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-getting so much out of reading 1&2nd Peter again
-lots of help on our new floor installation-the end is in sight
-my friend and I laughing so hard at a funny group text from my daughters

-lunch with my friend that I haven't seen or talked to in too long
-God's amazing provision-(my granddaughter wanted a toy for Christmas that was over the budget we set. 
 I often pray about these sorts of things, and I found one at Marshall's valued at $199 and their price was $49.99! 
 YaY God and YaY Marshall's!)
-my son-in-law found someone to install the gas line for our new range
-an unexpected blessing 

-Veteran's Day-I'm thankful for those who serve our country
-the living room floor is done!
-breakfast for dinner at our house and friends sharing it with us

-HALLELUJAH!  The wood floors are all in!

-Jesus- the radiance of the glory of God
-a really good prayer time at church

-the new frig is installed
-the hubs and our friend putting in the molding
-taco soup at our friend's house after a long day of work on the house

-bringing hot Vietnamese pho soup to our oldest daughter's house for them and our two croupy granddaughters
-God's help with a photo editing glitch when I needed to get my weekly post done
-tackling the last of the unpacked boxes!  Hurray!

-our long time friends driving over from the coast to go to church with us,
and we enjoyed lunch together afterwards too
-a free Thanksgiving turkey!
-spending the afternoon with my oldest granddaughter and doing a Christmas craft together

gratefully yours,

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Firmly on His throne...

It seems as though the world has gone mad.  Yet, when we look at Scripture we see that when man, of his own freewill, chose his own way over God's way in the garden, mankind began to devolve, not evolve.  Evil and sin and wickedness entered this world right along with man's decision to rule His own life instead of submit to God's leadership.  (Please join me for the rest of this post tomorrow, Sunday November 15th,  at Woman to Woman Ministries where I'm sharing some Sunday Soul Food.)

still following,
Barbie Swihart

Scripture and Snapshot

Also happily linking up with the lovely Lisha Epperson 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


It should have been easy.  All I wanted was to buy a loaf of bread.  I wandered around looking for the proper aisle for several minutes, when a feeling of panic started to come over me.  The thought, "why did we move here?" came to my mind.  I called my friend, who made the same move several years ago.  "I'm at the store and I can't find the dadgum bread aisle!" After living in the same house for sixteen years and shopping at the same grocery store for that length of time, this small frustration loomed large in my mind.

As I pulled out of the church parking lot I was also talking on the speaker phone to a friend.  I was halfway to Portland, Oregon, to our former home, before I realized that my mind, in auto pilot mode and distracted with the phone call, had headed home.  The only problem was, home was in Vancouver, Washington now.

We've had some sort of renovation going on since our move.  We've replaced old, outdated lights with new ones.  Old vinyl and carpet has been pulled up and new hardwoods are replacing them. Old appliances are being replaced with new stainless steel ones.  The house is full of construction materials and dust and furniture crowded into rooms where it doesn't belong so flooring can be laid.

Our friends from church have helped us with all of the projects around the house.  An electrician, an engineer, a construction worker, and other able bodied volunteers.  They've put in hours and hours and hours of free labor, making all of this renovation and updating possible. They are happy to have us living closer to the church, and have proven it with huge sacrifices of time and effort.  I'm overwhelmed at all that they've done for us and feel helpless to adequately thank them.

Discombobulated is the best word to describe my life these last three months.  Normal routine flew out the window the minute our former house sold in July and we began to pack our belongings up in boxes.  I've been confused, befuddled and disoriented ever since.  I've never loved moving and all of the chaos that goes with it, but this move has been especially hard, long, and drawn out.  There's no doubt in my mind that God foresaw all of this when He began showing me halfway through 2014 that my word for 2015 was to be endurance.  

Some Holy Spirit insight into my soul reveals that the reason I feel so discombobulated is a matter of control.  The one thing you can't control is other people.  Being in the ministry is being in the full time business of dealing with people.  My outer world feels out of control much of the time because of this.  Home is the one place that I could control.  My number one goal has always been to have a home that exuded peace.  People often commented that our former home looked and felt peaceful.  My response to outside stress was to make our home a little fortress of peace. That hasn't happened here, in our new to us home, yet.  I think God has had me endure four months of upheaval to show me that my fortress of peace should have been Him all along, not my surroundings, not my home, not my family.  It's Him and Him alone.

Even this feeling of being indebted to people in a way that I know I can never repay is an issue of control.  As a pastor's wife, I'm usually on the giving end of the equation.  Being on the receiving end of so much has me feeling undone.  I can't write enough thank you cards or make enough meals or bake enough goodies to make the equation come out even.  I'm not in control of all this grace we've received.

The major part of the renovations will be done before Thanksgiving.  I'll be able to clean up the construction dust, put the furniture back in place, unpack the remaining boxes, and make our new to us house feel like home, soon.  But, the truth is, home is a Person, not a place.  Peace is a Person, not the condition of my surroundings.  I'm tired of feeling discombobulated.  I want to my mind and heart to be at peace, no matter what my outward surroundings look like.    

still following,

Darling Downs Diaries

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