Monday, July 9

40 Things I'm Grateful For!

         Since we've been the midst of long and unstructured summer days, which often don't leave me much time for writing (because I'm either trying to be intentional with the girls, cleaning up the hurricane mess that seems to sweep through the house every day, or putting out fights between my dear, sweet children (who sure like to bicker!), I thought I'd keep this post simple...

        Honestly, I don't think we spend enough time considering all that we have to be grateful for-- all of the incredible gifts God has given us--from relationships, to the glory that abounds in nature, to the overabundance of 1st world luxuries that we tend to take for granted--air-conditioning, clean water, the ease of electricity, massive grocery stores filled to the brim with more options than most of us know what to do with...the list goes on and on.
       So, over the course of this last week, I kept a list by my desk...just a lined piece of notebook paper, numbered 1-40, and I started to jot things down.

      At first, I wondered, will I be able to fill those 40 lines? I knew I should be able to, but what if I couldn't? I read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts several years ago now-- I admired her ability to capture moments as simple as the glimmer of soap bubbles in her kitchen sink, to the grandeur of a breathtaking moonlit sky, and everything in between.
      But, would I be able to be still enough to notice even just 40 things in my life? I sure hoped so.

     As it turns out, it was easy to come up with a list of 40 things. So easy I wanted to keep going (maybe I'll make myself another list this week!). It was so easy that I would suggest that you give it a try-- the truth is gratitude begets gratitude. The more I wrote down, the easier the process became.

      So many of us have SO much to be thankful for. We are blessed beyond measure, and it wold do us all a whole lot of good to be intentional about remembering the blessings we have, and turning that praise back to God-- the creator of every good and perfect gift.

     So, without further adieu, here is a list of 40 things I'm grateful for: 

1. My Bible, and the God breathed inspiration and wisdom that it fills my soul with daily. I know this might sound cliche, but when your faith permeates everything you do, it's ALWAYS the first thing you're abundantly grateful for, and it's one "cliche" I'll NEVER apologize for! 

2. Friendships, new and old, and the sweet blessings they bring.

3. Air-conditioning. I didn't grow up with it, know it's a luxury, and am over the moon thankful for it!

4. Our home, and everything in it.

5. Our minivan (I NEVER thought I'd say this, but I LOVE our minivan!).

6. Our vegetable garden; beets, tomatoes, green beans, radishes, swiss chard, yellow squash,  the sunflowers,  and herbs, all growing big and lush and green! 

7. Local running races, and the menagerie of people (the slice of life) that comes together for such events.

8. A cool breeze on hot days.

9. A clear, starry night anywhere, but particularly from a lake or the mountains! 

10. Strong legs for running (it's the best natural antidepressant in the world!).

11. Rain, especially when it means I don't have to water the garden! 

12. Hydrangeas, peonies, daises (I could probably crate a 40 item list for the pieces of God's natural creation that I love!), but I'll just start with a few flowers. 

13. Farmer's Markets

14. Family Vacations (well, for the most part!).

15. Crafts with my kids.

16. The freedom to go to church each week.

17. The friendships and supportive fellowship cultivated through our church relationships and small group.

18. My marriage (that Scott puts up with me! Lol!).

19. Blueberry picking, and the blueberry pie a la mode afterwards. 

20. Good counselors, the kind you pay for and the kind that comes through friendship and fellowship.

21. Art Museums

22. Mountains, and hiking in them.

23. Fruit! (Cheeries, pineapple, blueberries, mango...the list goes on and on!).

24. Words, phrases and jokes made up by my children and the laughter that ensues.

25. Good movies.

26. Vacuum cleaners. I mean really, when you have kids, they're kind of miraculous and necessary! 

27. Ava

28. Ella

29. Aubrey

30. Coffee (need I say more?!).

31. Natural Bliss Vanilla Coffee Creamer 

32. Lots and lots and LOTS of ice cream cones with my kids during the summer.

33. Good Books

34. PaperMate colored flair markers for journaling! 

35. Blank Journals in all different shapes, colors, textures and sizes.

36. Office supply stores and the billion ways they promise to keep all of my ideas organized!

37. My I-phone.  

Did I really just say that? 

Honestly, I'm not the most tech-y person in the world, and could probably do without it (if I really, really had to), but truly, it makes a LOT of things super convenient! From GPS, to grocery lists, to the timer, the little flashlight and being able to call my husband from the grocery store to tell him I forgot my credit card! 

38. Campfires in the summer.

39. A good Broadway play that inspires and leave me in tears all at the same time.

40. Skiing in the winter...and, while I don't like snow in March, I do like the first snowfall and white Christmases (: 

I could go on and on, but for simplicity sake I'll stop there for this week. 
I encourage you to take up this challenge for yourself. Pull out a piece of loose leaf paper, pick a number (using your age is an easy way to start!), and start jotting down your own gratitude list. I promise it will lift your spirits and change your perspective. 

post 3/40

Monday, July 2

Embracing Celebration!

My sweet husband threw me a 40th birthday party on Friday night, and what an event it was.

I'm still reeling from the emotion of it...the gratitude for the time and energy that went into planning and pulling it off-- Scott, my sister (who gets an MVP award for helping Scott!), my dear friend Jessie, my mother-in-law and even our sweet girls all worked SOOOOOO hard to make the evening special and memorable. Then there was the clean-up crew, those who ended up at the house later than the rest, helping to wash pans, clean off tables and consolidate some of the after party mess (Thank you Mom, Dad , Nick, Eleni, Jeff and Teresa, in addition to my mother-in-law who should earn a special crown for the hours she put in on Friday!).

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

From the festive white tent that we squeezed into our small-ish backyard, to the floral centerpieces carefully crafted, to the oodles of photos and 40th party decorations-- our yard was magically transformed into a party venue. We ended up with enough food to feed the entire neighborhood, and God blessed us with the most perfect weather.

It was a gorgeous evening, from top to bottom. An evening that brimmed with sweet conversation with people that I love. It was an evening of memories that I will treasure for years to come. 

After all was said and done-- after the tent was picked and we ate leftovers for dinner on Saturday (and, again on Sunday!), after I read through all of the heartfelt cards, and looked through the photo album my sister put together, I felt so very thankful to everyone, and for every ounce of effort generously poured out on my behalf.


I couldn't have asked for a sweeter way to march into this next decade of life.

But, because we are complex human beings, especially us women (haha!), my feelings didn't end with simple gratitude...that would have been easy. I wish emotion were that easy.

The truth is, I went to bed that night a little overwhelmed from the busy nature of throwing a party at your house (even your own!), re-playing the details and the conversations from the previous six hours, thinking about the people, the cakes, the food-- ALL of the details. Smack dab in the middle of all that thinking I started to feel......guilty.

Yes, guilty.  After a birthday party!

I know it sounds ridiculous, which is why I'm sharing it with you. In case you ever find yourself feeling guilty for some ridiculous reason as well.

That was a lot of time, energy and effort to spend on just one person, I thought. It was so sweet of everyone, but they really shouldn't have. They didn't need to do that for me. 

As a woman who has struggled to define joy in her own life, fully embrace celebration, and receive love from others on occasion,  I wasn't sure how to accept such big gestures of love.

However, after thinking about it a while longer,  I realized,  that they didn't have to do any of it...

Scott didn't have to pour his heart into planning, friends and family didn't need to step up the way that they did, my sister wasn't required to spend over a dozen hours putting together a scrapbook of pictures together spanning my entire life.

No one had to go out of their way to buy cards, find babysitters, and show up to our house. They did because that's what we's part of doing life together. It's part of the way we love each other.

Ultimately, I realized God had a few things to say about my feelings as well. He wanted to deconstruct the lies that were making me feel guilty for moments that were meant to be enjoyed. He had one sweet 40th Birthday message for me. "I love you, Lisa. These people love you. They're part of my plan for your life.

I was reminded of the scripture that says, "Taste and see that the LORD is good; Oh the joys of those who take refuge in him!"  I was reminded that celebration is good. That gathering is good. That loving one another in all sorts of ways, big and small, is so very good, and that we should praise Him for it all. 

So, in praise of celebration, here are three takeaways that this 40 year old woman finally came to after years of uncertainty about how to joyfully experience life to the fullest!

1. Celebration is GOOD! 

When you grow up in a home where money is tight, you develop a sensibility about life that is about preserving resources, not spending them. You don't throw big parties or celebrate in extravagant ways...and that's not bad, it's just the way it is. But, in the process you develop a feeling deep down that celebration is  lavish and unnecessary...that maybe it' a little frivolous.

I also think that as Christians, we sometimes let our thinking get a little too serious. I can often forget to embrace the good...the fun, the joys, the parties in life! But, the good is just as much a part of God's plan for life as anything else! It was actually His intention from the beginning.

This 40th birthday party inspired me to want to be more intentional in celebrating life and my blessings, in all sorts of ways. It reminded me about how I want to be more purposeful in my relationships, and to be ok kicking up my heels to have some more fun.  

So friends, I give you permission (myself as well). Celebrate life. Enjoy. Be grateful for the good.

2. Celebration is About Thankfulness and Gratitude

In an attempt to solidify my feelings on "celebration" and understand what it means in my life,  I looked up a definition  in the dictionary:

 "The action of marking one's pleasure at an important event or occasion by engaging in enjoyable, typically social activity."

Well...ok, but that doesn't feel like the whole story to me. You?

I'm proposing a new definition, after my recent 40th celebration, here it is:

 "The act of being  grateful for the many blessings and milestones in your life, and finding intentional ways to joyfully commemorate those blessings."

My sweet husband threw this party because he is grateful for me, and our marriage, for our family and friends. He wanted me to feel special and loved. In return, I am SOOO grateful for him, to him, and was reminded how lucky I am to have so many wonderful people in my life.

We celebrate to remind ourselves that gratitude and joy should color our perspective far more often than they do. Celebration pulls us out of the fray of the constant "to-do" list, and forces us to "be" be present, and joyful, and grateful.

Ultimately, celebration is a way of embracing the beauty that God has brought into our lives...which brings me to my last party take-away...

3. The Act of Celebration Ultimately Honors God

The true art of celebration (not the worldly kind) comes back to praising God, and taking moments to consider all of the ways that He loves us. To "taste and see" the beauty that He has created around us. The scriptures are FULL of reminders about the goodness of God, and to praise Him for all He has done...

Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of his wonderful acts.
Glory to his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.   (Psalm 104: 1-4)

This might be the most important piece of my perspective shift...

I don't like to be the center of attention, and I'm not usually a "Birthday party" kind of girl, BUT Scott and I decided to intentionally embrace this 40th decade. Why? Because God has blessed me with SOOO much, and I'm finally beginning to embrace how He's created me, who He has made me to be, and all of the blessing He has graciously bestowed.

This party, if you ask me, wasn't about was about Him! His goodness, His faithfulness in creating me and our family, in this life of ours and the story He is weaving. It's a story full of people who come alongside us with love and fellowship-- not always in big ways (though parties are fun for that!), but in a bazillion little ways that I am grateful for.

I realized, on a deeper level, how I want to be part of that blessing in the lives of others as well-- by celebrating them and with them. Who they are in my story, but more importantly, who they are in God's story! 

While I don't always agree with Oprah, she got it right  (well, close to right) when she said this, "The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."

It's a good sentiment, but  missing a key component.  It's not about praising and celebrating my life, but God who is working in my life. So,  since I started by re-writing the dictionary, I'll finish by re-writing Oprah...

"The more you praise God, and celebrate His blessings in your life, the more there is in life to celebrate!" 

Here's to turning 40. Here's to celebrating life!

My sister and I. 

One of the many photo displays my sister and good friend put together. 

My girls and I. 

My littlest gave thumbs up for a great part the day after.
She was sad to see the tent go. 

Blog post 2/40