The stories of gratitude started with a visit to a feed store in a small Texas town and the discovery of a castle next door. It was actually an abandoned building void of a roof and doors, but to little eyes it was a place of princesses in ball gowns and knights slaying dragons. The tears fell as I listened to the giggles filling every space of the rubble with life. The day glowed with the small joys we had found in the midst of broken brick and cracked concrete. “I am full,” I said out loud. “My heart is so very full.”
Eight days. Eight stories. I’ve now collected them here so I may let them glow when castles are hard to find. I pray the stories may brighten your day too. And every offer in every story stands true for you. Right now.
Day One: I will purpose to catch small joys and hold them – like fireflies in a jar. I promise to let them glow. And I promise to let them go so they may brighten other skies.
Today I am thankFULL for the tender frailty of this broken world. How it can be at once so beautiful and so terrible and so everything in-between. The roads aren’t straight and seldom are they smooth, and so we are given the graceful gift of holding each other as we walk. I pray today my arms are ever-ready for you.
Day two: A dining table is a powerful minister. It offers safe haven for conversation, for confession, for communion. It is a place for “I love you” and “We’re in this together” and “How may I pray?” The table is a divine reminder that we are here for each other. Let me never forget that there’s always a place at the table for you.
Today I’m thankFULL for being raised by a mom who believed the table was a gathering place, an open invitation, a safe harbor in a home – and a world – that was anything but. I’ve prayed my home would be a sanctuary for sojourners and a hiding place for weary souls. God has answered that prayer over and over again. I’m praying today for you, that Thanksgiving will find you at a table of plenty. And if you need a place to rest and refill, I pray you’ll consider our family’s invitation.
Day three: Everyone needs hand-written pages filled with moments just waiting to be lived. Don’t dare call it a bucket list though – rather, let it be an adventure list, full of all that is glorious about living. Because life is a strange, beautiful, joyful, painful, messy miracle of an adventure. Rejoice.
Today, I am thankFULL for the man who told me it was OK to be brave, even if my knees were shaking. Because of his encouragement and incredible patience – I’ve discovered the beauty of swimming in the lake under the stars and the thrill of speeding through the muck and mire of logging trails snaking through Piney Woods. He’s given me wings to fly and discover and risk and to do what I’m crafted to do, even when fear overwhelms me. He prays for and with and over me, and joins in the adventures because he likes to fly too. We all need someone who believes we shine like stars. I pray you have at least one someone in your life and I pray you are that someone to a person whose knees are shaking. I’m here, you know – and I would cherish being in your “someone” circle.
Day four: In the day-to-day of life, I can become forgetful. So I am learning the importance of milestones – markers in my life that allow me to peek over my shoulder on those forgetful days and remember what God has done. Stones of thankfulness, stones of victory, stones of overcoming and first times and try-again-and-agains. Stones of bite-sized chunks of living and sunrises filled with new mercies. It’s in the remembering that I’ll see the miracles in the day-to-day. You are one of those miracles. You are an Ebenezer.
Today I’m thankFULL for the miracles. I get teary to this day remembering the words, “you’re pregnant,” followed by “but there’s no way you’ll carry this baby to term – you’re just too sick.” The doctor at the foot of my hospital bed felt an abortion would be in the best interest of my health. I politely declined; he shook his head and walked away.
I get teary to this day remembering the words, “you’ve got a healthy baby boy!” and whispering, “Hi there, Ian – glad you’re here.”
I’ve not stopped looking at him as a miracle, a gift, a treasure. And to now watch him love his family well? Yeah, I get teary to this day. Life is full of Ebenezers, reminding us that God is good and He is kind and His delight is love. If you’re having a hard time seeing the milestones and miracles, let me know and we’ll take a good walk together.
Day five: Great joy awaits us in a motley crew, a team of misfits, a clan, a tribe, a community of people who embrace you and let you live life with grace and purpose. Run to them. Don’t be afraid.
Today I’m thankFULL for you. The encourager. The warrior. The teacher. The gypsy. The sage. The dreamer. The mentor. The prophet. The leader. The healer. The fighter. The sister. The brother. The God-crafted family that’s been given to me to fill in all the spaces, the ones woven together by divine threads and wrapped around me like a shawl. Even as I look at this image, I know it falls short because it can’t begin to capture your beauty. You are beautiful – please don’t ever forget that. And should you find yourself in need of God-crafted family today, please let me know. I’ll share my shawl with you.
Day six: It’s OK to ask, “Where do I feel truly and fully alive? Where could I ‘dwell’ for the longest of times? Where does my heart find its home?” because I believe it’s there our greatest dreams live. Let’s find bravery to pursue, even if we’re shaking a bit. Sometimes we just need to do something that scares the holy bejeebers out of us.
Today I am thankFULL for the ones who have said, “come on over, braveheart – there’s a place for you here,” the ones who understood the little girl with thick glasses and a lisp who longed to be an archaeologist and a safe place for orphans because “kids need love too.” That little girl would grow up to be a woman who found success in doing things where stories could be told, but found herself most at home in places so many people thought were broken beyond repair. A friend named Amy was the first person to see it, and she encouraged a move from the comfort of the corporate world to the wilds of a nonprofit. The road was rougher than I thought it would be, and there were so many days I shook. But along the way, I met others – Tiffany, Mike, Amy N. – and they showed me the worth of the journey.
It’s been almost ten years since I took that first step away from telling stories to get people to buy a DVD and a soda or tune into a television show. I loved what I did. But now…
Archaeology is more about discovering the real story buried under dirt and diesel than it is about brushing the dust off bones, and my God-crafted family has grown huge through child sponsorship and friendship and sisterhood and being an “Aunty.” There’s a little army of people on the rough road with me now – folks I’ve met in countries all over the world and folks I’ve met drinking a cup of the best chai latte ever right down the road on a Monday afternoon. Don’t get me wrong – there are still times I wonder if the stories I’m now telling are making a difference, and there are times I miss the trophies of a time when things were bigger and better and brighter and bolder. There are days I shake. But then I breathe in the air of being fully alive. And I smile. I want you to breathe that air too, and I am praying that you’ll not be afraid to ask yourself the questions. And that you’ll not be afraid to pursue.
Day seven: Those with hands that are open to give can’t help but receive. It’s like the words of an old song I learned as a child, “Give one heart, you get back two – that’s the paradox of ‘I love you.’”
Today I am thankFULL for the ones who give without expectation, the souls who hold up other souls with tenderness, the warriors who go to battle in the darkness to crack its shell so the light can gleam. Today I’m thankFULL for the ones who get little honor for doing the work you and I won’t touch, for making life better and easier and prettier. Today I’m thankFULL for the ones who we may never see, those who believe there is good worth fighting for and evil worth standing against. Who is that person in your life?
Day eight: Never let anyone tell you the wings aren’t real. You were born to soar. There are glimpses of eternity everywhere to those who can see them. Keep your eyes open, and you’ll see hope shine.
Today I am thankFULL for hope, for the precious expectation that lights midnight skies and gives life to travelers on a journey that sometimes seems so very long and without rest. Hope is more than restoration and more than refreshing. Hope is resurrection. Where we look and see death around us, God says, “no, just sleeping – hope now.” And then He speaks that hope. And new life begins.
And that life is NEW, not recycled, not threadbarren, not second-hand. The God of hope delights in new. And His new isn’t just a “see you on the other side” new, but it’s a “right here, right now in this place” new. This weary world rejoices. If you are struggling to have hope, I would love to pray with and for you. I want to hold your hand on the journey. Remember, not dead – just sleeping.
(The bolded statements are from this post – something I wrote a few years ago for a young woman who wanted words of wisdom from an older soul. I still believe cowboy boots are the perfect all-purpose footwear. And I still believe every barn is better painted.)