Bless

Bless

It’s Thanksgiving weekend and we’re still celebrating. Yesterday with the Andersons and tomorrow with the Eastvolds. Black Friday today, but I’m opting out. I’m not a shopper, and not one for crowds, so I’m willing to pay extra for less chaos. Kyle and the boys hit the Nike Outlet when it opened last night at 8pm, which is two hours earlier than last year, and four hours earlier than the year before. But that controversy is not the focus of this post.

Blessing is.

A couple of days ago I read something that rocked my week of Thanks. I’m thinking about it still. It was day 26 of Mark Batterson’s 30-day If. Kyle and I have been reading together. Romans 8 and If God is for us… Now the week of Thanksgiving, and this:

“An observant Jew says a bare minimum of one hundred blessing prayers each day! They bless God when they see a comet, put on new clothes, or experience something for the first time. They bless God for smells and tastes. And if something is pleasurable, they bless God… If you enjoy something without saying a blessing, according to the Talmud, it’s as if you have stolen it.”

 I love that last line, don’t you? If you enjoy something without blessing God, you may as well be stealing it right out of his hand! (My translation.)

Yesterday at Grammy’s we all wrote our thanks on bright orange notecards. 19 cards full of thanks. We circled the room, and read them out loud, guessing whose thanks was whose. Some were obvious, some not. Two were written in Spanish.

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving is good, but catch this. An observant Jew says thank you a hundred times each day!

A few months ago saying thanks saved me. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll remember. Today’s Manna. Paying attention to God’s provision, each day, and thanking. The practice that kept me sane.

So why stop?

Every day overflows with blessings. Simple pleasures. Provision, faithful and good. I can ignore it and hoard it and steal it. Or bless it.

I choose blessing.

For morning sun and fresh brewed coffee.
For the stack of books by my favorite chair.
For turkeys slow cooking in crockpots.
Boys still sleeping at Grammy’s.
Peace in our home and our hearts.
Adult kids home from University and Iowa.
Teenagers adjusting. Life feeling normal.
Jimmy tucking me in bed at night.
Felipe beating all but Pop at chess.
Nils’ sense of humor, making me laugh.
A girl in the family, nonstop with stories.
Work that I love.
My “harmony” husband. (Explained later.)
Light dusting of snow on the lawn.
Advent starting on Sunday. Evergreen waiting to be hung.
Chores to be done today. (And for me these tasks are a blessing.)
New clothes in my closet.
Family together this evening watching nieces play basketball.
29 joining us tomorrow.
Texts from good friends, wishing a Happy Thanksgiving.
A year to remember.
God’s faithful provision.
A Shalom story unfolding.
Not just surviving, but thriving. We’re doing it.
Love winning. Fear losing.
Becoming a family.
Every day blessings.

God – I bless you, a hundred times over.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…

Psalm 103:1-2

Heaven

Caribou

We talked about heaven over coffee this afternoon. Grant, Kiana, Nils and me. Lingering at Caribou for some soul connection before three straight days of family and feasts. Kids home for Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful.

We talked about church-planting at Revision and a new high school pastor hired this week at Constance. Grant and Nils talked worship – both lead bands, speaking the same language, brothers by blood and spirit.

The newlyweds are happy, talking about new friends and life in Des Moines. I watch their wedding video on Facebook while I drink my coffee. It’s been a crazy week, and I guess I’ve been unplugged. Last night at church, after our Thanksgiving service, we were eating pie when the Beckman girls told me how much they loved Grant and Kiana’s wedding video. And I sat there surprised, not aware. 200 plus likes, and I’m just getting around to watching. And of course, it’s amazing.

So I’m absorbed in the video, but also aware of Grant talking across the table. Animated. I’m half watching and half listening and he’s talking to Nils about heaven. Telling him about a podcast sermon he heard online, and the more he talks the more excited he gets, hands joining the conversation, and he’s all lit up.

The wedding video ends and I give my son’s passion my full attention. I shake my head and smile. He’s all in. For this life, and the next. Life brimming over with love of bride, and love of God, living a dream, and dreaming of heaven.

So we sit there drinking lattes and we talk about all the things we love about this life. Mountain hikes and morning sun, worship songs and weddings. And Grant with all his passion says it’s nothing. Only a hint. A shadow. Of what He has in store for us. 

I’m back home now, in a quiet house. Kyle and boys gone for the evening, trying out the man-made snow at Wild Mountain. Temps in the 40’s, and there will be a wet pile of laundry to deal with later, to be sure.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I’m counting my blessings. So much to savor and enjoy. And all this good today is only a hint of what’s coming.

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him

1 Corinthians 2:9

Peace

Shalom

I think I can say this. We’ve found our peace. Settled somehow. A new normal.

The Lord will fight for you. You only need to be still. God whispered these words to my husband during the wee hours of the morning. When was it? A month ago or less. We took Him at his Word. Gave in and gave up. We fasted and prayed. Deprived of food and deprived of worry. Ten days, between two birthdays. And we waited while He fought. For us.

He did.

Around day eight I noticed the change. A shift. A brightening. Relief. Peace.

That’s really all we needed. Peace. Looking at us now, nothing else has changed. Same issues. Same habits. Same us. But different somehow. And there’s only one explanation, really. It’s peace.

Last week, on Friday, I had lunch with a friend. She brought something to the restaurant she wanted to give me. A birthday gift, but more. Something she created, for me, in prayer. My sweet friend prays while she paints. She plays with pattern and color, texture and words. While the Spirit leads prayers take shape on a pallet of love.

Out of chaos – light. That’s how she described it. And a word. Whispered. By the Spirit in prayer.

I’m shaking my head still.

This Word. Again. Four times now, a divine message. And who could make up such a story?

shalom

There is it, stamped bold, stitched in place. My word.

I thought she must have known. Surely she knew my story. But no. Not then, when she painted and prayed. It wasn’t a story remembered but a whisper discerned. My sister in spirit hearing His Spirit and stamping it out while she prayed. For me.

For Shalom. Peace.

And then on the back, there’s this greeting in pencil:

Sonya, Shalom unto you my sweet friend.  

(Sonya – Shalom. I’ve heard this before, this gentle greeting that rocks my world!)

May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his Shalom.
Numbers 6:24-26
Kelley

Thank you, my friend. Shalom to you, too.

Dream

View More: http://janelleelisephotography.pass.us/kianagrant

I’ve been entertaining this question for the past ten days. The days between Nils’ birthday and mine – days we set aside to “be still, and watch God fight.”

The night before last Kyle and I went for a walk after dark, enjoying the baffling warm temps of mid-November. And as an aside I have to ask – when have we ever enjoyed such a long stretch of gorgeous in Minnesota? Since March, I think, and here we are, November and still in awe of this weather. (Not a bad way to introduce boys with South American blood to our climate. And not a bad way to infuse a long shot of encouragement into this mom, either.)

So we were walking, and talking. Kyle had something to say, but with reservation. I’m afraid I might jinx it, he starts. No, say it! I’m adamant. We can’t be afraid to hope.

“I think we’ve had a breakthrough.”

I’d been thinking it, too. Something’s changed. The mood. The humor. Optimism. Yes, that’s it. Ours, and theirs. More sweet, less edge.

This morning I got a birthday hug. A real one. My favorite b-day gift.

So there’s this question I’ve been mulling over. It first crossed my mind on day two of our ten days of stillness. Why did you stop dreaming? I knew it was Him asking. And I knew what it meant.

It’s been His Gift. Dreaming. The special something He planted in me all those years ago. A little girl dreaming, and a mom noticing. You live in a world of fantasy. True enough.

Of course, it’s not fantasy He asks of me, but something better. I wrote a paper about it at the seminary. Imagination and Hope. How imagining God stirs our hope, and makes it possible to dream God’s dreams.

Why did you stop dreaming? He whispered the question sweetly into my prayer, and I’ve been mulling it over since. Asking a question back. What do you want me to dream?  

This morning, on my birthday, I open a book I’m reading to the next chapter, and guess what it’s about? God-dreams, more or less. But not just that. There’s a story about a woman, and the story is the answer to my question.

There was this woman named Henrietta Mears, no longer living, who changed the world with a dream. A Sunday school teacher. Not more. But the children she taught – this list of names. Billy Graham. Bill Bright. Jim Rayburn. Dawson Trotman. Richard Halverson. Google, if you don’t know who they are. Kingdom changers extraordinaire, every one. Their ripples endless, infinite. No counting the impact. One thing in common. A woman. A teacher.

Then the author says this: You may not influence millions of people, but you may influence one person who influences millions. You might be parenting or coaching or teaching or mentoring the next Henrietta Mears, the next Billy Graham, the next Bill Bright.*

Not a bad dream.

So this morning is my birthday, and I sit again with the window cracked open, enjoying the sun and the birds. Dreaming.

I wrote another paper at the seminary. Shalom: The Dream of God.

And shalom WAS the dream. The dream that got us to where we are today. Nothing missing, nothing broken.

I think we’ve had a breakthrough.

Thanks for the birthday hug.

*If by Mark Batterson

Drive

Sky

It’s a long drive to Marion, Indiana from Andover. Ten long hours in the car, plus an hour lost on the way. Black as night by 5pm and we’re only halfway there.

But the company is good, and the music. The playlists on Nils’ phone never get old, as long as we can keep the speaker charged. Ben Rector. Zac Brown Band. A new album from Hillsong United. What will I do when I don’t have boys to keep my music cool?

We ask each other random questions, just to pass the time. What was your favorite Christmas present? If you had to eat at the same restaurant every day for the rest of your life, what would you choose? Who are your best friends? If you had to spend $100 right now what would you buy?

And I know it’s cliché, but I’m thinking these long hours cooped up in the car are PRICELESS.

We’re driving to Indiana for a college visit. Already, with boy number three. It’s going too fast, and I can hear the struggle in my husband’s voice when I call to check in. Another boy, moving on. Maybe ten hours away.

But not yet. He’s only a junior, and we have time.

Back at home Kyle and the boys bond over video games and movies. Our new normal. But the mood is light, and their conversations are about the future, too. Girlfriends, and Driver’s Ed, and part-time jobs, and saving up money for cars. Boys becoming men everywhere we look.

Luke calls Kyle to ask for advice. Grant sends me texts of last weekend’s worship. And this is how we’ll roll for the next season or so.

Driving back west after a full day on the college campus, Nils naps while the sun is setting. And for maybe an hour I’m enthralled with the sky. The red of the sun reflects off clouds for as far as I can manage to look without driving off the road. I try to take a picture with my phone at 65 miles an hour, which doesn’t do it justice. But all this breathtaking sky has me thinking.

We all share the sky. Iowa. Colombia. Minnesota. Indiana. All of us, everywhere. The one thing we’ll always share.

It makes me think of something else, too. During the first hours of our trip Nils told me about something he learned in his theology class. It was something about how God’s Spirit is always communicating with our spirit – and often without using human language. This is why we can know God in a way that’s deeper than words.

Pretty deep for seventeen.

So with Nils sleeping and the sky declaring, I contemplate the glory of God. Beyond words. Knowing without adequate explanation that He is good, and He is love. Today, tomorrow, forever.

Back at home Kyle and Felipe work on the same Theology assignment. And I wonder how father and son – and Father and son – are getting along. And I rest in knowing His Spirit can reach any spirit. Language never a barrier.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4