The Gratitude Challenge

Sabrina from Hospital Flowers tagged me for this challenge going through the social media. Here's how the challenge is supposed to work: For 5 days, you write three things you are thankful for. In five days, that comes to fifteen things on your gratitude list. Then, you tag some people, and they write their own, so on and so forth.

This challenge is quite timely. With all that's going on, writing down the things I'm grateful for should be good for me. While I will be posting these things three at a time on G+, I'm going to put the whole long list here. Which may or may not be only 15 items long.

Okay, here goes:

1. One of the most wonderful things about summer is the clothesline. In my little corner of the world, few smells are sweeter than slipping between sheets that have been dried with sunshine. I could literally stay awake all night inhaling the scent.

2. Music. Music is one of the knot of things around which I revolve. It has taught me lessons, ministered to me in the hard times, and changed my mood so fast I didn't even see it coming. It's a powerful tool.

3. Man has no ability to truly comprehend the incredible awesomeness (in the truest sense of the word) of the human body. Okay, just take the brain. Common, perhaps, but far from ordinary. This would become a massively long post if I were to go into some of the details of the amazing-ness of the human physical mind. And some of you may become a little green. So I digress. But, really, it is fascinating. Here we are in the 21st century, and we act like we know all there is to know, but, in reality, when it comes to the brain, we know only so much, practically next-to-nothing.

4. Nutella is one of the staples of my diet. I may or may not have been caught eating it with a spoon directly from the jar. But then, I'd have to silence the witnesses if they decided to make this knowledge public. :)

5. Intimacy with Christ is a beautiful, beautiful thing. He and I go way back, and He's been so good to me. I'd always known of Him, but a few years ago, He let me know that He wasn't happy with being "just friends". That He wanted my heart. So I gave it to Him. And being His beloved has satisfied me more than anything I've ever known in my entire life. And it's only gotten better! In fact, as I go through each struggle, He's proven Himself Wonderful time and time and time again. What more could a girl ask for?

6. Being Italian. Does anything more need to be said? I mean, really?

7. The stars have never ceased to amaze me. Just read Psalms. The stars point to God, to what He's done, what He can do, and where we stand in comparison. God used the stars to teach me that lesson a few years ago. Everything looked bleak, then He made me see the stars, and realize what His hands can do. And that gave me that Peace that passes understanding.

8. Coffee is the staff of Italian life. This is a given. In our house I'm the self-appointed Coffee Officer. If you've ever walked through our doors, I remember whether or not you drink coffee, and if you do, whether you prefer caf or decaf, as well as how you like it fixed (and how you don't). It's just one of those weird quirks that people probably don't know about me. I take to coffee like a fish to water or a Brit to tea.

9. Friends. Real friends. Men were real men. Women were real women. Small furry creatures from Alpha-Centuri were real small furry creatures from Alpha-Centuri. (yes, that is a quote.) Seriously, though, friends have lifted my family up through prayer and support more in the past 3 months than anyone else. There's nothing like a hard time to show who your real friends are. And with all that's gone on this past summer, quite frankly, I don't have time for friends (or Christians for that matter) who aren't real in the realest sense.

10. The human hand is almost as fascinating has the human mind. And the fact that I can use the two God gave me uninhibited is a gift. I was marveling over this while playing piano last night. I'm no Billy Joel, but you don't have to be to appreciate the complexity of the human hand. If I had no use of my hands, I'd go insane. I love to sew and to play piano too much. So thank You, God for my hands; may they always be used to Your glory.

11. Color. Life would be dreary without color. Imagine what life would be like without color. How dull, how boring. When it comes to faith, I believe very strongly in the concept of Black and White. But if God meant for life to be black and white, He would have made it that way. Instead we can see a whole range of color (all by-products of light--that could be a whole post in itself) that make our world beautiful. After all, color serves no actual purpose other than to please the eye.

12. I have absolutely no fear of being generic: my family is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me. Easily could I have listed my family members individually for the first 10 of these fifteen items. In which case, this post would grow into a trilogy of books. :) My family lifts each other up in the hard, prays each other through pain, laughs each other through the funny, cries through the sad, smiles through the joyful and hugs all the time. We know each other's buttons and soft spots, weaknesses and strengths. We understand each other perfectly and can even know what the other is thinking most of the time. Never have I had a group of friends that so encouraged and challenged me.

13. Owls. Owls. Owls. They've become my babies. [figuratively, of course] We tease Mom that she has Grandowls. As each of my little parliment is finished being stuffed, I squeal with joy. Not that I'd ever admit that on the internet. Remember those witnesses from before? Still stands. And you know who you are... I'm grateful for my owls because I've seen God pull some amazing stunts. Like last years' Buddy Walk sales numbers. Like the I Can Bike camp this summer. Like people jumping in with both feet to help the cause. Like friends stepping in to help. Even if they have no clue what they're doing. :) I can't wait to see what comes in the future!

14. Love. I'm sorry if this is, perhaps, again, generic, but, then again, it's not. (and that was a lot of commas for such a short sentence.) No, definitely not. Love is never generic. Not true love. Not the love that God is. Not the love He gives us. Not the love that nails the God/man to a cross to bleed for me. That's not generic, and I take it back. I'm not a bit sorry. I'm glad. Are you?

And the pièce de résistance: Henry. I'm grateful for Henry. Because of him, I've been pushed to do not what I think I can (like the little engine) but what God can do through me. He taught me what real love is. He taught me what expressing gratitude when you aren't grateful can do. How to look out for others when you are hurting and your hurt will be lost in trying to help. Which is, in essence, real love. So it kind of rounds out the whole last bit, doesn't it?

So there you have it. The 15 things that I am gratful for in this moment. Which, hopefully will expand tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after. And the day after. And the day after....you get the idea.

Now: what about you? What are you grateful for? If you post about the challenge, I'd love to hear from you!

"In every thing give thanks[not feel thankful]: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."- I Thess. 5:18, emphasis mine


"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."- Edward Abbey

A wilderness is a desert wasteland. At first at appears devoid of anything living, green and wet. Quiet, lonely, desolate... Until you take a closer look. Only when you do will you see the magnificent flowers blooming on the cacti. Scorpions, tortoises and birds, skittering, lumbering or flitting into their respective hidey-holes.

Israel spent forty years lost in the desert. They complain of heat, hunger, thirst; they grew weary of the seeming lack of leadership and not being settled into their own place.

Hagar spent some days in the wilderness alone with her son. Rejected by her mistress and the father of her child, she fell into despair, surrendering to the elements, and turning over her only son to the desert's harsh temperatures.

Elijah, running from a livid queen after stumping her religion's priests, hid in a cave in the wilderness. Not exactly a Hilton. He felt alone, depressed, abandoned.

Are you starting to see a theme?

Abraham lived in the wilderness. In a tent. Sarah must've been a strong woman. :)  His nephew turned his back on Abraham's faith and fell in with the wrong crowd. He was old and childless. And, to top it off, three uninvited, unannounced guests turned up at his door expecting to be served a meal!

Christ, while on earth, spent 40 consecutive days fasting in the wilderness following his baptism. He suffered hunger and severe temptation from Satan.

After reading about all the above circumstances, we can know that we aren't the only ones who've been through some tight spots. Also, in each story we see how God was faithful to these hurting people.

Jesus immediately began His three year ministry. Abraham saw his nephew rescued and his wife bear a son and entertained Christ at his table. Elijah heard the voice of God. Hagar received a promise that her son would survive this desert and become father to a great nation. Israel was given great victories and a land of their own.

Another way God proved loving and comforting in their hard times was ministering to them. Israel was miraculously provided for: bread from heaven, quails arriving on the wind (literally) and water coursing from a rock. Elijah, Hagar and Christ all were given physical sustenance and spiritual encouragement and instruction from angels.

As the desert comes to life upon reflection, so our seemingly "dry" days can fulfill us like no others can.

So don't gripe about the heat. Don't while about the pain. Don't pull a "poor me" act. God uses the wilderness to make us thirst for Him.

Like Israel, let's walk out of our wilderness claiming the victory He's already won for us. Like Hagar, let's cling to our new found hope. Like Abraham, give your all, and claim the promise offered. Like Christ, fight temptation, even when you're weak. Like Elijah, don't focus on the winds, earthquakes, tornadoes, thundering and lightning- listen for the still small voice.

And don't forget to look for the angels, for they will come. They may arrive in the form of your neighbor who drops by to see if you're okay. A church member who brings a meal. A friend who frequently lets you know that they are praying for you.

One way to keep your mind off your trials is to reach out to someone else who's hurting. "Bearing one another's burdens" and all that.

One faithless giant upon the crest of Hebron's lofty heightHas vowed that he's the one to make me flee.I'll come from out the wilderness and trust Jehovah's might.I want that mountain, it belongs to me!-I Want That Mountain