Today’s post comes from Kim Weizycki, who wrote a review of the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

It is a season of Thanksgiving. A time when we more consciously voice our gratitude. But can we practice this kind of gratitude daily, 365 days a year, even without the turkey and the trimmings?  Author and self-proclaimed, “wife to The Farmer, mama to six, determined laundress, chief bottle washer, and desperate Grace-clinger,” Ann Voscamp says, “yes,” and shows you how she does it.  With her journal and a pen.

Mrs. Voscamp’s book One Thousand Gifts is a gift to the soul. She shares intimate details of her tragic losses and fears… anger and redemption.  And she does it through writing that can only be described as if it was painted on the pages with the most brilliant colors and brushes available to a writer. 

“My tongue has had a razor edge and my eyes have rolled haughty and my neck has been stiff and graceless and I have lived the filth ugly, an idolater, a glutton, and a grace-thief who hasn’t had time for thanks.” (p. 115)

She tackles the question: What does it mean to live full of grace? To live fully alive?  Especially when you feel empty?  She recognizes the sin of ingratitude and does something proactive about it.

The emphasis of the book is on one word: eucharisteao, or “charis” meaning “grace.” Grace, meaning thanksgiving and joy.  A humble gratitude.  She beautifully illustrates when Jesus has shown His grace to us. She shows us how Christ broke his heart to heal ours and how his grace never ends.  And in that revelation, her journaling of the gifts begins…

“…windmills droning in a day’s last breeze” (p.48)

“…long, lisped prayers” (p. 49)

“…washing the warm eggs” (p.52)

“…bedsheets in blowing winds” (p. 53)

“…forgiveness of a sister” (p.82)

“…kettle whistling for tea on a cold afternoon” (p 82)

1000 gifts. Naming the moments she is grateful for helps the author live fully the life God means for her to live. And that gift is for us, too. Slow down, see God in EVERYTHING, give thanks, NAME the gifts.

“They say time is money, but that’s not true. Time is life. And if I want the fullest life, I need to find fullest time.” –Ann Voskamp

You can read more about Ann Voncamp on her blog at www.onethousandgifts.com.

 

 

by Julie Jaunese

In the late 1970s, the economy was much like it is today. Unemployment was high and people were struggling to make ends meet.

My husband and I owned our own business at the time. He also went to college at night. Despite working so hard and so many hours every week, times were tough for our family. It got to a point that one day I had to pray that God would supply the food we needed to eat that day. We had plenty of venison in the freezer, so meat wasn’t an issue. We didn’t have store bought meat at that time. We really couldn’t afford it.

This particular morning I realized I didn’t have anything to put with the meat. I had used everything else I had in the way of fruit, eggs, veggies, cereal, pasta, potatoes. Everything was gone. I had flour and sugar in the cupboard but nothing to put with it to make anything edible. This is a frightening thing for a mom with two little girls that needed to be fed. Baking my own bread had become my way of releasing stress, but I was all out of yeast.

I was also embarrassed to tell anyone how desperate we were, so I took all of the “talking to God” on my own shoulders. I didn’t call anyone else to help or to pray with me. It was God and me. When my husband left for work that morning, I began crying out to God. I told him I didn’t know what we were going to do. I knew the Bible said he wouldn’t have his people begging for bread, but we didn’t have any bread. I needed to feed my children and I knew that He loved them even more than I did, so he would need to provide our food.

About two hours later I received a call from our pastor’s wife. She said that someone had called her that morning and said that God had told her in the summer months to can twice the food she would normally can and when the time came, God would tell her where she was to take the food. Today was the day.

That morning God told her to call Babs, our pastor’s wife. The woman told Babs that God hadn’t told her who the food was to go to, only that Babs would take care of it. Babs told me that at first she didn’t know who the food was to be taken to. But when the woman told her there wasn’t any meat, only fruits and vegetables, Babs immediately knew it was for our family.

Julie snapped photos of her pantry after having it miraculously filled with canned goods.

When Babs arrived she brought boxes of canned fruits and vegetables along with frozen vegetables that filled our freezer. I was in awe as I put the jars on the shelves. It was amazing as I stood back and looked. God had known 6 months before this day that I would be crying out to him on this date and at this time. He had planned ahead for me by prompting this woman to can extra food. He didn’t provide Del Monte or Green Giant, which would have been great. He provided food that was home canned with love.

Why is this story important to you? It is important because we all have times when we are alone with our burden. We don’t always need to be on a prayer list or share our burden with someone else. God is there for each of us individually. He wants you to call on him. He is ready to provide.

With Thanksgiving only a couple days away, we sat down with the GFC Beautiful staff to find out about a few of their favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

What is your favorite food at Thanksgiving?
Kristin Bonham: Stuffing
Paige Eavenson: Turkey and green bean casserole
Vivian Germain: Pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole
Marilyn Hinders: Turkey and dressing
Alexandra Hoeneggar: My mom’s carrots
Leslee Stewart: Pumpkin pie

What is a special tradition your family has on Thanksgiving?
Kristin Bonham:  Going around the table and saying what we’re thankful for. Eating way too much and napping while watching football.
Paige Eavenson: Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and going to Busch Gardens after lunch.
Marilyn Hinders: To invite all our friends and neighbors who don’t have family to join us for a 2 p.m. dinner.
Alexandra Hoeneggar: Baked apples and cranberries.
Leslee Stewart: We always make a new sweet potato recipe each year. My favorite was this recipe for Sweet Potato Cups from Southern Living.

What was your most memorable Thanksgiving?
Kristin Bonham:  When we were in Tennessee eating turkey looking out the window at wild turkeys.
Marilyn Hinders: One year in Germany, when our children were babies, we had 25 military friends over for Thanksgiving and it was the best ever!
Vivian Germain: My most memorable Thanksgiving was in 1999. That was the year I moved here from Colombia and celebrated my first Thanksgiving.
Leslee Stewart: My most memorable Thanksgiving was spending the holiday in New York City with close friends and seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in person. Definitely one of those “life lists” things!

What’s your favorite way to prepare Thanksgiving leftovers?
Kristin Bonham:  Turkey sandwiches with cranberries on them.
Paige Eavenson: Making sandwiches out of the leftover turkey and ham.
Marilyn Hinders:
Turkey and rice casserole.
Alexandra Hoeneggar: A turkey sandwich.
Vivian Germain:
I don’t have a special way. Sometimes my husband makes me a delicious turkey sandwich with them.
Leslee Stewart: Turkey pot pie.

Do you shop on Black Friday?
Kristin Bonham:  Sometimes…If my daughter, Abby, will go with me for comic relief.
Paige Eavenson: Yes.
Marilyn Hinders: No…no…no!
Alexandra Hoeneggar: Yes!
Vivian Germain:
Absolutely NOT, I can’t imagine going shopping that early in the morning.
Leslee Stewart: No way. I value my sleep too much!

What are you thankful for?
Kristin Bonham:  Spending time with the ones I love.
Paige Eavenson: Living close to my parents and having family to celebrate with.
Marilyn Hinders: I am thankful for my amazing family and especially my husband, my children and my grandchildren!
Alexandra Hoeneggar: I am thankful for all God is doing in my life. He has blessed me with wonderful friends, family, mentors, and my church!
Vivian Germain: I am thankful for my husband and my children.
Leslee Stewart: I’m thankful for this time in my life, and the gift of being a wife and a mother.

by Carina Deshotels

I recently finished reading the book, “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo. It’s the story of a little boy’s account of going to heaven and how his visit completely changed his family’s view on heaven.

My mom died when I was four-years-old, so reading the book had special meaning for me. There was a part of the book that I felt came straight from an experience I had a coupleCarina and her mom of years ago – an experience that confirmed for me the power of God’s presence in my life, and that there is so much more to this life than what we can see.

I’ve always loved God, but I haven’t always been in love with Jesus like I am today. My mom laid a strong foundation for my sisters and I, and we never doubted God’s existence. I knew the typical Sunday school stories. I knew one day I wanted a good future for myself, one that included a husband who treated me right, children, to go to church, and live happily ever after. Everything worked out pretty well, except when I had my son, I started to struggle like crazy! I dealt with medical problems, exhaustion and feeling down on my new post partum appearance. My husband and I began fighting and not understanding each other. We constantly compared roles with who had it harder.  Sometimes I would wonder what the future held for us. How could life have gotten so hard? We didn’t really know what we were doing as new parents, but a major factor was my depression. I was also new to the area and was home alone with my baby all of the time.

When my son turned one, we finally had had enough and realized I needed help. I decided to join a small group at Grace Family Church. The ladies there were all different. Some older, some my age, some single, some married, some with older kids. One of the ladies there, Vivian, and I really hit it off. She was different than other “big Christians” I had met in the past.

At the time, I associated being a major Christian with looking dull and boring, and acting that way too. This was part of the reason why I was never able to just dive straight into being all about God. I still wanted to “have fun.” I still had things in my life I didn’t want to give up. But Vivian was truly inspiring and showed me that you don’t have to be someone you don’t want to be to have God at the center of your life. God made me, and when you have Him at the center of your life, He just makes you better, the “you” you’ve always wanted to be. It’s a win/win, but I never realized that before.

So, after a year in the small group, I grew closer with God, grew closer in my friendships, and my marriage was better than ever! About that same time, Grace’s annual ladies retreat was coming up and I decided to go with a few members of my small group.

On the second night of the retreat, the choir gathered for worship. I found myself worshiping in a way I had never done before. I felt as though I was truly worshiping our God with every single word of the song! After the worship, the speaker invited women who felt led, to come to the front and kneel at the stage while the song, “I Can Only Imagine” played. Immediately, I felt like I should go to the front and kneel. This was strange for me because I had never kneeled in church. But at that moment, I didn’t care anymore. I was going to go up front if I felt He wanted me to.

I was the first to go up there. Vivian saw me and came up behind me. She leaned over and said, “Carina, can I pray for you?”

As Vivian began praying, I heard God say, “She is with you.” Suddenly, I felt the air come around me from behind and hug me tightly. I instantly knew the “she” was my mother, and that hug was her big wings wrapping around my body. I burst into a serious cry! Before I could get out my entire thought of, “DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?”, God knew I would not be sure, so He confirmed it again to show me I was not crazy. He said again, “She is with you!”, and her big angel wings came and wrapped around me once more. The air squeezed my body and I felt my angel mother’s Carina and her mom_2touch after 20 years of her leaving this earth, and not having a single memory of her on my own.

I didn’t really know why God gave me that experience. But a few months later, I found out. One day I was looking through my mom’s old trunk filled with memorabilia. Inside was a cassette tape of her testimony she recorded just before she died in 1989. She recorded it with hopes of it bringing others to Christ. I had listened to it before when I was much younger, but only with the hope of hearing her say my name.

On the tape, my mom shared how even though she’d been going to church, she just didn’t feel changed. She hadn’t really given her whole life to Christ. So one night she cried out to God. She wanted to feel the difference if she was to be a child of God – meaning her thoughts and actions would be proof of her love for God. The next morning, she awoke and never felt the same. She described it with a feeling of wanting to love. Her life had changed. She had truly surrendered her life to Him.

That night at the retreat was the same experience for me. I surrendered my own life to Jesus that night while in worship. I knew during that song something had happened that was different. I didn’t realize it then, but my life had been set on fire. My little weekend away wasn’t some temporary revival.

Now two years later, God is using me to lead MOPS at Grace Family Church. MOPS is a ministry for mothers of children ages 0-5. I now get to bless and encourage other mothers in ways that I needed when I was a new mom.Carina Deshotels

In the book “Heaven is for Real,” the little boy who visits Heaven testifies that everyone in Heaven has wings. And in the Bible, God speaks of angels and their wings. I love that I am now a witness that God’s angels aren’t puny. My mama had big wings and covered me well!

I used to wonder how I’d ever love God enough to want to see him more than my mom in Heaven. But that night at the retreat changed the way I see life and the way I see God, Heaven and eternity. It was a supernatural moment and I’d never be the same again! It’s why I have complete peace in my life about my mom dying. It’s why I have peace about when I die and why I have peace when others die whom I know are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. It’s when I became absolutely sure with every cell in my body that my soul would never cease and would forever be with my loved ones and God!

My life is living proof of the change God made in me. And I’m forever grateful for that experience.

 

by Leslee Stewart

One of the things I love most about Grace Family Church is the worship music. I always get to church early because I never want to miss a moment of worship. It’s the time when I feel closest to God. I let loose, celebrate and praise God with everything I have.

Each week, the GFC worship team leads the congregation in some of the most dynamic and diverse praise music out today. Want to praise the Lord with a Latin beat? We got that. Want to worship him with slow strings and an orchestral sound? We got that. Want to jump up and down, and pump your fists for freedom? We got that. There is always a song for everyone.

And now you don’t have to be in church to get the GFC worship experience. The new GFC worship CD, Sold Out was just released. It features some of the best songs from our weekend services. Some of my personal favorites include, “Freedom is Here,” sung with unbridled passion by Casey Bonham, “Rescue” featuring the beautiful, honest vocals of Taylor Bonham, and “Praise You,” with the awesome Regge-style rap by Dondy Telesford.

Originally I bought one copy for myself, but after listening to it for a few days, I picked up three more copies to give to friends this Christmas. I want them to get as sold out as I am!

Get your copy of Sold Out at the Source bookstore in the GFC lobby. $10 for one, or 3 for $25.