Nothing but Gratitude

Thanksgiving 2011, I was sitting in the driveway with one of my dearest friends, watching the kids ride their bikes up and down the street, awaiting the dreaded call of their dad saying he was on the way to pick them up. It would be my first Thanksgiving without my kids.  I pictured Thanksgiving differently.

At that moment, I desperately wanted my old life back. I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving the way we had always celebrated, with all of our family coming over. It was always so fun to host dinner at our house. I would make place cards and have the kids do a fun craft that usually involved a turkey. But, instead, this year, it would all look different.

I remember looking over at my friend, Tami, saying, “I have nothing to be thankful for this year.” And she just looked at me and said, “What do you mean you have nothing to be thankful for?” And all I knew to do was repeat what I said, just dragging out the words a little bit more…”I have nothing to be thankful for.”

She looked at me and gave me a challenge I would never forget.  She said, “I want you to go home. I want you to open up your journal, and I want you to write down everything that you are grateful for.”
I wanted to shout back at her.  “Did you not hear me?  I have nothing to be thankful for”, but instead, in my most non-confrontational way, I smiled, and under my breath, I said, “Sure, I’ll do that once the kids leave.”

I had no intention of writing in my journal.  It sounded silly and cliché. But once the kids left and I walked into the empty, eerily quiet house, I had nothing else to do but go to my journal and write what I was thankful for. And, you know what? It completely surprised me.

I began writing a list. It started with elementary things and then grew in ways I saw where God was being so intentional in our lives. So, I kept writing everything, anything that popped into my head. I realized there was so much that I was thankful for. And, a new tradition was birthed from this simple challenge, keeping a small gratitude journal in my purse so I can keep a running tally of where God has just shown up. It’s been over ten years; I have completed so many gratitude journals throughout the years. I love looking through them and seeing God in such a tangible way.

Have you ever found yourself in a season where you have believed the lie, “I have nothing to be thankful for “?

Maybe you didn’t get the job you wanted, or you feel stuck in a season of singleness, or you’re struggling in a relationship, and it seems hopeless. Maybe you’re not where you want to be financially, or you’re not where you want to be spiritually, or perhaps you had expectations of things happening that have yet to happen. The list could go on and on, but I wonder what it would look like if we paused for a minute and simply write down what we were thankful for. So, I challenge you today; go find a journal! If you are anything like me, you have some lying around the house, and watch God change your heart!

 

 

Peace, Not of My Own.

When you’re in the middle of receiving the news that one of your worst nightmares has in fact come to pass….

….What are your first thoughts?

Let me share with you what I experienced a fews weeks ago when this happened to me.

In the very early hours of the morning, I received a call from my mom telling me that an app that my parents use while traveling for tracking purposes had sounded an alert. It detected a “hard crash” while my dad was on the last leg of a cross country motorcycle trip. 

The app was correct.

It would be a long while after my mom received this alert before we knew that he was alive. All she could see was his location – the middle of the interstate somewhere in Virginia, no longer moving forward.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James‬ ‭1:2-3‬ ‭

I am the youngest of 5 siblings, the baby. My closest sibling in age to me is almost a decade older than myself. My dad took me on adventures that taught me some of the most foundational truths of life growing up. But, I used to feel like I missed out on the adventures all my brothers and sisters got to have before I was here. But, you see, God had planned my own adventures and they would be so special. They would be the very reason why the rest of my life played out the way it did.

My dad is not the perfect dad. He is far from it and would tell you so himself. We had really great conversations growing up. And while I don’t remember most of them, I do remember these things…

My Dad’s Bible was covered in underlines and highlighter marks.

My Dad loved history.

My Dad could build ANYTHING.

My Dad believed the best in people and loved helping people.

My Dad loved the mountains.

My Dad loved learning.

My Dad was prepared. 

My Dad was always excited about an adventure.

My Dad loved Jesus and loved talking about Him all the time.

I got off the phone with my mom in those dark morning hours and collapsed to the floor. It felt like time completely stopped.

Back to my question, “What are your first thoughts?”. 

Mine were,

“Dad, are you in heaven?”

“Dad, are you still here?”

Trying to make anything make sense in these moments, I felt a calmness that words cannot explain. Jesus in the form of my husband, my Bible, my kids, my best friends, came over me and held me when I couldn’t stand up on my own.

My Dad is alive. He has a long road of recovery ahead of him and we are all praying for healing and the ability to forgive a semi truck driver who needs to make better decisions on the road. 

Now, looking back through an ultra clear lens I see that…

My Bible is covered in underlines and highlighter marks.

I love history.

My husband and I can figure out how to build just about anything.

We believe the best in people and love helping people.

My family loves the mountains.

My family loves learning.

My family is prepared. 

My family is always excited about an adventure.

My family loves Jesus and loves talking about Him all the time.

The things my Dad consistently SHOWED me, are now in me and showing up in myself, my husband, and my children. An entire generation can be impacted by what we show up and do! And, these last few weeks have left me so ready to show up!

“It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us…”Corinthians‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭

When I was asking God, “Is my Dad in heaven with you?” “Or, is my Dad still here with me?”, I came to the conclusion that I was so overwhelmingly grateful for either answer. 

I already know that my purpose is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, I will most definitely be living that out in a louder way than ever after these last few weeks! And, my hope is, that by sharing my experience it will inspire you to do the same. 

Serving in the Struggle

Lisa Santelli, GFC Lutz 

Have you ever felt depleted or empty? Maybe you were hit with bad news that brought you to your knees? Or, maybe it’s been a slow drip that has depleted all your energy. Recently, I found myself lost in a circumstance. I felt so drained, unsure of what I could possibly offer others. For me, this was a struggle. I serve in different ministries. I love pouring into women and encouraging them to find their purpose. But, during this time, I didn’t know how, or even why, God would want to use me. I wrestled to believe that any gifting God has given me would shine through in this season, since all my strength was battling just to stay afloat.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes, But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.’  

To better understand the passage, we should jump back to chapter 11. Paul provides vivid descriptions of the persecutions he had encountered. From multiple lashings, beaten with rods, stoning, shipwrecked three times – he faced so many dangers, which never seemed to slow him down. In fact, Paul goes on to say he will keep on boasting of the goodness of God. And, he continued to spread the loving message of Jesus no matter what trials were thrown his way.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that in this world, we will have troubles and sorrows, but take heart, because He has overcome the world.”Paul continuously ran into troubles, and he continued to serve the Lord. It’s safe to say that God used Paul in miraculous ways throughout all of his tough times, which is great encouragement for us!

As I have been walking through my storm, opportunities have come up to serve and on my toughest days, I still ask God if He’s sure that I’m the one He wants to use. But, as I’ve learned to say yes in the struggles, He fills me. He anoints me. His grace covers me. I feel a peace that only God could provide with directions that only He could deliver. I’ve come to recognize, that whether on my best days or my worst days, it’s only God who can give the power and strength to serve others. Because if I am to believe that it’s my own doing that provides the life-giving words or works, I would be robbing the glory from God. Only Jesus can fill us up. And, only Jesus can use that filling to overflow into others. It is seeing Him work in my weakest moments that this scripture has become so alive to me. It offers greater assurance that He can use us in any season, through any storm, as long as we have a heart to show up and serve. And, I’ll admit, just the act of showing up can be the hardest step, but it is so rewarding.

So, if you are questioning how God can use you to serve in a struggling season, trust that He can. Ask Him when and where to start. It is also OK to take time to heal and allow others to serve you if that is needed first. Then, listen to God’s prompting. There are so many ways to serve others. Listening and praying for a friend. Ordering takeout for a neighbor in need. Volunteering on Serve Saturdays. Once you begin to ask God to share His heart with you, get ready for the doors to open.

I want to leave you with a song that has ministered to me over the past few years when I’ve needed that refining and reminder of how God uses His willing vessels.

New Wine, by Hillsong Worship

CHORUS:

“Make me Your vessel

Make me an offering

Make me whatever You want me to be

I came here with nothing

But all You have given me

Jesus bring new wine out of me.”

For full lyrics or to listen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbJaM_EneMw