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An Expectant Heart

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November 20, 2017

How to Cultivate Gratitude When It’s Hard

*This post is the second post in a 2 part series. 

Last week I shared in my post “Hindrances to Giving Thanks” some of why I struggle with giving thanks, even though I long to. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it here before you continue on to read these words below.

I’ve learned that in whatever we struggle with, whatever hurts our hearts, there’s power and healing in lament, and there’s power and joy found in thanksgiving. 

Recently I took a poll in my Instastories and asked people if they’ve ever struggled to give thanks. 88% of people who responded, answered yes. The reality is that the majority of us struggle to give thanks. My guess is that if you’re reading these words, it’s more than likely you have this struggle too.

Maybe you aren’t sure why gratitude is hard for you but you just know it is, maybe after reading last week’s post you were enlightened to some of the driving forces behind your struggle, or maybe you’ve been living very aware of what hinders you when it comes to gratitude in your life, but you just don’t know what to do about it.

Here’s the thing, wherever you are in the struggle to give thanks, it’s crucial to understand that the moment you struggle to give thanks is the exact moment you need to intentionally seek it and practice it the most. You need to choose gratitude and keep on choosing it. Don’t give up in the struggle.

When you arrive at the place where you understand that gratitude is hard for you, yet you know the importance of it and the Bible’s commands regarding it, you’re probably left wondering, But how do I do this? How do I give thanks when I want to, but I’m struggling to and I just don’t know how to? Read more

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November 14, 2017

Hindrances to Giving Thanks

*This is the first post in a two part series on struggling with giving thanks.

Have you ever struggled to give thanks? Have you ever longed to be thankful, yet gratitude doesn’t seem to be the natural attitude of your heart — or maybe perhaps given your current circumstances gratitude just quite frankly feels impossible? Well, you’re not alone.

If you were to come over for a cup of coffee this week, you would see a DIY brown, cardstock banner strung across my dining room window.

Give Thanks it says.

What you might not know, is that my heart needs this banner strung across it too. Maybe I’m hoping as I walk past these words daily that they will somehow impress themselves upon my heart.

Giving thanks does not come naturally to me.

I like to think I’m a grateful person. (Don’t we all?) But an honest examination of my heart would reveal my struggle to give thanks, and not just in the hard times, but on any given day. Read more

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October 25, 2017

How to Survive a Spiritual Winter (Are You Prepared?)

My first fall in New England is simply a delight, even more than I anticipated it would be. The woods and tall oak trees surrounding our rental house have provided us with front row seats to fall’s majestic show.

Each time I’m in the kitchen washing dishes, I look out the window above the sink, not only do I have the pleasure of watching the leaves change colors and dance as they descend to the ground, but I am also greeted by the sights of squirrels frolicking and chipmunks darting to and fro. As I watch these little creatures scurry about busy at work, a smile instantly forms on my face, and I can’t help but feel a little like Snow White in these moments.

I watch as the squirrels make short bounds around the backyard, rummaging through the crunchy leaves, hunting for their treasures. As soon as they find an acorn, their tiny heads dart back and forth as though they’re checking to see if the coast is clear, and then they make a break for it, running to a special hiding place to bury their treasure, like little four legged bandits on the run with their loot.

The squirrels are spending their days storing up their acorns, working hard to prepare for the coming winter. And I think how smart it is that they prepare for the hard and cold season ahead by storing up what they’re going to need, but then again I’m not sure if it’s as much brains as it is part of their design and instincts to survive.

Either way, this stirs something in my soul. It starts as a soft whisper.

Winter is coming.

(And no I’m not referencing the popularized saying from the television show Game of Thrones–which is too risque for this girl–but this is a truth and a warning we should all heed.)

Winter is coming. Our lives are always changing, and we find ourselves in different seasons throughout our years. Eventually we will encounter what we might call figurative or spiritual winters, where our days seem dark and long, our hearts grow cold and lonely, signs of life and vibrancy seem to have withered and faded away. It’s in these seasons we are likely to find ourselves mourning, weeping, or suffering through something.

If I could shout one thing from the rooftops to land gently and lovingly in each woman’s heart in this world, it would be this: Read more

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October 19, 2017

For The Ones Who Share Their Stories & For Those Who Are Invited To Listen

A series of small, unexpected events led to a quiet drive home alone in the middle of my morning yesterday.

I turned on the radio and pressed the button to skip through the stations in search of something to listen to.  I landed upon a talk radio show I had never heard of on a station I had never listened to before. I released my finger from the button and listened to the conversations and words being shared.

My soul stirred as it soaked in the stories. Before I knew it, the tears in the distant voices coming through my car speakers were intimately forming in my own eyes.

How easily I could have skipped past this station, past these voices and stories, and kept holding down the button until I landed on a station playing a feel good song. I’m so glad I didn’t.

How easy it is to pass over the stories all around us that are asking to be heard, that need to be heard. We do it every day, passing them by far too often. We walk, flip, scroll, skip, and keep on moving past. Sometimes without even realizing it. Sometimes giving ourselves a million excuses as to why but not giving it a second thought so as not to feel the conviction of doing so.

Sometimes the stories are coming from our own children, our family or friends, our co-worker, the cashier at the store, the rugged man on the street holding the cardboard sign. Sometimes they’re screaming loudly in front of us. Sometimes they’re that literal sign in front of us. Sometimes they’re a comment quietly and timidly released into the air secretly begging and hoping to be caught. Sometimes they’re a status or picture or hashtag on social media.

They come in all forms, but they’re all stories, all people, asking to be heard.

Sometimes we are aware of the stories, but most of the time we don’t take the time to stop, to be present, or to listen. I know this because I’ve done this, and I’ve watched others do the same.  Read more

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October 12, 2017

What You Need to Know About Your Tears

He coyly poked his head past the frame of his bedroom door and peeked down the stairs.

“Mommy?” his tiny voice tentatively asked. It was just above a whisper, barely carrying its way to my ears.

I stood at the bottom of the stairs peering up at him and replied, “Yes, Baby?”

“You need to come wipe my tears,” he whimpered.

Big emotions had filled his small three-year-old heart and almost instantaneously flooded his eyes with great big tears. He had been crying for a few minutes before he called to me.

I started up the stairs, and when I reached him, I leaned my face in close to his, gaining an intimate view of his tears. Their streaks glistened on his cheeks revealing paths that resembled tiny streams. Each eye held a tear so large that it filled half his eye and threatened to fall with the slightest movement. But his eyes held my gaze, and so they remained half full of tears.

With my thumbs I gently wiped his tears from his eyes. I cupped his small face in my hands and ran my them across his babysoft skin, wiping the rest away, but he could still feel the evidence of their wet presence.

“Mommy there’s still more.”

This time, I pulled the bottom of my soft, cotton shirt to his face to soak up every last droplet. (After all, isn’t this what a momma’s shirt is for–to collect tears and boogers and all the toddler things as though it were a napkin?).

By now his whimpers turned to soft sniffles. His soul calming with the wiping and drying of his tears.

This routine started a couple of months ago and has now become a familiar scene in our home, an expectation he has of me.

It’s not until I’ve come and wiped every tear droplet dry that his soul truly rests.

Can I be honest for a minute?

Even though the tears and crying look different as an adult, I still have an inner longing to be seen and loved just like this.

As much as I refuse to cry in front of others, there’s this desire inside of me for my unseen tears to be seen, to know they matter.

If we’re honest, I think we all want someone to come to us like this: to see our tears and the pain behind them, to touch them, and to lovingly wipe them away.  Read more