This blog is my response to The Joy Dare by Ann Voskamp, author of the book "One Thousand Gifts". Every day (hopefully) I will be recording three things that bring me joy, three gifts from God, three things that I am grateful for.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31, 2012: A Late Night Gift

a gift found on a paper, in a person, in a picture:
  • on a paper: full of middle of the night scribbles.  Last night I went to bed rather discouraged.  I had been trying to come up with ideas for a large group event for my Bible Study.  We usually schedule a couple of dates each year where all the groups come together for something special and that day is coming up quickly.  We've done some really neat things in the past, but I was coming up empty this time.  I thought maybe we'd have to repeat a past event or perhaps postpone or cancel it. My head barely hit the pillow when God began flooding my brain with ideas.  I jumped up and grabbed a pad of paper and began jotting them down.  I went to sleep happy but didn't remember it this morning until I saw the list on the counter in the bathroom. When I finally came to the end of my own resources, God stepped in with the gift he had for me all along.
  • in a person: my husband.  He amazes me with his unfailing positive attitude.  He has a gift of being able to see good in everything.  Sometimes it used to irritate me that he was always cheerful, not it (mostly) just blesses me.
  • in a picture: or a drawer full of pictures. My husband mentioned that he opened the desk drawer  and found a picture of us skiing in Colorado 25 years ago.  What makes that notable is that he just returned from a weekend skiing in Colorado with our 24 year old son.  I pulled open the same drawer tonight and came across an envelope of old black and white pictures taken when my mom and her siblings were children.  Pictures can be just images on paper, but they can also be gifts that bring back memories and tell stories of days gone by. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30, 2012: He Makes All Things New

3 old things seen new:
  • a friendship.  I had dinner with my dear friend Brenda tonight (actually I have 2 dear friends named Brenda).   She was one of my first friends at church, a gift from God when I really needed one.   An old friendship is made new again whenever we spend time together. She knows my heart and loves me anyway.
  • the old old story.  I couldn't sleep last night and after laying in bed for a couple of hours, finally got up to read.  I finished in one hour a little book called "Dinner with a Perfect Stranger" (David Gregory) about a man who receives a dinner invitation from Jesus, the Gospel fresh and new.  It's a simple story, but it answers so many of the questions and doubts that many of us have.  He invites you too and has already picked up the tab!
  • my Grandma's depression glass.  She was a farmer's wife and didn't own many fancy things, but I love this pink glassware that now has new life in my home.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 29, 2012: The Gift of Light

A song heard, a soft word, where you saw light:
  • A song heard: in church this morning, "Matchless" (Troy Hatfield) The lyrics speak so beautifully of who God is.  Beauty, glory, just and holy, righteousness and truth.  Faithful leader, gentle healer.  Matchless God are you.  You were, you are, and you will be.  God was, is and will always be all that and so much more.  Truth.
  • A soft word: spoken as I received the gift of communion.  Christ's body broken for you. Christ's blood shed for you.  Grace remembered.
  • Where you saw light: in an enlightening teaching on Jesus feeding the 5,000 from John 6.  That's the amazing thing about God's Word;  a story you've heard many sermons on can be fresh and exciting.  A passage you've read countless times can be relevant and new. Jesus the true light, gives light to everyone. John 1:9

Saturday, January 28, 2012

January 28, 2012: The Gift of Friendship

3 graces found in your friends:
This was both very easy and very hard.  Very easy because I have such wonderful friends, but that made it very hard to choose, so I went with the first three God brought to mind.
  • Grace in the way my friend, Louayne, speaks so freely of the Lord and how he is working in her life.  She teaches and reminds me to do the same.
  • Grace to endure suffering.  My friend Diana endures many trials, yet she clings to Jesus as her lifeline.  God's glory is indeed revealed in her. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
  • Grace of spirit.  That's my friend, Sharon.  She has the most gentle, loving spirit of anyone I've ever known.  She inspires me to speak graciously and to look for the good in every situation.

Friday, January 27, 2012

January 27, 2012: Gifts from Special Women

3 gifts that might never have been:
  • the new felt Valentine wreath that I made today, now hanging on the mirror in my front entryway might never have been if it weren't for Pinterest.  I spend too much time on it, but it's just so fun!  It amazes me how many incredibly talented women are willing to share their gifts with others.  I've gotten numerous wonderful ideas from them, including this one that I adapted from http://www.theidearoom.net.
  • the strength that I draw from my Moms In Touch sisters-in-Christ.  If I send out an email asking for prayer, they are the first to respond and I always know that when they say they'll pray, they do.  These dear friends enrich and bless my life and that might never have been if the first two didn't keep inviting me back when my children were in elementary school.  
  • dinner out with my husband.  It might never have been if it weren't for the beautiful leaders I serve with in my Bible study.  They blessed me with restaurant gift certificates last Christmas and I've been hoarding this last one. I love those women more than I can express!  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012: Gifts Around the Clock

a gift before nine am, gift before noon, a gift after dark:
  • a gift before nine am: time spent reading "Jesus Calling" this morning before work.  The best devotional I have ever had.  I've recommended and gifted it to more people than any other book ever. The author, Sarah Young, helps focus my thoughts in one or two brief paragraphs.  She is scripturally sound and truly inspired of God.  I love the way she writes in first person, as though Jesus is talking right to me.
  • a gift before noon: an email devotion from Proverbs 31 Ministries that I read at work which blessed me and gave me hope and encouragement today. It was about praying for your kids with other moms.  So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it. 1 Thessalonians 5:11(MSG)
  • a gift after dark: a phone call from my daughter telling me that she has a second interview for a new job.  It's a gift to see God working and moving in her life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January 25, 2012: Grace in Every Color

One grace borrowed, one grace found, one grace inherited:
  • One grace borrowed: the comfort of knowing that God will never remove his hand from me.  In the 32nd psalm, David writes of the agony of unconfessed sin on both soul and body. For day and night your hand was heavy on me (verse 4a). I always thought the description of God's hand on him was  God bearing down on David, a kind of torture, until he repented.  Instead, it was a constant reminder of God's presence, waiting until David was ready to turn back to Him. God's grace to David and to me too.
  • One grace found: among the women in my Bible study group.  They are never judgmental and always allow me to be honest, speaking truth with love and grace. It is a privilege to journey with them.
  • One grace inherited: a little sewing cabinet that was my grandma's.  It is very simply, but well constructed, built by her dad, my great grandpa. Filled to the brim with every sort of sewing notion (many of which I have no idea what to do with), including thread in every color of the rainbow, it is a treasure trove.  Today I found in it a package of dark grey bias tape and used it to trim an old lamp shade to place on the dresser in the guest bedroom.  It looks darling--I'm sure my grandma would approve.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 24, 2012: Even the Blues Are a Gift

3 things blue:
  • my email inbox.  I love email!  Texts are fun and Facebook is fine, but emails are usually longer and more personal.  Of course junk email doesn't count, but when I see a friend's name in my inbox,  it makes my day.
  • a Tupperware freezer container.  I was rooting around in the freezer looking for some cookies I thought were in there and discovered the meatloaf that I had frozen a couple of months ago.  Yeah!  Dinner already half done.
  • my daughter.  Now ordinarily that wouldn't be a gift at all, and it also makes me blue that she is so miserable in her job.  I feel bad for her and I pray every day that she will find a new job.  However, I  see God using her suffering to make positive changes in her life.  It's motivating her for school and it's helping her to move beyond her own self to ask for help.  He does indeed work all things together for good! (Romans 8:28)

Monday, January 23, 2012

January 23, 2012: The Gift of Hope

3 gifts found in Christ:
  • A free makeover. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Galatians 5:1
  • Hope. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:2

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22, 2012: Grace, Sometimes Wrinkled

one grace wrinkled, one grace smoothed, one grace unfolded:
  • One grace wrinkled: Lately, I've been so blessed by reminders of God's forgiveness.  Grace. Then today the Spirit whispered within me that as I've been forgiven, I also must forgive.  A friend has caused me pain and I feel that God is telling me it's time to let that go.  This will not be easy. My friend has not asked for forgiveness or expressed any regret for my pain. Sometimes grace is wrinkled.
  • One grace smoothed: I wasn't quite looking forward to church this morning, knowing I would be going alone.  In spite of my attitude, it was a blessed morning. So glad I didn't miss it.  Wonderful worship, a thought provoking message on Acts, and best of all--a flash mob in the middle of it all.  True joy.  Grace gone before me, planned ahead and smoothed out.
  • One grace unfolded: Phone calls and texts that are signs of hope and encouragement.  Grace continues to unfold in a relationship undergoing restoration.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 21, 2012: Grace Sparkles

one thing in the sky, one thing from your memory, one thing that's ugly-beautiful:
  • One thing in the sky: sunshine and vivid blue color.  Lovely the way the sun sparkled on the snow.
  • One thing from your memory: God's forgiveness for past sins.  Even though I made plenty of poor choices when I was younger, God has blessed me with a faithful, loving husband and 26 years of marriage (so far).  Reminded of the grace in that at a women's conference on marriage today. 
  • One thing that's ugly-beautiful: my tears.  Sometimes I hate the fact that I cry so easily.  It's embarrassing and sometimes ugly.  But it's also a beautiful gift to be so compassionate for others that I cry when they cry.  I'm comforted by the promise that God never thinks my tears are senseless. You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8

January 20, 2012: Looking Close Up to Find a Gift

3 gifts you saw only when you got close up:
  • I had to be over on the other side of town (a half hour drive) at 2:30 today and planned to meet my daughter to do some shopping when she got off work at 6:00.  A huge waste of gas to drive all the way home, only to turn around and go back again, so I wanted to find something to kill some time in between.  I ended up at Target, where they had lots of good stuff 70% off.  Found some great deals, including a candle holder I love for only $3.71.  Far away, an inconvenience.  Close up, a gift.
  • I was helping my daughter look for a dress with no success.  We were feeling rather down and almost give up when we drove past a store we hadn't tried. It was 8:45 so we thought it was too late, but then saw that they are open until 9:30 so we decided to take a look.  Found a very nice dress marked down to $10!  Far away, a disappointment.  Close up, a gift.
  • At dinner after shopping the waitress was rather slow, even though there was hardly anyone else in the restaurant.  It was a blessing to have extra time with my daughter.  Far away, an annoyance.  Close up, a gift.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19, 2012: Grace at the Kitchen Table

a grace in the kitchen, a grace in the weather, a grace that might never have been:
  • A grace in the kitchen: the table set for three tonight, instead of the usual two.  A gift of grace to have my daughter join us for dinner tonight.
  • A grace in the weather: the sun coming out at 2:45 pm.  All day long I could see outside from my desk at work.  The wind was blowing, the snow drifting, it looked cold and nasty and I dreaded going out in it after a dangerous drive there this morning.  At almost exactly the time I left work, the sun popped out and the wind died down.  It was a lovely drive home, the sunshine a surprise grace.
  • A grace that might never have been: I was thinking tonight about how different my life would have been if God hadn't seen fit to bless me with Christian parents.  If I hadn't sung the "The B-I-B-L-E" on the swings in the backyard and known that God loved me even as a little girl,  who would I be?  Would I know at all?  Would anyone have told me?   To grow up not remembering a time when I didn't love Jesus--that's grace beyond comprehension, that is grace that might never have been.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 18, 2012: Good and Perfect Gifts

3 gifts from God's Word:
  • a precept:  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
  • a promise: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11
  • a prayer: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13
These are three of my favorite Scripture verses.  God's Word is so chock full of gifts, it was hard to choose, but these three have spoken hope and encouragement to me many, many times. The verse from Proverbs hangs in my home as a constant reminder to me to keep trusting God, even through the hard times. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17, 2012: Reflections of Joy

one gift that made you laugh, one gift that made you pray, one gift that made you quiet: 
  • One gift that made you laugh: watching the Michigan vs. Michigan State basketball game on TV.  We've never had cable TV, but recently bought a laptop computer and a new TV, and are now able to hook the laptop up to the TV and watch online programming on our TV.  Love watching our University of Michigan Wolverines.  Go blue!
  • One gift that made you pray: Reflecting on God's mercy and grace. Micah 7:18-19 says, " Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." God delights to show us mercy!  He is never stingy or reluctant to forgive us and then on top of that, he hurls our iniquities into the depths of the sea, where they can never be dredged up again.  Wondrous!
  • One gift that made you quiet: receiving an email informing that my Kiva loan has been 41% repaid.  Kiva is an wonderful nonprofit organization that makes microfinance loans to people in poverty around the world.  My husband and I recently loaned $25 to a group of mostly women in Burundi, Africa who borrowed a total of $5000 to purchase dried fish and oil, which they will then re-sell locally.  They have 8 months to repay the loan, and after only 3 months have almost repaid half of it.  For the price of a dinner out, I can change lives, helping people create better lives for themselves.  How amazing is that? 

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16, 2012: Hapiness in Small Things

3 ways you witnessed happiness today:

  • Two neighbor girls outside my window, attempting to knock icicles off their garage roof. The small joys of childhood.
  •  My husband finding the ski gear he wanted for a bargain price.  The small joy of an unexpected good deal.
  • My daughter reading some of her picture books from when she was a little girl, trying to choose a favorite to bring to her Children's Literature class.  The small joy of special memories.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 15, 2012: Joy Shared is Joy Multiplied

One thing you wore, one thing you gave away, one thing you shared:

  • One thing I wore:  Warm, fuzzy fleece sweatpants and sweatshirt.  I was snuggly warm all day!
  • One thing you gave away: fresh baked, gooey caramel rolls for breakfast this morning before church.  A family tradition when we are together for a weekend.
  • One thing you shared: a snowmobile ride through the woods with my husband, my son and his girlfriend.  The snow laden trees were so beautiful.  It was breathtaking to be out in the middle of God's creation.

January 14, 2012: Grace Never Grows Old

3 ways you witnessed the startling grace of God:
  • Watching my kids interact with their cousins.   They are ages 14-25 and still love to hang out together.
  • A multi-colored sunset viewed through trees and across farm fields.
  • Icicles shimmering in the winter sun.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 13, 2012: The Sound of Joy

 Three sounds you hear:
  • The sound of silence.  The snow, besides being truly beautiful, muffles all the normal sounds of life outside the house.  All is quiet and peaceful under the blanket of snow.
  • The sound of my cell phone beeping the arrival of a text.  I put out a call for prayer last night to my sisters-in-law and the sound of their texts today evidences their care and faithfulness.
  • The sound of the oven timer.  Food is love to me and the batches of cookies I take out of the oven are a tangible way for me to show love to my family.  Joy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12, 2012: Blessings All Around Me

Something above you, something below you, something beside you:
  • Something above you:  the snow falling tonight is just gorgeous.  I am not a big fan of winter, but  I can't deny how beautiful it is. A visual reminder of God's inestimable grace. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."  Isaiah 1:18
  • Something below me: the warmth of thick socks and fuzzy slippers on a very cold night.
  • Something beside me: a faithful friend who has been meeting me at the gym two mornings a week for a couple of years now.  I turn the alarm off every time if I didn't know she was going to be there waiting for me. I am blessed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January 11, 2012: Fresh Mercy Colored Yellow

3 yellow things that strike you as fresh mercy:

  • The moon: It's been amazing this week to see the moon full and round, high in the morning sky.  It has looked almost yellow, which I understand from my local TV meteorologist, means it's a waning gibbous moon.  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 display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  Psalm 19:1-4
  • The sun: Another sunny, warm day!  In the middle of January!!  As the sunshine floods my living room windows, so it floods my soul.  In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.  It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.  Psalm 19:5-6
  • Honey: I heard a wonderful teaching on Psalm 19 at Bible study this morning.  This psalm of David gives three yellow metaphors for the Torah, God's Word: light, gold and honey.  I immediately pictured the beautiful jar of honey that I received from one of my precious sisters-in-law for Christmas.  It is pure and lovely, delicious to eat, just like the Word of God. The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.  The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.  They are more precious than gold, they are sweeter than honey, than  honey from the comb.  By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 10, 2012: Jesus Is Just. Right.

A gift that's sour, a gift that's sweet, a gift that's Just. Right. 

  • A gift that's sour: It was a gift to celebrate a very special aunt's 92nd birthday tonight, but the sour part was having to leave the party early.  In retrospect though, the just right gift was the result of the sour.  Isn't that so often the case? Something tastes sour at first, but if you don't spit it out, it ends up to be delicious!
  • A gift that's sweet: God gifted us with a wonderful answer to prayer on our daughter's behalf.  She is miserable at her job and very much wanted to get away for a couple of days by joining us for an upcoming family outing,  but couldn't get anyone to work for her.  I told her that we'd be praying about it and to not count it as loss until we see what God might do.  Today my daughter called me to tell me that someone who originally told her she couldn't work for her, now can.
  • A gift that's Just. Right: A little time tonight to be with Jesus.  A few moments to sit and be quiet in the midst of an unusually busy week.

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 09, 2012: An Unexpected Gift

A gift in your hand, a gift that you walked by, a gift that you sat with:
  • a gift in my hand: Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts.  I am reading it...slowly...it contains volumes of wisdom to soak in.  
  • a gift that you walked by: big, beautiful blackberries at the grocery store today.  50 cents!  What a luscious treat in the middle of January!
  • a gift that you sat with: dear, longtime friends that we don't get to see very often.  Ran into them at a meeting tonight and were able to sit together and linger afterward to catch up.  An unexpected gift.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 8, 2012: Living in the Light of Grace

Light that caught you, a reflection that surprised you, a shadow that fell lovely:
  •  A light that caught me was a beautiful farewell service for the founding pastor of my church, who God has called elsewhere.  David Crowder led our worship this morning and it was indeed a gift.  So many emotions that I was caught up in: adoration for my Jesus, sadness at the farewell, excitement at where God will take our church next, joy to be a part of what God is doing in this world to renew and redeem. 
  • A reflection that surprised me occurred just after midnight actually.  I counted the gift of my daughter stopping over last night as one of my graces for yesterday.  The reflection was the reflection of love that I've been blessed to pour into her.  She has been struggling for a few years and every time I call out to God in prayer for her, His answer to me is to just love her. It's not always easy, and I have failed often, but I have attempted to be faithtul.  Last night after she left, I texted her to see if she had arrived home safely and told her I love her.  She texted me back to say that she loves me too.  God's love reflected to me, to her, and then back to me again.  
  • A shadow that fell lovely is the bedroom that we just finished painting.  It's somewhat bittersweet because it is my daughter's former bedroom.  We are sad to not have her living here, but made plans to turn her room into a guest room.  The paint color (gray) turned out to look just lovely.  I was afraid it might be cold, but it's not and I really like it. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 7, 2012: Surprised by Grace

3 graces from people you love:
  • Much grace from my husband today as I got rather irritable while we tackled the task of painting one of the bedrooms.  Emptying the room and taping are a big fat pain, but he was very patient and tolerant despite my moodiness.
  • Grace from my dad, who called to give me a report of the visit he and my mom had with my son.  I love knowing  all the details of what they did, and you just know you aren't going to get them from your kids! 
  • Unexpected grace from my daughter, who came over on a Saturday night to visit.  I think she was pretty curious to see how the paint looked in her old bedroom, but it was still a bonus to see her tonight. 
When I saw this dare for today,  I thought, "Great.  My husband and I are going to be home alone all day painting.  How will I come up with three graces from three different people?"  Should have known that God had all kinds of gifts in store for the day.  Really, I could have listed more than three as my brother-in-law and nephew also ended over at our house today--2 more people I love.

The song that ran through my head all day is "Grace, grace, God's grace.  Grace that is greater than all our sin."  Truth.

Just in case you're wondering and want to join in, tomorrow's dare is:
Light that caught you, a reflection that surprised you, a shadow that fell lovely

Friday, January 6, 2012

January 6, 2012: Counting It All Joy

One thing from your bag, your fridge, your heart.

  • From my bag: a stash of card making supplies from Target's dollar section.  I think maybe the "bag" was supposed to be my purse, but the first thing that came to mind was these fun goodies I bought today on an errand run to Target. Got some darling notecards and envelopes and some dimensional stickers.  My plan is to make Valentine cards for the women in my Bible study group.
  • From my fridge: black beans!  I love 'em!  They are one of the newer foods I've added to my diet and they make everything you put them in more delicious :)
  • From my heart: my family.  It was such a joy to spend time with my family during Christmas--they make my heart full.