Lessons from Ann Voskamp

Lessons from Ann Voskamp

I couldn’t shake it. A pressing weight. A suffocating feeling. A sense of doom. I searched myself and found nothing. No recurring sin in need of repentance. No tragedy or trial. No unordinary change. Yet the tears flowed and the cloud hovered. I prayed. I debated antidepressants. I prayed some more.

After a few weeks, I made a phone call to an old friend. She listened and prayed. While we couldn’t pinpoint a cause, we chatted about solutions. She recommended a book entitled, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I can’t say enough about this book. The writing itself is beautiful. I felt as if I was engulfed in a sea of flowers and being led in a delicate dance, with God as my partner. She whisked me away to another world; only her elaborate descriptions were of ordinary, everyday things. A story about her boys splashing in a puddle moved me to tears. For that matter, the ornate statement of faith on her website caused me to fall to my knees. (read it here)

In the book, Voskamp describes her journey to record one thousand gifts God has given and continues to give her on a daily basis. She articulates how God changed her during the process. He transformed her thinking and outlook simply by helping her search for His gifts in the smallest details of life. “When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His great debt, then doesn’t all become gift?” (p.94)

So I took pen to paper. I opened a new leather-bound journal and stretched my writing skills to the limit. I began looking at the world around me with new lenses. My senses came alive as I purposefully sought after God’s precious gifts. I can’t say I reached one thousand (at least not in writing), but I can say something changed. Simply choosing to look for blessings helped dissipate that hovering cloud.

To read Ann Voskamp’s list you need to obtain her book (yes, do it!). But I will give you a glimpse into my journal.

  • Gift 1 – God’s Grace – without it there is no hope
  • Gift 7 – Colors – they make life more interesting and invoke various sensations
  • Gift 10 – Movement – it’s renewing and used for expression, it pulls me up into the world of the living
  • Gift 11 – Words – strung together on a page to draw me in and take me away
  • Gift 12 – Words – sung to a musical background to portray a message of hope, to bring a tear
  • Gift 13 – The Word – life breathed
  • Gift 14 – A Child’s Heart – broken for a lost world
  • Gift 19 – My sister who laughs – hard – at my ridiculous quips
  • Gift 23 – Prayer – an opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life
  • Gift 26 – Five beautiful ladies + one gathered around a picnic table eager to feast at Your table – to learn from each other, laugh together and uplift each other’s souls

coffee cup

  • Gift 27 – A non-judgmental arm draped across my shoulder as the tears flow
  • Gift 28 – Truth that takes hold, penetrates, heals.
  • Gift 63 – A disposition of thankfulness even as I feel ill, sick to my stomach, and out of sorts.

Although I now only record gifts periodically, I see the world differently, better. Even today I stopped to enjoy the bouquet of deep red and yellow tulips God left for me in front of the Lutheran church. Thank you, Lord.

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The Sun (Son) Beckons

creekThe rains cease;

The floods recede;

The winds desist.

The birds sing;

The colors brighten;

The sun beckons.

I breathe deeply and my soul rests.

So it is with life.

American Goldfinch

The trials cease;

The troubles recede

The problems desist.

The heart sings;

The moment brightens;

The Son beckons.

I breathe deeply and my soul rests.

Personality Dilemma

 

I am high maintenance. I’m not sure I’m as bad as Sally in the above clip, but I can relate to her ending comment, “I just want it the way I want it.” I’ve learned to accept this personality trait. It’s a part of who I am and how God made me.

God infused other traits into my being. I am loyal, organized, and a hard worker, to name a few. My persona is one way God made me unique, set me apart from others. Because, well, let’s face it, if we were all the same, the world would be pretty boring.

Still, I possess qualities I don’t necessarily like. For instance, it’s not always in my best interest (or those around me) to allow my high maintenanceness (is that a word?) shine. Many times it creates tension. I can get grouchy or pout if things aren’t progressing the way I believe they should. While I’m not as particular as Sally, I may complain if my salad comes with a different dressing than I ordered. I may even send it back. *gasp* I’m not saying that action is wrong, but it’s different than others who may shrug their shoulders and eat it anyway.

However, I can’t use my personality as an excuse for sinning or choosing to be stagnant, especially when it comes to my relationship with Christ and others. There are times when others’ tastes and preferences should override mine. There are times when I should silently eat the wrong salad dressing even if I don’t like it. There are times when God is trying to move in my life, and He desires my humble submission to His teaching, which equates to yielding my wishes to His.

The key (and sometimes underlying problem) is discerning when having it my way is okay and when to let go, be quiet, and allow others’ inclinations to have priority.

In general, I wrestle with when it’s acceptable to allow my natural tendencies to take precedence versus when I should be submitting because God is trying to mold me into something different, greater. He created me and loves me as I am. Yet, as any parent would, He also wants me to grow.

Even as I ponder this dilemma, I believe God is at work.

If we didn’t struggle, we wouldn’t call out to Him. If we didn’t wonder and debate and question, we would not consult Him. So for now I will settle for knowing I am still a work in progress. I’m in the midst of being refined.

What is unique about your personality? What struggles come with that? How have you addressed it?

Have You Considered My Servant?

I recently read Job. The book reminded me Satan is roaming the earth with an objective in mind—to win! For those in Christ, he can only win in small battles because the ending has been decided. We are key targets, and he works hard to distract us from our ultimate goal—to glorify God. He knows if he wins on this battleground, lost souls will not be saved.

As I contemplated these thoughts, I began to think I should live a life worthy of Satan’s notice. And to that end I started writing a blog post with that title in mind (Live a Life Worthy of Satan’s Notice).

What if I lived a life so steeped in God’s love and His Kingdom work, Satan would turn his head in my direction? What if I followed the Lord so closely Satan would begin to throw obstacles in my path? What if I praised God so often Satan would send his minions to my house to mess with my mind?

Then I re-read Job 1:8.

“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’”

I saw it. Satan didn’t notice Job—God did! God made Job known to Satan. God acknowledged Job as His servant before Satan considered torturing Job.

So forget Satan. I am no longer concerned about whether or not he detects me. Instead I want to live a life worthy of God’s notice. He’s the One I want to have a relationship with. He’s the One I want to please.

What if I lived a life so steeped in God’s love and His Kingdom work, God would smile down on me? What if I followed the Lord so closely He would direct my path? What if I praised God so often He would send his angels to my house to guard my mind? That’s how the battle is won!

Are you living a life worthy of God’s notice?

Is there cause for Him to say, “Have you considered my servant, ___________?”

bible and cross

Slow and Steady

It is my pleasure to introduce my mother, Teddy Behrendt, as a guest blogger for today’s post. Teddy is retired and lives in Sterling, IL. She enjoys working part-time, taking dance lessons, spending time with friends, and visiting her grandchildren as often as possible. Recently Teddy authored a book entitled Simplified Sales. For more information on her book, click here.

Barb and Teddy

Splash went the water as I hustled from the dining room. I heard someone from the kitchen say, “Slow and steady.”

Yes, I thought, the faster I go the behinder I’m getting. I am always doing everything fast. It seems to be my nature to run through life. Just slow down but keep going. That’s how it works in the restaurant business. But think about it; that’s how it works in life. . . . That’s how it should work with God. When things are hectic, remember to slow down, pray, and go steady.

We can all relate. When you are running late and you get in the car and don’t have the car keys or when you reach for your purse and realize it’s still on the end table. Too many times I have left the house and have to go back and waste a half hour cause I can’t find my cell phone, retracing my steps cause I laid it down without paying attention and can’t remember where it is. I look in the bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen . . . finally find it. I wasted minutes due to being in a hurry. Stop, think, slow down, and go steady.

We are all so pre-occupied with the major thinking process of life that the minor details are forgotten. Our thinking is warped by what’s next and not by what’s now. So save yourself time and frustration . . . go slow and steady . . . stop and think . . . stop and praise God.

Just recently I was driving home from work in the snow and hit an ice patch. I did a 360 and when the car stopped it was on the wrong side of the road. I had to back up into the snow so the tires would grip and then slowly get the car back to the right side, and then slowly get up the little grade in the road. It was not scary, but it made me think again, Slow and Steady. Thank you, God, for no major accident.

So just think about it. Slow down, think, praise. You will get more done quicker and more accurately. Just try it.

Cleaning House – Book Review

The following is a review of the book Cleaning House by Kay Wills Wyma. When I initially received the book I intended to give it away on this blogsite. However, after reading it, I decided to keep the book so I can use it as a resource.  I guess you’ll have to pick up a copy for yourself.

Review

Cleaning HouseThis book is for anyone who believes his/her children need to learn responsibility and accountability. Cleaning House was written by Kay Wills Wyma and covers a span of twelve months in which she embarked on an adventure, which she calls “The Experiment,” to rid her household of youth entitlement and teach her children basic life skills.

I found the book easy to read, as well as engaging and challenging. Wyma’s honesty and transparency in telling her story is refreshing. She owns up to her faults as a mother who has enabled her children to the point of becoming dependent, spoiled, and ill-equipped to function properly in society. But instead of throwing up her hands in defeat, she decides to do something about it.

Each month for a year she introduced a new job for her children to master. These tasks included normal household duties such as keeping their rooms orderly, as well as character issues such as acting mannerly. Wyma gives practical steps to accomplishing her objectives as well as underlying motives for her decisions.

The author uses humor mixed in with everyday life examples to explain the reasoning behind her decision to begin The Experiment, how she implemented it, and the results. Throughout the book, Wyma offers great nuggets of truth in a relatable style. For example, after she trained her children on how to serve others and act mannerly, she states, “When they inhale the fresh air of service, self-centeredness is exhaled out. The two can’t occupy the same space.” Toward the end of the book, Wyma declares, “When we started out, I didn’t expect all the side benefits I’ve been witnessing. What was born out of frustration with my unintentionally overindulged kids has become an interesting case study in the myriad benefits associated with equipping. The biggest of these being the kids’ capacity to see beyond their own immediate desires and look instead to the needs of others.”

I highly recommend this book.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Winters Family Implementation

kids cleaning

Many of the jobs Wyma tackled have already been adopted in our house. For example, my children maintain an orderly bedroom, go grocery shopping with me on a regular basis, and have their own cleaning responsibilities. But the author of Cleaning House inspired me to step it up a notch.  An area we have fallen short is yard work. So a few weeks ago I purchased a Badminton/Volleyball kit as an incentive for my younger children to do some yard work. The kit is their pay for completing 10 hours of work. This benfits both them (they are learning how to complete yard work and are motivated to do so) and Don and me (we are motivated to teach them how to pull weeds, rake, and clear debris).

What about you?

What chores or tasks are your children responsible for?

What new tasks would you like to teach them?

*To catch up with Kay or order her book, visit her blogsite here.

Who Do You Represent?

newspapersKenneth is running a paper route for some friends while they are on vacation. Saturday morning he got up, folded the newspapers, and finished the route before I rolled out of bed. (I had actually forgotten he had to get up early to complete this task.) When I came down the stairs Kenneth told me it sprinkled for a few minutes and then stopped while he was delivering papers, and he hadn’t put them into plastic bags. I confessed I should have looked at the weather and informed him it was supposed to rain.

I suggested he go back to the houses and put the papers into plastic bags. His face showed his lack of desire. I told him I understood how he felt, but if someone complained it would be his friends who got in trouble. I left it at that.

Fifteen minutes later Kenneth said he was leaving to go back over the route. (I’m so proud!)

This incident reminded me that just as those in Congress are to represent their constituents, we are representatives.

My friend tells her children when they leave the house, “Remember you leave here a member of the Jones family, and you will return a member of the Jones family. Don’t forget who you are.” I think she is reminding her children to stick to the family values they’ve been taught and not to be swayed by peer pressure. The children represent the Jones family.

As Christians, we are ambassadors for Christ. We are His representatives; and as such, we are to do His will and spread His message because our actions reflect upon Him. What others believe about us will possibly affect their beliefs about Christ.

Surprisingly (we hadn’t compared notes on what each of us was writing), my husband’s sermon supported these thoughts. In Acts 23, the high priest struck Paul on the mouth. When Paul questioned his actions, those near Paul told him he had insulted the high priest.

“Paul replied, ‘Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest’” (Acts 23:5).

There are several explanations as to why Paul made this statement. One is that Paul was being sarcastic because the high priest’s actions did not reflect the God he was representing. Another possible reason is that Paul’s eyesight was bad, and he truly could not see who was talking to him. But even if this were the case, Paul should have recognized him through his behavior. Whatever the reason behind Paul’s statement, the fact remains that the high priest was not acting appropriately for his position. Therefore, Paul did not know him for who he was and who he represented.

  • Will people recognize us as Christians?
  • Do our actions reflect Christ?
  • How well are we representing Him?

Besides Christ, who else do we represent? The answer for me includes: my husband, my family, my church, my employer, my community, and my country.

How about you? Who do you represent?

capital building