Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gifts eaten and enjoyed

June 28: 3 gifts eaten

  • #88: my mom's homemade granola with fresh blueberries and dried apricots
  • #89: chicken parmesan with big clumps of melted, stringy mozzarella cheese melting into the marinara sauce and coating the pasta; and interrupting consuming it to sing patriotic songs with Rockford Rotarians
  • #90: left-over cake from when the neighbors came for dinner, cold and delicious now that the caramel and condensed milk have really soaked into the chocolate cake

#91: my sister being brave enough to share how she was really feeling

#92: me being brave enough to just let her and not try to make things better right away because I felt uncomfortable with her pain and honesty

#93: listening to Starlight Radio while sweating intensely next to the river at Dinner on the Doc

#94: watching a little girl with beautiful red hair listen intently to the music from the front row

#95: leaning in as unfulfilled longings keep trying to weigh me down

#96: choosing to find joy in Jesus by counting gifts and focusing on Him, not my circumstances

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gifts, answered and unanswered prayers

June 25: 3 gifts today in someone older than you

  • #79: My mom's wisdom and receiving it over iced passion tea, sitting in sunshine
  • #80: Incredible faithfulness to the LORD over decades
  • #81: A steady confidence in God's love and goodness despite difficult circumstances

June 26: 3 gifts in fabric

  • #82: my TOMS!
  • #83: my jean jacket keeping me warm when the air conditioning in my office makes it way too cold
  • #84: falling asleep under a quilt that was skillfully and carefully made

June 27: 3 gifts framed by a frame

  • #85: my LCPC which allows me to do what I love for a living
  • #86: my Make Way Partners sponsored child, Abraham, who smiles out at me from his picture when I pray for him every morning
  • #87: French pictures and prints that excite my imagination

I have been thinking a lot about answered and unanswered prayers in the past week. I am grateful to say that God has been answering almost all of my work-related prayers in record time. I terminated with three clients in the past few weeks and found that I had a lot of nervous feelings about whether or not I would be able to gain new clients and continue building my practice as we move deeper into the summer. Traditionally, people feel much better during the summer and counseling referrals tend to be a lot lower. I had no sooner shared these feelings when I had a new client start last week and two more this week! I have also been praying a lot for God to increase my collections in the past month. And, it's been happening! Thank you, God. Unfortunately, my personal prayers have not had quite the same response and I have been feeling discouraged.

I recently started playing a game with God where I listen to KLOVE on my way to and from work and request that He play certain songs that I enjoy. It has been incredible to see how He will answer these requests at exactly the right moment. Just when I am praying about something that has been unanswered for a long time, one of these songs will come on and it almost takes my breath away. I know that having a song I like come on the radio is a small thing, but to me it is God saying, "I see you. I hear you. I move at the sound of your voice." This has happened a few different times when I was literally in the midst of crying and pleading with God to answer one prayer or another. I felt so loved. Even though my unanswered prayer still seemed unanswered, I felt comforted that God is attentive to me and that He cares about my feelings and my desires.

I have a few unanswered prayers that are feeling heavy again. I seem to have seasons where they are quieter and it is easy for me to enjoy my life and to trust God for my future. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, those unfulfilled longings come back up to the surface of my awareness and I feel the lack of their fulfillment. This is always hard for me and I feel frustrated that I cannot manage my feelings differently and get to the point where I no longer struggle with doubting God's goodness toward me and His desire to give me the desires of my heart. Why can't I just believe what the Bible tells me is true about God? Why do I want to believe what my experiences seem to say instead of Him?

There is a bitter-sweetness to those prayers that are fulfilled in the midst of the weight of the longing for those that are yet to be. I hear God's still, small, gentle and loving voice say, "I hear and answer every prayer. Trust me when you don't like the answer. Connect with me when you are feeling unfulfilled. I want to satisfy you and give you the desires of your heart. Just keep coming back to me." Somehow this calms and settles me in a way that I cannot settle myself. In these moments I like to imagine that I wrap my arms around God and lean into His strength. I trust in Him to see me through any feeling that comes my way and to provide everything that I need. The answered prayers help me to keep trusting Him for those that are still unanswered. They stir my hope and my faith for what I cannot see and help me to feel more confident that my God is exactly who He says He is and that I can trust Him.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

69 and counting!

June 23: 3 gifts found around a table

  • #69: Sharing a meal with family, twice. Lunch with Karyn and Ava and dinner with Mandy and Kingston.
  • #70: Me and Dad sitting in folding chairs on either side of Patrick. The three of us huddling in front of Mom's computer for statistics discussing what kind of statistical analysis is used for a survey research design.
  • #71: Conversation. Listening to ideas and sharing ideas. Laughing or feeling frustrated. I like meeting around the table and talking things through.

#72: Girls Night Out with my sister-in-law Mandy!

#73: Sharing cupcakes and a girly movie.

June 24: A gift in water, in words, in white

  • #74: A gift in water was watching Karyn jump into the waves in Tsunami Bay at Magic Waters with Ava jumping in the waves just behind her. It was almost as if they were in tandem, though I don't think either of them was really watching the other. Like mother, like daughter, I guess.
  • #75: A gift in words was when I was finally able to talk with my friend Jessi from Fire in the Night. We ran out of time and I had to leave. Just before we got off the phone, Jessi asked me if I would have time to call her again later. She said our conversation made her "hungry for more Jody."
  • #76: A gift in white was cool whip topping the cake and icing on the fruit pizza cookies for dessert.

#77: New friendship and finding it right next door.

#78: A dog sleeping at my feet at the end of the day.

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 18: 3 gifts from your Heavenly Father

  • Wonderful time to drink in His presence and feast on His word. This was a day where I had extra time to devote to the LORD. I spent several sweet hours with Him.
  • His nearness which was my good, my comfort and my delight.
  • Perseverance to stay dependent on Him for strength and wisdom over the course of my whole day. I was feeling tired and unsure of what to offer my clients, but He sustained me and directed my words.

June 19: 3 gifts you became today in serving

  • A Barnabas. A son of encouragement.
  • A listening ear.
  • A heart of compassion.

June 20: A gift bent, beautiful, loved

  • A gift bent down was exchanging a kiss and a hug with Ava, Noah AND Kingston before I even left for work. What a great start to my day!
  • A gift beautiful was celebrating progress and healing with a client who has known deep pain. Hearing that person talk in a way that made God's transformation within them become visible on the outside. Seeing the seed of hope begin to grow up in a place that has only grown despair for many years.
  • A gift loved was knowing that my parents took themselves to Magic Waters just to hang out in the Lazy River for an hour before dinner.

June 21: 3 gifts found in light

  • Forgiveness. When I chose to bring my sins and failures into the light, then Jesus can forgive them. For as long as I choose to pretend that they do not exist, that I am justified in my feelings or actions or that they are not a big deal, I make the darkness my home and remove myself from God's cleansing and loving light.
  • Safety. Sometimes I fear the dark. Sometimes I fear what I cannot see or understand; that which is just beyond the light of my vision. In the same way that I appreciate how the natural and artificial lights remove the physical darkness around me, I appreciate how God's light removes the spiritual darkness around me and delivers me from sin.
  • Sunlight dancing across my car. It reflects off almost everything as I drive and the small points of light race across every surface. They warm everything they touch and I like to watch them glitter here and there.

June 22: 3 gifts that are difficult

  • Living far away from some of my favorite people
  • When other people have what I want
  • Small beginnings

It's been "all hands on deck" in our house to help Patrick with his statistics class. As a result, I haven't been to the House of Prayer as much as I usually am. It was weird. It was also disconcerting in the sense that I felt more vulnerable than I usually do. I realize that investing regular time in prayer, both at the HOP and away, creates a sort of insulation around me. Temptations are a little less appealing, offenses are a little less outrageous and my worries don't get as much air-time in my brain. I continued praying while away from the HOP, but I missed praying in community and the peaceful atmosphere of that little room in the basement of the Hallstrom Center. I'm thankful, in a way, because I believe that serving in this house is part of my mandate from God and a lot of times it feels hard. So, it was nice to be away and really miss it. And, it's been delightful to come back. Like a huge sigh of relief or taking off uncomfortable shoes when you get home. It just feels right to come to this place, to wait on the Lord, to sing, to pray, to read, to listen, and to love.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 17: 3 gifts in your dad

June 14: a gift unexpected, unwanted, unlikely

  • A gift unexpected was when one of my clients rescheduled for later in the day and I got to take an hour long nap on the couch in my office!
  • A gift unwanted was when I felt tired at the end of a long day and was tempted to skip going to the House of Prayer. This helped me to celebrate the period of time that I did have to be home before going to R2HOP. I savored some dinner while reading a book and then visited with Karyn.
  • A gift unlikely was reading The Voice of the Martyrs magazine and being encouraged in my faith by reading their testimonies of persecution and perseverance.

June15: 3 gifts in His word

  • The example of David, "who obeyed my commands and followed me with all his heart and always did whatever I wanted him to do." 1Kings 14:8 I want to be like David in my obedience and love for God.
  • The encouragement given to Cornelius, "And the angel replied, 'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have not gone unnoticed by God!'" Acts 10:4 I am tempted to doubt that God hears me and responds to my prayers when they are not answered instantly. I love this story of how God sent an angel to Cornelius and the first part of God's message was an affirmation. God does hear our prayers and He does notice the actions of our hearts!
  • "How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live together in harmony!" Psalm 133:1. This is a good reminder of how important it is to bless others and to seek their good.
  • Spending time with Noah and Kingston tonight was another gift. I love their constant moving, exploring, smiling and playing.

June 16: 3 gifts moving

  • Running through the forest preserve with Lily and trying to stay in the shady spots on the path
  • Trees, wild grass and flowers dancing in the wind
  • Swaying in worship and lifting my hands in thanksgiving
  • Celebrating my parent's 33rd anniversary is another wonderful gift

June 17: 3 gifts in my dad

  • His incredible mind for mechanical things and his creativity in building and rebuilding so many things
  • His passion for God's word and His wholehearted pursuit of intimacy with God
  • His playfulness, sense of humor and wonderful ability to have deep conversations almost anywhere. (Even the lazy river!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

3 gifts painted, 3 gifts full and 3 gifts smelled

June 11: 3 gifts painted

  • My favorite gift painted hangs in my office. It is a picture that was painted by my maternal grandmother Helen McCarthy and I received it as a final gift from her after her death. Grandmems painted this picture of her studio space and it specifically focuses on her potter's wheel. I love this picture because of its' warm colors and the subject of pieces of clay in process. This is similar to how I think of my work as a counselor. Every one of my clients is a unique, piece of God's art that is in process. Every day that I work, I sit down before Him and ask Him to take my hands in His and move them to shape and impact the person before me in just the right way. I hang this picture as a reminder to me that this is His work and that I am only a partner to the master potter and as an encouragement to my clients that they are in process and there is One who oversees each step and carries them to completion.
  • I have several small painted gifts that I have received from children who I have worked with over the years. A picture of a tiger, abstract and colorful lines on the diagonal, across the canvas and portraits of me. Each one is a precious painted gift to me.

June 12: 3 gifts full

  • A full Tuesday schedule: I saw 7 clients in one day!
  • My heart felt full when I prayed for the youth in this region. It was toward the end of the Tuesday night watch at R2HOP and God reminded me to pray for them. I prayed from Ephesians 3 and my heart filled up with love and compassion as I prayed. God shared some of His heart for the youth with me and I felt full of desire for them to know His marvelous love for them and that they would be rooted and grounded in that love.
  • I was full of laughter when I talked with my best friend from college, Sara. We took turns talking and listening. I have known Sara since the fall of 1999. She has become a witness of my life and the transformation that God has been working in me. I so appreciate her insight and observations about me and my life and I am so honored that she invites me to play the same role in her life. I am equally excited as I see the beautiful work that God has been doing in her and I eagerly anticipate what the future holds for both of us!

June 13: 3 gifts smelled

  • Fresh brewed coffee made by mom just for me!
  • Zoo animals at the Madison Zoo where we celebrated Kingston's first birthday. I love animals, but not always their smells.
  • The smell of Baby Magic when I hug and snuggle Ava, Noah and Kingston

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 9: 3 gifts that made you really smile

  • When my service engine soon light went off and stayed off
  • Sunshine that was so bright that I couldn't see and my eyes were watering
  • Watching the new neighbor go out back with a broom in order to take care of a snake
  • Kids riding bicycles as fast as they can

June 10: A gift at 8, at 12, and at 2

  • Waking up early to eat breakfast with my family and celebrate Karyn's birthday! We ate waffles and bacon and drank coffee. Delicious and fun!
  • At 12, we were floating down the Kiswaukee River on tubes. The sun was warm, the river current moving and we were a glob of tubes all attached to each other.
  • At 2, we were still on the river. At that point, we had encountered our first shallow areas where you can get grounded on rocks. Or worse, your tube goes on without you and you are forced to scramble over rocks, against the current. But, all of this was really funny to watch and experience. The highlight for everyone else, at my expense, was when I crashed into a tree branch, flipped out of my tube and then broke my flip flops.

This really was a wonderful weekend. We had a 24-hour burn from Friday night to Saturday. I was able to spend some refreshing time there on both Friday night and again on Saturday afternoon. It always feels so challenging to commit to going. To suspend other, more entertaining weekend options and go to the House of Prayer. But, once I'm there, I love it. I reconnect with God, ask Him to wash away the grime of life and enjoy His satisfying presence. I know that He is the true source of life, but it's so easy to forget that outside of the House of Prayer, when everything else starts vying for my attention. I am so grateful that I am a part of a House of Prayer and that I have regular time there to remember who I really am and what it is that I want to spend my life doing.

And, Karyn's birthday was such a treat of a day. It was a celebration of her with lots of fun. It was a day of rest, but peppered with silliness and work trying to navigate tubes on the river. I am so thankful for my wonderful sister and I hope that this next year is a blessing to her.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Counting to 1000 gifts

Well, I'm taking the dare. I'm jumping in late, but I want to start counting 1000 gifts in 2012. I have printed off the June guide sheet. Here goes:
June 1: 3 gifts orange. Wow, orange is not a color I pay a lot of attention to. Interesting…
  • Cupcakes with orange buttercream frosting at Ava's end of the year show
  • Orange flowers in bouquets at the grocery store
  • Dried apricots packed in the snack bag for our trip to Ohio
June 2: 3 gifts funny. Just having Patrick back in my daily life is a gift funny. He is bursting with one-liners and I find his perspective very entertaining. I am so grateful for this season that we have together before he gets married. I am even glad that I get to help him finish his last college class.
  • Riding to Ohio, (in my car!) with dad and Karyn, to pick up Patrick
  • Playing 3 to 13 with my family and laughing together
  • Realizing we don't even own My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding after planning to watch it all week long
June 3: 3 gifts from today's conversations. One of my favorite things about living at home again is the wonderful conversations that I regularly have with my parents and my sister. They are such great roommates! And, I am so thankful that we get to live life together during this season.
  • Being able to share ideas with my family, over coffee, in the backyard, full of sunshine
  • Talking about all of the area's in our lives where God has to intervene or we will be lost
  • Encouraging others where they feel hopeless and being encouraged where I feel hopeless
June 4: 3 gifts found in Christ. He is so full of precious gifts for us. I am seeing them more and more as I practice gratitude. It really does work!
  • He delights in me just as I am
  • I am known and enjoyed and allowed to know and enjoy Him in return
  • Life that is full and enough
June 5: A gift of peace, of hope, of love. As I train my eyes to see all of the gifts that God offers me, I am becoming convinced of just how full He wants my life to be. And, it is often in my difficult feelings and situations where the gifts of peace, hope and love are the most meaningful. When I open up my hand to really receive everything that God gives to me is when He fills me with Himself and I truly know peace, hope and love.
  • Peace that passes understanding when I am afraid that I'm not doing the "right thing" with my clients and the reassuring knowledge that He equips me for every good work. The comfort in remembering that His strength is perfected in my weakness and His blood covers all of my failures.
  • Hope that I really can be full of joy even if my prayers go unanswered and my circumstances never change
  • Love that makes me feel chosen, accepted and important
June 6: 3 gifts "ugly-beautiful". I love how Ann refers to certain gifts as "ugly-beautiful". I think of these gifts as the situations that you pray to avoid and feel sad and angry about when they happen to you. They look and feel "ugly", but receiving them allows us to experience the "beautiful" that only God can create in such circumstances.
  • Debts that I cannot repay. They help me remember that I am dependent on God's provision for me.
  • Unanswered prayers. They squeeze my heart in a way that only Christ can comfort. Receiving that comfort helps me connect more with Him.
  • Feelings of disappointment that entice me to surrender all hope. They remind me that the choice is always mine: hope or disappointment. My painful experiences try to convince me that certain things are not safe to hope for and I should give up on them. God says that those whose hope is in the LORD will never be put to shame and my hope is safe in Him.
June 7: 3 gifts in what you are reading. I don't think that I read very much compared to my mom and sister. But, I enjoy reading and it is valuable.
  • Learning how to rejoice in all things and receive all as grace with Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts
  • Discovering what it means to be God's love slave with James Garrett in The Doulos Principle
  • Being reminded of what is mine and what is not mine in Boundaries with Dr.'s Cloud and Townsend
June 8: 3 gifts empty. I confess that I'm not sure I understand what this means. Is this something that seems empty, but is a gift? Or, is it something that seems like a gift, but is actually empty? I will try both…
  • Our new neighbor brought over pastries and donuts this morning. They were a very tasty gift, but empty of much nutritional value. This is probably one of my favorite gifts empty!
  • An empty schedule this morning allowed me to go running and an empty schedule in the late afternoon allowed me to watch Project Runway with my mom
  • I had empty feelings early this morning and I cried out to the LORD. He heard my cry and He comforted me. I think maybe this was a special gift empty.
I confess that I wrote most of these tonight, at the end of the week. I am planning to be more intentional this coming week. I want to know what gifts I am looking for each day so that I can be actively searching for them. I'm enjoying the process already. I guess it can only get better.
Coming up…gifts that make you smile, gifts unexpected and unwanted, gifts painted and gifts in the WORD.