NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

A Day Off

Happy Labor Day! Sorry it’s been over a month since my last blog post. I’ve realized how hard it is to do things when you are working a full time job. For all of my life up to this point I had been working part time, and I could do a lot of extra things with my time because I wasn’t working. And now, even though I’d still like to do some of those things, they just are harder to do with less time to work with. So since it’s a Holiday and I am not working today, I thought I’d write a blog post.

It’s easy to get into the grass is always greener on the other side syndrome. When you work part time, you wish you had a full time job, when you aren’t married, you wish you were, when you’re bored and have nothing to do, you wish something would happen, when you’re running around like crazy, you wish you had a day off and some time to relax.

But it’s important to be thankful. To stop and appreciate what you do have. You may be very busy with lots of work and responsibilities, but it also means you have a job and that what you do matters to a lot of people, and that’s a blessing.

Or maybe you don’t have a job and you really want one, but in that place of not having a job, you have a lot of free time that you can use to invest in people, to volunteer, to help others.

You can always find something to be thankful for, even if life is hard. You just have to look for it. So here are some of the things I am thankful for today.

-Rest. God intended us to have a day of rest once a week and I am so thankful for my days off. They allow me to refocus, refresh and allow me to spend time with the people I love.

-Friends. I am so blessed to have so many close friends, whether they live in other cities, states, or in my own neighborhood, I have so many people that love me, care about me, encourage me and will be with me through all the ups and downs of life.

-A Job. Even though it can be hard sometimes, I am so thankful that my job allows me to bless so many people, to be a part of what God is doing in this city and state and that I can join in His work. I know most people don’t dream of a job of answering phones and emails and organizing supplies and placing orders, but I love it, because it’s needed and a big part of a ministry that changes people’s lives and reveals God’s glory.

-A place to live. It may not be perfect, some things could be fixed up or upgraded, but I have water, food, a bed, and people I live with that I love and care about.

There are so many more things I could write about that I am thankful for, but with the fall upon us, I may want to spread them out for some posts leading up to Thanksgiving. In any case, I hope this post reminds you to be thankful, to enjoy the little things God has blessed you with, like a day off, or a cold drink, or a beautiful sunset.

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An Unthankful Thanksgiving

I was perusing through some old short stores I’d written several years ago and I came across one that happened at Thanksgiving. It reminded me that it’s just as easy to find things to be thankful for as it is to find things to complain about. You can ruin your own vacation by complaining or you can find joy even if the midst of hardship by being thankful. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have enjoyed that trip if I’d practiced gratitude. I hope this year you focus on the things you’re grateful for and enjoy the blessings God’s given you and don’t get stuck focusing on what’s wrong or hard.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the story!

Thanksgiving Cruise

I think it’s a bit ironic that the only cruise I’ve ever been on was set during the week of Thanksgiving. However, this is one of the trips that I can remember a lot of unthankfulness. But it did teach me a lesson. And it is one trip I’ll never forget.

We started our cruise from Galveston, TX. We should have been very thankful that we didn’t have to fly all the way to Florida to get on a cruise, but unfortunately, we were late getting to the ship, and this caused some bad attitudes.

“If only we would have left when I said we should,” Dad grumbled as he parked the car.

We hurried to unload our many suitcases and glanced up thankfully at the tall ship. At least we weren’t being left behind… yet.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” my younger sister Alicia said with a whine, “I’ve been holding it for fifteen minutes.”

“Just a little longer,” Mom assured her. “We’ll go sign in and I’m sure they have a bathroom somewhere.”

“Come on already,” my younger brother Jonny said with frustration. “I don’t want the ship to leave without us.”

I agreed with Jonny and started following him towards the wharf, with my wheeled suitcase in tow. We soon found the check-in area, and I was a bit relieved to find out that we weren’t the only family that had gotten there late. But there were some consequences. As Dad signed papers, I stared up at the ship’s deck high above us, and spotted groups of passengers clumped together in formation at the lifeboats. They were undergoing a mandatory safety training, and we were missing it.

“You’ll have to do the late training this evening,” the check in person said.

I shook my head; of course it would be my family that missed the safety training. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to experience a Titanic like adventure, but I still wanted to be prepared in case some kind of emergency happened. Now, while everyone else was having fun, we’d have to stand like a bunch of idiots out on the deck and do our safety training, basically singling ourselves out as the irresponsible ones. But it could be worse, at least we didn’t have to do it alone, there were several other families who were late too.

As our trip got underway, I found myself spending a lot of time in our cabin, a tiny room with two bunk beds, and a TV. We watched a lot of old cartoons that I hadn’t even known had existed. There was Adam Ant, and Mighty Mouse, and the Spiderman movie was played continually on one channel.

“Uh, I wish they played some better cartoons,” I whined. “Like Scooby Doo. There’s nothing good on these channels.”

“I’m bored of TV,” Jonny joined in.

“Yeah, I’m so bored.” I knew complaining about being bored was kind of dumb: I was staying in the room watching the same cartoons over and over instead of getting out on the ship. But I didn’t want to make any effort; I just wanted to be entertained. Thus the unthankfulness epidemic grew. Every little thing there was to complain about somehow got mentioned.

“Uh, I wish that stupid rule about not swimming in the adult pool never existed,” I complained.

“Yeah, that current is so fun to play in, and it’s not as crowded as the kid pool,” Jonny added.

“And we’re all good swimmers, it’s not like we need a life guard or an adult to watch us, we can take care of ourselves,” I added.

“You know what I’m sick of?” Alicia asked.

I turned my head lazily to face her, “What?”

“Those lady fingers that they put in all the desserts, they taste disgusting and I’m so tired of having to pull them out of everything.”

“Speaking of food,” Jonny added. “Did you know they ran out of free ice cream in the lounge today? Talk about disappointing.”

This kind of talk would go on and on, and what did we do; sit and watch more boring TV.

Thankfully, this was not the case every day. On the days we were stopped at an island or foreign country, there were chances to explore, and get off the boat. But complaining fests still crept upon us. The worst stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. For some reason, everyone found something to complain about that day, and even though we were all a part of doing something very enjoyable, we focused in on the parts that didn’t meet our expectations.

I climbed into the taxi after Dad had finally flagged down a taxi van that was big enough for our whole family. It had been a long day. We had split up this time with Mom and me going to a ranch to ride horses, and the Dad taking the other kids to the beach. “So what did y’all do?” I asked Alicia.

“Well the boys went swimming and climbed a big blow up iceberg, but it was too far out for me, so Dad stayed with me on the beach. It’s no fun being small. The iceberg looked like fun.”

“Yeah it was,” Jonny said. “But you got to go on the bounce trampoline and do flips.”

“But you got to do both,” Alicia whined. “I wish I could have gone with you Lydia. I would have rather ridden horses.”

“Well it wasn’t too exciting. I was separated from Mom for most of the ride. My horse wouldn’t go at all, even when I kicked like the guide said, he wouldn’t listen. He just walked when the horses in front of him walked. I really wanted to gallop with the others, but when I tried, the horse was still really slow.”

“So you didn’t have fun?” Alicia asked.

“No, it was fun. There was a cool show they did for us where this rider danced with his horse. And we saw a lot of ruins on the trail ride… they looked fake to me though.

“Well I’m starving,” my older brother Brain said. “I can’t wait to get back to the ship. Dad didn’t want to pay for any of the food at the beach. He said it was too expensive.”

Just then we pulled up to the curb. I glanced out the window at the ocean in the distance; there was our cruise ship, still as a sunken log. “Good timing then,” I said. “Let’s go eat.”

We jumped out of the van, ready to get back to our temporary home aboard the ship, but as we started moving towards the ship, a yell disrupted the evening air.

I turned back to see Dad yelling at our Taxi driver, saying something about the amount was wrong and that it shouldn’t be that expensive to drive three miles. I kept walking, hoping the other vacationers returning to the ship didn’t think we were part of the same family. I hated this day, not only had the horse ride been quite disappointing, but now my Dad was having a breakdown about money for the whole world to see. At that moment, it seemed like I was on the worst vacation ever.

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Thankful

Me and my Mom

This month always reminds me that I should be more thankful and not take things for granted. But I am particularly thankful this year because my family has been going through some hardships recently and the response from my family in Christ has been so amazing.

So to start the story, back in October, the 23rd to be exact, my mother woke up with very bad back pain that was shooting down her right leg. She has experienced something like this before, and thought as long as she went to the chiropractor, everything would be fine. So she went, and used all her normal tricks to relieve the pain, but it didn’t go away, it just kept getting worse and worse.

The next day the pain was bad enough that she couldn’t drive and it was torture to walk. So we borrowed my grandma’s walker and I drove and then wheeled her to another chiropractor appointment. He ordered an x-ray and MRI scan since the pain was still not going away. We got the x-ray but had to wait a few days for the MRI.

The next day was probably one of the hardest days of my life. I woke up to a phone call from my mom. She was ‘sleeping’ downstairs in our living room, since going up the stairs was too painful. She hadn’t slept and she was in the worst pain I’d ever seen: crying, screaming, and breathing like what a woman does when she’s in labor. She said she couldn’t take the pain anymore so we were going to the doctor’s office so they could give her something for the pain. She didn’t even want the walker or a jacket because it was cold outside, she just wanted to go. So I drove her to the doctor and we ended up using a wheelchair, since she couldn’t walk without crying. They gave her shots and a prescription for the pain. And finally, after she got the pain pills, she was able to get some relief.

The next days were a whirlwind of more appointments and prescriptions and finding out from the MRI that she had a herniated disk that was pressing down on the nerve. Adding this to the normal routine of caring for my grandma, working for my Dad, driving my sister to her appointments, and serving at church and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

But God is faithful and my church family is amazing. First, one of my friends at my small group offered to bring a meal. Then one of my oldest friends called to check on me and let me just talk and cry and see her cute baby on the phone screen. Then as time progressed, more and more people said they were praying for me and my family and checked to see how we were doing. One family even set up a Care Calendar for our church to bring us meals.

It was a little weird for me to be the recipient of help, because I’m usually the one giving it, but it made me realize just how blessed I am to have so many friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who care. So I am thankful for all of them today. And I’m happy to report that my mom is making progress. The injections, and chiropractic treatments are slowly helping. She can now walk for short distances and today she drove a car for the first time since all this started.

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Mother’s Day

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Well I got to see the movie “Mother’s Day” today with my good friend. So I thought I’d write a review for the film. It’s similar to the movie “Valentine’s Day” released a few years ago and also follows the lives of several families as they celebrate the holiday. Unlike “Valentine’s Day,” however, this movie covers more than just the one day. It gives us a look into the families varied lives before the holiday happens. It is a touching movie with many heartfelt moments. I did tear up a couple times. But there are also plenty of hilarious moments to laugh at and keep you entertained. All in all it was a good movie to watch, and a good reminder that mothers and fathers are all important. They definitely deserve more than one day of appreciation. So even though Mother’s Day is over, and Father’s Day isn’t till next month, I’m going to take a moment to thank my parents for all that they have done and still do for me. And I hope you do too.

Mom, you’ve been there for me, before I can even remember. You’ve done so many things without being thanked, even once. Countless dishes have been cleaned, the laundry washed and dried, floors swept, mopped and cleared of toys. You bought me clothes and taught me to sew. You made so many meals for me and then taught me how to cook my own food. If I ever have a problem, or a question, you’re the one I go to for advice. I love you so much! I’m so thankful for your constant presence in my life, and for not only your care, but your friendship. I’m so glad you’re my mom.

Dad, thank you for working so hard to provide for our family, for putting in the long hours and pushing through the stress and difficulties with your job. I’ve always had what I needed because of you. Thank you for taking the time to play with me as a kid, to read me bedtime stories and teach me to ice skate. Thank you for all of the Daddy-Daughter dates and teaching me what I should expect from a man. You taught me how to dance, how to navigate, how to organize and make wise choices. You’ve given me such a great example and I am so thankful for your love. I love you! And I’m so glad that you are my dad.

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We all need a little help

 

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On an average day I do all sorts of things without a thought: dishes, laundry, organizing, driving, reading. And most days I think I’m fine, I don’t need any help. I am a functioning adult after all, I can handle life. Of course everyone has a day when things go wrong and I shouldn’t stress about that either, it’s normal. But well yesterday things went wrong and it taught me a lesson. You see, I am a proud person, I love to help others. I’ll listen to your problems, pray with and for you, help you move, or buy you a chocolate shake, whatever you need. But when I need help, it’s hard to ask for it. I’ve struggled with this all my life. I even remember once on a youth trip that I was having a hard time being homesick and finally opened up about it and cried like a baby. But instead of feeling worse for crying, I actually felt better, and I knew the people around me cared about me.

So fast forward to yesterday. I had spent the day doing some work, meeting up with friends, discussing life and it’s problems and joys. Like usual, I didn’t talk too much about myself. (Remember that pride thing I mentioned). So I got home and just got the details on a big project I needed to start working on when my sister asked me to drive her to a chiropractor appointment. This is a fairly normal occurrence in my house, so I said sure, grabbed the keys and drove over to the medical center. We went inside and as we waited quite awhile for her to see the doctor, I started wishing I had brought a few boxes in the car that I could start organizing while my sister was waiting, or getting adjusted. But I hadn’t, so I contented myself with drawing with a new app on my phone. By the time we left the building, I had already been gone an hour and I wanted to get home and get some work done.

But when I reached in my pocket, there were no keys. I wondered if they fell out somewhere inside, but no, when I glanced inside there they were, snug in the cup holder. I shivered, for I hadn’t had the sense to grab a jacket and the temperature had dropped in the last hour. I knew there wasn’t another set of keys, my family had never gotten around to buying a spare, so I started calling. I started with parents and eventually got around to a Roadside Assistance hotline, which in turn called a company in the city where I live. And finally after lots of waiting, calls, texts, and more waiting, someone was on the way to open the car for me.

I was trying not to be too upset, but come on, I never forget to check my pockets, why in the world did I leave the keys in the car? I should have put them in my pocket. My sister remembered seeing me put them down and thinking it was odd, but she didn’t say anything and we both forgot about it until we found the car was locked and I had no keys. And I couldn’t wait outside because now it was getting dark and very cold. I had already called lots of people, but I asked my sister to call one more person, my brother, to come bring me a jacket. And when he came, I lost it. I started crying. I was just so stressed out by the whole situation and tired of being the “adult” who had to handle everything. Having him come, helped me let go of that pride and overflow with thankfulness that someone cared about me too and that if I ask for help, it’s okay.

I couldn’t help but think of the country song “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”

So my brother stayed with us till the locksmith showed up, and broke into my car. Eventually we all made it home and went back to life as normal. But that whole event reminded me that I’m not perfect, I make mistakes, I’ll need to ask for help sometimes, and that’s okay. There are people that still love me and will help me face the hard times, all I need to do is humble myself and ask for help.

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A Reminder to be Thankful

a thankful heart

As the Thanksgiving Holiday is approaching, I’ve been trying to be more thankful for things. But this past weekend, I got a surprise moment of thankfulness. So I hope you enjoy this little story and that it reminds you to be thankful this month too.

So, when I was growing up, I went to a church and our youth pastor had all of these events for us to invite our friends to. He wanted us to bring visitors and give us chances to invite friends who didn’t believe in Jesus. It sounded like a good idea and a great way to share the gospel. But unfortunately for me, I was a home schooled kid with no friends that didn’t already go to church. So I always felt a little guilty when he told us to invite our friends to these events because the only people I could invite were already Christians. Well, I did my best and invited some people I knew from other home school groups even though I didn’t think what I was doing had any significance or would make an impact. I thought the only good that could come from inviting friends to a church event was them becoming a Christian and following Jesus.

But the other day, I realized just how wrong I was, how big God’s plan is, and how thankful I am for His work in my life. One of the friends I invited to these church events was named Lindsey. We had one class together in High School and that was it. I was never in any other home school classes with this girl. With those odds, we wouldn’t have stayed friends. It would have been like a lot of other friendships that lasted for a year while we were around each other and ended when we no longer saw each other at school. But, that didn’t happen. I invited her to those church events we were supposed to invite friends to, and she actually came. We spent time together outside of school, and that gave us room to grow our relationship. Then we started hanging out at each other’s houses even when there wasn’t a church event to go to. And when I left for college, we emailed each other, and when I was back in town, we would meet up. Lindsey has remained one of my closest friends to this day. I even got to be maid of honor in her wedding last year.

As we were reminiscing about how we had met this past weekend, I realized how pivotal those church events had been to my relationship with Lindsey. I wondered if we would have ever stayed friends if I didn’t invite her to them. So now I am so thankful for those random events, like Super Bowl parties, and Christmas scavenger hunts, because they provided opportunities to grow relationships.

So today I want to say thank you to Jake Box, my old youth pastor for organizing all of those events and let him know I am thankful for what he did and amazed at how God used them in my life. And I want to say thank you to my friend Lindsey for her constant friendship and her willingness to say yes and go to another youth group’s event.

And I want to encourage my readers to say thank you to someone today and let them know how much you value them.

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Bridge of Spies and Worry

Bridge of Spies

A couple weeks ago I got to watch the Bridge of Spies with my family. It was a very well done movie and if you like dramas, or historical films, you’d love this one. Tom Hanks always does a fantastic job in his movies and this one is no exception. I loved the story and the characters, but the one thing that stuck out to me from the whole movie was a line that Rudolf Abel says several times. He is a Soviet sent to America to serve his country. In his eyes he has done nothing wrong. But he gets caught up in all of the drama of the Cold War and is accused of being a spy and even threatened with death. Then he is sentenced to jail and later offered as an exchange for an American prisoner. But in all of the tough circumstances he constantly maintains a calm attitude. Throughout the movie other characters ask him, “Aren’t you worried?” and he responds calmly, “Would it help?”

And does it? I know I’ve spent a lot of my time worrying about little things that don’t even matter, and does it make a difference at all? No, not really. Worry accomplishes nothing, it helps no one. And even though I know this, I often still do it. So how do we stop it?

Well while I was in Mozambique, I shared a Bible story with the children about this exact thing. After acting out a skit with a fellow team member where she was really worried, I read them these verses:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” -Luke 12:22-28 NIV

After sharing these verses, I prayed with the actor, and told the kids that instead of worrying, we could be thankful. Then the whole team helped the children make flowers out of pipe cleaners and construction paper. And I told them that they could write things they were thankful for on the flower petals to remind them not to worry and that God could take care of them.

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And I think that’s the real issue with worry. Worry comes when we think we are in control and we can change our circumstance by doing something. So we get ourselves all worked up thinking about all the things we can do, to make sure it goes the right way (our way). We try to predict what could go wrong and how to fix it. We might even try to make sure everyone is happy. But in the end we only wear ourselves out and often no matter how much we planned or worried or stressed, it still doesn’t come together the way we hoped.

I think the reason that Rudolf Abel was not worried, was that he knew and accepted that he was not in control. He didn’t stress about his circumstances because he knew he couldn’t change them. And I think when we do the same thing with God and accept that He is the one in control, not us, then it’s a lot easier to relax and stop worrying. Because ultimately God is in control and what He has planned is good. It may not be what we expect or want, but it is good. And I think that’s one of the big things I learned from going to Mozambique. I didn’t try to be in control while I was on the trip. I just held my plans loosely and laughed when they got changed. I didn’t worry about what I would say in front of a large group, or how a Bible lesson would come together, I simply trusted God and did my best. And it was so freeing.

So I want to encourage you today. You don’t have to worry either, God is in control of your life and He has the best plan. So trust Him, and if you’re still having trouble with worry, ask someone to pray with you.

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The Importance of Thankfulness

Pumpkin Pie, Dessert, Food, Baked, Holiday

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/pumpkin-pie-dessert-food-baked-1041330/

Even though Thanksgiving is over, the pumpkin pie is all eaten and the leftover turkey is now stuffed in the freezer, that doesn’t mean that being thankful is over for the year. Being thankful is very important to our attitude and perspective and it can affect how we react to our circumstances.

In church this past Sunday, one of my fellow leaders in Jr High ministry, talked about a man who lived through the Holocaust and stayed in three different concentration camps. But he decided to be thankful each day, and that gave him something that a lot of people around him lost; hope.

So as the holiday season continues towards Christmas, and away from Thanksgiving, I don’t want to forget the importance of giving thanks. And I want to encourage you to do the same. All the chaos of Christmas may seem more manageable if you remember that you have so much to be grateful for already. You don’t really need all those presents under the tree, they’re just another reason to be thankful.

I’ve also decided to accept a challenge to be grateful for something each day during the month of December. I probably won’t post every single thing I’m grateful for, but it is something I will be journaling about. And in case you’re interested, I’ll post a few of the things I’ve been thankful for so far.

1. Food. After all the Thanksgiving goodies and surplus in the fridge, I’ve realized what a blessing that is. There are a lot of people in this world who go to bed hungry and never get enough to eat. So I’m thankful that I have enough to eat.

2. My cat Alex. Right now he is curled up on my lap. Although it makes typing more difficult, he is keeping me nice and warm. He brings a smile to my face everyday and even when life get’s hard, he’s there to greet me with a cheerful meow. He is one of the most friendly cats I’ve ever owned and he makes sure that any guest to our home feels welcome.

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3. A job. I know work always has it’s frustrations, no matter what kind of work it is. But there is always a sense of accomplishment I get from finishing a task. Even if I don’t get any recognition for it, I feel a sense of fulfillment after I’ve worked, that I don’t get from just lounging around.

So there are a few things I’m thankful for, and I hope you continue to be thankful this month too.

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Thankful for Hardships

Pumpkin, Orange, Grass, Autumn, Halloween, Harvest

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/pumpkin-orange-grass-autumn-1004979/

In case you didn’t know, I’m doing several posts this month about being grateful or thankful or whatever you want to call it, in honor of Thanksgiving. I’ve already talked about family and friends, and I think that’s the sort of thing that comes to most people’s minds when they are trying to be thankful. But I’ve also been relearning recently that as a Christian I should be thankful for the hard things too.

I started reading in James this morning and he starts off his letter telling Christians to be joyful in hardships because it produces perseverance. And yesterday my Mom got up in front of my church, along with several other members, and thanked God for the difficulties our family has faced and how it’s grown her spiritually. Even my Dad thanked God for problems and how they force us to rely on Him. I also just finished reading Christy, a wonderful book by Catherine Marshall. I really loved one of the characters, Ms. Alice, and how she lived out her faith. Even with all of the baggage in her life, she was able to use it to become more able to help those around her. Reading about her made me desire to mature in Christ and be able to do the same kind of things.

But unfortunately, recently I’ve found myself complaining about the busyness and craziness of my life. I don’t want to do that, so this is one way I’m trying to live out being thankful, even for the hard stuff.

So here are a few hard things, that I’m thankful for:

1. I’m thankful that when I was a kid, I was left out, excluded, and didn’t have many friends.

That experience affected me, and it’s helped me love others, especially the people around me who are excluded now. If I had never experienced that hurt, I wouldn’t care for others that feel it too. It also helps me to appreciate all of the friends I have now.

2. I’m thankful that my sister has gone through and still deals with anxiety and panic attacks.

I’ll be honest, I prayed for it to go away, for my sister to be healed, for my family to not have to deal with it anymore. And I still hope for the day that it will all be gone. But I’ve gotten to see over the years how this difficulty has shaped me, my sister, and my family. We’ve had to grow in forgiveness and understanding. I’ve had to grow in patience, sympathy, and giving up what I want. It hasn’t been an easy road, but it’s the one God gave my family, and He has brought good out of it.

3. I’m thankful that I’ve never had a serious romantic relationship.

This is a struggle I’ve had off and on for a long time, most girls do. I have wanted to find a guy, get married, and start a family. And I’ve waited, and waited. I never thought I’d be in my mid-twenties and still not be married. But it has allowed me to have time for other things that I love. A lot of the couples I see around me spend so much time on that one relationship, and they need to, but it means they can’t spend as much time with other people. I’ve seen God use this extra time in my life to give me the freedom to go on mission trips, serve in ministry, and disciple other ladies in the faith. And throughout this time of waiting, God has shown me that what brings true joy is Himself, and not the fulfillment of my desires.

4. I’m thankful for my fear of public speaking.

I’ve never liked talking to groups of people, and for a long time I’ve been the shy girl in the corner that doesn’t talk. So public speaking has always been difficult for me. And it still is, I don’t like the spotlight on me. But through this weakness, I’ve seen God’s strength. He has put me in situation after situation where I need to speak in front of groups, give presentations, teach lessons, and… well speak publicly. It’s uncomfortable, it’s scary, and I still struggle with what to say. But this has forced me to rely on God each time. I learned early on that when I trusted God with my fear and asked for His help, He provided. And so I still go to Him. Each time speaking publicly arises, I have to trust Him all over again. And this learning to place trust in God, instead of my own talents, is a special gift I wouldn’t trade.

So, what are a few things you are thankful for?

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What I’m Thankful For #2

Gourds, Fall, Autumn, Orange, Decoration, Halloween

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/gourds-fall-autumn-orange-949112/

As you might have seen in a previous post, I am trying to remind myself to be thankful this month. It probably helps that in church yesterday we talked about being grateful and how important it is.

So today I am grateful for my family and friends. I don’t want to sound corny when I say this, I think most people are thankful for the close relationships they enjoy with other people, it’s part of being human. But I really am grateful for the people I’ve gotten to know.

You see, I’ve grown up in the same city, and the only times I moved was when I was 2 years old, and briefly for college. But I came home to visit so often, it was like I never left. So I really feel a deep connection for the people around me because a lot of them I really have known for over a decade.

These lasting relationships are a real blessing to me, it reminds me that just because some people move on, and our friendship only lasts for a couple of months or years, there will always be people that don’t move away, and even the people that do leave can be visited and reconnected with.

I guess the whole reason I’m thinking of this is because my brother just had a couples shower for his wedding in December and seeing all the old and new family friends at the shower brought on a wave of gratitude. There are so many people that love me and my family, and it encourages me to know they’ll be there for us in the happy moments of life, and the hard ones.

And I’m thankful for my family, because man we’ve been through a lot together and we’re still close. We can even fit 11 people in one house (8 of which are sharing 1 bathroom) and we still love each other. That’s a blessing and I’m thankful for it.

So in honor of my family and friends, I will share a short story I wrote about my childhood. Some of the details may be fabricated, but in essence the story is true.

Enjoy!

Barton Creek

“Are y’all ready to go?” Dad called from the front door.

“I’m ready!” I said happily. I had just changed into blue jeans, a red t-shirt with the logo of some obscure camp stitched across it.

Dad looked back into the house, not seeing anyone else yet.

“I think Mom’s in the bathroom.”

Dad nodded and headed inside to see if he could help make the preparation process go faster for anyone.

I sat on the front porch step and watched bees buzzing around our rosebush. It was an early summer afternoon, with large cumulus clouds spread across the vast Texas sky. A blue jay hopped from one branch on our massive ash tree to the next.

My Dad never liked the ash trees in our front yard. He said the neighborhood only planted them so there would be big nice looking trees in a short amount of time, but they didn’t live long, and their roots grew close to the surface, so unless you had covered them while they were young, it looked like an anaconda was living in your lawn.

I stared up at the tree, it might not be the best kind of tree, but I loved the shade it gave in the summertime, its branches spread perfectly, drooping slightly to bring the maximum amount of sun blockage. The only downside in my opinion was the fall, when thousands of pointy seeds fell from its branches along with the leaves. Those pokey seeds got stuck on everything and occasionally would break the skin, if you stepped on them barefoot.

The door opened behind me and I turned to see the rest of the family ready for our outing. Everyone had tennis shoes and long pants for the journey into the woods.

“Alright, let’s go!” Dad said enthusiastically. He had this tendency to get extremely enthusiastic about something in a funny way, like he was trying to entertain us with his zeal.

We all started marching down the sidewalk, till we reached the small street. We turned left and headed towards the dead end, with large reflective signs that stated “Private Property,” and “No Admittance,” and other such statements of discouragement. We ignored the signs as always, I think they had been left up from a time when the land actually belonged to someone. Now it was like a private trail for our neighborhood’s residents.

“Remember when we filmed Fat Man here?” Jonny said excitedly. He was referring to a home movie we had made parodying Batman. Instead we had made the hero Fat Man and had stuffed pillows into our neighbor’s shirt to make him chubbier. One of the scenes in the movie had Fat Man battling a ‘robot’ played by another neighbor, in the woods.

I laughed, “Oh yeah, I remember that. Remember that Drew wasn’t wearing his shoes.”

“Yeah, that was funny,” Jonny said.

We continued on, passing fields of cactus and tall amber grasses. A few yellow flowers poked out of the undergrowth. Then we ventured into shaded areas where the cedar trees grew close together and formed a canopy over the trail. A few side trails appeared, but we continued down the main one headed for the creek, as we had so many times before.

Jonny came across a large stick a few feet off the trail and decided right away that he needed a walking stick. He marched along for several minutes like a he was Louis or Clark on a grand expedition, but he soon got bored with the stick and decided he’d much rather have the use of his hands for climbing. He left it on the side of the trail, for yet another adventurer to find and use.

We stopped for a couple of minutes at a short tree that was perfect for climbing. The two boys scurried up into the branches and Mom took pictures. I picked a few yellow flowers instead and put them in my hair.

“Y’all ready to keep going?” Dad asked a little impatiently. He was ready to see the river, and maybe stick his feet in the cool water.

The boys leapt out of the branches, landing with a thud into the soft earth.

We turned and continued deeper into the woods, finally after several minutes we came to a stop at a crossroads. One trail wove down a gentler slope to the creek bed, the other rose to the crest of a hill and gave a nice view of the sloping landscape before plummeting down a steep drop to the bottom. Both ended in the same place, so either could be taken.

“So which trail do we want to take?” Dad asked.

“Mountain Goat Trail!” Jonny and I shouted together.

As you might have guessed, this was the steeper trail. We swerved to the right and walked up an incline to the lookout point at the top of the hill. The tops of cedar trees could be seen in any direction. The rolling slopes of the Hill Country looked like a giant green ocean that had been frozen in time, in the middle of a heavy storm.

After staring out at the countryside, we continued down the steep drop. It wasn’t so much like a cliff, more like a giant staircase with some steep places where you needed to be a little more careful. The trail disappeared as well, the large rocky “steps” were the only way down, and no matter how far to the right or left you went, as long as you went down, you would eventually end up hitting the other trail.

I hopped down the rocks, pretending I was actually a mountain goat. My shoes gripped the rocks easily and I felt like I belonged here.

Jonny and Alicia joined me in jumping around as we headed down the steep trail.

Mom and Dad took things a little slower, making sure not to fall.

As we gathered on the intersecting trail, we stopped to stare down the steep drop. This drop was more like a cliff and ended in a little gully where water from further up the hill would rush down towards the creek. No one would go down there unless they were crazy.

While I stared down at the deep drop, my ears picked up a faint sound. “Shh, listen,” I commanded.

The family stopped talking and we all stood still. Faintly, through the trees, we heard the soft roar of the creek.

I smiled eagerly, “I can hear it!”

Our steps quickened as we neared the bottom of the hillside. It had rained a week before and the water was going to be high. As we neared the end of the trail, the sound grew to a loud swooshing sound.

Finally I caught a glimpse of the water. It looked grey and murky, clothed with a bubbly white shawl. “There it is! There it is!” I said excitedly.

“Whoa it’s huge!” Jonny said.

We all scampered down for a closer look, dodging the wreckage the waters had left in its rush to the creek: branches, leaves, even an old shoe. All of a sudden we were no longer on a soft dirt trail, but on white rocks, rubbed smooth by the water’s touch. We came to a stop at the water’s edge and stood in awe of the powerful rapids before us.

Water careened over the stones, and bubbled as it collided with trapped logs. The roar wasn’t deafening but if forced us to increase the volume of our voice to be heard.

Alicia grabbed my hand and stared amazedly at the mighty river before her.

Brian picked up a small stone and tried skipping it across the water; it bounced once then disappeared into the current.

Jonny took up the game right away, though his rocks didn’t bounce and instead he began to see how big of a splash he could make.

After several minutes, we decided to follow the creek downstream and do some exploring. There was another pathway along the water’s edge, so we got in a single file line and began hiking once more on a worn dirt path. As we journeyed the creek widened and slowed to a gentler pace. The roar of the rapids died down and was replaced by the sounds of calling birds and insects. We passed a rope swing that could be used to jump into the river and an odd tree with a cactus growing on top of its mossy bark.

Twenty minutes passed before we decided to take a break. We’d never hiked this far before and we were all tired. Fifty feet off the trail we found what looked like a natural Bathtub; the creek emptied into a little inlet that was separated from the rest of the water by a few large rocks.

We took off our shoes and got our feet wet, walking from stone to stone and then splashing into the cold clear water.

Mom took out some snacks and drinks for the family. She was always prepared for hungry kids. I guess with having four kids she learned pretty quick that having food on hand was a necessity.

We sat back with our crackers and Capri Suns and talked about our adventure. It wasn’t long before we decided to head home, it had been a long walk, especially for Alicia who wanted to be carried now, and the sun was getting closer to setting. But it had been a good day, and even though I’ve been on many journeys to Barton Creek since then, I’ll still always remember that special day.

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