Land Boundaries

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The closing date on our new Texas house is October 9, and our lender is hopeful that we’ll close earlier than that. I do hope so!

I am so thankful for the time we have spent at my in-laws’ house. It has been a blessing and a joy to be with my husband’s parents. It is extremely easy and enjoyable to live with such quiet, generous, and kind people. They have watched the kids while I have gone on runs in the morning a good amount of times (while the kids got started on independent homeschool work) and have let Greg and me go out for dessert once a week after the kids have gone to bed. They put away the clean dishes before I can get to them, keep the house very tidy (as much as is possible with five extra people and many extra pieces of furniture), and help us in extra ways like taking our library books back and picking up items from the store. Every day JP asks Grandpa numerous times to play trains or blocks with him, which Grandpa willingly does, even if he’s doing something else (of course, Grandpa initiates this activity as well).

Just the fact that they took in our noisy, active family and let us fill their garage floor to ceiling with all we own (some of which, by the way, Greg’s brother and sister-in-law have in their garage as well) for an indefinite period of time is incredibly generous. Mr. C has asked a couple of times what we would have done if we had moved somewhere where we didn’t have family, and he was shocked to hear we would have had to rent an apartment and pay money we’d never get back. I know renting an apartment would not be a dire situation, but I am thankful we didn’t have to do so.

At the same time, I am ready to be in my own home and let the Bocks have their space and privacy back. I’m ready to have access to what I need again, to actually know where everything is. It’s definitely nothing to complain about compared to all the blessings I have, but I am glad we’ll be in our own house again soon.

A friend of mine sent me a verse the other day that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s Acts 17:26: “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”

Paul is preaching to some Greek philosophers, one group of which believed life was entirely left to chance, the other group that life was predetermined by fate. Paul contradicts both of these views by telling them God has life under control, that He has planned out our births and deaths and the places we will live.

God knew exactly how long we would live with Greg’s parents. It’s a good thing, too, because He’s made sure we had access to everything we really needed from our boxes while we’ve been here. We’ve found soccer balls and shin guards just when we needed them, colored paper for party preparation (Little E’s birthday is coming up), and shoes when others went missing to name a few. Now that the weather is about to change to fall weather, we’re going to move into our house and be able to find our fall clothing just in time.

God also marked out this house for us. We don’t know who are neighbors are yet, but God has that planned out, too. I prayed from the beginning that God would place us in a neighborhood where we could be a blessing to the people around us. Only He knew the best place for us for that reason. I recently read a book called Praying Upside Down about a woman who had a lot of trouble trying to sell her house. She decided to start praying that God would bring just the right person to that house–a person who would be blessed by the house. It took longer to sell the house than she liked, but the woman who ultimately bought the house came with a story that made it clear the house was perfect for her at that time. I pray we will be a perfect fit in our neighborhood for God’s purposes, too.

What about you? Where did God place you? How does He want to use you where He’s placed you? “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Don’t miss those good works He’s planned for you to do in the place He’s planted you!

Thanksgiving

I said last week that I would be writing more posts in a series on anger, but I had to take a break and write about thanksgiving since it will be Thanksgiving this Thursday! I couldn’t pass this up because God has been teaching me about gratitude for a while now. I wish I were done learning this lesson, but I’m still in process. I think you’ll agree, too, that this has a lot to do with my series after all.

I love books. God knows this, so oftentimes, He teaches me through what I read. One book given to me by a dear friend a few years back was a life-changer for me. The title will not be unknown to most of you since it’s become so popular (and for good reason): One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (I’ve written about this book and the lessons I’ve learned from it before here and here). It’s a book I need to read again and again. It’s all about Voskamp’s journey to thankfulness. She is a poetic homeschooling mother of six who was challenged by a friend to find 1000 blessings and write them in a journal. In the book she chronicles her story of how she was changed by that list. What is interesting is that through her story, it seems that many people are being changed by that list and the lists that they are beginning to keep along with her. It’s not surprising that this would be good for us to do–the Bible reminds us to “forget none of [God’s] benefits” (Psalm 103:2) and “Remember the wonders [God] has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced” (Psalm 105:5).

indexAs I started my own list, I remembered how I used to make mini blessings lists when I was in high school. A teenager’s emotions swing high and low, and when I was feeling down, I would fill the front and sometimes back of a college-ruled piece of paper with everything big and little for which I was thankful–friends, pets, family, mechanical pencils, erasers, flowers, etc. I didn’t always want to write the list. I would force myself, and by the end, I always felt completely happy. Making my new long list has taken a lot longer, but it’s cementing the lesson in a lot better–the lesson that no matter what, there are always blessings all around us.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” When we focus on these blessings more than we focus on the inconveniences, when we choose to obey Paul’s injunction in I Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances,” something interesting goes on in our hearts. One, in answer to my last post, we become less angry. In fact, if we are truly thankful, we will not be sinfully angry.

On Sunday, my mom’s pastor taught about another heart change that comes with being thankful. If we are truly thankful, we will not be greedy or envious. As he said, we can’t thank God with all our hearts for something He gave us and at the same time tell Him we really wanted something else. Greed and envy will fade away with thankfulness.

Third, God taught me a long time ago that thankfulness wipes away anxiety. Two of my favorite verses are Philippians 4:6 and 7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” How do I have total peace and freedom from anxiety? Trust God with my problems by asking Him for help, and thank Him. If I am thankful as I ask Him–God, thank You that You care about every one of my issues. Thank You that You take care of my every need–I will lose my anxiety. Try it! I promise it works.

If we are thankful, we will be less angry, greedy, envious, and anxious. On top of all that, my mom’s pastor told us studies have been done about thankful people. They have found that thankful people are happier, healthier, and more forgiving and have more supportive communities, less depression, and a higher sense of worth. They are more likely to attain their personal goals and participate in spiritual activities. If we follow what God’s will is for us, to be thankful, we will be so much better off!

I know all of this, and God is helping me grow in this area, but I can tell you I don’t always live it. To tell you the truth, I’m not living it this very moment. I’m focusing on the negatives of the day–my kids hurting each other numerous times on accident and on purpose, my lack of sleep, all the work I need to finish, and how a cold is attempting to take over my body. Instead, I need to focus on the fact that a sweet friend that I miss called me today and that I was able to text with several other friends. I can remember the nice time I had during quiet time today, sitting with my legs up in the warm sun, alternately praying for friends and admiring the colorful leaves my kids kept bringing me. I can be glad that my husband’s conferences are almost over and that he’ll be able to spend some down time with us. I can remember that as my mom’s pastor said, I live on Planet Amazing, full of a variety of flowers with a variety of colors and fragrances that really didn’t even need to exist–God could have given us a purely utilitarian world if He wished. In fact, just as I said before, now that I’ve chosen to focus on the good, I’m not upset anymore, and I feel so much better!

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Let’s choose thankfulness not just on Thanksgiving this year, but year-round! Pray Psalm 103:1-5 with me–I can’t say how I needed these verses today!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

Enough

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Christmas is coming earlier for our family this year. We’re going out to see my side of the family for Thanksgiving this year and because of that, we can’t afford to go out for Christmas, too. As a result, we’ll be exchanging gifts with family early while we’ll be with them.

My family, on both sides, have been doing Amazon Christmases for many years. We all expect each other to put a variety of items on our Amazon wish lists, and we each pick out what we want to buy each other from those lists. It makes Christmas gifting fairly fool-proof (except for when Amazon malfunctions and doesn’t take items off our lists when they are purchased–one year we had multiple duplicates). In addition, we all feel pretty good that we’ve gotten each other something desired. This is especially useful in a family that lives far from each other.

It even temporarily solves the problem of the children asking for toys they saw at the store or at a friend’s house. “You want that? Put it on your wish list! You might not get it, but someone might buy it for you at Christmas or on your birthday.” This satisfies them for the most part.

The problem comes when the children want me to add yet another item to their wish lists. This usually occurs after a trip to Target when we’ve ventured into the toy aisles to buy a gift for a birthday party. They don’t want me to wait until after lunch or anything else–they are desperate, to the point of tears, to add that item now. It brings out the selfish “I want” in them, and they actually think they will not be happy unless they get that coveted seventh Star Wars Lego set or the Tinker Bell that actually flies. I tell them, “Having that one more thing will not make you happy. In fact, soon after you get it, you’ll just want one more thing until you learn how to be thankful for what you do have.” It’s so obvious when I see it in them and easy for me to condemn them…until I see it in me.

The other day I was busy adding to my wish list (knowing all along that several gift givers may have already done their shopping). I like to have lots of items on the list so the gift givers have more choices and so I’ll be more likely to be surprised. However, all that adding of items started waking the greed I had seen in my children. Dissatisfaction for what I already had started creeping into my heart.

Enough.

Do I really believe Jesus is enough for me? Do I believe He has given me all I need? How about that He “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3)? Are spiritual blessings are even enough for me?

Recently my pastor did a sermon on this topic. It included a video showing how we go through our lives, never feeling like it’s enough. Here’s a link to the video, which you’ll find at the beginning of my pastor’s sermon. Life lived without Jesus isn’t enough and will never fully feel that way, and I know Jesus is the answer to that.When I go about living life without a thought for Him, it never feels enough.

I know He is enough, and yet I let my heart be turned by inconsequentials like a curling iron that promises to turn out those beachy waves I’ve been seeing on girls’ hair in magazines. I would never say it aloud, but do I think in my heart that I would somehow be better or that I would be closer to enough, if I could get my hair or fashion just right? Sure, I love Jesus, but will I truly be happy if I don’t have a new pair of boots, too? Sure, I already have one beautiful pair of black boots, but what about that pretty dark natural brown color I’ve seen on boots on so many women? And a colorful new infinity scarf, and, and, and…816T16AlwTL._UX522_

Is it that Jesus isn’t enough for me or that I want to be enough for myself? I don’t think this has completely taken over my heart yet, but if I’m not careful, I think it could. I don’t think the wish list in and of itself is wrong, but when I start feeling dissatisfied with what I have and who I am just because of items I don’t have, then I have a problem.

May I be satisfied instead with my God and with the multiple blessings He’s given me. I have a journal that I’m very slowly filling up with thanksgiving, as I was challenged to do by Ann Voskamp in her book One Thousand Gifts (there’s a book to put on your Amazon wish list if you haven’t already read it). It’s apt that Thanksgiving comes right before Christmas. As I face the temptation to turn the focus of Christmas to what I’m going to get, I plan to dig deep in thanksgiving and try to teach my children to do the same. Maybe it’s a good thing my family is having Thanksgiving and Christmas at the same time.

“Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).