Daily Archives: November 26, 2013

27. the simple things

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat, drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them… Ecclesiastes 8.15

I’m a quote collector.

I’ve got this leather-bound journal full of them and with me being a reader, well, let’s just say I might have to invest in another one to start logging those I find in the years to come. During one of my “browsing sessions,” I stumbled on one that still lingers on my mind today:

“Everything is a gift from the universe.”

That quote isn’t in my journal for the fact that I don’t believe it’s true.simple

I’m a Christian.

Everything is a gift, yes… But from the universe?

Humanity has always grasped at straws when it comes to acknowledging a higher power. We all know that there is something or someone greater that created all that we see. It didn’t come from nothing. As Christ-followers, we know God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. God is our ultimate gift-giver and those gifts look different when we know what they are and where they came from.

I’m also a collector of simple pleasures.

Life is short. Life is adventurous and I don’t have to explore the high seas or another country to find it (although that is on my ever-growing bucket list). Life is full of gifts, if only we would take the time to stop and look for them.

Simple pleasures are a gift from God and you don’t have to go far to find them:

  • Taking a long, relaxing shower
  • A good novel
  • My favorite coffee mug filled with something warm (coffee, hot cocoa, tea)
  • Watching animals play, especially puppies and squirrels, although usually not together
  • Soaking up the warm sunshine on a brisk autumn day
  • Going on a nature hike
  • Fresh baked cookies
  • Flannel sheets in the winter
  • Egyptian cotton sheets in the summer
  • Kettle corn and a movie
  • Putting on clothes straight from the dryer
  • Walking barefoot in the grass
  • Watching a sunrise or a sunset
  • Listening to good music in the car
  • Long drives
  • Meditation on Scripture
  • Yoga or Pilates
  • Dark chocolate covered espresso beans
  • Lazy Saturdays
  • French fries and ice cream
  • An unclutter room
  • Hugs
  • A familiar smell that brings back fond memories
  • Receiving a letter via snail mail
  • Drinking water
  • A pull-through parking spot
  • My favorite sweater
  • Floating in the water
  • Iced Chai tea
  • The feeling after a good workout
  • Checking off something on my to-do list
  • Playing a game of volleyball
  • Christmas snow
  • A good laugh
  • Taking the scenic route home
  • Writing on good-quality paper with my preferred ink pen
  • Collecting quotes
  • Sleeping in on a stormy, rainy morning
  • People watching
  • Making someone smile
  • Finishing something you started
  • The small celebration you experience in that moment when something finally makes sense or a truth finally clicks within your heart
  • The still, small voice of God

We commonly think of gifts when it comes to birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and other special occasions. If we were to make a list, it might include diamond earrings (or a ring for us hopeless romantics), a car in the driveway with a huge red bow on it, toys for the kids, a new doll, a new pair of boots, a greeting card full of cash or a gift card to your favorite store… the list could go on. Who doesn’t enjoy some tangible displays of affection, especially if it was a little spendy?

There have been few in my life who have taught me to look beyond the materialism, and being the type who prefers a person’s company to a gift any day, well, I can easily relate. This was also one of the many blessings of having grown up on a farm.

There were good years and there were tough years, depending on the markets and how good the crop was. All four of us (my siblings and I) were provided for. We had a roof over our heads, food on the table and two parents who loved each other and us. Life wasn’t perfect, but it was full of blessings.

It’s the tough years that stand out most to me from my childhood. Those years, there weren’t Christmas gifts under the tree. Those were the years we all opted to pitch in a little cash and filled shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and went without. Those were the years we played Yahtzee, Monopoly, Apples to Apples and Cranium – laughing until our sides hurt and enjoyed watching holiday movies while mom made goodies (with which I helped when I came of age) in the kitchen. It’s those years that taught me the joy of the simple things in life, those things listed above.

I’ve got a challenge for you:

simplethingsFor one day (tomorrow would be perfect, by the way), count your blessings. Carry around a little notepad if you need to and write them all down.

For example: I woke up without an alarm this morning and was able to enjoy five minutes in my warm, flannel-sheet-covered, queen-sized bed. That’s one. I enjoyed a nice, hot shower. That’s one. I enjoyed a cup of coffee with my neighbor. That’s one. Three blessings in the first 30 minutes of my morning and I hadn’t even left the house yet.

See where this is going? Note every moment of happiness and be thankful. By the end of the day, you’ll notice that you unwittingly unwrapped hundreds of gifts throughout your day and you will have cultivated gratitude in your heart.

King Solomon understood these simple pleasures all too well:

 

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do…Enjoy life…all the days of this [life] God has given you under the sun…Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might… Ecclesiastes 9.7-10, paraphrase

The echoes from the Garden affect us more than we know. We tend to focus on the negative. One bad minute in the morning has a way of ruining your whole day, if you let it. But, what would it look like if you made it a point to collect those small, simple blessings and see how they outweigh the bad?

Everything is a gift from God and knowing that he loves me that much leads me to feel nothing less than gratitude and a deeper devotion to him.

It’s not always the expected things that affect us. It’s not always the big things that leave an impact. It’s usually the little, simple things that leave a mark so deep that the fabric of a life can be forever changed.

That’s why I’m thankful for the simple things.

city sidewalks

It’s that time of year again. We’ve gone full circle since last year. Things may seem the same. They may not. They may be the exact same for you (or at least seem to be), but things are completely different for me.

I’m not the same person I was a year ago. I’ve changed. Jesus changed me. He’s still changing me. It’s been adventurous, not knowing what’s around that next corner. It’s been trying and hard when one is being refined by the truth of the gospel. And it’s been beautiful. How could it not be?

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas

Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile

I was walking down Nicolette Mall the other day when I realized that they had put up their Christmas décor this past weekend.

Dressed in holiday style

Christmas is coming.

Silver bells

My most favorite time of the year

It’s Christmas time in the city

I love most things about Christmas (minus the commercialism and materialistic side): the bell ringers on the street corners, the lit-up snowflakes gracing the light poles along the Mall, garland, white lights, ribbon, Nativities (there is a beautiful hand-carved/sculpted one in the window display of the Catholic Charity Center on 12th Street) and maybe even a real Christmas snow. But it’s while walking among the decorations and the cheeriness that I fear I may, at times, exclude Jesus.

There may be a few days where my mood doesn’t match the season, a day where I take everything for granted or a moment when I wonder how much I’ll be getting for Christmas this year. Have I pushed him into the background with my greed and pride?

All of those things are good in and of themselves and God wants us to enjoy them, but not at the cost of dethroning him from his rightful place in our lives. Take a moment to ask God’s to lead us to hear what he wants us to hear, to give what he wants us to give, without your own pride and greed in the mix. We can’t stop the thoughts that betray us on our own. We need Jesus, the Son of God and man, who gave it all to take our sins to the cross.

My prayer is that you’ll find him this holiday season. Seek and you shall find

26. colleagues

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2.3-4

I am thankful for my colleagues and the manager I’ve been blessed with. After experiencing what I did in the job I had prior to my move to Minneapolis, working here has been the icing on the cake. I have an amazing manager who’s the calm in storm…especially when conflict arises among her team.

Believe me, it does. We all come from different walks of life. We’ve all experienced different situations. We all see things differently, based upon the lens of our own individual situations. And yet, it’s those differences that come together and form the team that we have.

There are five of us, albeit a small team, but what we do on a given day does not leave us wanting more. We give. We help. We assist. And when the clock says it’s time to go, we leave knowing we made a difference, somewhere.

I included the verse above because that is what God has called me to do in my current position. In the corporate world where religion isn’t brought up in conversation because it’s such a hot topic and we wouldn’t want to step on another’s toes, I still need to heed to his voice and commands. It’s not a request that I be humble; it’s a characteristic of being his child; his follower. Being able to follow him in that way is a huge blessing, whether I see in a heated moment or not.

I can’t solely think about me when I’m at work. I have to think about the caller, my coworker, or my manager first and I’m still learning. God sees them as valuable. I should too.

What about you? What are you thankful for today? Be sure to take a moment to tell people that you are thankful for them. Life is way too short not to.