B-b-b-bit-t-t-t-ter and Buhlustery

I am grateful for three Christmas tree ornaments made of felt and buttons and sparkly pipe cleaners, a necklace, and a handprint tree picture that arrived in the mail yesterday.

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I am grateful for people who handwrite thank you cards and grateful for parents who teach their children the importance of writing a thank you note. It is becoming a lost art but makes such a hu-u-u-u-u-u-u-uge impression…

I am grateful for a good eye doctor who takes the time to explain.

Which makes me grateful that I can still see.

Which makes me grateful for my glasses.

Which makes me grateful that I don’t wear contacts because I could not bear to touch my eyeball with my finger.

I am grateful for a pair of gloves.

I am grateful for shiny gold dollar coins for Bingo tonight.

I am grateful for two little girl school pictures framed in handmade collage borders that also arrived in the mail yesterday.

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I am grateful that I don’t say “whole ‘nother” or “boughten” or “I seen.”

I am grateful that I don’t have a problem missing the ball drop, don’t care if I ring in the new year, don’t care to toast to the new year…I love sleeping.

I am grateful for fingerprint animals, but not on car windows. I am not a fan of fingerprints on car windows.

Which makes me grateful for clean car windows and the great foamy spray that smelled so good that my Dad used to use when cleaning the inside of customer car windows. Mmmmmm.

I am grateful that OU lost last night. Petty and shallow I am.

I am grateful for beautiful sunsets on a buhlustery, b-b-b-b-bit-t-t-t-ter cold evening.

I am grateful for public figures (i.e. local weathercasters) who give me so much to laugh about. I’m laughing WITH them, uh huh.

I am grateful for little girls in frilly tutus and little boys who wear cowboy boots on the wrong feet.

And I am grateful for a Private Quarters pillow.

What does the fox say? Scat, scat, scat, scat, scat, scat scat scat.

I am grateful that Christmas is put away.

I am grateful for a refrigerator full of leftovers.

I am grateful for green olives.

I am grateful for a place to call home and for family members and friends who come to visit.

I am grateful for a quiet morning at work and lunch with a co-worker.

I am grateful for sunshine on a cold day.

I am grateful that my sister has a shiny new car to drive – she so deserves it.

I am grateful for Dennis, a friend of mine and a new friend of Dad’s.

I am grateful for the early morning entertainment of two fat red-breasted nuthatches that were climbing on the wood pile this morning.

I am grateful for new sweaters to wear. Thank you, Sam.

I am grateful for fox pee. It works wonders for scaring away squirrels who want to squat space in the attic. That makes me grateful for the person who has to collect fox pee and bottle it.

I am grateful for the message at church given by Penny Elwood. Still reflecting on 2 Timothy 1:7…

I am grateful for the vacuum cleaner.

I am grateful for in-laws who are wonderful and fun to be with.

I am grateful for peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate.

I am grateful for a husband who doesn’t sit on the couch and watch hours upon hours of TV, doesn’t play video games, doesn’t want to spend his free time playing all kinds of sports. He spends his free time working on projects and includes me, and when I help with a project, even if it is just to hold a flashlight or stabilize a board going through the saw, he thanks me over and over and over for helping and tells me how good it is to work together. For that, I am so very grateful.

I am grateful for a kiss on the cheek from Katherine, my Bingo friend.

I am grateful that I do not have to spend time in a mall or department stores. I am too easily influenced and allow my shallow desires to rule, causing depression and a feeling of ugliness.

I am grateful for funny jokes that I can remember long enough to share.

I am grateful for just enough.

And I am grateful that for the first time in my life, I have tithed more than 10% for an entire year, and God has blessed me in abundance.

I have a Christian bully.

I do. I cannot say what their intention might be, but I have one. This is a person who I once considered a friend. Over the past few years, it has become apparent that I am the outcast and this person is the one who can be the catalyst to save me from the destruction of hell. They don’t come right out and say that, of course, but in subtle ways, they make their message very apparent.

I have been guilty of this type of self-righteousness, been a Christian bully to others whom I deemed in need of saving. And I also did so subtly through various avenues. The former students who strayed from the biblical teaching I know they received in school and at home. The friends who received my self-righteous empathy and pious unsolicited advice, just trying to be a “Christian encourager,” while imparting a silent “tsk, tsk.”

The Holy Spirit has been dealing with my heart in the last few weeks; I’m not on the giving end of this issue anymore but now on the receiving end. I am not the bully – I am the bullied. And my response is typical of my nature: I cower and allow the anxiety to build instead of doing the Barney Fife to “Nip it! Nip it in the bud!”

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” This was the scripture this morning in the message at church, a message about how we allow fear to control us, to rule our actions, to allow our emotions to gain control and determine our path. It’s a tool that Satan uses very effectively, has used very effectively in my life. At this point, I am not so much afraid as I am anxious. It’s the lump in the throat, the pit-in-the-stomach kind of feeling that causes me anxiety and prohibits me from receiving joy, and ultimately, I cannot be who God made me to be and cannot share love and grace with others because I am consumed with my own worries and insecurity.

It is time for me to nip it. I am on the receiving end of the bullying, and it is not a welcome feeling. I know now what I have done to others in the past, and I can only pray that my self-righteous, “well-meaning” actions of the past did not permanently turn others away from the grace and acceptance and forgiveness of Jesus.  Who am I but a lowly worm, and I am not qualified to sit in judgment of others. I am called to love unconditionally, to share grace with everyone, not just those I deem worthy to receive it.

So I am grateful today for the work that is being done on my behalf inside of this heart of mine. I am grateful for this moment in time, for where I have come, for where I have been, and for the grace that has been shown to me – grace with no strings attached.

I am grateful that in this present pain, I can see the Son. I am grateful that in the pain of the past, I chose to not turn my back on God because of those who represented Him in the form of “standing on the truth of what is right and what is wrong” and the self-righteous, unsolicited “Christian encouragement,” and I am grateful for those who shared Jesus’ unconditional love and stood by me where I was at, not where I should be. I am grateful that I have received grace with no strings attached and can now share grace…with no strings attached.

I am no longer my own, but Thine.
Put me to what Thou wilt, rank me with whom Thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by Thee or laid aside for Thee, exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and Blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Thou art mine, and I am Thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. – Wesley’s Covenant Prayer

The sun’ll come out tomorrow…

I am grateful. Sometimes, it is difficult to be grateful. Sometimes, it is difficult to pull myself out of the pit of despair. Sometimes, it is hard to see anything for which to be grateful. In the happy times, the good times, I am dumbfounded at how I could possibly NOT see anything and everything as a blessing…but in the sadness, the depression, I have a difficult time with gratefulness. I relate to David in his “woe is me” psalms. I sit at the piano and play sadness and wait for God to wrap His arms around my shoulders and sit with me on the bench.

And He does. He walks with me and He  talks with means He tells me I am His own. And the time we share as we linger there, no other can ever know. Yes, I paraphrased.

I am grateful. I am grateful that when I sit on the bench, He is there to hear my pain through my music. He is there to let me weep. He is there to remind me to be grateful. Be grateful for every little thing, because it’s in the little things that make way for the blessings to rain down. It’s in the little things that make way for an open heart to receive joy and not close itself off inside a bitter world.

So, I am grateful for a red headed woodpecker in the tree in the back yard.

I am grateful for enough plastic containers to hold cookies and candies that were left uneaten.

I am grateful for  Kleenex.

I am grateful for a few moments of laughter around the table with family.

I am grateful for my sister and family who shared part of their Christmas in this “woe is me” season.

I am grateful for a new tradition of Christmas Eve – no longer an evening to be at home opening gifts and watching Christmas movies – now an evening spent at church, in worship, in serving.

I am grateful for a little red bird that sits at the kitchen sink to remind me. Thank you, Delores…

I am grateful for my husband who tells me many times a day that he loves me, and he shows me, by hugging me, by reaching for my hand to hold, by doing the dishes, by telling me to play the piano so that he can listen, by the shopping he did to surprise me with new clothes and a new set of pans, by turning on the Christmas tree lights and playing Christmas music on the stereo and having a fire going in the fireplace first thing in the morning, by caring that the windows are washed and sparkling for Christmas day, by wanting to have something under the tree for everyone, by his knowing look when he senses my sadness…

I am grateful for time in the morning on a day off of work before father-in-law awakes, to sit in silence and read and reflect.

I am grateful for employers and co-workers who send happy “Merry Christmas” text messages.

I am grateful for a Christmas phone call from a daughter and a brother.

I am grateful that I’m not always like this.

And I am grateful for the reminder of something my Mom used to say quite often…

This too, shall pass.

The best Christmas song ever.

I am grateful for moments of reflection, moments of sadness, moments of quiet, for Mannheim Steamroller’s “Silent Night,” for wishing we were with the girls and their families this week, for missing my Mom and Dad this Christmas, for the sound of jingle bells, for the beauty of falling snow, for the fact that the Savior of the world entered the world as a “nobody” and because of Him, my name is written down in Glory.

I want to see Christ in Christmas this year. I NEED to see Christ in Christmas. That means I need to see Christ…

…in the co-worker who is so inappropriate and crass.

…in the family member who has hurt me to the core.

…in the church member that I think is a hypocrite – and who is the real hypocrite now?

…in the child that has tested my patience to its limit.

…in the neighbor down the street who practices a different religion and comes from a foreign country.

…in the guy holding the cardboard sign all day on the side of the road, whether he’s “legitimate” or not.

…in the politician who is on the other side.

…in the driver who acts like an idiot.

…in the young man who is playing his music loud enough for Baltimore to hear.

…in the young woman who hasn’t learned the meaning of modesty and is searching for attention and affection.

…in the guy standing in line with the foul mouth and horrible attitude.

…in the parents who don’t discipline their children.

That means I need to be a light, I need to show Jesus to this weary world, because I may be the only Jesus they ever see.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother. 

And in His name all oppression shall cease.
A thrill of hope — the weary world rejoices

THAT’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. And I am so grateful.

Fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra ra!

I need this today:

When someone does something wrong

I am grateful for memories of Will Bones’ antics in the boys dorm that made me laugh.

I am grateful to have a church home that provides such glorious music at Christmas time and all year long. We were surrounded by handbells while the full choir sang, “Ding Dong Merrily on High, the Christmas Bells Are Ringing!” and then at the end of the service, the full choir sang a BEAUTIFUL version of “Mary Did You Know?” that brought tears to my eyes.

I am grateful that my church values the heritage/tradition/need for hymns and honors and respects the preferences of the older generation, mine included, and haven’t gone the way of many churches who only cater to younger generations. The older I become, the more it stings when those my age and younger than me slowly squeeze out the opinions and preferences of those who led the way…

I am grateful for the smell of pine.

I am grateful for Christmas movies.

I am grateful for more Christmas cards received this year, even though we have not sent one. I’ve never been so good at sending Christmas cards, and about this time of the season each year, I wish that Mom’s gift had rubbed off on me. I am grateful that a few people thought of us and took the time to send us a card – they mean a lot to me.

I am grateful for Sam’s tenacity to defeat the squirrels. Memories made last night: Standing in the upstairs bathroom listening to him creep up above in the black of the attic, growling and roaring at three of them who took up residence. Standing in the darkness of a Sunday night December chill, watching him two stories high covering their entry point into the attic after working all day long in the basement.

I am grateful for french dressing that makes wilted lettuce tolerable.

I am grateful that because of Jesus’ name, my name is written in Heaven.

I am grateful for peanut clusters that only seem to come around at Christmas.

I am grateful for my husband who insisted that I take a trip to the dentist which resulted in new equipment that I wasn’t expecting for Christmas.

I am grateful for Mom’s nativity scenes she collected.

I am grateful for popcorn, hot cocoa, and A Christmas Story with Ralphie.

I am grateful for friends who shared their deep, intimate pain and allowed us to listen and care.

I am grateful that the worst thing is never the last thing.

I am grateful for a friend at work.

I am grateful for a little neighbor boy who delivered a plate of Christmas goodies on Saturday.

I am grateful for a message at church yesterday that won’t go away in my head.

And I am grateful for three granddaughters who had birthdays in the last two weeks. They bring so much joy to my heart, and I am so grateful to have a tiny part of their lives now.

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Write what should not be forgotten. – Isabel Allende

I am grateful that angels are near. Angels are here.

I am grateful for the reminder today that every moment is precious.

I am grateful for moments when little fingers wrap around Daddy’s thumb and squeeze.

I believe there are angels among us,
Sent down to us, from Heaven up above,

They come to you and me in our darkest hour,
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give,
To guide us with His light of Love.

I am grateful for faces made in the deep of newborn sleep.

I am grateful for baby hair bows.

I am grateful for soft eyebrows and new eyelashes long and perfect.

I am grateful for perfect little toes.

Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes
and roll down my cheeks…

I am grateful for nurses who know tender, loving care.

I am grateful for machines that beep and whir and drip and monitor to allow a little one a few more minutes with her Mommy and Daddy.

I am grateful for kind words, for no words, for understanding expression, for presence at Christmas when sorrow is in the room.

I am grateful for a little girl who’s tiny heart fought so hard and in her 3 ½ weeks she spent with her family, she made a forever imprint on their hearts and touched many lives with her story.


And I am grateful that she is now sitting in the lap of Jesus, broken heart no more.

Brooke Ellen Fenske

November 25, 2014 – December 18, 2014

Pom poms and pipe cleaners and squiggly eyes, oh my.

I read this when I got to work and logged on to my computer this morning, and it has begun my day with visions of Christmas pasts and bittersweet feelings of only having memories and no boxes or plastic containers to unpack filled with the girls’ school crafts to hang on the tree…

The 3 Ugliest Christmas Decorations Known to Man and Why You Should Love Them

One of my most-prized decorations was a Nativity made of clay, not a tree ornament because of its weight, but it was fashioned and formed by little hands. It was not beautiful according to the world’s standards, but I proudly displayed it every year, because Karissa had worked on it and had each character in their rightful place around the tiny manger. Baby Jesus was a rolled piece of clay with a small ball attached to the end for His head. It was a priceless piece of art…

Other ornaments were frames of felt and had glued-on shiny sequins around the edges, with school pictures of the girls in their St. George uniforms, and candy cane Rudolphs with squiggly eyes glued on and pipe cleaner twisted antlers with a red pom-pom nose, or a Rudolph made of a brown construction paper cut-out of one of the girl’s feet, complete with black construction paper antlers and a red paper nose, signed on the backside with crooked lettering that was also priceless.

There was the joke ornament that was given to us one year – an Oklahoma Sooner ornament given to us by the Hall family in Corn that was banished from the tree, but I secretly hung it in the back every year.

Year after year, the hand-made ornaments were packed away after Christmas, only to be pulled back out the next year, with a few more eyes or confetti missing and in the bottom of the box, the construction paper wreaths bent and dog-eared, a candy cane here or there broken or chipped, until one Christmas, the girls were older and the hand-made ornaments and strings of colored lights were replaced with a themed tree of gold and crystal and white and angels, but I always spent time looking at each of the “made with love” ornaments when I decorated the tree. I miss that box. I miss those times when I decorated the tree on the Friday after Thanksgivings reminiscing to myself about the good ‘ol days.

I am grateful for these memories of treasures past.

I am grateful for imperfections that are beautiful because of their story.

I think too often we try to replace the broken with the perfect.  Like last night. I set the machine to record “A Charlie Brown Christmas” so that I could watch it after Bingo was over, only to be so disappointed that someone would think it was a good idea to remake the classic with new animated characters slightly updated, new voice-overs and a very edited script. Linus’ distinct little boy voice was not the same…and if there was a monologue of the scripture taken from the book of Luke, I missed it. I was so let down. Don’t mess with nostalgia. Leave it alone.

I am grateful that my Savior was born into a family that was not perfect according to the world’s standards, that He was born in a place that was not sparkling with beauty and shimmering with the royal trimmings that normally surround kings. I am grateful that He sought out the imperfect, the damaged, the broken… and those were the ones who received such love and such grace.

I am grateful for The Accidental Missionary and his gift of writing such heart-warming stories with a message.

I am grateful that although I was let down by the updated version, I could still enjoy the characters and the innocent humor of the Peanuts gang, and one sweet thing was the resemblance of Sally’s voice to my granddaughter Reilly’s voice. I could imagine she was in the room last night. Always find something to appreciate, even in the disappointments.

I am grateful for FedEx who will transport my love for Reilly in a box this week.

And I am grateful for visions of construction paper and Elmer’s glue and sequins and modeling clay and colorful pom-poms and yarn for hanging… and little thumbprints everywhere.

Childhood in one delicious bite.

I am grateful for medicine that keeps me awake in the night, so that I can spend a little quiet time listening to God tell me that life is too short to be fearful of things that may or may not happen, and life is too short to fret over soup served that was not fit for company.

I am grateful for these two beautiful books, two of my favorite stories ever, “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” by Khaled Hosseini. I am grateful that they were my introduction to another culture, another world in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I am sad today about the news in Peshawar. My heart hurts for these families and for the students who witnessed such horror.

 

I am grateful for a thrilling surprise that I opened last night – a Christmas gift from wonderful friends: “The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hotspots,” by Bob Gress, Pete Janzen and Kenn Kaufman. I am so excited to finally learn who lives in our backyard!

I am grateful for fun text messages with Grace during dinner last night.

I am grateful for memories of rare occasions when Mom brought out her cookie press at Christmas time and let me help make cookies with it. I LOVED those edible silver balls that were a rare treat. And the multi-colored confetti sprinkles – ALWAYS choose those first. It’s childhood in one delicious bite.

I am grateful for Linus’ monologue that I will hear tonight:

It’s not Christmas until you listen to this.

I am grateful for naiveté that allows me to trust first and believe that people are good and have the capacity to love and feel remorse.

I am grateful for the voice of James Earl Jones but I am so over the Arby’s commercials.

I am grateful for a picture of my brother that my sister just sent to me, and I am grateful she is with him in this moment.

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And I am grateful that my Aunt opened too many Ritz cracker packages so that I would have to bring the opened ones to work just in case I didn’t have any lunch. Like today.

They come to you and me in our darkest hour…

A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit. – Greek Proverb

I love this quote that was shared by the National CASA Association today. And it left me thinking about the many instances in my life that I have witnessed someone doing something for another without any sign of recognition, without ever seeing the end result of the blessing they have shared.

  • The time when someone paid for the carload of a family behind them in the drive-thru
  • The Angel Tree gifts given
  • The plate of cookies left at a doorstep
  • The bags filled for low-income children in downtown Kansas City
  • The time spent sitting in a waiting room or by her bedside, just to show care and concern…and love
  • The large tip left for the waiter who shared his story and worked extra hard
  • The time spent repairing homes for single, widowed or divorced women
  • The money given in the offering plate at the Christmas Eve service to benefit ministries here and in Africa
  • The time and money spent fixing the car of a teenager
  • The grace shown to a woman who felt unworthy and ashamed
  • The anonymous card sent in the mail with money needed at the right time
  • The gas pump that was pre-paid for the next customer who drove up
  • The United States service men and women who risk their lives in order that millions of others might be free
  • The card sent with a handwritten note of encouragement
  • The money given to a family at a roadside motel who were facing the birth of a new baby and nowhere to call home
  • Blood and platelets given in order that someone else might live
  • The life story shared in order to change someone else’s story for the better

Today, I delivered gifts to a couple who give their lives daily so that four children might know love and acceptance and security…and Jesus. I delivered gifts that were given in love by my co-workers, because they heard this family’s story and decided it was much more important to bless others this year than to have a company Christmas party.

Today, I was the one fortunate enough to witness angels among us – those who are being the hands and feet of Jesus to four beautiful children, and those who are being the hands and feet of Jesus by sharing their Christmas with a family with whom they most likely will never meet.

Angels Among Us – Alabama

And for all of this, I am so grateful.