Saturday, January 4, 2014

the counting of blessings...and grace spilled out.

How do you count/weigh your blessings?  
  
I am a fair-weather friend to pinterest, but from time to time I indulge on pinning binges.   The ironic thing is, I seldom go back to my pinterest "boards" to reference all of these grand ideas I have spent countless hours pinning to perfection.  I think it's the delight of having creative inspiration that I can click my way into at a moment's time that really allures me.  (And my helpless hopeful dreaming that I will actually have the spare time to attempt the hundreds of ideas archived.)

But occasionally, there is an idea that catches me and sets my creative wheels in motion.  An idea that lingers and begins to take precedent over the stacks of dirty laundry and dishes I should be attending to. An idea that has me rushing off to the local dollar store or Hobby Lobby to gather my needed supplies to begin creating.

Such was this:  the blessing jar; the inspiration behind this post.  

In a nutshell, beginning January 1st, you are to start recording (in writing) all of your blessings for that year.  Each time you record a blessing, you stick it into your blessings jar for safe-keeping.  On December 31st of that year, you spill out your blessings and read them one by one.  This is an idea worth pinning, don't you think?

So, I did.  I pinned, and then I recreated.  I love the mason jar idea, as the link above displays.  But I found this lovely, little, brown, weathered, metal box at Hobby Lobby and decided to use her instead. (Plus, she was bigger, and I was expecting God to show up and wonderwork in big ways last year.  We needed the extra room). 

I took a bunch of pretty scrapbook paper that I already had on hand and cut them up into squares about the size of post-it notes.  I inked the backside with stamps that said "give thanks" or "blessings" and then placed the papers in a little dish next to my blessings box.  And starting January of last year, I began to record all of the blessings in the life of our family and placed them into this box one by one.  All of the ways God showed up and came through for us.  All of the ways He surprised us and did the "immesaurably more" that He alone is capable of doing.  And all of the ways He provided and showed us His wonder.

Unfortunately, we didn't follow this pin to to a "T" and read through these recorded blessings on December 31st as suggested.  Life interrupted that.  Our son was discharged from the hospital that day and everything in life got put on pause.  The days following,  we were just plain exhausted and I was struggling through a case of the afters.  Although there was much to be thankful for, I was having a hard time keeping an attitude of gratitude.  I knew I needed to look through that blessings box, but my mood and energy level wasn't cooperating.

And then January 3rd rolled in and pulled me deeper into that funk.  My 8 year old came down with the stomach flu the night before (as if almost two solid weeks of illness and being home-bound and hospital-bound weren't enough) and she had a hideous vomiting debacle all over every square inch of her and her sister's bunkbeds.  Every sheet, pillow case, blanket, duvet cover, down comforter, mattress pad and mattress cover on both of their beds needed to be washed.  And they were.  And I appreciate the help I received in having these things washed.  However, when I went to make their beds the following day, I could still smell the not so lovely faint scent of old vomit on the bedding.  Apparently, "speed wash" isn't the best cycle to clean up vomit.  Everything needed to be rewashed again.  (Note: This time around I used the "sanitize" cycle). Ugh...

And then I took my son to his follow-up doctor's appointment just to learn that our new insurance policy (effective two days before) was not accepted by his physician.  Seriously?  We left the doctor's office without being seen. I won't even start with my angry rant about health insurance, but if you only knew what we already had paid in health insurance in the past month, it may utterly shock you.  Our old insurance company cancelled our policy after all of the Obamacare regulations were put into play. They agreed to carry us until December 31st of last year and then we were on our own.  It has not been easy finding new coverage as one would think.  So, January 1st, 2014 our new insurance began...and already we are experiencing headache and hassle with this new policy.

This topped my emotional overload and sent me spiraling into a "not so good" place.  Sometimes too much bad news can paralyze you.  I really didn't want to leave my bed yesterday.  I spent a lot of time reading and soaking in truth.  And the gloom lifted a bit.  I knew another day couldn't go by without us spilling out our blessings box and reflecting on God's faithfulness to our family over the past year.  I desperately needed these reminders because everything around me was beginning to be clouded and colored in darkness.

So after the kiddos were in their nice, clean, sanitized beds last night, Darcy and I sat on our bed, wrinkled sheets and all, and emptied and read through our blessings box together.
 It's just like God, isn't it?  ...to show up in our wrinkled messy lives and spill out His grace upon us.  And in that moment, He did just this.
We sorted through those papers, organized them in chronological order, and took turns reading aloud each and every recorded blessing from 2013.   And it did something to me.  When the supernatural collides with the natural it leaves you changed.  I became overwhelmed by His faithfulness.  My vision didn't seem so clouded anymore.  I soon was colored in love and gratitude as we counted our blessings.  Because thankfulness is gloom breaking and destroys negative thinking.  It flies on wings of hope.  Gratitude comes in swinging like a wrecking ball and clears away the darkness, busts through those emotional storm clouds and gives you a window into His piercing and promising Light.  And the weight of it all is freeing.  Empowering.  Humbling.  Awakening. 

I don't know if anyone could read through a year's worth of God's activity and not feel complete and utter awe, adoration, and gratitude toward Him.  It brought us back to a season in our lives where we were really struggling and hopelessly overwhelmed.  Some of it was painful to look back on.  Areas of leanness, lacking, and being stretched too thin.  Seasons where we were just barely hanging by a thread.  And although I don't ever want to go back to that time in life, I don't want to forget it either.  I don't want to forget the lessons I learned and the ways He grew my faith.

Sometimes we think it's best to forget all of the "hard" and move forward with eyes ahead.  But there is beauty and purpose in the looking back.  In the reflecting.  It jolts our memory.  We can grow too comfortable in seasons of ease...and when we do, we can become a bit desensitized to God's track record of faithfulness.  Or our dependency on Him.  This forgetfulness does nothing to help us when a new season of struggle comes along.

I wish I could say we had blessings written for every month of the year.  But we didn't.  October was missing.  And this made my heart a bit sad...because I am certain He was in that month too, working and moving on our behalf, and that I had just gotten too busy...or failed to take notice and record it.  I wonder how many other times I've been too busy (or too comfortable) and have failed to see Him in my world around me.  This built in me a resolve to search even harder for Him this year.

When reading through our blessings there were several truths that rang loud and clear in my heart.  I was completely humbled and overwhelmed at how God had provided for us.  And how He often used His people in doing so.  Both Darcy and I felt so loved by Him and by the people He has allowed us to share life with.  And I found that it was in our greatest struggles last year that God consistently and divinely came through for us.  Over and over again.  Month after month.  In ways we never expected or could have imagined.  He showed up and provided.  Not just once...but over and over again until that struggle was no longer a struggle anymore.  

Did you catch this?  He cares about our greatest struggles.  It's in them that He shows up the most.  Even in those moments where your vision is clouded and you may not see, feel, or hear Him, He is there.  He is moving.  He is acting on your behalf, working all things out for good.  And He will not stop or quit until He has seen you through that struggle.  He is there with us in the midst of them.  Ever present to show Himself faithful and true in our worst circumstances.  To comfort and provide for us in the waiting.  How comforting is this?

There is power in the remembering.  It's in the looking back that we gain clear perspective.  God was more present in our mess than I ever realized.  Looking through our recorded blessings was tangible evidence of this.  It was a beautiful display of grace spilled out.

I love to keep a prayer journal.   I often write in my prayer journal as if it is a diary or letter to God.  It's another tangible way to see His recorded blessings in our lives.  But I must admit, sometimes it is hard for me to read through the pages of my past.  There's pain and struggle in them.  And sometimes I don't even want to go there.  

What I loved about this blessings box is that although it pointed us back to our struggles and made us remember how big and painful they were, we didn't have to hash through all the heartache that went along with them.  Sometimes your heart just knows and remembers without needing all of the nitty-gritty.  The blessings box didn't focus on the struggle as sometimes a prayer journal can do.  Instead, it allowed us reflect less on the struggle and more on His faithfulness.  

God's faithfulness was highlighted.  The emphasis was on Him and His provision and grace.  Where it always should be.  And after we finished reading through all of our blessings, both Darcy and I felt immensely loved.  And I think this is key to having your faith bloom.  It's in realizing how very much you are loved by God.    

For God is Love (1 John 4:8).  And He is within us.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7).  

Grace spilled out from a blessing box last night.  Right in the middle of our wrinkly and messy.  And it covered us.  The counting of our blessings spilled over into our present now...and became countless.  And became hope-filled.  For there is no scale that can weigh or measure God's grace.  And if there were, I'm certain it would already be pinned on my pinterest board.

So, I ask you...how will you count your blessings this year?  It's not too late to get started now.  Recount His faithfulness in your life; it will be worth it.  For a mind of remembrance and a heart of gratitude will always tip the scale in your favor, pinning you right into the arms of the Good and Faithful One.

6 comments:

  1. We are doing the jar this year. And I have started a prayer journal too. It has been (ashamedly) WAY too long since I kept a journal. It has already made a huge difference in my focused quiet time!!!

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    1. Good for you! This will never be time wasted. Get ready to reap the blessings RS!

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  2. I love this Amanda! What a great idea.
    Hope you get the health insurance sorted out soon. I have heard of so many struggling with the same thing right now.

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    1. thank you corie. it's been a struggle and i know there are so many other families out there with similar stories. on another note....it's still not too late to start your own blessings jar! thanks for checking in. :)

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  3. This is such an incredibly good idea. I think I will do this for our family and for our church. Think how this could be for a whole church to spend time the last two Sundays of the year just reading through some of these notes?

    I just stopped in to see if you had a new post. I started reading this once before until it said "pinterest" and I stopped (since I don't know anything about pinterest). This time I caught "counting blessings" and read more. Great idea.

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    1. Haha! I think any rational man would shy away from anything pinterest related too! So glad you stopped back to read deeper. I LOVE the idea of doing this on a church-wide basis. Thank you for sharing that...have a blessed day and watch out for those tumbleweeds!

      (While we don't have natural growing tumbleweeds here in Michigan, this life brings a whole many emotional and spiritual tumbleweed invasions. Glad we have One who controls all things, cleans up our messes, and offers order and peace in the midst of them all.)

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