Gratitude, I think many of us if asked would say of course I am grateful for what I have but that statement doesn’t always play out in how we live our every day lives. Right?
Yesterday, my husband and I went for a walk. It was a beautiful fall day in the city of Nashville. Crisp fall air, bright blue sky, and golden leaves shimmering in the sunshine. We walked past the historic First Baptist Church which was built in the late 1800’s. It sits right at the edge of Broadway, right before you get to the main part of the street filled with Honky Tonks and dreams of the young and old singers and songwriters trying to make those dreams come true.
I thought about all the people who have passed through these historic doors over the many years and all the stories of God’s faithfulness. This church still has an active community and I was feeling grateful or at least I thought I was – until…
A homeless man was walking toward us with a rose in his hand. A rose he had obviously picked off of a nearby bush that was still blooming. He went to hand it to me and I said, “oh no, thank you.” He looked me in the eye and said,” I don’t want any money, I just want you to have a blessed day and enjoy this rose.” So I took the rose from his hand and he smiled so big. I thanked him and told him how sweet it was for him to offer me this flower and I hoped he had a blessed day too.
I put the rose in water when we got home and it has opened and is blooming. It has been a beautiful reminder to me to open my eyes to the blessings right in front of me. Isn’t that what gratitude is? Often times it is right there, we just need to open our eyes, see it and be thankful. I almost missed an opportunity to join in another person’s gratitude because it felt awkward. I didn’t have any money with me to give this man, yet he wasn’t wanting anything in return, he truly just wanted to put a smile on someone else’s face. A gift, without any strings attached. A reminder to me of God’s gift of grace and sacrifice.
As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I hope you will be inspired by this story, share freely your gratitude with others and invite them in to sharing their gratefulness too.
I am praying we all will recognize the beauty of life that is right before us and celebrate that in gratitude.
I know all of us have, at one point in our lives, sat in the shade of a large tree. The canopy of branches granting us reprieve from the heat of the sun on a warm summer day. You can picture it, can’t you? But have you ever wondered , who planted this tree?
Well, A few weeks ago I took a walk around Centennial park here in Nashville and the trees are gorgeous. They are huge and the size of the trunks indicate they have been here for a long time. As we were reading the tourist signs that dot the walking path, we learned that many of the trees were planted over 100 years ago while the city prepared to host the Centennial Exposition of 1897. WOW, to think the efforts made so long ago were personally blessing me today. The shade these trees offer is incredible and it sets the back drop for all the beautiful gardens that are able to grow in the park today.
I want to share a quote with you that I saw yesterday while skimming an article in the Wall Street Journal and it made me think of those big trees, about leadership, about legacy. It is a quote by Warren Buffet and it says this…
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago!”
Those words have deep meaning. It is the investment we are making now that will have long lasting affects on those we might never even know in the future. It made me think about my family, specifically my kids. What am I doing now that could have a positive impact on them, on their future families? My grandchildren or great – grandchildren – We all will leave a legacy, it is up to us what that will be.
I also think about this in my role as a leader. What am I doing today that could help others in our organization thrive in the future. How is my relationship with God? The relationship that guides all others, am I investing well in it so that my faith is shared and others find their faith in God strengthened too? These are eternal matters, the type of investment that will still be giving shade long after I am gone.
I want to encourage you today to keep investing in yourself, your relationship with the Lord and in your relationships with family, friends and your work. That kind of positive investment will sure to yield benefits for years to come. Your tree that is planted today will most definitely be the shade someone else is thankful for in the future. Invest well!
I have a story to share with you.. I love a good cup of tea. I was back in Colorado last week working at MOPS Headquarters – we had a lot going on and I was super busy. So after a long day, I still had some things to work on and I went to make a cup of tea. I was distracted reading emails and thinking of what I was needing to have ready for the next morning. I wasn’t really paying attention to the details.
Side note, My son also is a tea lover, so he had made a cup right before me and used the water in the kettle – but again, I wasn’t fully paying attention. I put the loose leaf tea into the infuser, chose my favorite cup and turned the electric tea kettle on. I went on to do a few other things and came back to pour hot water into my mug, but guess what? I didn’t realize there wasn’t any water in the kettle when I turned it on – so no tea for me. I had to fill the kettle once again with water and start the process over.
So why am I sharing this with you? – because I felt like it was such a good reminder to me to fill the kettle before I can pour a cup of tea. Common sense right? But how often as leaders do we get distracted, do we just keep doing and put our heads down and we don’t even realize that we are depleted, our water is gone and given to fill someone else’s cup.How often do we not remember to fill up before turning the switch on and expecting for everything to be in full operation even though we are operating on empty.
Obviously this is a metaphor for self care for filling ourselves so that we can pour into others. But it really is essential to good leadership, I would even say it makes the difference between good leadership and excellent leadership. A reminder that our overflow can only happen when we are filled. For me this time is filled with the time I spend with God. Reading scripture and praying. The time I invest in learning – For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
I know I am not alone in this, I also know it takes intentionality to pour into ourselves. So why not start today – take that time to fill up. Spend some time alone in prayer. Choose a new book to read or listen to a great podcast. Then once you are filled, be ready to share that abundance.
Over watered – Is that really a thing? Those of you who know me know that I love to work in my garden and take care of my house plants. It is very common for me to have friends ask me questions about caring for plants so I wasn’t surprised when I received a text from a friend asking me to call her about her house plants she recently purchased. She asked me why her indoor plants were dying even though she was watering them every day. So I told her they were dying BECAUSE she was watering them everyday. It’s hard to imagine, but a plant can die from too much of a good thing.
So this got me thinking, as Christian women, can we be overwatered? Can we be saturated with all of the “good christian” things that we become less useful to the purpose God has for us? Oliver Wendall Homes has a famous quote that says “ Some people are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” You might not agree with his sentiment but I do think it offers us something to think about.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love a good devotion, podcast, and I follow other Christian leaders and love what I can learn from all of it, but I have started to ask myself some questions and I challenge you to ask yourself the same –
Am I too consumed with my ministry work that I forget to nurture my relationship with God?
Do I surround myself entirely with Christian friends and then I don’t have space for new friendships or investing in others who don’t yet know about God’s love for them?
Do I find myself more interested in reading books, listening to podcasts and following social media accounts than spending time in God’s word?
Honest answers will be required from us all to be able to challenge ourselves not to over water ourselves with good things that could unintentionally leave God out of the equation.
This is a great reminder to keep our priorities intact by pursuing God, pursuing others, and pursuing personal growth. The proper order is important and the intention nestled in our hearts is always the key to a vital relationship with Christ.
Fourteen years ! That is how long I have been cancer free. A lot has happened in those fourteen years. A lot of life… to quote a favorite song of mine from Jimmy Buffet – “some of it magic, some of it tragic, but I’ve had a good life along the way.”
Lying in the hospital bed fourteen years ago after having a double mastectomy, I remember the anxiety and the pain and the uncertainty of it all. It weighed me down,.It had me shallow breathing and struggling to get through each hour. The first year was filled with doctors appointments and more surgeries and physical and mental recovery. It was hard and yet it was beautiful to be surrounded by my loving husband, our family and friends. I quickly realized by sitting in a lot of waiting rooms that not everyone was so fortunate. Many sat alone and many didn’t have the resources or support to help them heal. I met a lot of incredible women that year. Despite rough circumstances they were clad in pink and ready to fight. A club none of us wanted to be a part of yet somehow it was a gift that you were. Warriors fighting our way back to normalcy even if that normal was severely altered. I met ladies who didn’t make it and others who are still going strong, living their best life.
I kept a journal during that time and I wrote down lessons I learned from having breast cancer. A portion of that journal was featured in the book “ If I Only Had One Chance to Tell You… Inspiring and Encouraging Real-Life Stories” by Ana-Christina Wadle. I share these lessons with you today in hopes that they encourage you to live your best life too. Having cancer changed my perspective. I am beyond grateful to have had these past fourteen years where I got to see my kids grow up and be a part of all the chaos and fun. Life is precious, let’s enjoy the gift that it is.
My life lessons from battling breast cancer…..
My husband has taught me the power of loving someone unconditionally. He has proved to love me for the essence of me and not just the physical me. This has helped me handle the insecurities that I have about my scars and the breast – disfiguring that came with my mastectomies.
I have learned that 90% is still an A. I don’t have a guarantee that I will be here tomorrow, so I strive to pursue excellence in all areas of my life; but I no longer seek perfection.
I have chosen to go deep versus wide. By this, I mean that I am striving to go deeper with my relationships and time commitments. Gone are the days that I say yes to everyone and everything. I choose carefully what I say “ yes” to.
I learned to forgive others. Forgiveness is powerful – if it is withheld, it damages. If it is granted, it heals.
I learned I am more effective in ministry when I share my struggles. I never want breast cancer to define who I am; it is just part of my story.
I choose to live a life of joy despite my circumstances. True joy comes from knowing the Lord and seeking a relationship with Him.
I hope you can take something from what I have learned and apply it to your daily life. Enjoy the journey!
The melodic sound of the violin bow dancing across the strings has always been a part of my life. The background music to so many memories. It began when I was a little girl and I would sit and listen to my grandpa practice his violin for hours. I would usually be reading a book and he would be playing or composing. I loved my time spent at my grandparents home and music was always a huge part of that.
My grandfather was a storyteller not only with his violin but with his words. As a young man he had traveled to the Orient and fell in love with the country of China and the beautiful people who lived there. He told us stories about his adventures in China on a regular basis and I was always in awe of the adventure. He played his violin in a famous nightclub in Shanghai where he spent 7 years of his life as a young adult, rubbing shoulders with movie stars and diplomats. You could see his eyes sparkle when he told stories of the “ good ole days” before he found himself literally running for his life. He had to hide money in his violin case and board a ship in the middle of the night to escape the China that was in the midst of war and devastation. I asked him one time when I was in college if he would have ever left China if he wasn’t literally bombed out of the country and he said, “ I don’t think I would have, but I am glad I did because I met your grandma and we had your mom and now we have you.” I was pleased with his answer of course but always knew a part of his heart still lived in China.
My grandpa and his violin seemed inseparable. He began playing at a very young age and by the time he was 12 he was playing in the Portland symphony. He had his own Vaudeville show in New York and taught music to the blind at The Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind for many years. He had spent his life creating beautiful music and receiving honors and accolades. I was proud of him but none of that meant as much to me as my favorite memory of him and his violin on my wedding day. He wore his tuxedo and played a waltz he and his sister, my favorite auntie, wrote for me and my husband for our first dance. The thought of that beautiful memory makes me smile and brings tears to my eyes as I can still hear the melody so clearly.
My grandpa died two years before I had children. His violin put inside the worn leather case where it remained asleep until just a few weeks ago. Thirty years later the strings have been restored and the bow has been repaired and beautiful music is being played in my home. This family treasure has come to life once again. This time the violin is being played by my daughter who is 18 and who happens to be Chinese. I always wished my grandpa could have been here the day we brought Lexi home from China. We adopted her when she was 10 months old. I was able to be in the country my grandfather loved so dearly and was thrilled to be learning so much about the Chinese and the heritage I want my daughter to have.
In a way that only God can orchestrate, her Chinese heritage includes a young talented and adventurous violinist from Oregon. To watch her hold that violin and create such beautiful sound is an incredible gift that makes me so thankful for the past and so hopeful for the future.
I write these words on today, April 28th, my grandpa’s birthday.