Thanksgiving. That blessed time of year when we stop all of our activity, gather with family and friends and recount all of our many, many blessings. We at Heart Matters find ourselves overflowing with joy and gratitude this year. Thank you dearest readers for your words of encouragement! Please keep them coming! We love to hear from you!
We are also grateful for the wonderful love gifts God sprinkles in our lives. His latest sprinkle is the addition of Jo Bender to our writing team! We just know you're going to love her as much as we do!
From Jo's heart to yours...
Each year as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I open up the box of decorations and begin to place them up around my house. In that box is a beautiful cornucopia that I get to fill with colorful gourds and squash from the garden store, flowers in oranges and yellows that I place strategically on tables, and candles that smell like pumpkins and apple spice (my favorite) that add both wonderful smells and a warm glow to the rooms in my home. There is one decoration that I hold most dear. It is hand-made by my then-first-grade son. Bordered in orange construction paper, it’s a hand-turkey… you know, a young son’s handprint made to look like your favorite gobbler. You probably have one of your own somewhere. Below it is a handwritten message, “I am Thankful For…” And my sweet seven-year-old boy wrote, “that my mom is retiring.” The first time I saw this artwork, I was waiting in the hallway of his elementary school, anticipating an exhilarating conference with his teacher. As I walked in, she mused, “Well this is the first time a parent has cried before the conference begins!”
I really wasn’t retiring. While I am certainly one of the “older” moms of the group, I am not even close to retirement age. But the previous year I had left my part-time, flexible job and gone back to full-time ministry (is there any other kind?). My sweet little boy had noticed that mom wasn’t quite herself lately. The pressures of running a home and a church had dampened my spirit, and he must have felt it. But…he never said anything. I read about his feelings in the hallway of his elementary school.
But I have to admit, I had felt it too.
As much as I loved ministering to the congregation and leading a team, my heart was unsettled. I was counseling people to put their families first, but a recent schedule change at work really didn’t allow me to do that. So after much counsel and countless time in prayer, I made a decision to trust. I had to trust that if God had called me to both a ministry at home and ministry as a vocation, that He was certainly capable of making that happen, and in a way that would honor both my job and my family. I left my dream job and depended on God for something more.
Fast forward two years later… I am still not “retired,” but I have been blessed with a flexible schedule both my family and I need to thrive. I am so thankful for God's perfect provision. Working within a radio ministry and teaching part time, I get to have the mornings, evenings, and summers to enjoy my family, and I get to participate in a career that utilizes the gifts God has so graciously given to me. It’s so much better than anything I could have concocted on my own.
Because when it comes right down to it, I am limited. I can scarcely comprehend how much he cares for me, and I cannot begin to imagine how faithfully and dutifully he is acting on my behalf. The Apostle Paul articulates this in his letter to the people of Ephesus, who were also struggling to find their way:
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ... Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Ephesians 3:17-21)
So this Thanksgiving, I happily place my hand in a puddle of tempera paint and make my hand-turkey. Below it I write, “I am Thankful For… a God who cares so much for me that he patiently listens to what I want, but then wisely decides to give me what I need.” Such is the great love He has for each one of us. Now that’s something to gobble about!