Monday, November 23, 2015

Meet My Family and You'll Know Why I'm Grateful

by Cathy Baker

There's no way I could have a series on gratefulness without highlighting my sweet family. 

This month, we gathered to celebrate all the grandchildren! One has a birthday towards the end of October, two have birthdays in November, and one just recently arrived from Uganda. So, as you can see, there was much to celebrate! 

When I look at the picture below, my heart is filled with gratefulness and my eyes fill with the tears to prove it. :)

I see a hubster who is the most faithful man I know. He makes dreams come true that I didn't even know existed. 

I see two sons who not only love God, but pursue Him, as well as community with other believers. I learn from them...often. I take no credit for the amazing men they've become but truly give God all the glory. 

I see two a-mazing daughter-in-laws whom I began praying for when our boys were in elementary school. Of course, I didn't know exactly who I was praying for...but God did! They are godly women who love their families well. Brian and I often talk about what amazing wives and mothers they are (which is no surprise if you knew their mothers!)

And the grandchildren. Oh my. Well, when I see them, my heart bubbles up with pure joy. Each, already with their own personalities and strengths (note: grammy's don't see weaknesses.) 

Many of you prayed for Judah, Liv, Brandon, and Megan while they were in Uganda for 60 days. Thank you! Judah is a happy little boy with a quick bright smile that lights up any room. I have no doubt that he, and the story God is writing for him, will one day be used to bring true Light to dark corners around the world. 

I pray this Thanksgiving -- and every day -- we will be reminded of the treasure found in our families. One day, when all is said and done, it will not be the temporary things of this world we'll remember, or be grateful for. It will be our families and how we loved  one another well. Yes, that will matter most. 

(Left to right - Brian, Zach, Piper, Gabe, Sarah, Judah, Me, Brandon, Liv, and Megan)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writing Out Our Gratitude at Thanksgiving

by Cathy Baker

Some of my best memories are those that surrounded the holidays. For an only child, I was blessed to have a large family that gathered every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. I didn't realize what a blessing I was experiencing until it was over, for the most part, after the passing of my grandparents. 

We must grasp the power of showing our gratitude towards others while we can.

A few years back, Brian and I took time to brainstorm specific ways we're thankful for those who would sit around our Thanksgiving table that night. We wrote both serious and funny reasons on slips of paper and put them in tiny Thanksgiving-themed bags. I printed off simple tags that read Why We're Thankful for You, tied them to the bag, added their name, and used them as place cards. 

After we finished eating that night, each person took a turn drawing a slip of paper from their bag and reading it aloud. It added a little more meaning (and laughter!) to our time together, and for this I am grateful.

{If I do it again, I may get everyone involved by writing down one reason for each person before the meal.}

Practically any place card can become a personal opportunity to show our gratitude. The tent-type works especially well. I've used these for tea parties before. 

Thankfully, it's not about our level of craftiness—it's about finding simple, meaningful ways to show our gratitude towards another person—and there's no better season to put our feelings into action.

I pray that you and those you love will have a very blessed Thanksgiving. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How Choosing Godly Wisdom Creates Gratitude

by Cathy Baker

Earthly wisdom is doing what comes naturally. Godly wisdom is doing what the Holy Spirit compels us to do. -Charles Stanley
I, like you, have tasted both the natural and the Spirit-led. After having tasted the latter, we can't help but refuse to settle for anything less. 

But sometimes it's not easy telling them apart at first. This is what happened when, over the summer, I began nurturing grandiose ideas for my blog. Nothing was inherently wrong with them, but as I worked through the ideas, I felt unsettled, never at peace. Nevertheless, I pushed on for weeks, believing it was simply part of the hard work required in making things happen. 

A particular writing friend of mine loved me enough to call me to task on my ambitions. Were these my ideas or God's? As I prayed about it, God revealed in a number of creative ways that the ideas I'd been working so hard on were not part of His plan for our blog right now. When He confirmed this in my spirit, peace settled over my soul like soft snow rests on gnarly branches.  

No matter how hard we work if we're not in step with the Spirit, all is in vain.

I'm grateful that the One who indwells us is not an "It" but a "Him". The Holy Spirit is personal and active in our lives. When in step with Him, life takes on an abundant edge that it misses otherwise. 

How are you grateful for the Spirit's work in your life today? Please share in the comment section!

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

{I decided not to share the specifics of my former grandiose ideas because the Lord is calling others to do exactly those things—PTLbut not me, at least for now, and for this I am thankful.}


Monday, November 9, 2015

Gratitude - Pass it On!

by Cathy Baker

Do you have an attitude of gratitude? Whatever you do, don't keep it to yourself!

Below are a handful of questions to prompt an attitude of gratitude within us all. I've started the ball rolling by sharing my own answers. If you'd like to copy the questions and post them on your blog site, that would be great!

With an attitude of gratefulness...

  • What is outside my window I haven't noticed before? {Stars. Knowing that God chose to name each star [Psalm 147:4] makes me grateful that He is not an obtuse Father, but one who desires to know meto know us intimately.}
  • In this moment, I am grateful for: {Shelter in the rain, a toasty blanket, and my cup of Cafe Vienna topped off with a few marshmallows. Okay, more than a few.}
  • One person I thanked God for this week: {My husband. I am grateful how the Lord is growing each of us towards Him, naturally pulling us together as a couple.}
  • One way God is allowing me to use the gift(s) He is giving me for His glory: {Blogging! I'll explain more in the next post. :)}
  • One scripture verse I'm especially grateful for in this very moment and why: {Colossians 3:23-24. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Why: This truth sets our entire lives free, not only in our work/service life and blesses the entire family and those around us.}
  • One trial I'm currently walking through: {Upcoming surgery in November.}
  • How I've seen and sensed God's love and presence during this trial: {God has worked out details in ways only He could. His presence has been evident through the love, care, and prayers from Brian, family/church family, and friends. So incredibly grateful!}
While reading Heather's blog, Something Sew Beautiful, (a new fave!) one of her recent posts prompted the above idea. Thanks for the inspiration my California friend!

Sweet readers, I hope you'll take a few moments tonight to pour a warm cup of coffee and slink down into a comfy chair. Allow the Holy Spirit time to lead your heart and mind as you consider each question. I also hope you'll consider posting the questions on your blog to encourage others. 

Let's pass on the attitude of gratitude! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Gratitude Photo Scavenger Hunt the Whole Family Can Enjoy!

by Cathy Baker

We're encouraged to jot down in a journal the little things in life that we're grateful for...and for good reason. Shifting our days into a lower gear allows us to notice the seemingly trivial details of life, giving us an opportunity to notice their value, and being grateful for them.

Taking photos is an excellent way to slow down and to focus on the details.

Recently I came across a Gratitude Photo Scavenger Hunt by Sarah Dawn Designs. (The only links I could find to her Web site were broken but I want to give her full credit for coming up with this creative and timely idea!)

Below is the "Something I'm Grateful For..." scavenger hunt list. Some photo ops include: Take a pic of something you're grateful for in nature, in the city, in the workplace, etc. My favorite lands on November 30th: Take a photo of how you intend to spread the spirit of thankfulness.

This exercise in gratitude is not only fun and beneficial for us adults, but also for our children and grandchildren! 

{double click to enlarge, save image to print}

Having trouble saving/printing this image? Go to this Pinterest site {Sarah Dawn Designs, 2011} to download. 

If you're a novice photographer, such as myself, you too will love Mary Denman's site. She gives practical advice on taking the best pictures possible (even with our phones!)

So, which of these 30 ideas are you most looking forward to photographing in November? 


Monday, November 2, 2015

When Gratefulness Shows Up in A Jar

by Cathy Baker

The spirit of gratefulness permeates the month of November like none other, and for good reason. Thanksgiving, filled community food pantries, families gathered, memories made, etc.

In celebration, every Monday and Wednesday during November, I'll share specific and creative ways we can shift gratitude from a feeling to an action.

Today's project will give us plenty of time to gather all our gratefulness into a glass jar before Thanksgiving. I touched on the subject back in 2013 and felt it was time to bring it up again because I know the impact it made on those who received my gratitude in a jar.

{Start A "Why I'm Grateful For You" Jar Today}

  • Small Mason jar or any pint-sized jar (based on how many pieces of paper you use)
  • Paper and Pen
  • Ribbon, markers, or peel-off lettering to decorate jar
Cut paper into small tag-size pieces. On each piece of paper, write out one specific reason why you are grateful for that person. The more specific, the better.

It can be something small or seemingly insignificant. Share a memory or a specific way that person makes you feel. You can use a random number of tags to be opened at any time, or...

I made one of these jars for each of my grandmothers a few years before their passing. I gave it to them at Thanksgiving, filled with 31 tags, asking them to read one tag every day in December. They both shared how much it meant to them to read the specific ways they'd blessed my life. I didn't want there to be any question in their minds as to how much they meant to me, how much I loved them. 

Gratitude in action is a beautiful thing. 

How can you put your gratitude in action through a "Grateful for You" jar this Thanksgiving?

Congratulations to Heather, the random winner of the tea mug filled with tea, and especially prayers. I just need your address! :)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why We Pray, Especially on Halloween Night

The following was originally posted October 2012. With Halloween falling on the same day as our closing of the #write31days challenge, it seemed only fitting. 

Thank you for joining me on this October journey, and especially tonight in prayer. 

On this Halloween night, pray. 

Seven years ago, I received a call from a woman in a class I was teaching at the time. She asked if she could stop by and talk for awhile. I didn't know her, but the heaviness in her spirit was obvious.  

We sat face to face, her tears falling hard, and words barely pouring forth for the heaving. Finally, she was able to share that as a young child, her parents forced her to participate in Satanic rituals every Halloween night. Babies and children were sacrificed in deep basements—here, in our city.
The more details she shared, the sicker I felt. An unspeakable oppression hovered. We moved to our front porch. I had to catch clean air and fresh mercy. We talked, prayed, and then she drove away.
Although we've since lost touch, she wrote me several years ago sharing how she'd become active in her church, praising God for removing her night terrors, and replacing them with the reality of freedom, grace, and mercy. Only God, only God.
Needless to say, I will never view Halloween the same. I hope I'm not alone now that you've read this true story. You see, she was convinced that human sacrifices still take place every October 31st. We know the enemy's forces have not diminished -- so now, I pray for the innocent on this night, and I ask you to join me.

"Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." 
1 John 4