This Too? This Too.

My wife has been having some health struggles lately. Serious struggles.

This is on top of a life that’s above average on the crazy difficult scale of late.  Work has been harder than it’s ever been, and I’m not wearing the stress very well (at least until my recent vacation).  And even when I was in school, I was able to make it through because Theresa kept things running at home when I wasn’t able to find the attention span.

And when life is at a pace where I’m tempted to give up and say “I can’t take it anymore” God has added this to the pile too.  When I’m saying “no more” God says “actually, this too.”

1Thessalonians 5:18:

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

If you look up the word “all” in your concordance the Greek word there mean (wait for it) “all.”  Give thanks in ALL circumstances for this is God’s will for your life.  This one too?  Yup.  Give thanks for everything.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard or that you can handle it.  There’s another all to remember in 1Peter 5:

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Cast all your cares on Him.  There’s not a single one you should try to carry on your own.

If you’re anything like me you forget that.  Pretty much every day.  I try to handle it on my own.  And God’s the One who handles it.  And you’re thinking, again if you’re like me, do I cast this anxiety or care onto Jesus too?  And what does He answer?  Yes…this too.

His burden is light, and yours is hard.  And He wants to trade.

And this is why you can give thanks in all things:  because every hard thing He sends your way is a reminder that He’s got this and that He wants to take it off your back.  So let Him.  Walk in His grace, giving thanks for the hardest of the hard, and He’s got this.  This too.

 

Spring and Life

Spring is here. This past Sunday I sat out on my back patio and, despite the wind, enjoyed the sun and the view and did some reading and writing. It was wonderful.  Sure it was breezy enough that some of my tools were moving around on the back table, but it’s nice to have one of these Spring days where sitting outside is comfortable and enjoyable.The trees (as you can see in the picture below) are still pretty bare.  Soon, though, there will be buds and then leaves and the ravine behind the house will explode with color…mostly green of course. After dying in the fall and lying dormant all winter the first will be full of life.**

The seasons we have cycle through, year after year, reminding us of life and death. And Spring is that bursting forth of life from the dead, much like the resurrection we look forward to someday.  Continue reading

Memories, Traditions, Swedish Christmas Eve Dinner, and Jesus (Christmas Post the First)

My friend Seth and I go way back.  I’ve known him and his family longer than any of the spouses of the siblings.  His dad used to be my pastor, and it’s partly my fault that he lives here in Illinois now.  We’re really not just friends anymore, the Ben-Ezras and Lansberrys are family and have shared traditions together, including Christmas Eve dinner from Seth’s mom’s family traditions.

For the first few years we were married, we didn’t celebrate Christmas, and now it’s hard for me to graciously remember the young, persnickety man who refused celebrate the incarnation in a beautiful way.  I can’t blame him (me)…he lacked the wisdom that came later.

Seth posted last night a commemoration of Kaldolmar (the most labor intensive part of the dinner we’ll eat tomorrow) making over the years.  It was long, disjointed and sentimental.  But it was beautiful.  You should read it and consider your family history, traditions, and the love that God has showered upon us by sending His Son to reconcile sinners like you and me to himself.  Here’s a snippet and the link (and a picture of Kaldolmar when finished):

No, rather, I wanted to commemorate some of those who have gone before me, who trod the pathway of faith even when it grew dark, who honored their God even in dire straits. And it’s in traditions like this that they still speak.

They remind me that I am part of something larger than myself, a lineage of faith handed down, one generation at a time.They remind me that our Father is honest and trustworthy, and that His revelation is sure.

They remind me that what I have been handed is worth preserving and protecting.

They remind me of the core of the faith that was handed down to us: our Lord Jesus Christ, come into this world to save sinners like me.

They remind me that there’s further to go, but that, if I’m faithful to Jesus, He will be faithful in return.

Source: Kaldolmar night | A Dark and Quiet Room

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and until it’s time for dinner I’ll be writing.  I’m at my office in the big empty building all by my lonesome so I can make some progress before having dinner with my family and friends and go into the last two big writing days Friday and Saturday with enough that I can have a good, firm draft when I get up on Monday for the final edits.

And I’m thankful.  Life has an extra-large portion of crazy in it right now but there’s so much to be grateful for.  Last year around this time I took a moment to write some thanks…and here’s another one.

  • I again, still, and ever am thankful for my wife.  She has constantly reminded me that I am not allowed to quit even when it seemed like the only real option.  I have been deeply discouraged at so many times and her optimism has rarely wavered.
  • Speaking of #optimism:  I am thankful for all of my children, but this month I am particularly thankful for Elsie.  Elsie has consistently had kind words to say about me and to me during this long year, and is ever saying “hashtag optimism” when I’m getting down on myself or the amount of work I have to do.  She’s worked hard helping with the littler children as we have endured sickness and trial and extra work as we get ready to move.  Elsie, thank you so much for always saying the right thing when I’ve needed it.
  • I’m thankful for my vocation.  I love my job…and that the education I’ve been getting will be valuable to Samaritan (I think the ROI will be amazing) makes every bit of the agony worth it.
  • I’m thankful for friends and parents and siblings who express that they’re proud of the work I’m doing.  I may shrug it off at times, but I really do appreciate it.  Especially you, Bob, Seth and Sandy.
  • I’m thankful for a new home we’re moving into soon.  My older children have been more and more frustrated with the lack of personal space they have, and having older and younger children at the same time is a challenge, especially for them as they start accumulating future assets.  And I am thankful that all of the children will gain some more personal space after the move and some of them have their own rooms for the first time since toddlerhood or ever.
  • I’m thankful most of all for God’s ever enduring merciful, steadfast, lovingkindness.  I read from Psalm 136:1 on Sunday in church, and mentioned that the Hebrew word chesed (pronounced HESS sed with a jewish catch on the ‘h’) has no direct English translation.  It means steadfast love.  Mercy. Lovingkindness. All of that and more…bound up in one word.  And Psalm 136 says over and over again that “His chesed endures FOREVER.”  When my sin overcomes everything in my life, His chesed endures forever.  And above all things I’m thankful for God’s everlasting chesed.

 

12 Months of Thanksgiving (February)

As I wrote last month, thanksgiving is too important of a habit to hold to just one day or one month each year.  Giving thanks to God for the blessings in your life means that you both learn appreciation for what you’ve been given as well as gain a habit of recognizing where those gifts come from and your place in the universe.

Again in no particular order, some of what I’m thankful for this month:

  • I’m thankful for my dad.  Today is his birthday, in fact.  He turns 75.  We had a rough time during my teen years, something both of us get the blame for, but I’m thankful that now we can talk and communicate well, and that I’m always glad when he visits.  He knows lots of stuff about repairing houses that I wasn’t willing to learn when I was younger, but he’s always willing to help when I call with a problem here.   Happy birthday, Dad!
  • I’m thankful for sick days.  I don’t feel like I have time today to take the day off, but I did anyway.  I’m getting caught up on rest, and the world really does go on without me.  And so I’m posting later than normal on the blog, but I’m feeling much better for resting this morning.
  • I’m thankful for Moriah.  She’s grown into quite the young lady, and it’s exciting to see her entering adulthood with grace.  She turns 18 next week.  Where has all the time gone?  Moriah brings lots of emotion in the house…definitely a “burster” like her father.  She shares my love for music and many styles.  Her joy is louder and more visible than anyone else in the house, and it’s always evident when she’s upset as well.  She’s got a great mind and grows in truth and beauty every day.  I’m very thankful God brought her into our family.
  • I’m thankful for our massage chair.  Theresa found it on Craig’s List and we paid a fraction of its MSRP for it and it’s helpful to be able to study in the room while my muscles get a relax-fest.
  • I’m thankful for Elsie.  Elsie turns 14 this week, and is another accomplished musician in the family, despite our starting into the music lessons thing later than most families.   She loves her piano, and will soon be learning violin.  Elsie has a bright smile and was our first brown-eyed child (my wife wanted a house full of brown-eyes, but took until #4 for the first.  Take that, dominant genetics!).  She cares deeply about people and has a very tender heart.  It pains her deeply for anyone to be in trouble or to be wrong.

A lot of blessings in our home…and a lot to be thankful for.

Twelve Months of Thanksgiving (January)

I posted yesterday about the importance of giving thanks and being satisfied with the gifts you’ve been given.  Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday…it’s a lifestyle.

In light of that, and in light of my usual non-participation in the 30 days of thanksgiving tradition many of my blogger friends have displayed (not harping on the tradition, mind you, because any tradition of giving thanks is a good one!) I’m starting a new one.

Twelve Months of Thanksgiving.

(I know that was pretty anti-climactic considering it was the title of the blog post)

So here’s January’s thanksgiving list:

  • I am thankful for medical technology.  Next Wednesday my youngest son, Ezekiel, will be 1.  Last year on his day of birth, he died.  We don’t know how long his heart wasn’t beating but we know that for a time it wasn’t.  The medical technology that revived him and then sustained him for the trauma around his birth and that first week of life in the NICU is amazing when one considers it.  A decade ago he may have been stillborn and we’d be grieving the anniversary instead of celebrating.
  • I’m thankful for my wife’s thirst for knowledge and meaning.  It was her desire to make sense out of some itchy skin during the last weeks of pregnancy that led us to the testing and then diagnosis for ICP, which led to a rushed induction instead of waiting another week or more for TC to go into labor.  ICP produces a higher risk of still-birth, and we didn’t want to take any chances.  Her curiosity and research skills and a timely call to the midwife paved the way for some good decisions that, had we not known about the random itching and ICP, we wouldn’t have pursued.
  • I’m thankful for Ezekiel Jens Lansberry.  He’s 51 weeks old now (or 11 3/4 months, however you want to calculate it) and doing great.  He crawls around and gets into trouble just like any pre-toddler, and he’ll be walking and talking before we know it.  He was born on the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade an his birth story is by far the most exciting of the nine blessings we have.  I think I may share it with you on his birthday next week!
  • I’m thankful for a warm house and radiated heat.  Last week the outside temperature got down as low as -15F with a -42F windchill, and though chilly inside, we were safe and sound and had at least one room in the house that never dropped below 70F.   This time of year giving thanks for warmth is a good thing.  (and hot showers as I mentioned yesterday!)
  • I’m thankful for Samaritan Ministries and my job. Samaritan just completed its fourth consecutive month of record growth.  From December 16-January 15 we had over 2500 new families join, and just recently passed the 30,000 family mark with over 100,000 members now.  I love having a job that I love for an organization that I’m passionate about.  And I’m thankful that the board and leadership are supporting me in my EMBA quest.  I’m going to be much better at my job for what I’ve learned already, and it’s easier knowing that this is something Samaritan is supporting.

God has been good to me and to my family.  I’m looking forward to this next year and to seeing what will happen.  The year has tons of possibility and God’s going to do amazing things and I’m thankful that I get to come along for the ride.

Are You Satisfied?

A Christian’s life is to be marked by gratitude.  Gratefulness for all the he or she sees, and taking deep pleasure in God and the gifts He’s given.  What do you take your satisfaction in?

Consequently, if God has ordained that His goodness can be tasted and seen (and, I would submit, heard, smelled and touched), this has at least two direct implications. First, it means that every finite pleasure and satisfaction is meant to point us toward the infinite pleasure and satisfaction of God. My admiration for a sunset, then, need not stop at that horizon, rather it can curve upward into praise and gratitude. Second, it means that if our desire for \”more\” is misplaced, then certainly it can be redirected to something good as well.

via The Socially Acceptable Sin| RELEVANT Magazine.

This means enjoying life, not giving yourself to asceticism.  It also means giving thanks for every thing you enjoy.  Everything.

I’ve gotten in the habit, partly because I have a friend with a frequently dry well, of saying thank you to God for hot showers in the morning.  I mean, how amazing is that?  Every morning God gives me running water and a working water heater and it sprays out of a spigot and gets me clean.  It’s wonderful!  But it can easily become “normal” to us and then we can take it for granted.

So make your life one marked by thanksgiving every day, not just in November.  Make it your habit to give thanks for those little gifts that are there every day: a place to live, a car to get places, food on the table, a beautiful sunrise, a hot shower.  Giving thanks forces you to acknowledge that all of those blessings are indeed gifts, and forces you to recognize the Giver of the gifts.