GRATEFUL BEFORE ITS GONE

By Sarah Langness

I don’t know what it means, by actual definition, to “throw your back out”. But I may have done that last Thursday afternoon. If it wasn’t “thrown out”, my lower back was definitely stretched and strained to the point of extreme pain in a way I hope to never endure again. The problem is, sometimes I forgot that I’m a) pregnant and therefore my body is already stretching and pulling in all sorts of different directions; and b) that even if I wasn’t pregnant, it’s never a good idea to hold a 24-pound weight on one side of your body while leaning down in the opposite direction to lift a nearly 10-pound purse. The result? I walked around with an ice pack stuck in my pants and could barely stand up straight due to the pain in my lower back.

I never really realized how vital the use of my back is to every day, ordinary actions. Like rolling over in bed. Like being able to sit on the floor and change my son’s diaper. Like putting on a pair of pants.

After last week’s incident, I realized how often I forget to be grateful.

And so often, I think we all forget. We get so used to what we have, with the people that we are blessed with in our lives, that we begin to take it all for granted. It seems like, more often than not, we become grateful for something only after it’s gone.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I encourage you not to forget. To not just take a moment to thank the Lord for the “big” things, the “obvious” things, the “generalized” things. But take a moment to consider the little ones, the less-noticed blessings. For the fact that the furnace is working. For being able to roll over in bed without pain. For the blessing of hearing laughter. For fridges to store that abundance of leftovers in. For the inventor of disposable diapers. For soft toilet paper. For electric mattress pads.

And whatever you do, don’t just be thankful on Thursday. On Friday, as you brave the Black Friday crowds or pull out your Christmas tree or simply enjoy the presence of family, remember to thank Him. Because all good things, all blessings, come from Him. And we have so many reasons to be thankful.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the God of gods, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” – Psalm 136:1-3, NASB

 

 

After the Whirlwind

Image

by Sarah Langness

I might as well come right out and admit it: I am feeling sorry for myself. Because for the first time since 2001, I am not attending the FLY (Free Lutheran Youth) Convention. Six times I’ve gone; three as a student, three as a counselor. A majority of my family is in Estes Park, Colorado. Many of my close friends are there. People I haven’t seen in years, don’t keep in good contact with, but still consider dear to my heart – they are there too. But I stayed home. Back in February, when Jordan and I were praying about Zeke and I attending, we felt a peace about staying home. All I’d like to know now is: what happened to that peace?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that for the past three weeks, I’ve been surrounded by people. Family reunions and wedding activities for two weeks in Minneapolis; then nearly four days of family visiting us here in Beulah. And now, it’s just me and Zeke. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son. But after so much activity, after that whirlwind of three weeks, it’s pretty quiet around here.

So in the midst of my moping, I’m reminding both my heart and my head that the Lord knows what I don’t know. Maybe He wanted us home because of that suspiciously snotty, sometimes congested nose of Ezekiel’s that hasn’t gotten worse but hasn’t gone away. Maybe He wanted us home because He knew those two weeks away really would be enough for us, despite the fact that I currently feel like we could be gone another two. Maybe He wanted me to stay home to remind me that I don’t always have to be in the midst of the “action”, of the exciting things. To remind me that there is ministry to be done right here at home in Beulah. To show me the importance of and power of prayer for a gathering that is 670 miles away.

Devote yourselves to prayer; keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ . . . Conduct yourselves with wisdom towards outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt . . . ‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.'” – Colossians 4:2-3, 5-6, 17; NASB (emphasis mine)

Unfortunately, it’s always one thing to know truth and entirely different thing to believe truth. That’s what I’m working on right now. Who knows, maybe it’ll take all week for that to take place. But I’ve simply got to trust that God’s thoughts and plans are better than my own (Isaiah 55:8-9).

And I better be faithful with the time He has given me in the place He has led me.

Thanks-living

I’m stuck between Thanksgiving and Advent.  I’m between gratefulness and anticipation. But, I started thinking about something my husband says. He says we should practice “Thanks-living”. We should be thankful every day for the things that God gives us…the sunshine, flowers, pets that love us, etc. I try to do that. But, I confess that I’m not always good at it. 

I’ve been fighting diabetes for 13 years.  Lately, I’ve developed psoriasis.  I struggle everyday to control them but sometimes it seems more like they are controlling me.   It gets very frustrating!  In James 1:2-4 (ESV) it says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have it perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing,” I think sometimes we think those trials, or some versions say sufferings, must be some big thing…like Mother Theresa living in poverty for Christ’s sake, or like those who have inflicted pain on themselves to suffer as Christ did, or a crisis like finding out you have terminal cancer. You know, big deals. But, I think it usually comes in the everyday trials we face, like illness, dealing with family, finances, our jobs, etc. In other words, we need to be thankful for everything that we face each day, and allow God to use it to mold, or perfect us into the person He would have us to be.

May God Bless You,
Velma Amundson

So Much to be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is over. By now you may be feeling a little lighter, and most of the leftovers have been reinvented as casseroles, sandwiches and soup. The house is back in order (and maybe it is already decorated for Christmas) and if you are among the courageous, the fruit of your pre-dawn Black Friday foraging are waiting to be wrapped.

Thanksgiving in Brazil is very different – basically Thursday, Nov. 22nd was just another day.  No turkey, no big family gatherings and no football. But there is so much to be thankful for, and even as I miss one of my favorite holidays, the heart of it is very present – remembering the incredible ways God pours our His grace and favor!

Sometimes His blessings come in big ways. Like Cleberson finding a family of his own. This sweet seven year old has been with us for almost a year now, and made his way into our hearts in just days. This precious little boy was so completely abandoned, and when a Free Lutheran Family in Curitiba met Cleberson, it was love at first sight. Seeing Cleberson bond with Juliano and Claudineia; seeing a real family being formed is amazing! And worthy of great thanks!

Sometimes the blessings come in little ways, like Lucy. I have always loved dogs, as a child I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have one. I really miss having a pup of my own. Here, in Campo Mourao, we have big property that houses the AFLC Bible School and the Miriam Infant Home. We have two dogs that belong to ministry, but they are guard dogs, on chains and definitely are not “pets”. We also have a steady stream of dogs that appear, hang around for awhile and then are gone again. Then Lucy arrived. Like the rest of the strays, we don’t know where she came from, but we know she had a family, because she already knew some tricks. It just took days for us all to fall in love with her, in two weeks she had a name, she had visited the vet and received shots and treatments for little friends inside and out. Within a month she had a new owner (the caretakers of the AFLC retreat center nearby will take her to live there the beginning of the year. And I have, for a little while, a pet again. I share her with the rest of the family (that is what you do with family), but every day, when I leave the office Lucy is waiting for me – she knows my schedule), and where ever she is on the property, I never have to call her name more than twice before she comes sprinting across the yard (yes, it is because she knows I have a treat – I’m a push over for those happy puppy kisses you get after a few scraps).

A pet, even a temporary one, is not a big deal, in the big scheme of things. That God knows how this dog blesses my heart IS a big deal. One of the things I am most thankful for is that the Father knows my heart and cares for me day by day!

Sausage and Apple Herb Stuffing

Here is a great stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving that comes from Pampered Chef.

1/2       lb bulk pork sausage
1/2       cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 1/2    cups sliced celery
1 1/2    cups chopped onion
1          package (14 ounces) herb-seasoned cubed stuffing
1/2       cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2       cup coarsely chopped apples
1          tbsp Rosemary Herb Seasoning Mix
2          cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place sausage into (10-in.) Skillet; cook over medium heat 3-5 minutes or until no longer pink, breaking into crumbles. Remove Skillet from heat and transfer sausage to paper towel-lined plate. (Do not drain Skillet.)

Add butter to Skillet; heat over medium heat 1-3 minutes or until foamy. Add celery and onion; cook and stir 4-5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

In Mixing Bowl, combine stuffing, cranberries, apples, seasoning mix and sausage. Add vegetable mixture and broth; toss until moistened. Spoon stuffing into Baker. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Carefully remove lid using oven mitts, lifting away from you; bake an additional 30 minutes or until stuffing is golden brown and heated through.

Yield: 16 servings

Nutrients per serving: Calories 210, Total Fat 10 g, Saturated Fat 4.5 g, Cholesterol 25 mg, Carbohydrate 27 g, Protein 6 g, Sodium 720 mg, Fiber 3 g

Giving Thanks in ALL Things

by Sarah Nelson

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thanksgiving always brings to mind one of my first attempts at making gravy. I was a
young bride bursting with domestic enthusiasm. My husband and I invited another
young family from our church over to celebrate the giving of thanks, including sharing
what I envisioned to be the Good Housekeeping seal of award Thanksgiving dinner.
The turkey was roasted to a nice golden brown crispiness on the outside, and tender
perfection on the inside. Marshmallow covered sweet potatoes were ready to be popped
in the oven for a quick bake. Now it was time to put what I thought would be the easiest
of all food preparations together. The gravy. How hard could this be? I had my pan
drippings from the turkey. Had some salt nearby. Was it cornstarch or flour? I could not
remember, so I got both out from the pantry. Browning liquid? Oops – didn’t have that,
so I was set to be creative with just the right mix of food coloring. How hard could light
brown be, really?

After several emergency phone calls were placed to my grandma and mother who
graciously didn’t laugh at me (at least that I heard), I was ready to proceed. Why wasn’t
my gravy thickening? Must need more flour, a little more cornstarch too couldn’t hurt.
A few drops of this color, a few drops of that, surely soon this gravy would look
somewhat brownish.

As we gathered around the table I explained that the gelatinous glob of lemon yellow
foodstuff in the gravy boat was not a custardy dessert, but indeed gravy. My dear
husband tried to be a good sport with his affirmation that it was sure to taste good. I did
my best to hold back the tears and enjoy the presence of my dear friends and our little
family gathered around the table. The truth was, the “gravy” didn’t taste good. It was
like trying to swallow wet chalk. Believe me, the last thing I felt like doing was giving
thanks.

As I think back to the circumstances of that long ago Thanksgiving feast failure, I am
reminded that all of us as women have seen circumstances of much greater depth,
disappointment, and discouragement than a batch of botched gravy. Giving thanks in
seasons of grieving the loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, the pain of
moving, all are difficult if not nearly impossible in our own strength. And yet, as a
follower of Christ we know that His will for us is to give thanks in ALL things.

This Thanksgiving, whether you are in a season of rejoicing, or in one of pain, let’s give
thanks together to the One who deserves our gratitude every moment of every day. When
we feel like the world is crumbling around us, let us rest in the One who holds every
moment of every day together by His will and perfect plan. It is His will that we give
thanks in all things. Will you?