Friday, November 29, 2013

the couch story

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving yesterday.  Today I'm linking up with Susannah and Sybil for this month's Faith and Fellowship link-up.
Simple Moments Stick
This month I participated in The Thankful Project and wrote each day about things that I am thankful for.  I've done a lot of reflecting on thankfulness.  But just as important, if not more so, than being thankful for what I have is remembering who to be thankful to.  And so, without further ado, I bring you the couch story.

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

My husband and I are fortunate (and thankful) to own this sweet house.  We moved in last summer and have been slowly turning it from a house into a home.  With a limited budget and limited furniture, however, we weren't able to do all that I would have liked to at once.  Our living room was one of those spaces for which we didn't have any furniture, so it sat virtually empty for months. 

At first, I didn't mind the empty space.  We didn't use the room very often and our family room was cozy enough.  But when football season took up the family room TV this fall, suddenly I turned into an impatient child.  I had envisioned the living room as eventually being a great reading room, and started to resent the fact that we didn't have at least two chairs in the living room, or perhaps even a loveseat, where I could retreat during the games.  Next thing I knew, I was terribly unhappy and realized that I needed to check myself.  After all, shouldn't I be thankful that we frankly had too much house to fill with our few belongings?  I was too blind to see how God had blessed us - all I wanted was a couch.  

After spending some time in serious reflection and confessing my materialistic heart to God, I decided to surrender my desire for a couch to Him.  I told Him how I would really like to have a sofa, but then I also gave thanks to Him for all of the ways in which He had already blessed Steve and me in our home.  And I gave up the couch to Him. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. - Philippians 4:6 (esv)

Fast-forward to last week.  When I received an unexpected extra holiday bonus at work, I had a sudden thought to look on Craigslist for a sofa.  After some careful reflection on the nature of my heart (and checking with Steve too), I popped on the website and immediately found the most beautiful set of furniture that was perfect for the room.  And it wasn't just a couch.  It was a couch, loveseat, oversized chair and ottoman - an entire set!  It was the furniture I had dreamed of all along but knew we couldn't afford.  Except this time - we could.  The ad price was almost exactly the amount of my bonus.  I couldn't believe it.

We picked up the furniture on Tuesday evening - the last night we were in town before we left for Texas.  Had we been a day later, we would have missed out on the deal.  But by 6:30pm that night, our living room was transformed.
I share this story not to say that if you ask God nicely, you will always get what you want - because you won't.  But I do share this story because this story is one that only God could have made possible.  Sure, I could have fought tooth and nail to get the sofa that I thought I wanted months ago - and then thanked God for it once I got it.  But by giving up my materialistic desire to Him and instead trying to be thankful for all that He had already given me, I learned so much about myself and about how He works.

God loves to grant our requests.  He gets joy out of bringing us pleasure.  But how much more does He enjoy spending time with us in prayer when we do more than just rattle off a list of what we want!  Through my prayers, I learned more about what God envisioned for the space - a place for conversation with friends and a relaxing setting for quiet times.  A space to serve others coffee and to gather together for prayer.  And His vision eventually became my vision.

I cannot wait to host friends in our living room.  I cannot wait to share God's word in that room.  And I am so incredibly thankful that His ways are higher than my ways... and that I didn't go out and get a couch months ago.  
  
And above all else, I am thankful that my God is more than just a God who hears requests and grants them.  He is a God who hears the deepest desires of our hearts - even those that we may not know of ourselves - and cares about each of us deeply and personally.  I am thankful for all the ways in which He has blessed my life, but more than anything I am simply glad that He wants to be and is in my life.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

happy thanksgiving!

I wish each of you, my dear readers, a very blessed Thanksgiving with those you love!  If you are traveling today, may you have safe travel.  Steve and I are about to head to the airport to spend the long weekend with my family in Texas.  I couldn't be more excited.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!
PS - my friend Katie wrote an incredible post this week about gratefulness before the Thanksgiving feast.  As we all stuff our faces eat a delicious Thanksgiving spread, let's remember with grateful hearts that while satisfaction of the Thanksgiving meal is only temporary, Christ's overflowing fountain of mercy is eternally satisfying. 

Now that is something to be truly thankful for. 

the thankful project day 27: a simple pleasure

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 27th: A Simple Pleasure.
These days, I'm loving just relaxing in my living room after a long day's work with my husband at my side and Lyla in my lap.  Our Christmas lights are up and the fireplace is lit.  We're watching a Pacers game or reading.  And lately, we take time to sit together and pray.
I'm sure to many it sounds like a pretty boring evening.  But to me, it's a simple pleasure of this phase in our lives and I'm embracing it wholeheartedly. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

the thankful project day 26: criticism you've received

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 26th: Criticism You've Received.
No one likes to be criticized.  I, in particular, do not handle criticism very well - even if it is constructive.  I tend to either wilt inside and maybe even cry a little when the conversation is over, or get irrationally angry about what was said.  Neither response is a good one.  But after a little "cooling off" time, I find myself reflecting on well-deserved criticism and learning from it. 
 
Criticism can be a great tool for learning and improvement.  In my workplace, criticism helps me learn what to do differently next time.  In my marriage, constructive (emphasis on constructive!) criticism shows me how to better love my husband.  And in my prayer life, God sweetly corrects my sinful heart and helps me to grow.
 
So today, I'm thankful for all the ways in which criticism helps me to be better.  A better lawyer, a better wife, a better sister, a better daughter, a better friend, and a better reflection of God.

Monday, November 25, 2013

the thankful project day 25: something you know

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 25th: Something You Know.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
-Psalm 103:8-12

I am forgiven.  For once and for all. 

the thankful project day 24: a physical trait (a day late)

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 24th: A Physical Trait.
 At first, I really struggled with this prompt.  Picking something about my appearance that I am thankful for seemed vain.  But then I was reminded that God made me to be physically unique and special.  And it's okay to reflect on and identify things about my appearance for which I am thankful, because they are God's handiwork.  So today, I am thankful for my smile. 
I suffered through a few brutal years of orthodontics, including the world's most terrible invention, the expander.  Getting food stuck in the roof of my mouth due to that contraption was the very opposite of fun.  But years later, I am so thankful that my parents saw it as a priority to make sure I had straight teeth and a smile that I loved. 
 
I think a smile is the easiest way you can connect with someone, and would like to think that mine is a warm smile that makes others feel like they can open up to me.  I've noticed that there is so much power in a smile, and that just smiling at someone in line at the grocery store for a moment can change their entire demeanor.  Smiling is an easy way to bestow a blessing upon a stranger.
 
So, to quote Buddy the Elf, "I just like to smile.  Smiling's my favorite."

Friday, November 22, 2013

the thankful project day 23: something you've seen

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}
  
November 23rd: Something You've Seen.
For this prompt, I decided to pick a few of my favorite views.  I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity over the years to visit each of these places and to memorialize their beauty in these pictures.  God really knows how to make the world beautiful.
{San Dias Mountains, New Mexico}
{Cabo San Lucas, Mexico}
{Indiana Dunes, Indiana}
{Windsor Castle, Great Britain}
{Grand Canyon, Arizona}
{Lake Ouachita, Arkansas}
{Brookshire, Texas}
{Roatan, Honduras}

{Florence, Italy}
{Pikes Peak, Colorado}

 {Santorini, Greek Isles}
 
{Brown County, Indiana}
{Maui, Hawaii} 

five friday favorites

Happy Friday!  I don't know about you, but oh, goodness...it's been a long week.  I am ready for the weekend!  It's time for my Five Friday Favorite silver linings of the week:
1.  I wrote this post about how thankful I am for this room - our church sanctuary.  It's a beauty.
2.  My class had its 5-year reunion at my alma mater's homecoming this past weekend.  I was sorry to miss it, but was cheering on the Owls from afar.  Go Rice!
3.  Steve and I are starting a new weekly date adventure.  We started things off with dinner and a movie (Thor 2 - so good!).  Nothing beats delicious chips and queso!
4.  I wrote this post about how I am thankful for our house - which got its first snow this past week!  We've also been working on Christmas decorations... I know it's early, but since Thanksgiving is so late this year I couldn't resist!
5.  I traveled up to Chicago for work this week and spent the night with Gannie in the Indiana Dunes.  By far my favorite part of Indiana.  Can't beat that view!

Linking up with with April and Lauren this morning.  Have a great weekend, friends.

(PS - If you're new here, I'm glad you've stopped by! Please feel free to leave a comment saying hi, and read a little more about me here.)

the thankful project days 20-22

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

I was out of town for work this week and fell behind on The Thankful Project - oops!  Here's a quick recap to catch up to today.
 
November 20th: Something About Your Significant Other.
There are many things about Steve for which I am thankful (and I wrote about a few of them here).  It's hard to pick just one.  But what I am most thankful for is his heart for the Lord.  I can't imagine what our relationship would be like if Steve did not pursue Jesus above all else (yes, even above me). 
I am thankful that he studies the Bible, works on his own prayer life and spiritual well-being, and takes the initiative to lead us in prayer time.  I am also grateful for the biblical love that he shows to me every day.  He studies my love languages and remembers the little ways that I feel cherished as a wife.  He learned pretty early on, for example, that flowers are always a good idea. 
 
We are by no means a perfect couple.  We fight - sometimes more often than I'd like to admit.  But even in those fights and disagreements, Steve works hard to "fight well."  By that, I mean that he tries to listen to me and to show his covenant love to me even when we are not on the best of terms.  I am grateful that he takes this marriage covenant seriously, both to me and also to the God who brought us together, and that he works daily to strengthen it and to be a godly husband to me. 
 
Life isn't always perfect, but I'm so glad I have a godly man at my side who loves the Lord.
 
November 21st: Something That's Easy To Take For Granted.
This one is easy - it's my paycheck.  In our society, it's easy to think that a paycheck is something that you are entitled to.  You do the work, you get paid.  It's that simple, right? 
 
I beg to differ.  Sure, I put in long hours and hard work in my job, and I earn my salary.  But today I choose to be thankful that I have a paycheck - period.  I am blessed to have the job that I enjoy, and that I can make money working with the people that I work with.  They are great. 
 
I am so thankful to have a source of income to pay off those pesky student loans and to build a life with my husband.  I'm also grateful that my firm sees value in the work that I do.  And lastly, I'm so thankful for all of the schooling opportunities that I was given that qualified me to hold the job that I have now and to bring home the paycheck that I do.
the whole family at my law school graduation
I don't know what the future has in store for me career-wise, but for now I am thankful that while I must work, I am able to work, get to work where I do, and can earn a paycheck.
 
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.  - Col. 3:23-24 (esv)
 
 
November 22nd: An Expectation.
Today, I'm thankful that I can expect that Jesus will return some day.  I don't have to hope, or wish, or wonder whether He will come back - I can expect it.  I may not know when He comes (in fact, no one will know), but I know with certainty that it will happen. 
 
Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” - Luke 12:35-40
 
It will be one glorious homecoming. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the thankful project day 19: a book

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 19th: A Book.
I already wrote about how thankful I am that I was taught to love reading.  I love books.  Everything about them - how they smell, how they fit into hands, how the most loved ones begin to wear in the corners, and how they pull me into their stories. 
While they say don't judge a book by its cover, you can tell how much I love a book by how worn it is.  This classic has been read countless times since I first got it in fourth grade.  Each time I read it, I relish the story of Heathcliff and Catherine.  I'm going through it again now and am so thankful for its timeless story that never ceases to draw me in.


Monday, November 18, 2013

the thankful project day 18: a choice


{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 18th: A Choice.
We make hundreds of choices every day.  When to wake up in the morning, whether to go the gym, what to wear, whether the day calls for a chai tea latte (always!), what work to handle first, whether to grab lunch with friends, what to cook for dinner, how to best love on those around you... you get the drift.  Each day is filled with choices, and those choices that we make help shape each day, week, month and year of our lives. 
 
At the start of each day, one important choice gets made that, for me, ranks high above the others.  That is the choice of whether or not I am going to embrace the new day with Jesus.  It's a decision to either actively invite Him to join me in my everyday life, or to leave him at home on my bedside table with my bible and prayer journal.  The former leads to a more enriched life and relationship with Him, while the latter leaves me fending for myself in a pathetic attempt to prove my own self-competence (which happens way more often than I'd like to admit). 
 
Despite the fact that there is an obvious "right answer" in this choice, God still lets me decide how intimately I want to share my day with him.  I get to choose!  He desires nothing more than to spend each moment with me (and you!), walking through the ins and outs of my day, but in the end He leaves it up to me to decide how close I want Him to be in my life.
 
I am thankful that He gives me that choice each day.  But even more than that, I am thankful that when I do choose to invite Him into each day, the day is infinitely better than it would have been without Him.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

rice fight, never die

This weekend is my alma mater's Homecoming Weekend, and also my class' five-year reunion.  I can't believe it's already been five years since I graduated from this beautiful place!  
via google
I am so bummed that I wasn't able to make it down to Houston to join in the celebration.  I know we made the right choice financially by deciding not to go (plane tickets were realllly expensive from Indy to Houston), but I'm still sad to miss out.  Still there in spirit though - Rice Owls, hoot hoot!

the thankful project day 17: a room

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 17th: A Room.
Each Sunday, we drive downtown to attend our church.  In the church sanctuary, we meet up with friends who have become family.  We sing and worship the Lord.  We learn about His word.  We read Scripture.  We partake in communion.  We make new friends, and celebrate life's milestones with them.  We make plans to grab lunch after the service with our awesome small group.  We feel God's presence fill the room.  A lot of wonderful things happen in that sanctuary - which is why I picked it as the room I am thankful for today.  
Our sanctuary at Christmas time - via redeemindy.org
My faith has grown so much in the times I have spent in this room, and I absolutely love it.  I am so thankful for all that I get to experience in it every week.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

the thankful project day 16: something you own

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 16th: Something You Own.
Today I am thankful for this pretty little place - our home.  
 We began casually house-hunting when we were engaged, but didn't want to commit to anything until after we got married.  Lo and behold, a short month after we were married, we found The House.  A few weeks later, it was ours.  Quite the post-wedding whirlwind, let me tell ya!
Being a homeowner has its disadvantages.  When things break, you have to fix them.  You're responsible for paying those pesky property taxes twice a year.  We live in a subdivision run by an HOA, so they get some $$ from us too.  Anything that needs repair or improvement - you're the one to do them (or to pay for someone else to do them).  It can get expensive.

All that aside, though, owning a home comes with many blessings.  I can decorate the house however I want, and have gradually learned what my tastes are.  We love our neighborhood and have some extra-special neighbor friends who lives just a few houses down from us.  We have a great backyard where Lyla can run and we can eat dinner on the patio in the summertime.
I am thankful that we have a place to rest after a long day in the office, a place to invest time and energy into (i.e. painting, landscaping, the works), and most importantly a place where we can have people over - like these wonderful folks in our small group. 
No home is perfect, but I love ours and for now it's perfect for us.

Friday, November 15, 2013

h54f

Happy Friday!  It's hard to believe we are halfway through November already.  This month, I've been participating in The Thankful Project over at Chasing Happy.  It's been a great chance to reflect on those ongoing silver linings in my life.  Without further ado, here are my five silver linings this week:
1.  In this post I wrote about the opportunities of life, including being able to travel the world!
2.  I re-discovered this delicious recipe from my grandmother.  Yum.
3.  Hello, old friend.  Wuthering Heights is my all-time favorite novel, and reminded me of why I am thankful to have been taught to love reading at a young age.
4.  This little pup brightens my day, every day. 
5.  I reflected on those little annoyances of married life, and how I am learning from them.

We're planning to put up Christmas lights this weekend (it may be a little early, but oh well!), and I'm so ready for the holidays!  Next up: Christmas music.  Have a great weekend!

(PS - If you're new here, I'm glad you've stopped by!  Please feel free to leave a comment saying hi, and read a little more about me here.)
Follow on Bloglovin

the thankful project day 15: an annoyance

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 15th: An Annoyance.
Believe it or not, marriage is not always what you envision of "wedded bliss."   To be honest, living with someone - especially a man - is a lot harder than it looks at times. 
 
 There are plenty of little things that Steve does that can drive me crazy, like:
 - not shutting the pantry door in our kitchen all the way (I am a stickler about this.  No idea why.)
 - losing track of time and being late
 - cranking the bass on our stereo
 - losing things - wallet, keys, phone, etc.
 - not wiping down the kitchen counters after cooking a meal
 
But there are also plenty of things that I do that drive him up the wall, like:
 - backseat driving (I am soooo guilty of this)
 - committing to things without checking with him first
 - fidgeting (I am a huge fidgeter)
 - procrastinating doing laundry as long as I possibly can
 - letting Lyla in our bed (he can't stand this, but I just can't resist her sweet puppy charm!)
 
No matter how irritating they may be, I've learned I'm learning to be thankful for these little annoyances of ours.  First, I am thankful that they exist at all - that God has blessed me with a husband who I get to spend my life with, the good and the bad. 
 
I'm also thankful for the opportunities for growth that dealing with these little quirks of Steve's offer for me.  I'm learning to accept him for who he is, and not force him to be someone he's not - for example one who is early to things (because that may never happen).  Instead, I celebrate when he is on time for our daily commute.  And for those things that could use some improvement, I'm learning to speak lovingly to him and to encourage him in making good life changes.
 
Lastly, I'm thankful that marriage helps me to see the imperfections in myself, and gives me the chance to correct them and become a better wife and person.  Do I need to direct Steve through every stoplight on the way to work?  Definitely not.  Can I learn to trust that he (generally) knows where he's going and, even if he makes a wrong turn, it's not the end of the world?  I'm working on it, but yes, yes I can. 
 
Because let's face it, no one is perfect.  And these little annoyances in marriage are an excellent way for us to help each other grow, and draw each other closer to Christ.
 
Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
- Proverbs 27:17 (esv)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

the thankful project day 14: a blessing

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 14th: A Blessing
This is Lyla.  Not Layla, not Lilah - Lyla.  Aka the Pupster, the Baby, Lylabun, Lylabell, and quite the doll-baby.  She's my three and a half year old Westie, and such a blessing in my life.
When I was in law school, I found Lyla through a breeder in Ohio and drove six hours to pick her up at a random abandoned Sonic in small-town OH.  It was a little sketchy, I'll be honest, but the moment I saw her sprinting in circles in grass next to the parking lot, it was love at first sight. 
 When Steve and I started dating, she won his heart pretty much immediately and both of us are head over heels for her. 
 
She has some of the quirkiest habits, which make me laugh (like sleeping halfway out of her bed), but the best thing about her is her sweet personality.  She just loves life
She's a cheerful goober, but she also has a huge heart.  She wants nothing more than to be as close to you as possible, and she loves meeting new friends - canine and human.  She has boundless energy but loves to snuggle (especially under the covers of our bed, which doesn't happen often but when it does it's quite the treat!).
Since the day that I first brought her home, not a day goes by that she doesn't make me laugh or that I don't think, "I am so blessed by this little white fluffy dog." Just a minute with her in my lap is all I need to lift my spirits on a dreary day or to bring a smile to my face.
I like to tell Steve that besides marrying him, Lyla was the best decision I ever made.  It's amazing how much joy one little pup can bring to our lives.  So today, I'm thankful for this big blessing in the form of a little spunky Westie.