Category Archives: thanksgiving

Everything Moments

These are days of plenty. This is a season of more-than-enough. This is holy generosity dispensed to me by the King.

This isn’t a season of less-than, although as of late I have been tempted to argue otherwise:

• Aging parents and accumulating needs making their withdrawals from the ledger.
• Financial interruptions that dip into the “summer fun” account.
• A lingering infection that coughs abruptly, heats up sporadically, and labors diligently to take hold of instead of break free from the flesh.
• Fractured conversations with the children I bore … the children I adore.
• Marital miscommunications that unearth seemingly forgotten pain and an oft-spoken question … (Again, Lord?)
• A sadness that sometimes sneaks quietly into my spirit, taking a long summer nap in the shade of my heart.
• High cholesterol, creaking knees, hot flashes, and a body that has failed me.

Cumulatively collected, it seems as if a detour around the poke-and-prod of summer is in order. Cumulatively and currently lived, however, I think I’ll stay right where I am. Why?

Because today, knee-deep in the might-be misery of my summer, I shared a bag of McDonald’s fries with my daughter, and I thought to myself …

This is good. This is grace. This is generosity. This is pure, untainted joy – an everything moment often uncalculated during a tabulated struggle. My life is filled to over-flow with everything moments. God has not short-changed me on anything. Instead, he’s lavished me with his holy everythings:

• Conversations and time spent with parents that cannot be replicated.
• Financial blessings that leave some wiggle room for summer fun.
• Prayers and medication that release me from my flesh, not keep me bonded to it.
• Enough love to mend fractures.
• Enough love to salve old aches and old conversations with a fresh helping of God’s mercy.
• Enough peace to awaken sadness.
• Enough laughter and humility to forgive the aging process.

God’s holy everythings are everywhere. It takes a holy heart to seek them out and then to hold them up to the light despite the shadows of a dimly-lit life. In doing so, in giving these everything moments a place of illumination while suffering through the pokes-and-prods of summer, we keep the life-ledger balanced.

Does a new pair of eyeglasses cost more than a bag of McDonald’s fries? No doubt, and it is one of the reasons behind my nagging worries this afternoon.

But to hold the attention (and the heart) of the one whose eyes rest behind those eyeglasses for a few moments? Well, folks, the ledger is more than balanced. The ledger is dripping with eternal abundance.

The Father who made us, knows us. He understands our summers … all of our seasons. He knows what will bring us peace, even as he knows about the turmoil that leads us toward unrest. Accordingly, along the way and as we go, he’s planted everything we need in order for our minds and hearts to push beyond the mayhem in our lives. He’s sown a garden of everything moments, so that we might be able to step outside of the temporal and to see his eternal. When life is measured through that set of lenses, life is duly celebrated.

So today, I raise a toast to my everything moments. To yours as well. Further still, I pray for eyes wide-enough to see them as they arrive, for wisdom enough to lift them up as illumination, and for a thankful heart to God for being so very generous with me. Would you join me in celebrating our everything moments today? I’d love to hear about some of yours in the comments below. Shalom. Be well.

Everything Moments (© F. Elaine Olsen, 6-28-2016, allrightsreserved.)

A spontaneous hug, a lingering kiss,
A ride through the park, a sunset unmissed.
A morning unhurried,wrapped safely in sheets;
An afternoon rain, an evening walk through the streets.
A tub full of bubbles, a gerbera in bloom,
A bird sweetly singing, a new bride and her groom.
A dip in the pool or a dip of ice-cream,
A nap in the shade, colored by the wildest of dream.
A smile round the table, for there’s corn to be shared;
Warm bread and soft butter, enough room to be spared…

For more love, more grace, more moments face-to-face.
More comfort, more strength, more confessions at-length.
Less guilt, less blame, more skin in the game.
Less hiding, less fear, more room for a tear…

Gently released, gently received,
Gently embraced, gently grieved.
Gentle hands, gentle souls,
Gently walking, fewer holes…
Left wide-open, left unguarded,
Consequently, less bombarded…

By nothing-moments that shouldn’t count,
By worldly standards that rate discount.
By devil’s schemes that work their ill,
By temporal needs that rarely fill.

Instead, by everything-moments that fruitfully amount,
By godly standards that take into account…
A Father’s love that heals all ill,
Eternal grace that lavishly overfills…

Everything.
with his moments.

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my 48th year

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I’m turning forty-eight this week … again. Let me explain. For the past year, I’ve been telling folks that I’m forty-eight. I’m not kidding. Somewhere in the madness of this last year called My Life, I lost a year. So when my birthday rolls around on Thursday, really I’ll have gained a year. Make sense? Me neither. Safe to say, I have another twelve months of being forty-eight, and it’s likely to be my most productive year ever since I’ve been granted these extra 365 days of fruitfulness.

Ah . . . the blessedness of an extra year! I know. Not really, but it’s a delightful consideration, is it not? To wake up and realize you’re not as old as you feel?

Somewhere along the way, I stopped counting my years. Candles on the cake (after nearly five decades) don’t garner as much enthusiasm as they once did. Turning double-digits and turning twenty-one were milestones met with eagerness. Back then, I had an entire world in front me. At forty-eight, there’s a whole lot of world behind me—a lot of life lived, enough experiences had, mistakes made, memories collected, and highlights celebrated to fill several dozen scrapbooks.

How much more can there be?

So much more.

Consider the possibilities of an extra year. With an extra year I’ll be able to . . .

  • Have the conversations I meant to have.
  • Write the letters I meant to write.
  • Make the calls I meant to make.
  • Pray the prayers I meant to pray.
  • Give the love I meant to give.
  • Send the gift I meant to send.
  • Drive the miles I meant to drive.
  • Invest the time I meant to invest.
  • Do the work I meant to do.
  • Pursue the dreams I meant to pursue.
  • Speak the truth I meant to speak.
  • Plant the seeds I meant to plant.
  • Share the fruit I meant to share.
  • Afford the grace I meant to afford.
  • Offer the apologies I meant to offer.
  • Extend the kingdom I meant to extend.
  • Enlarge the Jesus I meant to enlarge.

Indeed, a delightful consideration. With all of these extra days added to my year, I’ve been granted the rich benefit of more—a second chance of sorts, a way to re-invest my energies and my heart in the right and good direction. There’s nothing to dread. There are only opportunities to embrace. Another year, when cast in the light of sacred potentialities, is the gift that keeps on giving long after the cake has been eaten and the balloons have deflated.

This is the blessed do-over of my 48th year. I’m so grateful for another opportunity to live the life that I meant to live last year and to do so alongside the Giver of Life who graciously grants me this privilege.

Don’t dread the candles, friends. Instead, count them. Remember them, and then get busy living the life you mean to live. I’m so honored to share my 48th year with you . . . again. As always …

Peace for the journey,

Image credit: zerbor / 123RF Stock Photo

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Good to Me

21556439_s“Mom, I need to tell you something about that song. It just touches my heart.”

Her assessment was correct as evidenced by her hand over her heart, tears rolling gently down her cheeks.

“Just imagine, mom, people hearing those words for the first time and asking ‘Who … who has been good to me?’ Just think of how many might come to know Jesus for the first time if they took the time to ask (and then answer) the question.”

And then I did … think about it, all night long in fitful sleep and now this morning.

What about that particular question (in identifying the Giver of all goodness) might lead a person to move within arm’s reach of God?

Audrey Assad’s song Good to Me is a new favorite in our home. My daughter is learning to play it on her guitar. Somewhere in the midst of the E chord, A and F# chord, correct fingering, and strum patterns, Amelia’s heart was moved beyond the mechanics of the song to wrestle more deeply with the meaning of its words:

“I put all my hope in the truth of Your promise

And I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness

When I’m bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name

And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

You are good to me, good to me

You are

Good to me.

I lift up my eyes to the hills where my help is found

Your voice fills the night – raise my head up to hear the sound

Though fires burn all around me I will praise You, my God

And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me ….”

(Audrey Assad, from the album Fortunate Fall, 2013)

Steadying our hearts on the ground of God’s goodness, in sorrows, through fires, even when foxes lurk in the vineyards threatening to consume the fruit of our labors. Even in these, joy can exist. Why? Because God is good, and God gives good gifts to his children, even when they are unaware of his generous dispensation. How might they begin to figure it all out?

Well, maybe by asking this simple question:

Who … who has been good to me?

Go ahead, ask the question. Make a list of the many goodnesses in your life if you’d like. And, if you’re brave, ask the question:

Who … who has been good to me?

Trace it back as far as you’re able and, then, allow the Holy Spirit to finish the drawing. No doubt and with 100% accuracy, he’ll land you back at your roots, your firm foundation—the solid rock of God through the saving grace of his Son. God is where all goodness begins. He is where all goodness resides.

And therein is our salvation. Therein, lives our answer.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17

Sing it like you mean it. Live it like you know it, and see if God doesn’t move your heart and the hearts of those who sit beneath your influence into closer proximity with his.

Just imagine … how many. I know my daughter is. I know the Father is as well.

Peace for the journey,

Image credit: zhudifeng / 123RF Stock Photo

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with thankful hearts…

with thankful hearts…

A little earlier today, a knock arrived at our front door. The postman came bearing a gift…
Last week, our former congregation at Pine Forest UMC (headed up by the Friendship SS class and my fiery “ancients”) came together for a chicken dinner… a fundraiser for my family. Today, we are all stunned with the provision from God’s hands because of that fund raiser. Truly, we never imagined such bounty belonging to us, but that’s the way grace works–immeasurably more than we can ask for or even imagine.
Well, we’ve been asking God now for three months, even imagining a little bit, and today we hold something “unexpected.” Today we hold love in tangible measure, and we are humbled with the holding. We are exceedingly grateful for the body of Christ that loved us for six years and that continues to love us beyond reason in order to bring hope to our household this Thanksgiving. You’ve done that for us, good friends, and you’ve done it well.
We miss you; we love you, and we’ll always be mindful of the wonderful ministry years we shared together. You add to heaven’s glory, and one day soon, we will sit at the banqueting table together with the Lord. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a chicken leg or two to fill our plates!
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. As always…
Peace for the journey,
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Good Gravy and the Beth Moore Closet

Good Gravy and the Beth Moore Closet

“Oh good gravy!”

(My newest expression used in times of frustration. Please don’t tell me there’s something wrong with it; I could have said something else, have often said something else, but please don’t take my “good gravy” away from me. Thanks to Jet and Cord, cowboy brothers currently running “The Amazing Race” on CBS, I have a new expression for my moments of frustration. It’s nice watching two brothers being kind to one another on this show, considering that most of the other paired contestants are challenged when it comes to kindness and to finding alternate expressions for the four-letter expletives that flow like water from their mouths. Yes, I love me some clean-shaven, boot-wearin’, nice-talking, momma-lovin’ cowboys.)

Back to my “good gravy.” (Which, by the way, I couldn’t make any to save my life. I’m not a cook. On Monday I ventured into the kitchen to make spaghetti for my family and set the smoke alarms off… I’m not kidding. But I digress, again. I imagine it might happen to me a great deal over the next three months. My brain is being pulled in a thousand different directions. Bear with me, K?)

Anyway, yesterday I made the brave decision to venture into one of our closets in our spare bedroom. Not just any closet; the “Beth Moore” closet. Yes, I admit it… I have one. My husband added shelving to the closet several years ago as my Bible study resources began to multiply. Along the way, Beth’s made shelf-room for some of her other author friends. Over the past six years, I’ve accumulated curriculum kits that include:

Beth’s

  • Jesus the One and Only
  • John the Beloved
  • Believing God
  • Psalms of Ascent
  • Esther
  • Daniel
  • The Patriarchs
  • Living Beyond Yourself
  • A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place

Nancy DeMoss’s Seeking Him
Priscilla Shirer’s One in a Million
Jennifer Rothschild’s Fingerprints of God & Me, Myself, and Lies
Alicia Chole’s Anonymous

I’m sure I’m leaving something out… help me Bible study gals! That’s a lot of meals out, friends, approximately $3000 worth of eating out or buying clothes or taking a nice vacation with my family, but I’m not bitter, I’m just sayin’, that’s all. And then there are the file boxes crammed with other teachings, ones I’ve developed and ones that I used prior to our moving here (a spiritual gifts study, advent study, Easter study, etc.). Oh, and the “props” attached to the studies (the golden scepter, the crown, the fountains, the candles, the dozen or so table cloths made to match the colors of the bookcovers, etc).


And lest I leave out the rest of the closet’s contents, how about the 100 or so CD’s that have done little more than collect dust over the past six years, and the craft supplies crammed in the upper corner, along with an endless supply of gift bags and wrapping ribbon, and the spiral notebooks crammed with study notes to which I will never again refer; not because they aren’t worthy, but because there is absolutely no organization to any of it.

And this is just one closet, friends (HELP ME, Cindy!). The more I dug, the more I found. Quickly I was surrounded in a sea of struggle, and with tears running down my face, I simply looked up to God and offered my “Good gravy!”

His response?

“Yes, Elaine, a lot of it.”

And as I looked around me, on the bed and stacked all over the floor, I saw the witness of a good investment, some “good gravy.” I could have invested my money elsewhere. Even more importantly, I could have invested my time in a thousand alternate directions, but as I began to sort and pitch—being careful to hold onto the good and eliminate the non-essentials—my heart was tendered by the reality of what God has done through me over the past six years, most days in spite of me.

Not only has he taught me a great deal about his Word via some awesome Bible study mentors, he’s allowed me the lavish fellowship of friends who have come alongside me to share in the teaching. My Tuesday night gals have made the investment worth it. Collectively, we carry the wealth of the kingdom within us, exponentially increasing its value everywhere we go. We may not be able to recall with specificity all the valuable insights we’ve received via the fourteen-plus studies we’ve done together, but we’ve certainly taken hold of the one thread that’s been woven throughout them all.

Jesus Christ and the life-altering truth of his Word.

That’s why most of the participants kept coming back to study on Tuesday nights. They understood it wasn’t about me, but about God. About learning more, seeking more, growing more, living more. About realizing that the “more” is best lived within the context of community, rather than in isolation. Could we have grown in our spiritual walkabouts with Jesus apart from one another? Certainly. God’s Word tells us that he has given us everything we need in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit to grow in our faith and understanding of his truth (see 1 John 2:24-27). But without one another, we would have grown differently, perhaps at a slower pace and without the benefit of sacred participation—of having our hearts intersect for a season so as to bring about a richer, fuller expression of faith.

My Tuesday gals have been my “charge and keep” for a long season, my very “good gravy” and then some. They will continue on without me, for they have seen the merit of what it all means. I’m not sure if I’ll be facilitating another study come fall in my new home, but one thing is for certain.

I’ll carry my closet with me as I go. And should my new home have ample room for a “Beth Moore” closet, I’ll tenderly unpack each study, give them a place of individual prominence, and be thankful for the “good gravy” that has already come to me because of their presence in my life.

Thank you, Beth, Priscilla, Jennifer, Nancy, and Alicia. Most importantly, thank you Tuesday night gals for making Bible study a priority and Jesus Christ, all the more. He is our anchor, our Teacher, and our very great Reward. Keep to him all the days of your lives and see if he is not faithful to fill your plate with enough “good gravy” to keep you well fed for the pilgrimage home. I love you more than words will allow. As always…

peace for the journey,

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PS: For those of you interested in simplifying your life and especially your home, Cindy at “Letters from Midlife” has done umpteen posts along these lines. You can find them HERE. Thanks, Cindy. I imagine that I’ll be revisiting your thoughts/words often in the weeks to come.

Copyright © March 2010 – Elaine Olsen

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