Champagne Problems

By JMathis

It’s that time of year where I’m blowing the dust off of my holiday cookbooks, putting on my army fatigues and war-paint, and getting ready for the Thanksgiving week cook-a-thon.

Do I want to go funky or traditional this year? Challenge my diners, or, give into their plebian whims? Maple-glazed sweet potatoes with tender chunks of pineapple and apricots?  Or, the classic casserole option that everyone loves to eat, but brings tears to my eyes from a culinary perspective: sweet potato mush meets indiscernible coating of marshmallow fluff and caramelized brown sugar?

What dilemmas.

As my husband tells me all of the time: “You and your champagne problems…”

Me and my champagne problems.

Sadly, those champagne problems threaten to plague me throughout this week, until I collapse into my bed on Thanksgiving night.

Meanwhile, my friend is hours away from filing divorce; another friend just miscarried her baby; and yet another friend lost her job last week.

Ugh. Yes, it has been one of those weeks. One of those weeks where it appears that the enemy has won.

So what I am to do with my champagne problems in light of the realities and hardships that swirl around me? Quit cooking? Keep cooking and act oblivious?

While the Bible doesn’t give me clear directive over whether I should quit preparing my feast, Ephesians 1:16 helps me to put my champagne problems into perspective this week:

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

This is a verse I have glossed over a million times, always thinking of it as one of those Christian platitudes that have very little meaning. For some reason, though, it gives me instruction today on what I should be doing this week–whether on my lunch break, while driving in my car, or even while making sweet potatoes.

Leigh: I want you to know that I thank God for you. I thank God for the way you make me laugh, the way you put me in my place, the way you always know how to center me. I pray that in the midst of your divorce, I will be the friend that you have always been to me. I pray healing for your heart, restoration for your soul, and for God’s warm embrace to shield you from pain.

Melanie: I thank God for bringing you into my life. Seeing your smile makes me joyful and always puts an extra spring into my step. I’m so grateful for the joy you have given me over the years, and I pray that it be returned to you a hundred-fold, even a thousand-fold. I pray that you experience strength in knowing that your baby is lovingly being cared for by her Heavenly Father.  

Danielle: Thank You, God, for my friend who always checks in on me. Rain or shine, you are a faithful friend who is loyal to the end. Lord, I haven’t always returned the favor, and so I ask You that You teach me to be a friend like Danielle. Teach me to reach out to her, while she is going through this difficult time. Build up her confidence and her faith, Lord, and help her to rise up from this setback even stronger, braver and wiser.

Ladies, take the time to really thank God for your friends this week. Encourage them, share with them, express your gratitude to them.  

Lift them up in prayer when you get overwhelmed with your champagne problems. Intercede for them and with them, so that their burdens are removed and cast far into the sea of God’s forgetfulness.

Today, may your champagne problems fall off like scales from your eyes, with true perspective and meaning in this week of Thanksgiving.

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

By Bindu Adai

This morning I wanted to share one of my favorite psalms with you: Psalm 100

1Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!

2Worship the Lord with gladness.

Come before him, singing with joy.

3Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

He made us, and we are his.a

We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and praise his name.

5For the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,

and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

 Let us enter into Thanksgiving week with praise in our hearts. We have SO much to be thankful for! And let us resolve to start each day in the new year with gratitude.

Treasures in Heaven

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20

 As AbbyA reminded us yesterday, God has made each of us rich in many ways. Perhaps not financially…but He has given each of gifts of Life that are priceless. Things that money cannot buy, not even if we were Oprah or Bill Gates.

Peace.

Love.

Health.

Liberty.

Religious Freedom.

Eternal Life.

 He has made us rich indeed, has he not, my sisters?  When we are inclined towards throwing ourselves a pity party, remember that despite our struggles, we are SO blessed indeed.

Thank you, Lord, for your blessings and mercies, for they are new each day. Thank you, Lord, for treasures that no one can steal from us. For your gifts are truly eternal.

Rich in Many Ways

By AbbyA

Every now and then I like to share with you something that I didn’t conjure up in my thoughts.  Something I didn’t write, but something that has touched me deeply.  Ching Yeung Russell has written a poetic book for children (and adults alike) called Tofu Quilt about growing up poor in a village in China.  I cannot tell you much more because my little boy only allowed me to read the first twenty-five pages to him.  (He wanted to read the rest on his own).  Twenty-five pages is all I needed to be profoundly touched by one of God’s truths pounding through Russell’s words.  Take a look at the excerpt below.

I rest my chin in my hand,

my elbow on the train’s windowsill.

I am sad

and happy at the same time,

like eating a bowl of sweet and sour soup.

Ma breaks the silence

by saying,

“I know you had fun

just by looking at your suntan;

you’re as dark as charcoal.

“Tell me what you liked the most.”

“Dan lai!” I burst out,

“I wish Uncle Five

would have let me eat more than one bowl.

I didn’t have enough.”

“It’s very expensive,” Ma says.

“Why?” I ask.  “It’s just a small bowl.”

“Dan lai is the specialty of the town,” she says.

“And it is only made from one family’s secret recipe.”

“Have you tried it?”  I ask Ma.

“Yes,” she says.  “A long time ago.”

I promise Ma,

“When I grow up,

after I get rich,

I will buy you a bowl of dan lai!”

Ma smiles.

After you start going to school,

you will learn many things.

And you will be rich in many ways.”

The last phrase sliced through my spirit.  I could barely read that line out loud.  Sort of like a particular line of my dad’s eulogy.  My spirit acknowledged in a loud, internal way that I have learned that I have become rich in many ways.  Somewhat like the thousands of grains of sands that JMathis wrote about last week.  Thousands of sands rubbing against one another.  Smoothing edges, providing support.   The value of the experience of being a grain of sand in the Lord’s worthy hands makes you rich in many ways.

As this month pushes toward the third Thursday of November.  Ponder over how God has made you rich in many ways.  His omniscience measures in a manner unlike the world.  While we all are thankful for our livelihood and similar things.  See if you can go deeper for the secret value He has spun in your heart.  I don’t know what you will find.  But I have found through Russell’s poetry that there is great thankfulness in acknowledging that I, through Him, have become rich in many ways.

Smooth Sands…

By JMathis

I am learning that the problems that come rolling into my shoreline are my opportunities. Opportunities to hone my steely resolve; opportunities to chisel my grit.

Oftentimes, when these “opportunities” are disguised as setbacks, my shoreline becomes cluttered with the debris of itchy seaweed and sharp hypodermic needles.

As I yearn for calming, Zen-like shorelines, I realize that it is the chaos of the storms and the violence of all this constant flooding, which create the smooth sands that bring relief to my aching soul.

Smooth sands comprised not of just one sand particle, but of countless grains representing the friends and family who have allied by my side during the hurricanes of my life.

When I see these grains of sand exponentially multiplying across the shoreline, I realize that I am never alone when confronting life’s calamities. God has given me a vast army from which to draw strength, regroup and charge even harder against the gale force winds of the enemy.

This is the part about problems that strengthen my character and resolve. Knowing that I have legions around me, supporting and encouraging me to finish my exhaustive swim to the shoreline–giving me the courage to hold onto the truths of my Creator when all around me is collapsing.

Problems: you may come charging into my shoreline, but you will not prevail. I stand against you with the might of the Almighty God and the support of all those He has strategically placed around me.

Problems: I reclaim my sandy shoreline. My resolve is strengthened and my character withstands attack. I hold fast knowing that when you leave, only smooth sands remain.

The smooth sands of time, the smooth sands of friendship, the smooth sands of relief.

Thank You, Lord, for smooth sands.

Through Thick and Thin

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

As I read AbbyA’s blog yesterday about her mother and her tremendous amount of loss, I was reminded of Job. Like AbbyA’s mom, Job lost his family, his fortune, and his health. I was recently surprised by a pastor saying that many experts believe that time of testing in Job’s life to be a period of nine months! I was surprised by that as I expected it to be a period of several years. But nine months is a short time to lose so much, as I’m sure AbbyA’s mom knows too well.

But when I think of Job’s story, I also think of Job’s “friends.”  Friends who rather than comforting him and supporting him through his loss, only pointed fingers at him, asking him continually what he had done to incur God’s wrath. Sadly, often these things still happen today, even in the church. Rather than ministering to those around us, we judge, gossip. At the end of the book of Job, God judged Job’s friends, admonishing them for their response to Job’s predicament.

Often it is during the most difficult times in our lives that we realize who are true friends are. The fair weather friends quickly disperse when the clouds of a storm loom over our heads. They are nowhere to be found. But true friends stick with you, through thick and thin…for better and for worse.

I think of my life and how often already difficult situations would have truly been unbearable without the support and encouragement of my friends. What a blessing it is to be surrounded by people who truly care and support you!

So for today, I am thankful for the blessings of friends. Friends who’ve held my hand when I was scared and some who’ve even carried me when I could not walk. Friends who’ve stuck with me through the years. I am thankful for the blessings of my fellow blog sisters, AbbyA and JMathis, who have encouraged my writing aspirations and encouraged my walk with their writings. I am thankful for the friendship that has arisen out of our shared blog and shared passion.

Lord, thank you, for You truly do make all things beautiful.

A Year to Remember, Or Not

By AbbyA

The question that Bindu proposed this week is What if we see our problems in life as the means by which we develop a closer walk with God?  JMathis answers by turning over a new leaf and waking up with joy.  My response to this question brings me to tell about a year of my mom’s life.

In one season, she unexpectedly lost a true love . . . almost lost my brother as a result of a stabbing . . . lost her business, her home and barely had enough to eat . . . suffered while my second brother spent time in jail . . . she lost her dog and then her cat . . .  She spent a lot of time alone.  Often lonely.  Coming to the point where, if not for few ties to planet earth, she was ready to come home to her heavenly space.

Bindu talks about the truth that sorrows and troubles bring us to the throne room of God.  While my mother suffered in her earthly circumstances, she spent most of her time in His throne room.  Much of her loneliness led her to seek the Lord day and night.  She wrote her troubles and God’s response to them in her notebooks.  She let Him feed her rather than rely on all the world failed to offer.  She interceded for her boys who, while different circumstances, suffered deeply.  She interceded for the hungry, lost and homeless.  She made plans to come back and give back.  And, she did just that under the wings of her God.

It is a deep place to be when one acknowledges God’s greater purposes in allowing pain and suffering.  It is yet an even deeper place to be when a tiny seed of thankfulness grows in your heart as a result of pain and suffering.  As your spirit acknowledges the ways of God, you become thankful. To Him.  Not to the loss or the pain or the suffering, but thankful for His wiser plan and greater purposes.  For His blessings in your life.

While His plan is expansive and surpasses our own understanding, it is also strikingly personal.  For there is not a moment that goes by that He ceases to minister to you in your suffering.  My mom knows that.  Any one who has lost big knows that.  I know that.

Sometimes it is A Year to Remember for spiritual growth and a year to forget earthly circumstances.  Somehow I think this is the regular practice of those already in heaven.  The temporal is flip-flopped.  The spiritual reigns and the invisible becomes seen.  The pain and suffering have been burned out by the Refiner’s Fire. What’s left is pure joy and genuine thankfulness. Oh, thank you God for a heart of thankfulness toward you, My Maker.