It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn toward gratitude, and we are made more aware of the many gifts and blessings we share. Here is my list of the top 10 things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving.

I love spending an evening at home with my family, and I’m grateful anytime we can share a quiet dinner together.

 

Apple pie and coffee are a perfect ending to that dinner at home.

I’m starting a new quilt to wrap around someone I love. I’ve collected a pile of old tee shirts that will soon become something new and useful.

 

I love to spend an afternoon reading on the couch. This is what I’m reading now.

 

 

This cute electric heating stove creates cozy warmth for my home.

 

I love my old soft, fuzzy slippers,

 

 

And my old owl print pajamas.

 

 

Every year I get nostalgic about classic Christmas films. My favorites are: It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and Elf. Click here to check out the Freeform Channel’s 25 Days of Christmas movie schedule.

 

I love this great source for Christmas presents. I won’t spoil the surprise by showing photos of the gifts I bought, but I recommend ordering from John’s Crazy Socks. When I received my order, I was touched to also find a personal note from the company’s co-owner, John. A portion of sales proceeds supports the Special Olympics and Down syndrome awareness.

I am grateful for my family, for my husband, my daughter, and son-in-law, for Bratty Maddie, and all the friends who have supported and encouraged me throughout this year. Thank you all, and I wish you the happiest holidays!

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

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Choosing a Life that Matters by Dennis Rainey is a smallish book, only 125 pint-sized pages, but it contains a great deal of inspiration about making the decisions that draw us closer to God. The small size makes it convenient to carry, so I stashed my copy in my purse to read while enduring a long wait in the dentist’s office.

Rainey arranges his seven decisions into a do/don’t instructional format. His seven chapters are: Seek God, Not Sin; Fear God, Not Men; Love God, Not the World; Believe God, Not the Deceiver; Obey God, Not Your Feelings; Worship God, Not Comfort; Serve God, Not Self. Chapters are short and written in an easy to read, conversational tone; and each chapter includes a “Life Skills” section that offers specific instruction on how to apply the concepts to daily life.

Choosing a Life that Matters by Dennis Rainey makes a simple and inspiring read for anyone seeking to feel more of God’s presence every day.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for writing a review.

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When my daughter was in kindergarten, I volunteered as classroom mom on a field trip to the pumpkin farm. Students rode trudging ponies around a muddy circle, patted bleating goats in a pen, and chased kittens and piglets around hay bales in the barn.

And I learned a few lessons from herding 40 kindergarteners around the barnyard that day.

Pack a lunch, wear good shoes, and always have an extra pair of glasses. Straw dust and grit invaded my contact lenses, and because I had no mirror or means to wash my hands, I had to make a staggering, half-blind hike to the farmhouse to find a bathroom. If we don’t plan ahead and take care of ourselves, we are not able to take care of anyone else. Anticipating circumstances and giving ourselves what we need frees us to be available and present for others.

Don’t be afraid of the dark. Inside the musty and cavernous barn lurked amazing discoveries: strange old tools, elusive farm cats, secreted hiding places. When we brave uncertainty and explore the unknown, prizes are captured and answers are revealed. Always be willing to step inside and investigate the mysterious, unseen places.

Help someone else carry their burden. Little people who chose a too-large pumpkin to take home, staggered under the weight, often dropping and shattering their prize. We are not meant to struggle with heavy burdens by ourselves. When we work together and help others, we find we can accomplish much more than we can carry on our own.

Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Travel where the driver takes you. The day of the kindergarten field trip, we had planned to ride a hay truck into the meadow for a lunchtime picnic, but a sudden rainstorm sent us running for the bus and returning early to school. Instead of lunch in the meadow, we ate on the warm and dry classroom floor. Sometimes our plans change and we encounter circumstances we didn’t expect, but the best memories are made when we are grateful and appreciate every moment together. Sometimes we discover that the surprises of our lives are more fun and interesting than the events we had planned.

This fall I pray you explore the mysteries of the season. Know God is with you every day of the year.

What are you learning about life today? Where is God taking you?

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The older I get the more I am aware that I don’t have all the answers. I still have much to learn from the wisdom and experience of others. However, there are a few statements I can make about what I know for sure.

I’m positive each person has inherent value. We are all created by God and therefore are important to and cared for by him.

I’m positive we can all make a difference in the world by recognizing the needs of others and seeking to help meet those needs.

I’m positive the year ahead has good surprises in store. I’m excited about reaching out to more single moms online and in my community.

I’m positive I am always learning. I look forward to growing in understanding and encouraging others who are now going through the same struggles I experienced.

I’m positive that God will never abandon the people who believe in him. I have seen the evidence that God has protected and provided for me – even before I was aware of his influence – and now I am certain he will never leave me alone.

I’m positive God has a plan and a purpose for every life, and if we listen for his guidance and follow him, he will direct us exactly where we need to be.

I’m positive everyone wants to feel heard. Every woman wants to share her story and know her experience has purpose and meaning. What is your story? Leave me a comment. I want to hear it.

I’m positive I will never bungee jump, sky dive, or hike the Grand Canyon, though I admire people who do.

I’m positive that going to the dentist is important for my health, and I’m grateful to the people who perform this valuable service.

I’m positive I enjoy: long walks, sunrise, fall weather, cool evenings, talking with my friends and family, and connecting with my readers on this blog site.

What are you positive about today? How does your faith influence what you know to be true?

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The crowd pressed around the little table, everyone nudging, leaning, and reaching. The organizers of this event had wrapped dozens of donated books in plain brown paper and labeled them with short descriptions of the stories concealed inside: “Shirtless men with swords,” “Rich people problems $,” “Rare eye disease vs. power of love.” I selected “For when you have to flee the city due to the zombie apocalypse,” and escaped the mob.

We chose our books based on the scantily-worded descriptions, not knowing what we had gotten until we slipped away and peeled off the paper to reveal the history, mystery, or fantasy concealed inside. With only a few clues, we made a decision and trusted we would enjoy the story that ended up in our hands.

So many times in our lives we make choices based on a few scarcely-revealed details: “Romantic marriage proposal,” “Exciting career opportunity,” “A stranger needs our help.” We have to choose a path and trust that our decisions will lead us to a happy ending.

We cannot know how our story ends until we open the package and uncover the story beneath. Faith means facing the unknown with trust and excitement instead of fear and uncertainty about the future. It is receiving what we’re given with the belief that God always knows the outcome, and he will place the right volume into our hands.

In the car I opened my “zombie apocalypse” package and found Scott and Helen Nearing’s The Good Life, the true story of a couple who left New York during the Great Depression and moved to a farm in Vermont. The Nearings dug their gardens and built their stone house by hand. They didn’t know what to expect when they left the city, but their books tells the story of the great future they found.

And it reminds me that sometimes we come to the table expecting an apocalypse and discover the good life instead.

What surprise are you unwrapping today? How do you feel about the story that awaits you?

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