The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Tag Archives: Encouragement for Today

How The Habit of Gratitude Opens Our Eyes

Over at Proverbs 31 today, I’m sharing about that day I hid 1000 pennies in our house in a crazy attempt to squash some grumbles and grow some gratitude. Of course, I had no idea when I scattered those copper coins–in underwear drawers and on bookshelves, in closets and in cupboards–that those small pennies would give birth to giant joy. And I certainly never imagined that my unconventional quest for contentment would launch our family into a lifelong adventure that we’ve lovingly dubbed “Penny Praise.” If you stepped into our home today, you’d see a humble glass jar of copper coins sitting on a bookshelf in plain sight. It’s our daily reminder that thanksgiving isn’t just an American holiday, but a wonder-filled way to live.

If you haven’t read my “penny tale” over at Encouragement for Today, you can find it here. But before you go, I’d love to share how hunting for pennies had taught me some priceless lessons about gratitude. And I’d be delighted if you’d linger long enough to chime in on our Praise Party and enter to to win your very own penny praise package.It’s been many years since I first hid 1000 copper coins all through our our home and challenged my family to give thanks each time they found a penny. Those were the days when constant discontent rumbled in my heart and the ache of joylessness sapped my strength. Those were the days when I lived half-blind, stumbling through my hours without noticing the hand of God all around me. Little did I know that our silly little game called “Penny Praise” wouldn’t just change my cheer-less attitude; it would alter my visual aptitude.

These days, our home is no longer teeming with copper coins. Little ones don’t waddle around in diapers or sap my strength with midnight feedings. But after years of prowling for pennies, we still find ourselves spotting those little treasures wherever we go. We spy pennies lingering in parking lots and tucked under other people’s couch’s. We spot pennies mingling with dust bunnies and hiding in the crevices of car seats. We notice pennies planted on top of sand dunes and parked beneath playground benches. We find pennies on bleachers, in ice cream stores and on grocery store floors.

In fact, sometimes, this habit of penny praise can lead to embarrassing moments. I mean, there was that day when my son crawled under a friend’s dinner table (right in the middle of a meal) and offered up a loud and definitive shout of thanks as he plucked a rusted penny off of her dirty floor.

And then there was that moment in our small town bakery when my toddler found a penny and let out a whoop of pastry-praise: “Thank you Gawd for donuts!”

Of course that same toddler grew into the little girl who once payed for a piece of candy with a palm-full of pennies. And as she handed her copper coins to the unsuspecting cashier, she declared with a smile, “Now you have tell me twenty things you’re thankful for!”

Our penchant for penny hunting may lend to awkwardness now and then, but it’s also grown awareness. Thanks to our well-trained eyes, we see copper gleams that we once would have missed. And in the same way, giving thanks has opened the eyes of our hearts to see glimmers of God’s goodness and shimmers of His grace.

Perhaps that’s the most amazing thing about gratitude! It doesn’t just change our mood; it changes our vision as well.

In His powerful book, The Rest of God, Author and pastor Mark Buchanan writes: “You cannot practice thankfulness on a biblical scale without its altering the way you see.”

Perhaps that’s because when recognize a gift, we’re reminded of the giver.

When I look at the wedding ring on my finger, I think of my husband who gave it to me.

When I see the brightly colored picture hanging on my fridge, I think of my daughter who drew it for me.

When I slip into my fuzzy wool socks, I think of the friend who made them for me.

James 1:17 reminds us:“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…”

The sustaining power of gratitude is this– Giving thanks doesn’t merely give light to our eyes; it shifts our eyes to the Father of lights.

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When No Really Means Yes

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I’m glad you’re here. This is a place where faith is spilled and souls are filled. I hope you’ll pull up a chair and stay awhile.

I’m over at Proverbs 31 today talking about a birthday girl, a surprise party, and  how sometimes God’s no today is simply protecting His yes for tomorrow. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can find it here. But before you go, I’d love to tell you about a crazy little holiday we used to celebrate when we needed a break from our ordinary life, and how learning to “talk backwards” taught me a surprisingly sweet lesson about God…

 

They knew what day it was when they woke up to cereal in the bathroom sink, silverware in the toothpaste drawer and pajamas  dangling from the coat hooks in the entryway. They knew when they heard Christmas music in July and found Easter Eggs in their underwear drawer that they’d be eating under the kitchen table instead of on top of it and greeting the sunrise with a noisy “Good Night” instead of a grateful “Good Morning.”

They knew they’d be wearing pajamas when they went out to play and slipping into play clothes when they climbed into bed. They knew that they’d be allowed to wash their hands in mud puddles, to savor dessert before dinner and to eat candy corn instead of asparagus.

And though my kids may not have known how every moment of the day to come would unfold, they knew for certain that the minutes would be long on laughter and short on structure. They knew that absurdity would reign and boredom would flee.

‘Cause that’s just how life worked on Backwards Day!

Honestly, I’m not sure when the crazy tradition began or exactly when it ended, but for several years while my children were young, we tossed “normal” on it’s head and created our own in-house holiday.

On Backwards Day, we did all things backwards and upside down. We outlawed the humdrum and predictable, the common place and conventional, and we embraced twenty-four hours of pure goofy gala.

Of course, learning to talk “backwards” was confounding at times. Because for one day out of the year, our yes’s meant no and no’s meant yes…

“Mom, may I have another popsicle?” my preschooler asked as he sat cross-legged in the steamy sunshine, his pink lips framed with a bright purple ring.

“No, I think one’s enough,” I said as I dabbed his face with a washcloth.

“Okay, thanks!” he answered with a green-eyed grin, his voice unusually cheery for a kid whose mom just shot down his plan for another round of shameless snacking. He gave me a one-armed hug and hopped off the deck. But instead of running to play in the yard with his siblings, he made a beeline through the garage for the freezer.

Next thing I knew, my four-year-old was back on the deck slurping another frozen treat.

“Honey,” I said as I watched a dribble of melting blue ice zig zag down his chin. “I told you no more popsicles.”

“I know, Mommy,” he responded as he swiped at the sticky drizzle with the back of his hand.  “I heard you. And that’s why I got another one. ‘Cause it’s Backwards Day. So whenever you say no, it means yes, right?”

I laughed out loud at my son’s inverted logic, yet I couldn’t argue with my cunning kid.

It took me hours to get the hang of it, but eventually I learned how to dialogue in reverse. I turned affirmatives into stop signs and negatives into bold green lights. I said no to whimsy and yes to endless work. I said sure to downers and no way to delight. And just when it seemed I’d finally mastered the art of  Backwards Day discourse, our self-construed holiday ended, and I had to shift back to colloquial conversation.

Sadly, as the kids have grown, our annual Backwards Day has slipped quietly off our calendars. It’s been several years since we’ve spooned cereal from the sink or dined on dessert beneath the table. We haven’t said yes to crabbiness and no to craziness for a while, either.  But not long ago I was flipping through my prayer journal, and I realized that God doesn’t need a Backwards Day to practice the art of “reverse dialogue,” too.

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How to Pray When You’re Hanging By a Thread

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I’m glad you’re here. This is a place where faith is spilled and souls are filled. I hope you’ll pull up a chair and stay awhile.

I’m over at Proverbs 31 today telling about a time I found myself dangling above a swirling sea and talking about how prayer is a bit like rock climbing. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can find it here. But before you go, I’d love to tell you how I’m learning to pray even when I don’t know what to say…

I should never have done the math.

I’m a word gal, after all, not a numbers guru.

And, really, what good does it do a desperate mama to calculate the number of days she’s foregone a full night’s sleep?

Blame it on a mind numbed by years of inconsolable infants or on the sheer monotony of wiping faces and bottoms and floors, but on that gray winter’s day long ago, I tried to tally my exhaustion.

2,920 days. That’s how long it had been since I’d slept through the night.

Four kids and forever  buried in diapers and wails, midnight feedings and midday meltdowns, I hadn’t clocked a full night’s sleep since we’d brought home our first wrinkled bundle of wrinkles and wiggles.

Never mind that the experts claimed babies should be sleeping through the night by six months old; mine preferred to embrace the moonlight hours with eyes open wide.

Never mind that my friends told tales of quiet nights and contented cuddles; my wee ones came wrapped in colic and wired with wails.

Never mind that everyone knows that sunrise signifies a fresh start, my toddlers woke in the dark of night and begged to start their day beneath the starlight.

We’d read parenting books and consulted experts. We’d monitored eating habits and routines, schedules and stimulus. We’d established consistent nighttime norms and expectant bedtime prayers, yet nothing seemed to change the fact that our children resisted sleep like a cat runs from the swimming hole.

“They’ll sleep when they’re teenagers,” a well-meaning mom once told me with a wink.

But in the fog of exhaustion and exasperation, I’d stopped wondering if my offspring would ever sleep through the night, and I’d begun to wonder if I’d be alive to celebrate the momentous day.

“Can a woman die of sleep deprivation?” I asked my dear husband after I’d catalogued my fatigue with a senseless sum.

My husband was a doctor beyond the walls of our home, but once he walked through the door, he was just”daddy” beneath our roof. But for a rare moment, I needed my man to don his physician hat and assure me I wasn’t losing my mind. Or my life.

So, I cornered him in the coat room and voiced what any woman who had just calculated eight years of sleep deprivation might be compelled to ask.

He  scanned my face to see if I was joking.

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The Difference Between Watching and Seeing

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I hope you’ll linger here where faith is spilled and souls are filled. If you like what you find and you’d welcome a trickle of inspiration in your inbox now and then, feel free to subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you a splash of encouragement every once in a while. (You’ll find a subscription box on the top right sidebar on my home page.) Or, if you’d rather, we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.

Of course, my favorite way to connect is the old fashioned way—face to face so I can see your smile.  I’m scheduling speaking engagements for the 2017/2018 school year, and I’d be delighted to bring a message of encouragement to a ministry event near you! (Contact me at overflow@aliciabruxvoort.net if you’d like to explore the possibility of partnering in ministry in the year to come.)

Speaking of encouragement, I’m over at Proverbs 31  today telling a tale about a street corner, a woman with a cardboard sign, and the power of being seen. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can find it here. But before you go, I’d love to tell you what I’ve been learning about paying attention and partnering with Jesus. 

See me, Mommy! See me!” Her sing-song voice mingled with the sunbeams and floated through the hot summer air. Her stubby little legs stood bravely at the top of the brightly-colored play equipment and she squatted low as she prepared to soar down the bumpy purple slide.

I acknowledged my toddler with a wave from my station at the bottom of the slide. Then, I  gave her an exaggerated nod and pointed to my wide-open eyes, so she would know I was watching.

“I see you,” I said as I stretched out my arms in ready-position to catch my youngest one’s flying frame.

The child at the top of the slide wasn’t the first to demand my eyes. Having had four toddlers before this strong-spirited last-born, I’d had plenty of practice in the fine art of fixing my sights on little ones.

In fact, as soon as my kids began to talk, they all seemed to acquire a love for that small phrase that beckoned my gaze and begged for my praise:”Watch me!”

“Mommy, watch me!” my sons would holler as they raced like lightning across the yard or proudly pedaled their training-wheeled bikes down the driveway.

“Mommy, watch me!” my daughters would plead as they twirled in pirouettes around the room or somersaulted across the lawn.

“Mommy, watch me!” my daredevils would cry as they dangled from the monkey bars, shimmied up a tree limb or leaped from the couch with arms spread wide.

But our last and littlest girl didn’t echo her siblings’ lingo.

She didn’t just want me to watch; she wanted me to see.

See me, Mommy!” she would shout in a tone that carried both invitation and declaration all at the same time. “See me!”

In that sleep-deprived, please-help-me-to-survive season of motherhood when five kids clamored for my attention every moment of every day, I would have argued that my youngest one’s quirky plea was no different than that of the others’. And that her unusual choice of words was a mere matter of linguistics.

See me, Mommy! See me.

But looking back on it now, I think my daughter knew exactly what she was asking.

She wasn’t just asking to be noticed. She wanted to be acknowledged. She wasn’t just asking for my eyes; she wanted my heart.

This “see me” girl is the baby of five, planted in a house swelling with chaos and noise. And when this youngest one of mine could finally put voice to her wishes, she didn’t just want me to stare; she wanted me to be aware.

I may not have understood it then, but I know now that there is a distinct difference between watching and seeing.

We may be able to watch without engaging our hearts but we cannot truly see without engaging our souls.

If I merely look at you, I may notice what you are, but if I choose to truly see you, I must acknowledge who you are.

Jesus knew this. And I want to remember it, too.

To really see someone means I’m not just offering a glance; I’m extending a gift—

The gift of my time and my attention, the gift of my consideration and my care.

The poet Mary Oliver may have said it– “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work“–

But our Savior actually lived it.

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When We Feel Alone in Our Darkness…

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I hope you’ll linger here where faith is spilled and souls are filled. If you like what you find and you’d welcome a trickle of inspiration in your inbox now and then, feel free to subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you a splash of encouragement now and then. (You’ll find a subscription box on the top right sidebar on my home page.) Or, if you’d rather, we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.  Of course, my favorite way to connect is the old fashioned way—face to face so I can see your smile.  I’m scheduling speaking engagements for the 2017/2018 school year, and I’d be delighted to bring a message of encouragement to a ministry event near you! (Contact me at overflow@aliciabruxvoort.net if you’d like to explore the possibility of partnering in ministry in the year to come.)

Speaking of encouragement, I’m over at Proverbs 31  today talking honest and real about those hard times when we don’t understand what God is doing. If you haven’t read my devotion, feel free to check it out here and bring a tissue, ’cause we may just need to sit down for a good cry together. Also, I hope you’ll grab the free printable I’ve made for you called “Truth in Times of Tears.” (You’ll find it at the end of this post). It’s like a hug from me to you, a little something to buoy your heart when life gets hard.

But before you go, I’d love to tell you what I’ve been learning about finding faith in the dark times…

Her wails beckoned me to her bedside once again.

I’d lost count of the number of times I’d raced up those stairs in the moonlight. And this time, as I trudged to the second floor, I fought the urge to cry myself.

Nighttime was no longer a peaceful pause between dusk and dawn. It was a battlefield bloodied with tears and angst, anger and disappointment. Doubt screams loud when the noise of the day slumps still. And in that dark that settles slow after the sun sets, my youngest one grappled with great big questions.

Is God good?

Does He even care?

And if so, why won’t He answer my  prayers?

Night after night, I felt the ache of her heart in mine, and I wished for answers to quell her seven-year-old angst. But words fall short when discouragement looms long. And even my forty-four-years-of faith couldn’t make sense of the storyline God was scripting at that time.

Our family had put feet to our faith and nothing was turning out as we’d imagined.

We’d trusted and obeyed, listened and surrendered. We’d said yes to God’s dreams and no to our comfortable plans. But our leap of faith had landed us right in the middle of the wilderness rather than on a wild wide of wonder.

And so we’d waited and prayed, inhaled his promises and exhaled hope.

We’d cried out like the desperate father in Mark 9– “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”

And we’d all wrestled with our own fledgeling faith in different ways.

The moonlight spilled quiet through my daughter’s bed room windows, and I wiped her stringy hair away from her flushed face.

Her words were a rant and a whimper, seven-year-old sadness and skepticism all blurred into one.

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