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Tag Archives: pennies

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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Why I’m Serving Pennies for Thanksgiving Dinner

The turkey is in the oven and the potatoes are peeled.

The pies are baked and the cider is simmering.

I haven’t burnt any bread yet or placated any sibling strife, but, in all fairness, the day has just begun.

I’m not banking on a flaw-free Thanksgiving dinner, but I know without a doubt, that I’ve got the perfect garnish!  My potatoes might be lumpy. The turkey could be dry, but no matter how the food turns out, I’ll decorate each plate with a copper coin.

Yep, I’m serving up pennies for Thanksgiving this year.

And if you’ve got a minute before you bake that green-bean casserole or carve that bird, I’ll tell you why…


Our family’s penny tale began years ago when the kids were small and my patience was stretched thin. I was slogging through a season of discontent, weary from a decade of diapers and discipline, toddler tantrums and time-outs. I knew in my head that I was blessed beyond measure; still, I woke each morning with a sense of subtle dread.

I couldn’t reconcile the emptiness in my heart with the fullness of my life, and something deep within ached for more.

More than closet-grumbles and stumbling steps. More than sheer survival and quiet complaints.

I begged God to change my circumstances but He decided to change me instead. From the timeless pages of scripture, He whispered this gospel grace—

Give thanks in all things.

I’d read those words a thousand times before, had glazed over them and nodded my good Christian nod–Yes, yes, of course, I’m thankful.

But, then a friend challenged me to put that little verse into action, to take God at his Word and to deliberately give thanks despite my circumstances. In my monotony. In my discouragement. In my pleasure. As I told you on Monday, I accepted the challenge. (If you missed it, you can read more about that here.)

I scribbled thanks in a little striped notebook, counting the simplest of gifts—the scent of just-bathed babies, the feeling of pudgy fingers clutching mine, the sight of freshly-folded laundry piled neatly in a basket. And moment by moment as I willfully acknowledged the gifts God chose to give rather than wishing for the ones He didn’t, gratitude opened the door to joy. It tiptoed in unexpected, like a long-lost friend and settled quietly into my soul.

And one day I woke up and realized that even though my hands were still full, my heart was no longer empty.

Of course, once I discovered the power of thanks-living, I wanted my kids to experience it, too. Since not all of my children could write at the time, I knew that the concept of a gratitude journal wouldn’t allow my little ones to take ownership over the habit, so I began to pray for a simple way to prompt praise within our home.


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Tuesday’s Tips: Growing Gratitude During Lent

I’m so glad you stopped by today for Tuesday’s Tips (on Wednesday today… seems I’m a step behind everywhere this week!). I hope that as you peruse this weekly IDEA SWAP for moms, you’ll find a gold-mine of encouragement and treasure trove of creative ideas excavated straight from the sticky trenches of parenthood.
Of course a SWAP wouldn’t be a true exchange without many voices. So, please consider chiming in the discussion and sharing your own great ideas. If you’ve discovered a tried and true trip that has made motherhood a little easier, a little more exciting, or a bit more meaningful, please let me know.

Just leave a comment after this post or send me an email ( so I can share your idea in the next swap! I’d love to feature you on an upcoming Tuesday. Let the digging begin!

The Jar of Nails:  Growing Gratitude During Lent

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you probably already know that our family uses pennies to grow gratitude on a daily basis. (If you don’t know how this all began, read the story here). A gleam of copper reminds us that life is far richer when we take time to thank God for the littlest of things. Praise shifts our eyes from the gifts to the Giver and shifts our hearts from the muck of this world to the things of Heaven. 

During this Lenten season, I’ve traded out our penny jar for a jar of nails and challenged my family to begin and end each day “at the cross.”

Here’s the simple idea:

 When you wake-up, drop one nail in the jar and praise God for something as the day begins.

 Then before you climb in bed for the night, grab another nail and thank God for something as the day ends. 

Of course, our jar of nails isn’t limited to the bookends of each day. I love it when I see the kids  drop a nail in the jar each time they walk by it. And I’m enjoying the tangible reminder to pause in the hustle and bustle of my day and thank my Savior for being and evident part of it. 

At the very least, I hope that this simple jar of nails will help us to be more aware of Jesus’ presence during this special season of Lent. 

May you find that praise leads you to the same sweet place!

The Overflow:  Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. –Hebrews 13:5


When You Just Need A Glimpse of Your Father


I close my eyes as the bell choir fills the sanctuary with angelic chimes. I turn from the daunting pulpit reserved on this morning for me, and I focus on breathing deep the peals of peace. My churning stomach refuses to comply. You have nothing worth saying, the Enemy taunts as I pray for God’s words to flow.

Bells are gently laid to rest. Congregational prayers offered. Then the woman with a kind gaze introduces me to the quiet crowd. Recognized by some, but a stranger to most, I step up to the podium in this small town church and pray once again for grace. I am out of place behind the pastor’s ornate rostrum, but oddly grateful for the barricade that hides my trembling legs. 
I thank the congregation for inviting me to be a part of Women’s Sunday. I share of how my married life started just up the hill from this stalwart brick building; how my five children have each baptized the playground beyond these walls with tears and laughter, skinned knees and silly screams. I speak of the constant noise of my days and of the God who abides in my daily clank and clamor. Knees still knocking, I read the words that frame my talk…
In the days when community was richer and faith was deeper, a new home would be blessed and its doorsills anointed with oil, or honey, or blood. Before the explosion of churches, some homes even had altars. The temple, in fact, was called the Mishkan: a place of divine dwelling. In English we call it a tabernacle:  a tent. The first church in the Abrahamic faiths, in other words, was a home. God chose to live among his people. Home in this earlier understanding, was more than a venue for eating and sleeping: it was a holy place.  Somewhere along the way we forgot this. We began to think that God was out there– in heaven, a sunset, an ornate temple, a mega church. We forgot that the has always come to where we are, to dwell with us. We began to think of him as being somewhere else, and told ourselves that we had to get dressed up, put on smiles, and go find him…
Yes we can to to our churches and temples to seek him out, but I wonder if sometimes our homes are not just as sacred as these buildings. It is our homes where we make love and pray, where we make children and try to raise them, where–if we are blessed– we one day are allowed to die. If God is not is such a place, in the muck of our daily existence, in our beginnings and endings, then he is nowhere….  [Home] is where the sacred and mundane meet, which is to say, where the hand of God touches the broken heart of man. 

I confess that I am no preacher, nor Bible Scholar, but merely a woman who has found the Lord where the sacred and the mundane meet. I scan the room for a set of smiling eyes and wish that I had more to offer than the story of a simple penny jar, a tale more exciting than that of a woman whose life has been transformed by the power of praise. But I can not be who I am not. Nor can I weave a story that’s not mine to tell. So I carry on. 

I shake the jar and as the pennies clank against one another in a tinny jingle, I speak of copper gleams and glimpses of glory. Thankfulness for the seemingly insignificant. I quote another Christ seeker who has experienced a life transformed by praise: The whole of life even the hard is made up of the minute parts and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole… There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.

I am wishing that I had words to speak as beautiful as hers, a testimony as poignant, a gift as evident. I am wishing that I were more or maybe less- every piece of my broken self lost in Him— when I spy someone I hadn’t expected to see. I hadn’t asked him to come but he is here. Silver-streaked head nodding in understanding, wrinkled hands resting comfortably on his lap, my father sits alone on the edge of the pew. Eyes fixed on me. 
My swirling stomach stills. My racing heart rests. And I inhale the grace of  one who loves me as I am. 

I glance at my notes and realize that I’m tasting the truth I’ve come to tell– the wonder of finding our Father in the places we least expect Him to be. The thrill of seeing His glory right in the midst of our grit, His opulence in the center of our ordinary. This is what makes a small life BIG– eyes to see Him, the One who loves us as we are. 
I flash my Daddy a smile and scan the rest of the room. The faces fade, all but one. I reach for the penny jar on the podium and savor the celestial clink of copper coins. 

The Overflow:  

    “Those who seek the LORD will praise him—
   may your hearts live forever!” 
Psalm 22:26

Pennies in the Fridge

Spring break officially ended today when the school bus chugged through the gray morning mist and honked its impatient horn at the end of our driveway. Joshua stood at the door and begged his big sister not to go, while pajama-clad Maggie made a mad dash across the yard in an earnest attempt to join her school-bound siblings. My youngest ones eventually lugged their gloom into the kitchen where I was stashing dirty dishes and mopping up milk splatters from the breakfast rush.

What are we going to do today? Josh asked with a sigh.

Well, we need to get groceries and go to Walmart and do some cooking, I told my four-year-old. I was exhausted just picturing the Monday monotony.

I don’t want to do THAT, Josh declared with a scowl.

I don’t either,  I silently agreed as I opened the empty refrigerator to return the maple syrup to its place. No milk. No eggs. No fruit. No bread. I was taking a mental inventory of our lack when I spotted a gleam behind the near-empty tub of butter. I moved a half-eaten container of yogurt to get a better look. Sure enough, a shiny copper penny smiled at me from the dirty and bare refrigerator shelf.

I don’t remember putting any pennies in the fridge…..

This penny hunt that began one week ago (see Family Faith and Fun: The Search for Wonder) has become a bit like the widow’s endless jar of oil or the little boy’s five loaves and two fishes. Though our penny hunting baskets have long since been tossed, our five hundred copper coins seem to keep multiplying. No matter how many pennies we find and subsequently drop with a spoken praise into the jar that sits on our kitchen table, copper gleams continue to catch our eyes in the most unusual places. Though we never intended to continue hunting for pennies once spring break was over, we’re learning that this penny perspective has much to teach us about discovering wonder right beneath our roof.

The first lesson emerged from a simple conversation that took place as the kids counted their copper loot right after our first “official penny hunt” last Saturday. Somewhere in the midst of his counting, Luke suddenly looked up from his pile of coins and asked, “So when did you hide all these pennies, Mom?”
“Yesterday while you were at school.”
“These pennies were sitting around our house all night?”
“Yeah, from the moment you hopped off the bus.”
“I can’t believe I didn’t see a single one yesterday!”
“Why do you suppose you didn’t?” I asked.

“I dunno, I guess my eyes just weren’t looking for pennies.”

How often have I missed  the little gleams of glory strewn throughout my day simply because I wasn’t looking.  Worse still, how often have I missed the Author of Wonder simply because my eyes weren’t poised to see Him.

When Luke was just eighteen months old, he loved to play at the park at the end of our block. One of my favorite places as well, this neighborhood green boasted  a fountain-studded pond and a colorful playground.  One evening, we arrived at the park just as the sun was setting. As we walked past the pond, Luke clapped his hands and pointed in the general direction of the water.

 “Pretty, mommy! Pretty!” my toddler squealed.

I didn’t know at exactly what he was marveling, so I offered a generic mom response. “Yeah, pretty.”

Fully aware that I hadn’t spotted the beauty he was admiring, Luke stomped his foot and shouted, “No!”

I scanned our immediate surroundings and tried again. “Oh, honey, the flowers are pretty,” I said as I pointed to the new landscaping around the water.

Again, my firstborn stomped his foot and shook his head “no.”

I  pointed at the ducks gliding across the water. “Pretty feathers?”


The guessing game continued and the level of frustration grew. Finally, out of sheer exasperation, I squatted down right beside my little two-foot boy and began to script an apology in my head. That’s when I saw it- the blazing orange sun casting its glow on the dark pond.. As the rays of evening sun collided with the pond’s quiet silky surface, golden sparkles danced across the water.

“Oh, Lukas,” I gasped. “The water. It’s sparkling. And it’s beautiful!” My tow-headed oddler clapped his hands and nodded his sweaty head in an exaggerated yes and hugged me with grand delight. So relieved that I could finally see what he’d seen all along, my son danced an uncharacteristic happy dance and then splashed his feet in the diamond studded waters

As I’ve collected pennies over the past seven days and have allowed gleams of copper to prompt spontaneous praise, I’ve pictured my Heavenly Father a bit like my joyful toddler from yesteryear. Each time I drop another penny into our humble jar, I imagine God clapping His holy hands together, relieved and delighted to share with me what He’s seen all along–– sparkles of wonder dancing across the landscape of my ordinary days. Open the eyes of my heart so I can see, Lord! (Ephesians 1:18)

The Overflow:  He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Deuteronomy 10:21