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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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The 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway-The One Party You Won’t Want to Miss This Christmas

It was a simple conversation in the grocery store years ago that first sparked the idea for my favorite Christmas tradition.

image1A mom with a cart full of little ones was standing ahead of me in the  long winding check-out line.

The clerk in the fuzzy red Santa was listening to a customer complain about the price of the Barbie doll that should have rung up on sale, and my preschooler was tugging on my arm begging for that jumbo candy cane that had been placed strategically at a four-year-old’s eye-level.

The speakers overhead cackled a tinny version of Jingle Bells, but it was evident that our line wasn’t going to move as fast as a one-horse-open sleigh anytime soon.

The mom in front of me offered an empathetic smile as she bounced her fussing baby on her hip. “I’d get out of this line if I didn’t have to make cookies for the office Christmas party tonight,” she confided.

She exhaled a weary sigh and muttered, “Funny how Christmas parties just kill my holiday spirit…”

She shrugged her shoulders and ended the conversation with a high-pitched laugh, but I could see the tears pooling quiet along the brim of her weary eyes.

I didn’t think much about that conversation until later that day when I tucked my kids into their beds for nap time and sat down on the couch with my Bible and a cup of coffee.

I opened the Word to Luke 2 and read the Christmas story like I’d been doing each day of Advent for the entire month.

But this time, I saw something new—

The “holiday spirit” on that very first Christmas wasn’t fueled by sale prices or Santa hats, by office parties or tinseled trees; it was propelled by praise.

After the Heavenly Messenger announced the “good news of great joy,” the silent night was pierced with a chorus of praise (Luke 2:13).

And after those wide-eyed shepherds found Jesus lying in the manger, they “returned to their flocks, praising God for all they had seen and heard” (Luke 2:20).

The holiday spirit for which we’re all searching flows from a heart of gratitude.

Suddenly, I knew what I need most that Christmas…


I’m over at my friend, Karen Ehman’s blog  today talking about my favorite Christmas tradition and giving away a basket of goodies to help you host the ONE PARTY YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS.

It may be just what your heart needs most this Christmas season!

Hope you’ll give yourself a gift today and  hop on over to Karen’s blog for a dose of inspiration and a chance to win this prize package I’ve put together just for you.





And the winner is…

Thanks to all who joined me for a “Praise Party” in the comments of this pre-Thanksgiving post last week.


I’m excited to announce that Patti is the lucky winner of the gratitude give-away.   

Of course, even if you didn’t win this cute journal, I hope you’ll grab your own notebook and take time to notice the gifts you’ve already been given this Christmas season.

Maybe you’ll want to give yourself a gift and hide some pennies around your house as you trim the tree and hang those stockings.

Then, during the craze and crunch of this holiday season, those gleams of copper can remind you of this amazing truth: 

Thanking God for the small stuff adds up to BIG joy!

I’m going to tie a bow around my gratitude journal and set it beneath my Christmas tree this month. Because in the midst of the loud holiday frenzy, I want to remember that some of God’s best presents come quietly wrapped in grace.  And only those whose eyes have been opened by gratitude are able to clearly see His lavish gifts.

How about you, friends? What are you doing right now to foster the habit of Thanks-living? 

There’s no better time to begin than now!

“Everyone sees it. God’s work is the talk of the town.

Be glad, good people!

Fly to God!  

Good-hearted people, make praise your habit.”  (Psalm 64:9,The Message)






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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How To Enjoy Every Season of Motherhood (For any mom who has ever cried in the laundry room)

My middle one dressed in black and white on Tuesday in celebration of autumn equinox.

Her brother looked up from his pancakes just long enough to notice Hannah’s out-of-the-ordinary outfit and asked, “Why are you dressed like a zebra?”

She poured her Rice Krispies and raised a knowing eyebrow. “Because it’s autumn equinox today,” my girl replied with fifth-grade sure-ity. 


Josh stared at his sister with mild interest. “What’s aqua-blocks?”

Hannah laughed and responded in perfect teacher tone.  “I don’t know what aqua-blocks are, but Equinox is the moment when the Sun crosses the celestial equator…”

The teenagers at the table raised their eyebrows in a silent admission of admiration, and Josh pushed his chair away from the table with a screech across the crumb-crusted tile. He shrugged his shoulders ambivalently, then headed upstairs to find his socks. When he reached the landing, we heard him mutter, “I didn’t even know we lived by the equator…”

Hannah shook her head and giggled, a dribble of milk dripping un-lady-like from her tongue.  “He’ll understand it when he’s in fifth grade,” she assured me as she wiped her mouth with the back of her black and white sleeve. We exchanged impish grins; then gathered coats and backpacks and piled into the mini-van for our drive to school.


Crimson apples dangled from the chestnut limbs, and bean fields shimmered golden in the morning light. Black-eyed susans shivered half-naked in the ditches, while pearl drops of dew be-jeweled the roadside grass.

And when we came over the hill and beheld pink streaks of daybreak draped like tinsel across the browning fields of corn, even my noisy kindergartner peered out the window with wordless wonder.

Summer may subtly slip away, but Autumn frolics in with fanfare.

 I’ll admit, I don’t remember much about equinox or the celestial equator, but I do know this….

This spinning orb of of dust and dirt has a seraphic September glow, and Autumn sure knows how to showcase Heaven’s beauty.


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