Nov 30, 2016

A year of thanksgiving (part one)

"Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples . . . tell of all his wondrous works!"
(Psalm 105: 1-2 ESV)

"Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"
(Psalm 106:1 ESV)

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas decor is up and the busyness of the season is upon us. And yet, it is still a time to give thanks. Whether Christmas season, or spring's early blooms, or summer's warm nights, it is always a good time for thanksgiving. For the past few years, I have been trying to be more intentional about seeing the whole year (rather than just November) as a time to give thanks. Whenever I took time to pause and reflect on the things I am thankful for, it always leads to joy and rest, often helping me defeat anxious thoughts and worries because I am focusing on the blessings rather than the fears.

Psalms 105 and 106 beautifully chronicle the story of the Israelites from Abraham to their arrival in the Promised Land. The psalmist continually calls out for the Hebrew people to remember God's "deeds" and "wondrous works". Back then, recounting stories of their heritage was a way to carry on their culture, similar to how some cultures (such as Native Americans) still use oral traditions (or storytelling) to teach new generations about their history and beliefs. But the psalmist didn't just want to give Israelites a history lesson; a spiritual lesson was more important. In essence, he was saying, 
"Remember the God who made a covenant to Abraham? The God who brought Joseph out from prison to a place of high honor in Egypt? The God who saved baby Moses so that adult Moses would one day lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt? The God who provided, protected, and guided the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years even though they complained and disobeyed Him time and time again? Remember that God?? Well, He is everlasting and He is still the same God!"

He is the God who is faithful in good and hard times. The God who leads us when we surrender to His lordship and guidance. The God who forgives us when we repent of our waywardness. The God who leads us from anxiety, fear, and anger and into joy and peace. That's my God and I am so thankful for Him.

"Remembering is an act of thanksgiving, a way of thanksgiving, this turn of the heart over time's shoulder to see all the long way His arms have carried. "Gratitude is the memory of the heart," writes Jean Baptiste Massieu, but gratitude is not only the memories of our heart; gratitude is a memory of God's heart and to that is to remember God"
(Ann Voscamp, One Thousand Gifts)

So, with a month left of 2016, I want to look back at the past 11 months and recount gifts from God; blessings and surprises and even hard times that helped me grow. Because the more I look back over my shoulder, the more I am reminded of the arms holding me up through it all.
Looking back at written words in journals and photos in my phone helps me remember some of the things I am incredibly thankful for this past year. Here they are, in no particular order; the first half of  seemingly small -- but all gifts from God that brought joy to my heart. 

(Top right to left) 
> Spending time with my brother and his then-finance (now wife!) in Portland in February the weekend of their engagement dinner. It was fun exploring the Columbia Gorge together for a few hours. I had missed the PNW and my family so it was a sweet reunion.
> Weekend at the lake in the Texas Hill Country with my in-laws and Greg in early January was a sweet escape from busyness and I got to hang out with my MIL while the guys were golfing. Sweet time together walking, talking, and window shopping. She is such a blessing to me!
> Two of my brothers flew from Oregon to Texas to visit us for a week and we went to the NASA Space Center because one of my brother's has been dreaming of going there for a long time. It was fun showing them around our city.
> Decorating our apartment little by little, transforming it from his bachelor pad to our first home
> Enjoying a sunset from the lake house on Valentines. Greg and I had the lake house to ourselves this time and it was a low-key but absolutely perfect weekend. 
> While in Portland in February, we drove to Seattle and I got to show Greg around my favorite parts in downtown. 
> Painting With A Twist with the gals in the Bible study group that I attend ended last spring. It was so great having gals who were praying for me each week and who I was studying the Bible with.
> These two friends  live in our complex and have been so sweet to "plant-sit" my potted herbs whenever we traveled this year. (Here we are at a 90s party, haha)
> Greg bought me a Journaling Bible last Christmas and it has been so fun drawing out things I am learning, which I did the first 6 months of the year (this is a good reminder that I really enjoyed this and should start it again).
> In early spring, we had brunch at my favorite place in town, Guenther House, followed by a relaxing walk on the quieter side of the riverwalk. 
> I surprised Greg for his 30th bday in April with a picnic, hike, and sports at the park. He's an outdoorsy, active one so it was fun trying to think of what would be fun for him.
> Greg occasionally leaves me notes in books he knew I am reading. 
> I have wanted to have a potted plant for years and this was the year I finally did it! I saved lots of money since I was buying herbs for recipes. Now I pick them of Herb the herb plant!
> On our 6 month-iversary of marriage, Greg took me to the botanical garden in town and I swooned over the tiny houses and flowers. 
> I surprised my mom with a visit to Portland in April and took her to the lilac garden we both fell in love with the year before. It was fun having time with her. 
> After Biblical counseling sessions at church, this little garden is a perfect place to journal my thoughts.

> Jogging and chatting with my mother-in-law the day after Thanksgiving was a sweet gift.
> Spending Thanksgiving (and every holiday for that matter!) with Greg rather than being apart due to long-distance. What a joy!
> We hung out with a couple of friends at a pumpkin patch and acted like kids trying to find the perfect pumpkins and then getting lost in the corn maize.
> I waited for A Portrait of Emily Price for atleast 3 months so I was so excited when it came in the mail! 
> Lake Tahoe for our 1 year! The views of the lake and surrounding mountains were amazing (three pics) and the food was delicious (especially the fish tacos at Freshie's in South Lake Tahoe).
> We love quiet days at coffee shops when we can dive into a book or a Bible study, chat about what we are learning, and just rest. This was during a rainy day in Lake Tahoe
> The fall foliage in Lake Tahoe gave me the heart eyes! I love seeing the vibrant colors in the fall!
> I started jogging a lot more in the fall and this trail has been so fun to explore, not to mention the deer that commonly frequent the trail as well. So relaxing but also productive to be increasing my milage little by little. Thankful for health and for having this trail so close to our complex.
> Hanging out in the Pearl area on a Saturday morning with Greg and oohing and aahing at the architecture of Hotel Emma. We love this part of town.
> A lovely walk with my love on my favorite trail and then this amazing sunset happened!
> Reading This Is Where You Belong, a great book about place-making that has been helping me see Texas as my new home on the days I'd rather compare it to Oregon or Washington.
> We spent a weekend in September with Greg's siblings and explored the incredible Dallas World Aquarium.
> Throughout the year, I have been trying new gluten-free recipes and this one was probably one of my favorites. A greek-flavored platter of skewered chicken, rice, taziki yogurt sauce, and cucumber salad.


Hang tight, I have more sweet memories/blessings to share but this post is getting much too long! I'll share them in a few days! :)

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