April McGowan

On Gratefulness and Gratitude for 2016

85faffdb5ec7d00b5a8b63296d5ab885Yesterday I took some time to ponder this past year. I began compiling a mental list of things that happened in 2016. There were so many blessings.

However, I was quite startled to see a different account on social media. There are more memes and gifs of 2016 blowing up, being burned, and stomped out of existence than I ever remember seeing before of any years in the past. “Good riddance,” was the tamer of most sentiments.

The United States presidential run, the loss of life to terrorism, and the deaths of entertainment icons seem to be garnering the most outrage right now. I’m upset about those things, too, don’t get me wrong. But, I’m always left wondering as we watch remembrance lists of those who have died in the entertainment industry about the others who died. Those in less auspicious careers in ministry, literature, arts and sciences who are even more impactful in our daily lives that no one bothers to compile a list about because they aren’t famous. Or even more importantly, our own loved ones.

And even as I’m pondering these things, and the struggles I’ve faced this year with illness and disability, with loss and unexpected occurrences, I’m still overcome with a spirit of gratitude.

Every day is, truly, a gift. Lest that sound trite, know I spend many hours of those days in bed from illness, but still, they are gift I’m thankful to have.

So as I think back over 2016, the losses aren’t in the forefront of my mind as much as the gratefulness for what has happened. In 2016, after homeschooling her for her whole school career, we graduated our daughter from high school and she stared college. We’ve watch her grow greatly in maturity and responsibility—in compassion and grace. My son entered the last year of middle school, started a blog, grew many inches, and has become a source of comfort when I’m not feeling my best. Despite losing his closest local friends to an out-of-state move, he has found joy and grown in his sense of humor, and is finding new connections. My husband and I grew closer to God through trials and deepened our intimacy with our Savior and one another. I’m grateful for my sister-in-law, the blessing she is to us, and that she’s someone I can count as sister and friend. I’m thankful I got to see all my parents this year and made sweet memories with them. Daily, I’m blessed by good friends and sisters in Christ in countless ways—but mostly by their prayers and words of encouragement.

So, while life moves on, trials come and deep losses are experienced, I’m still grateful to the Lord for the blessings He brings, for the strength He extends, and for the small, sweet moments I enjoy in His company.

I hope and pray that each of you can look back and see pockets of unexplainable joy and peace that Jesus has brought to you despite your circumstances. And I pray that in the coming year you will be even more mindful (as I’m practicing at!) of seeing His gentle, guiding hand in all the hours of your days.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

 

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God Of Wonder–Thankfulness

Tree3I’m always struck by the offerings of gratitude and thankfulness at this particular time of year. In the US we’re readying for Thanksgiving, a day we ponder and feel thankful for all the gifts and blessings we have received in our lives. In Christian homes, there is prayer and thanksgiving to God for these gifts. This makes sense to me–being thankful in general to a non-sentient universe (as the media portrays thankfulness) always leaves me wanting.

I enjoy reading daily posts of what people are thankful for on Facebook as they take a daily census: their God, their family, their freedoms, their health, their abilities. All in all, good things. I’m also thankful for other things: struggles, obstacles, hardships, because through these things I am learning what it means to persevere. I’ve learned that the Lord is my strength (truly) and my shield. I have learned He is my protector, my King, my worthy Savior.

I love this time of year, when the mountains are emboldened around me turning golden, red and orange. I gaze in wonder as the sun blazes bright through the last lingering leaves on the maples outside, striking my window and filling my bedroom with the warmth of color and heat before winter arrives full-force. I open my living room window and watch the wild finches flitting from branch to branch, scrambling for seed we’ve left outside as they prepare for cooler temperatures. Their lilting chirping sounds full of expressions of contentment—and sometimes warnings when the scrub jays arrive unannounced—fill my spirit with sweetness.

Today, I’m thankful especially for nature, for God’s fingerprints on creation that remind me of His appreciation of beauty, His authorship of our world, His mighty love for us.

Psalm 100: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.Enter his gates with thanksgiving,and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good;his steadfast love endures forever,and his faithfulness to all generations.

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Let it Snow!

snowAs I sit watching tiny flakes of snow drift to the ground outside my window, I find I’m in a contemplative mood. Today is the last day of 2012. And what a year it was. I find I remember many joys, all coming at the end of trials. There were difficult times dealing with fatigue and exhaustion, soreness and illness. But, there were also the clear times when the Lord supplied my need and gave me joy despite my circumstances. If you know me personally, you’ll know my heart is preconditioned to be a pessimist. I don’t mean to be, and I’ve struggled against it, but there it is nonetheless. God made me a trouble-shooter (where you look ahead and see the possible negative outcome of just about everything and do your best to make sure it doesn’t go that way). Which is why I’m rather amazed at my ponderings.

Although there are many unknowns in my life right now, of which I’ve been sorely tempted to worry over—today I’m content. Dare I say hopeful? (GASP!) I can say with confidence that no matter what comes my way, the Lord will provide.

My prayer for you this New Year is that you’ll find yourself looking forward, not back. That you’ll grow in faith with the Lord. That, if you are suffering today, you’ll be able to see past your circumstances to the One who provides true joy despite difficulties sifting down around you.

May your blessings be many, and may He keep you tightly in His mighty grasp.

Happy New Year!

1 Peter 1:3-9  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (full text here).

 

 

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