The Fruit of Joy

This last week I was out in my rain garden. Seeing what needed to be tended to. And as I was surveying new life rising through old growth, trying to determine what was supposed to be there and what I needed to pull, an old hymn came to mind. I wasn’t exactly sure why, as it doesn’t have to do with gardening. And yet, maybe it does.

One thing you should know about me. Green, although my favorite color, will never be used to describe my thumb. I am clueless when it comes to gardening. But I’m striving.

Someone whose thumb I consider green has told me I have a lot of weeds in my rain garden. I’m sure it’s true, but everything in there blooms. Everything produces color and looks pretty to me. So I have no idea what needs to be weeded out. I look at my garden and smile wide. Completely oblivious to anything that should prevent me from doing so.

Later that night, when I realized the poem never left me, I began to see where my heart was leading. And I thought I’d share the hymn/poem with you today, on this Music Monday. I’d love to know where it takes your heart, too.

I’ve shared one of these Olney Hymns before. “The Waiting Soul” In this post. This is another one of my favorites from the same collection:

“The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength
by: John Newton, 1779, from Olney Hymns, vol. 1, hymn 42

Joy is a fruit that will not grow
In nature’s barren foil;
All we can boast, till Christ we know,
Is vanity and toil.

But where the Lord has planted grace;
And made His glories known;
There fruits of heavenly joy and peace
Are found, and there alone.

A bleeding Saviour seen by faith,
A sense of pard’ning love;
A hope that triumphs over death,
Give joys like those above.

To take a glimpse within the veil,
To know that God is mine;
Are springs of joy that never fail,
Unspeakably divine!

These are the joys which satisfy,
And sanctify the mind;
Which make the spirit mount on high,
And leave the world behind.

No more, believers, mourn your lot,
But if you are the Lord’s
Resign to them that know Him not,
Such joys as earth affords.

How about you? How have you found joy? How do you share it with others who might still be looking? I’d love to hear. and I’d love to hear what tugs at your heart with this beloved, old hymn. 

Sharing a glimpse of my joy with gifts of thanks.

  • God’s peace can guard my heart (Phil 4:6-7)
  • 13 years of marriage. And my cup still runneth over.
  • All of the Anniversary and birthday wishes this last week. You all blew me away. Thank you.
  • My now 4-year-old son’s love of board games. I’m considering calling Guinness about how many games of Mouse Trap we played this last week.
  • God wants me to truly know Him (Hosea 6:6)
  • Perennials. I’d be lost without them.
  • God’s love knows no bounds (Hosea 14:4)
  • Finding a church to call home.
  • Having a neighbor who is an avid gardener (a hidden blessing)
  • God is still doing things we wouldn’t even believe! (Habakkuk 1:5)
  • Smartwool socks on a cool, damp morning.
  • I don’t have to be perfect for I am perfectly loved.
  • Trader Joe’s soyaki sauce. Yum (when used sparingly).
  • God blesses those who sow…not reap.
  • I have the ability to radiate life (Luke 11:36)
  • No one. Not one. Can rob me of my joy. (John 16:22)

What joy have you found today? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

My Life Song

Sleep visited late and I was looking forward to missing the first morning’s chorus outside my window. My son had other plans as he woke with the robins and practiced his whisper excitedly in my ear. “Tickle, tickle, tickle!”

This was my moment. Sure it came by surprise. No, it didn’t tickle. Yes, it wasn’t what I had planned. And still it was here. Staring me in my sleep-starched face. This was my moment to choose. Will my actions play harmony to the tune set before me? The melody master-crafted by my Heavenly Father, or will it ring flat? Will I drown out the tune with my sharp overtones?

I blink hard, repeatedly, trying to force function. Finally I’m able to focus on my firstborn’s face. His big blue eyes dance with joy as he tries to send me into giggles. I scoop him up and pull him in close, hoping for a few extra moments to decide what key I will sing in today.

His freshly cut hair brushes my nose softly, making me want to wriggle free, and I can’t help but oblige. “You got me, bud. That did tickle!” My fingers instinctively return the favor.

And the birds join along in the chorus. Sweet harmony abounds.

Then there was today.

The stage mirrored the one before. The cast encored. And yet I sang flat. Out of key, off rhythm. I found myself in desperate need of take two. Please tell me that’s happened to you, too.

Immediately, I realized the cause. Why I opted for the off-tune, easier melody. I had neglected my thanks yesterday as I was too wrapped up with what I have quickly forgotten.

But thanks to the promise of new mercies, I can still claim today. Today, after pleading with the cast for forgiveness, I chose the melody of joy. Tomorrow, I think I’ll choose the harmony of praise. And will save the sonnet of delight for the encore. For this is my life song. And I get to choose how it will sound.

Counting my thanks this Thanksliving Thursday:

  • Persian cucumbers
  • Angora socks
  • Clear blue skies
  • He’s alive!
  • Sleep-filled nights
  • Migraine dissipating
  • Vehicles can be repaired
  • Mechanics
  • The lessons in Jonah (it will have to be another post)
  • Successful surgeries
  • The power of prayer
  • I don’t have to know all the details. Just need to know the One who does.

How about you? What song are you singing today? What are you thankful for? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Linking up with Allume as my favorite post for the month.

Also linking up with:


Well on my Way

It came in the mail just over a year ago. I was so excited for it was one of the first giveaways I had ever won and a book I was so anxious to read. I had been following the author’s personal blog for a while and was elated to finally hold her words in my hand.

When I read:

living with losses, I may choose to still say yes.
Choose to say yes to what He freely gives.
Could I live that — the choice to open the hands
to freely receive whatever God gives?
If I don’t — I am still making a choice…

on page 18, I knew I was in for some soul-searching. For losing my son was something I still held on to too tightly.

I was captivated. A complete sponge. It was challenging to put down, but even harder to read fast. I wanted to savor every page, make sure I didn’t miss anything.

About two weeks later, I was ready to begin the dare. The challenge of putting the book into action. And on March 30th, 2011, I did just that.

Count one thousand gifts,
bless the Holy One one hundred times a day,
commune with His presence filling…me.
This is what it means to fully live.pg 226

I am an optimist by nature and thought it would come easy. This writing down brief moments where I felt/saw God’s hand of love. My Savior gifting me with joy. Was I ever wrong. It required more focus, intention, than I ever anticipated.

In the beginning, my goal was to write 10 each day. I failed miserably. So I decided to strive for 3. That came easier while still requiring conscious effort. But soon, I was only listing on the weekdays. And some days, I would forget completely.

I went the entire month of August with my journal on a shelf. Only 255 gifts were listed.

Excuses, now they came easy. I was in a knee brace during this time, unable to put any weight on my right leg for too long. And when I look back on it now, I see why I needed to be that still. I see what God was preparing me for.

Am I living God’s best for this life
or am I bankrupting any legacy of faith?

Stress can be an addiction and worry can be
our lunge for control and we forget
the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ.” pg 159

God spoke to me while my legs were elevated. He stirred my heart like never before. And He showed me what I needed to do. To live more intentionally. To keep my focus upward and not in the mirror. To be more accountable.

Gift 256 read: No knee brace.
Gift 257 read: Lessons learned in starting a blog.

God asked me to open up and share my heart. At first, just for me and Him. Simplystriving was set to private. Only my husband and I were able to read those first few posts.

Nov. 5, 2011 Gift 273: Sharing my heart with anyone who will listen. I opened the doors.

And on March 23, 2012 — nearly a year after I began, look what happened:

I’d like to say I made it, but that wouldn’t really be true. No, friends. I’ve finally figured it out. I’m well on my way to receiving His lavishing love.

And so I continue. Counting my thanks. Acknowledging gifts given to me from Him:

  • God will never go back on His word. (Isaiah 45:23)
  • Even Jeremiah felt ill-equipped.
  • A reader reaching out, blessing me with her words in my hands.
  • A cleansing spring drench.
  • Friends praying for me simply because they want to.
  • Warming up the house by baking.
  • I am set apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)

How about you? What are you thankful for? How have you chosen joy lately? Have you read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp yet? How has it changed your perspective? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: I am not an affiliate of anything. There are links in this post that allow you to view the book I’m referring to and purchase if desired. They’re used for your convenience as there are fabulous reviews listed there as well.

Linking up with:

Thankful Surrender

But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.
      If you keep to my path,
      I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:23 NLT

I stumbled upon this verse while reading through my Bible in 90 days this week. It was the word ‘sacrifice’ that caught my eye.  Maybe because the Chapter used it twice.

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
      and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
Psalm 50:14 NLT

Giving thanks has become a discipline for me. One I strive to do every day and write down in efforts of holding myself accountable. And I have to admit, it’s hard for me to view it as a sacrifice.

But I see it now.

A sacrifice by definition is an offering of surrender. And when we give thanks to God Almighty, we are doing just that.

We’re acknowledging the gift He gave us through that act.
We’re admitting we couldn’t have done that without Him.
We’re humbling ourselves before Him in praise, offering ourselves so He can lavish us with His love in complete surrender.

“To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it.”
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts pg 54

I get the feeling this is the sacrifice God wants most from us. It’s one of the few in the Bible that’s mentioned in both the Old and New Testament.

And to celebrate Thanksliving, I share some of the ways I did just that this last week. Brief moments I bent low before my King and said “Thank You, Father. What would I do without You.” Most of them probably don’t seem all that wonderful to you. Oh, if only you could have been there with me. To see how the gift was wrapped special just for me…

  • Stir Crazy popcorn (if you know what this is, we could become fast friends)
  • Finding 7 year-old jeans that now fit me! (I’ll try to just wear them around the house ::SMILE::)
  • The lesson I was taught while reading Job 36 & 37: Don’t get caught up in the details. Just praise!
  • My 3 year-old out of the blue at the breakfast table: “Mom, I want you to know something. If you kiss me, I’ll always kiss you back. Okay?”
  • My husband working so hard for us this week
  • Every good thing I have comes from God (Psalm 16:2)
  • A reader so generously emailing me to give me a heads up on an error on my part — I love those.
  • God lights up our darkness (Psalm 18:28)
  • The simple joy of blowing bubbles
  • First Robin spotting — signs of spring
  • God knows every bird (Psalm 50:11)
  • Record high temps and the family time to enjoy them while flying kites
  • Even when God does not answer, He is still holy. (Psalm 22:1-3)
  • A back deck to retreat to
  • Receiving vitamin D naturally
  • I can call God a close friend (Psalm 55:13)

How about you? What sacrifice can you make today? What are you thankful for? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Am linking to:

Author Unknown

The word “UNKNOWN” caught my eye as I was flipping pages. Pages between Esther and Job. I guess I was unaware we weren’t sure who wrote this masterpiece we call Job.

At first I thought, “Oh, that’s too bad. Because this Book is brilliant. They deserve the credit.” Then I heard what my head said. Who deserves the credit?!?

I circled the word and found myself writing in the margin:

I may be unknown, but my words matter.

Yes, Lord. Let’s keep it that way. May my words speak Your name. Not mine. May my writing be so that the author is forgotten, but what is remembered is You. Your glory. Your grace. Your love. Your works.

I am but a vessel. Your handiwork. Nothing more than a piece of clay. Nothing less than a masterpiece.

And when people look at me, may they see who made me. May Your style resonate so that my face is forgotten. For all they see is You. I cannot think of a greater legacy than that which leaves Your fingerprints on everything I’ve left behind.

Lord, make me unknown.
Known only to You.
And while You’re at it,
can You make me okay with that, too?

~~~~~~~~~~

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for doing this Bible in 90 days challenge. Aurie, thank you for encouraging me to do this.

It’s reasons like this I fall behind some days as I get so wrapped up in what God is showing me. But it makes me want more. It brings excitement for each new day of exploring His Word in this type of format.

And for this Thankful Thursday, that is at the top of my list.

Because I’ve never had a post less than 200 words, here are some other things that made my ThanksLiving list this week as I continue to count with Ann:

  • Sounds of snow melting off roof. Like grace pouring down.
  • Safe travels
  • The comforts of goulash
  • Being able to stay-at-home
  • Brief moments of grace (Ezra 9:8)
  • That in spite of us, there’s hope (Ezra 10:2)
  • A good night’s rest
  • God = great power, a strong hand, and tender love (Nehemiah 1:10)
  • Wedding ring found
  • A 57 degree day in March. Unbelievable!
  • Trader Joe’s natural creamy peanut butter
  • Doing Pinterest crafts with my boy

How about you? What are you thankful for today? Are you okay with being unknown? Will you join me in striving to leave a legacy filled with Him? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Am linking up to:


No Excuses

Excuses aren’t working for me. When I see my thanks journal and notice it hasn’t been written in today, I have no valid excuse.

Time. That’s always the one I cling to. That fleeting four-letter word. But who cannot find time to say thank you? Am I not teaching my son the importance of this gesture? Was I a hypocrite today? For if anyone deserves my thanks every day, it’s my Redeemer. If there’s one thing I should be teaching my boy, it’s to bend low and appreciate the Great I Am.

And yet my lines are empty this day. Intentions failed to prevail.

Ah, but grace. Grace will always rise to my rescue.

As far as I’m concerned, the night is young. I have plenty of time to pen my thanks to Him for all He blessed me with this day.

And so I write:

  • A new blanket of snow. Covering the slushy mess. Perfect snowman weather.
  • My son’s fever broken. Color restored.
  • Emails of encouragement. Just when I need them.
  • Extra snuggles at bedtime.
  • Meeting my February healthy-living goals.
  • Making it through I & II Kings as well as I Chronicles in my reading the Bible in 90 days. They were tough, but I saw God’s mercy.
  • Layers revealed on my Lenten journey.
  • New gloves for washing dishes.
  • God is the only one who will rescue us. Reason to worship II Kings 17:39
  • God knows us well. II Kings 19:27
  • He hears our prayers II Kings 20:2-6
  • God is good.
  • I am always loved.

And my joy tank is renewed. Oh yes, this is something I need to teach my son.

From now on, I intend to have no more excuses. For who doesn’t have time to say “Thank You, Father. I see what You did there.”

Intentions will prevail.

How about you? What are you thankful for today? How have you seen Him in your life lately? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Am linking up to Theresa’s lovely:

And Ann at:

ThanksLiving Thursday

PSALM 100 NLT
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before Him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are His.
We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving;
go into His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and His faithfulness continues to each generation.

I have begun every morning this week reciting Psalm 100. I must say, it has become a perfect platform for me as I have decided to make the conscious effort of choosing joy each day.

So I continue to pen my thanks. My gifts. My joys. For God is here, lavishing me with His love. And I don’t want to miss a thing!

In efforts of practicing ThanksLiving, and in attempts of sharing some of that with you, here are some things that made my Thankful list this week:

  • Being able to finish my grocery shopping for the week in less than 40 minutes. Thank you, Trader Joe’s.
  • Guacamole. So versatile. And right now, it’s my favorite dip.
  • Celebrating Valentine’s Day with my sister and her family. So thrilled they were willing to spend their eve with us!
  • Receiving Valentine’s from family.
  • Hubby and I’s love story.
  • Right on track with my health/weight loss journey. Should make my February goals!
  • Also right on track with my reading the Bible in 90 days.
  • That I’m His (Psalm 100)
  • God WANTS us to hold on tight to Him. (Deut 11:22) It does not show weakness…
  • Large snowflakes crystallizing in the sun. Nature’s prisms.
  • My 3 year old’s Valentine to Jesus. It was a family portrait. I’m in love.
  • Free learning apps on my new Kindle Fire. So thankful for the great deal we got on one!
  • My husband doing our taxes. I don’t have to worry about a thing.
  • God keeps His promises (Deut 7:9)
  • God helps us not because we’re good, but because we’re loved (message I received in Deuteronomy)

God bestows gifts and I give thanks. I write them down and reflect on them whenever doubt starts to creep in. Because here I see how much He loves me. How He takes care of me. Affectionately.

Yes, there’s something to writing them down. Making physical note of the blessings God gives us each day…

How about you? What are you thankful for today? What verses do you like to reflect on each morning? What’s your favorite dip? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

We practice Thankful Thursdays over at Red Oak Lane.
Would you join us?

Thanksliving

For my friends in America, the day of Thanksgiving is upon us. As a parent of a very curious preschooler, I thought I’d better refresh my memory on how Thanksgiving originated. Have you ever googled such a thing? I never knew there was so much controversy surrounding when this holiday originated and how.

We all remember the gist of it. Pilgrims traveled via boat in hopes of discovering new territory. When they finally found land and set their feet on solid ground, they gave thanks. When they were struggling to feed the colony that survived the voyage, their Native American neighbors taught them how to live off of the land. They celebrated and gave thanks together after the first full harvest.

Now remember, this was no pleasure cruise. This boat was no Titanic. No plumbing, heat, or electricity. No weather tracking equipment helping them steer around any dangerous water ahead. Nothing. All the passengers possessed was a drive to keep going and the unwavering passion to discover a new life.

They had given up everything they had ever owned or known for a life they weren’t guaranteed to get.

Is that ignorance or is that faith?

They had quite a few mishaps on their voyage. But they made it. William Buford captured the event in his journal:

“Being thus arrived at a good harbor, and brought safely to land,
they fell on their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean
and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof.”

They praised. They felt thankful. They worshipped.

But their trials were not over. Sickness broke out. They lost half of their population due to health-related deaths. Yet they set aside a day of thanksgiving.

Is that ignorance or is that devotion?

I’ve said it before: God is good. All. The. Time. He never waivers. He never falters. He has never failed.

He is worthy to be praised.

Our struggling settlers not only knew that, they lived it. They practiced thanks. And so should we. Beyond the Thanksgiving holiday. Even during trials.

Through life’s hurdles — we should give thanks.

Can we live like that? Giving thanks all year round?
Can we turn Thanks
giving into Thanksliving?

I’m willing to try. Will you join me?

I’ll start.

I’m thankful God has given us so many promises we can rely on:

  • His mercies are new every morning.  (Lamentations 3:22-24)
  • God has a plan for each of us. One that gives us a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • He will supply all our needs. (Philippians 4:19)
  • Nothing can ever separate us from Christ’s love. (Romans 8:37-39)
  • My debt was paid. My sins are forgiven. My reward is heaven if I only repent and believe. (Romans 10:9, John 3:16)
Just to name a few.

To practice my life of thanksliving, I hope you don’t mind if I continue to share  my thanks on this blog. You will find the posts in my Joy in the Journey Category on my sidebar or more specifically tagged “Giving Thanks”.

How about you? How will you try to turn Thanksgiving into Thanksliving? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

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