[Joan is on vacation, so she's adapted a previous "Thanksgiving" post. At the end of this blog, comment and add your "gratitude soup" ingredient to put your name in the hat to win an autographed copy of the RELIEF OF IMPERFECTION where Joan first writes about her alphabet prayer. Book drawing will be held 12/01/13.]
Do you have leftovers from that delicious Thanksgiving dinner? If you’re like most families, the answer is probably “yes.” So you’ll be coming up with creative ways to continue to eat and enjoy that leftover turkey and mashed potatoes. Sandwiches? Barbecue turkey, turkey omelets, fried potato cakes? Soup?
Speaking of soup, remember the alphabet soup you ate as a child? Now follow me. It’s the way my mind is working this late Thanksgiving night! Here’s a creative way to keep enjoying your family’s Thanksgiving gratitude-spirit this season–with some ALPHABET PRAYER SOUP.
Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Aunts, involve the kids in making and enjoying this special soup. Maybe when you’re cooking in the kitchen, riding in the car, walking to the park, or tucking them into bed. Explain that you’re going to make some leftover Thanksgiving Alphabet Prayer Soup.
Take turns naming something that you’re grateful for starting with A and proceeding through Z. Example of how to begin the prayer: God, thank You for the:
A. Air we breathe. Apples we had for lunch. Animals. Artwork I did at school. Aunt ________.
B. Bird. Bananas. Books. Bike. My bed.
C. Clouds. Courage. Christ.
D. Duck in the pond. Dishes. Daddy.
E. Evergreen trees. Electricity.
F. Flowers. My friend ____________.
G. Gas for the car. Grace. Grandpa.
And so on, through the entire alphabet, as you have time. Be gentle with yourself and your family. Skip a letter if you can’t think of anything.
Watch your heart flood with gratitude as you enjoy this creative prayer tool with your family. Maybe you’ll want to make this Alphabet Prayer Soup often throughout the year to keep the Thanksgiving spirit alive and well in your home.
Okay, now it is YOUR TURN. Enjoy a little Alphabet Prayer Soup with me right here on the blog. What are you grateful for that starts with H, I, J, K, L… Well, you know the rest of the alphabet. I’m looking forward to your THANKSGIVING ingredients.
[A NOTE FROM JOAN'S ASSISTANT] Joan is very genuine. She is a true Intentional Woman and I'm blessed to partner with her in ministry. She has so much to offer! Not only has Joan authored or co-authored 13 books she is also a speaker and Bible teacher. (Comment below and you'll be entered to win THE RELIEF OF IMPERFECTION.)
But one of my favorite things about her is that she genuinely cares about others. She is also a Personal Life Coach and Intentional Woman Life Plan facilitator, she has accumulated hundreds of hours coaching and helping set people free to become who God gifted them to be. Joan is such a great listener who is full of empathy and love. This year my "J" list has: Jesus, Jack (my son), Janice (my mom) and Joan (my new boss, friend, and role-model) on it. Thank you Joan for the many blessings you have given me! -Karen Johnson
[Joan is taking some time-off and has asked her friend and fellow-author
Lucille Zimmerman to share an excerpt from her helpful new book about self-care.
Comment below to put your name in the hat to win an autographed copy of RENEWED. Drawing on 11/24/13.]
Harvard research has found these virtues strongly and consistently linked to happiness: gratitude, hope, vitality, curiosity, and love. That kindness, or gift, need not be tangible. It could be a simple gesture or intent that is represented rather than the actual item or benefit given. Maybe you offer to drive a friend home from the car mechanic’s shop, but instead she chooses the time to sit there and read. The unused offer still carries meaning to both involved. One study found three distinct parts involved in gratitude:
• A warm sense of appreciation for something or somebody
• A sense of goodwill toward that thing or person
• A resulting disposition to act positively
Gratitude is the key to happiness, and happiness seems to make good things happen. The benefits of happiness may include higher income, superior work outcomes, larger social rewards like longer marriages and more friends, more activity, energy, better physical health, and longer life. Happy people are more creative, helpful, charitable, self-confident, have better self-control, show greater self-regulatory and coping abilities. Happiness can add as many as nine years to your life.
In one study led by Dr. Robert Emmons and Mike McCullough subjects were divided into three groups: The first group described five things they were thankful for. The second group wrote about five daily hassles, and the third group wrote about things that had affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or on the negative. After ten weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were happier and more optimistic. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor than those who wrote about hassles.
Another study found that managers who remember to say “thank you” to their employees may actually motivate them to work harder. Marriage researcher John Gottman’s twenty years of research shows that if a couple is unable to maintain a high level (5:1 or greater) ratio of positive encounters (smiles, compliments, laughter, appreciation) to negative encounters (frown, put-down, complaint), the marriage will end. In fact, he can observe a couple for three minutes and determine with 90 percent accuracy whose marriage will flourish and whose will fail.
Can you recall the last time you told someone how much he or she meant to you, how precious your time with him or her was, or how much his or her support enabled you to endure a difficult circumstance? Have you ever tracked down an old acquaintance to thank them for making a difference in your life? If so, do you remember how sharing that message made you and the object of your gratitude feel?
Dr. Martin Seligman asked 411 people to write a letter of gratitude to someone alive or dead, someone who had not been properly thanked for his or her kindness. The happiness benefits and decrease in depression scores, to the letter writer, were greater than any other exercise in Seligman’s happiness study, and the benefits lasted for six months!
[A NOTE FROM JOAN'S ASSISTANT: I truly appreciate the research Miss Lucille has done to help bring renewal to her readers. Joan tells me that this book is full of practical tips on how to be RENEWED! She says it's definitely worth reading. Now, I'm excited to read it and if you are too good news, you have a chance to WIN it! Just COMMENT below on this blog and I will put your name in the hat. I will select a winner from those who comment by 11/24/13. I look forward to seeing who is going to be one step closer to being RENEWED!
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University.
She is the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relate-able anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice." Are you ready to be RENEWED?
[Joan's taking some time-off and has asked her photographer friend Jodene Shaw to share an excerpt from her blog about gratitude. Check out more of Jodi's photographs on her website.]
"Gratitude. Thankfulness. Seeing the goodness. Finding the beauty in everyday life.
It makes a difference.
It is to enter a sacred place.
A holy, priceless state of being.
Psalm 100:4 says to enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise.
To have thanksgiving and praise takes us into the very presence of God.
This morning I walked for over an hour with my camera falling in absolute decadent love with purple coneflowers, dew drops, the sound of my feet on wet gravel after a rain, fence lines, birds singing, my daughter riding her bike through a rain puddle, and my beagle soaked in grass dew. My heart swelled with gratitude, with thankfulness for this very place in which I live. I wondered if the first ten years of my marriage and living on the prairie, if all of it was there then. Did the coneflowers bloom every summer? Were the dewdrops scattered like tiny diamonds in the morning sunlight? Did the birds sing so sweetly? Because I don't remember any of that from 1996 - 2006. It does not stand out in my mind. But certainly they were there. But my eyes were not open...
I noticed, as I walked, as I photographed, how fulfilled I felt.
Really? I could be so happy with such a simple thing?
Yes. I could.
It felt sacred,
It felt . . . with God.
And also giddy, delighted, indulgent."
(Excerpt adapted from Jodi's online Prairie Song summer class from summer 2012)
Over a year later, walking in the cool of the day with my camera helps me live Philippians 4:8 in the fall.
Think on these things.
That is what focus and seeking light and beauty helps me to do.
This is what photography is to me.
No matter the season.
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable
--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--
think about such things.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise . . . Psalm 100:4
Opening the door to sharing who I am as a wife & mom, writer, photographer & artist. 4 short statements describe my story to tell: Believe Truth. Be Who You Are. Be Real. Embrace Your Place. I am a believer in and teacher of the beautiful difference made by Jesus Christ. Wife of a handsome, good-hearted man who is a hard working cattle rancher. Mom of 10 yr old son, and 2 daughters (8 and 3). One of my "life verses" is John 4:42, "They said to the woman, 'Now we no longer believe, just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."
*** All photos and writing contained in this blog are the copyright property of Jodene (Jodi) Shaw. No permission is granted to copy or reproduce them in any form without written consent of the creator. This includes copying them in any form for any digital use or use on the internet.
[A NOTE FROM JOAN'S ASSISTANT] Allow me a moment to brag about Jodi. Not only is she a talented writer but she is also an artist. Her photography is great and she composes fantastic pieces of art using mixed mediums to create unique treasures like the one pictured here. Click here and enjoy spending a moment browsing her other creations at her ETSY shop.
[Joan is taking some time-off and has asked her friend and fellow-writer Kathy Collard Miller to share
an excerpt from her helpful new book about worry and trying to over-help. Comment below to put your name in the hat to win an autographed copy of PARTLY CLOUDY WITH SCATTERED WORRIES. Drawing on 11/10/13.]
There’s something deep inside of us that believes worry can change others. If someone we love has a different perspective than we do, we worry. If someone we love has a different belief about God, we worry. If someone we love has a character flaw, we worry. We just know their wrong thinking will mess up their lives.
Some of these worries may truly seem “worthy” of worry. Your mother may not know Christ as her Savior, and she has cancer. Your son may be on the street taking drugs. Your friend may demonstrate a lack of integrity at work. Another friend drives while intoxicated. You may have tried to reason, cajole, quote Scripture, even manipulate each person into changing their ideas and their behavior, but nothing has worked—not even prayer. God hasn’t changed them either. You fear something bad, really bad, is going to happen.
Even if it’s not a matter of something really bad occurring, we can easily take responsibility for someone else’s happiness and then try to change them.
A verse that has helped me in releasing that worry is: “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:15 NASB). If God has the ability to give you and me a different attitude, He can do it for anyone. He is powerful and creative. When we worry or feel like we have to change someone’s ideas, we are saying, “God, you aren’t effective enough. You aren’t creative enough to work in this person’s life. I’ve got to do it myself.”
When I think of how God creatively worked in our daughter Darcy’s life, I sense the tears coming. Darcy went to Denmark for a semester of college and requested to live in the home of a Danish family. At that time, Darcy was friendly with us, but distant emotionally.
But while in Denmark, our phone calls soon were centered on how badly her Danish “mother” was treating her— ignoring her and saying mean things to her. Larry and I were incensed, as most parents would be, and I began to worry about my daughter’s emotional health. Then my worry fueled anger toward this woman who had no right to treat my daughter like that. We suggested Darcy move to on-campus housing, but she wanted to stick it out. Since we couldn’t afford to go visit her (I would have loved to give that woman a piece of my mind), I had to stew over it … in the beginning.
Then I saw God’s work in Darcy’s life. Because of her circumstances, she began to appreciate our family as she never had before. In comparison to the way her Danish family treated her, we were looking pretty good. In fact, fabulous. I’d never heard as much love and warmth in Darcy’s voice as when we talked with her.
Shortly before she returned home, she sent a Christmas card and wrote in it:
Dear Dad, Mom, and Mark: Since I can’t be there with you for Christmas, I’m writing to tell you how much I’ll miss not being there and how much I love you all. Being away has really made me realize how awesome a family you are. I love and appreciate all of you so much! I can’t wait to come home to see you all. Give my love to the rest of the family. I’ll be seeing you on January 6. Love, Darcy.
That was in 1994. After Darcy returned, her appreciation for our family continued to rise to great heights, and it all started with something I was worried about. It’s every mother’s longing to have her child value their family. But in our case, God accomplished this through mistreatment, something I would have changed if I could. But if I had, the good results God intended would not have occurred. Even today, when we talk about that situation, Darcy remarks, “Oh, yes, God really used that in my life.”
We don’t want to thwart God’s changes in those we love, do we? We need to make sure worry doesn’t prevent His work. Let’s live like we believe Philippians 3:15: God can change others.
NOTE FROM JOAN: Kathy and I seem to think alike in many areas and even write about similar topics. I love the above story and so appreciate the message. We can't change/fix others through over-helping or over-worrying. Only God can change hearts! This book is worth reading. Maybe you can WIN it. Just COMMENT here on this blog and my assistant Karen will put your name in the hat and then draw the winning name. She'll let you know who won while I'm on vacation.
It is possible to worry less through trusting God more. Regardless of the storms of trials, temptations, worry, uncertainty, confusion, or regrets that you're facing, you can trust God more. Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries offers a conversational style, personal testimonies, practical illustrations, and solid biblical teaching for breaking anxiety and the devastating effects of worry. Each chapter includes Discussion Questions for individuals or groups, along with a “Letter from God.” In addition, a profile of a woman in the Bible who struggled with or experienced victory over worry is featured in each chapter to inspire every reader to see God's hand in her life.
Kathy Collard Miller is a speaker and author. Her passion is to inspire women to trust God more. She has spoken in 30 states and 7 foreign countries. Kathy has 49 published books including Women of the Bible: Smart Guide to the Bible (Thomas Nelson) and she blogs at www.KathyCollardMiller.blogspot.com. Kathy lives in Southern California with her husband of 43 years, Larry, and is the proud grandma of Raphael. Kathy and Larry often speak together at marriage events and retreats.
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.