Recently as some co-workers were grumbling about daylight savings, I couldn’t help but smile. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I welcomed the time change with open arms. Why? Falling back an hour meant my morning commute would be illuminated once again.
One of the biggest struggles I face in my faith life is carving out time to spend with God. Though I wish I always put that first, as I build my daily schedule, it often gets pushed to the bottom, and even then I don’t always get to it. When I started a new career a year and a half ago, my morning commute doubled. Though some might find this burdensome, I took it as my opportunity to spend time in conversation with God every day.
My morning car ride is often the only peaceful time in my day, and it’s in this quiet that I can really open myself up to communication with God. No matter the season, God and I will always have this time together, but I get a certain thrill having our conversations driving into the sunrise as I’m able to now.
From the colors of God’s palette to the strokes of clouds in the sky, no two sunrises are alike. Each morning presents an opportunity to marvel at God’s handiwork. Just last week I was transported: the positioning of the clouds and the rising light made it seem as if I was driving in a mountainous landscape and not due south in flat east Texas.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.
It’s on mornings like those that I can feel God speaking to me, revealing himself to me in a way that doesn’t require words. And that’s the most profound type of communication I can imagine.
Written by Whitney
I know what you’re thinking: Welp, it’s about that time again - time to list what I’m thankful for at the big family meal.
Well, you’re right, but we shouldn’t reserve ourselves to one season to give our thanks to God: we should acknowledge his grace and thank him every day.
When giving thanks we seem to forget that many of our blessings are in disguise. They are more than nice in-laws or a job promotion or the material items we have been blessed with. They are our hardships, our brokenness, our insecurities. As humans, we don’t like to recognize our idiosyncrasies that seem to have negative effects on our lives.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Just being thankful for our joys is only half of what God had given us. God has given us more than obvious gifts. He uses all our experiences to shape us, to mold our consciousness into what he wants. We often forget to thank him for these blessings in disguise.
I think one of my biggest is living where I do. I go to a school where nobody has been exposed to real life. Katy, Texas is really a big, safe bubble for most kids, which is why parents love to raise their children here – they won’t have to grow up faster than they should. For a long time I was a participant in that utopia.
Through my parents’ work (one a dispatcher and another a music therapist turned music teacher) I have met many amazing people who had to face the reality of the world. Through their experiences and stories I have seen the growth that a person can attain. Their experiences taught me about life. Before I was even in kindergarten I knew what the real world was like. It’s not a bad thing - it just put everything into perspective.
For the greater part of grade school I covered up my difference from others by masking myself with humor - I’d joke about everything. But after seventh grade I realized that my difference was a blessing that kept me grounded and down to earth. It kept me out of trouble numerous times because I already knew what the outcome would be. Knowing that life wasn’t a fairy tale made me the person I am today. I always thought that this was a burden for a child, but now I thank God for this knowledge that has guided my decision making throughout my life.
Even though times are tough, God still uses those times to strengthen you, to make something out of them, to bring you closer to him. Trust in him and give thanks. He will never let you down.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the life you have given me. Even though many see hardships as obstacles, I know you use them for my benefit. I know that through them I will get closer to you. Thank you for your blessings in disguise. Amen.
Written by Benjamin
Two years ago the life I thought I had under control came crashing down around me. Well, actually, I crashed into my boyfriend’s truck, totaling both our cars, but at the time it sure felt as if everything was falling apart.
It was three months into my fourth year of teaching and I was having a crisis. Something told me that the stress and frustration I was feeling wasn’t the typical school year stress, but that just made me try harder...which resulted in increased stress and frustration. I was foolishly trying to fit a square peg into a round hole; that the peg didn’t fit anymore scared me. Miss Independent over here couldn’t stand the feelings of confusion and helplessness and certainly didn’t want to admit that she couldn’t make it all work on her own.
One evening my boyfriend was up at school to keep me company as I graded and planned. Finally after 6 p.m. we decided to call it a night and get some dinner. I wish I could say the roads were slick or that I swerved to avoid an animal in the street - unfortunately I have no real explanation for the crash other than I was distracted and tired and wondering what on earth I was going to do about the mess that was my life.
After the jolt of the crash I was in shock. I had to crawl over to console to the passenger side because my door wouldn’t open. I looked at the front of my car, took in the damage to my boyfriend’s truck, and saw that there was another driver in front of us who’d been hit as part of the chain reaction. The embarrassment was overwhelming. How could this have happened? What had my life become? Could it get any worse? What was next?
I assumed my boyfriend would be angry - how could he not be? A car crash is not something you’d expect 6 weeks into a new relationship. Anticipating the worst, I apologized. But instead of being angry, he hugged, asked me if I was all right, and told me not to worry - it was just a truck. The grace dumbfounded me.
In the hours that followed, I stood back and watched as this man who I hardly knew handled insurance issues and car towing with a cool head. Standing in the middle of the mess, I realized what an asset he was. The men from the towing company asked me if he was my husband. I said no but that, after this, I should probably marry him,
In the wake of the crash and burnout, what had seemed like a terrible ending turned out to be a wiping of the slate and a fresh beginning, It was the kick in the pants I needed to start a new career and a new way of life, but - most importantly - it was a powerful lesson on how God can take bad and turn it into good.
Oh, and in case you were wondering what happened to the boyfriend, I married him ten months later.
Written by Whitney
A few years ago, I did a race called “Tough Mudder.” The 12-mile mud run full of crazy obstacles gives itself the reputation of being “probably the toughest event on the face of the planet.” It was the race of my dreams. As a kid who grew up in a wooded rural area, it was the real experience of all the imaginary races I had as I ran through the trees, jumping over logs, climbing up rocks, and getting completely dirty. It's a grown-up’s obstacle course dream.
The neat thing was we each had varying levels of ability. Some were better runners, some a bit stronger, some better at keeping a great attitude, yet we all encouraged each other, kept each other accountable, and battled together.
Each week when the workout came, I would think, Do I REALLY want to go train tonight…? And then I’d remember the other guys that would be showing up and I’d get up and head out for the training. As the race approached, I found myself in pretty decent shape. I also found that our team had created a pretty strong bond. All those days of sweat, blood, throw up, and, on occasion, tears made us stronger. When the race finally arrived, we were like kids in a candy store radiating with anticipation and excitement. We didn’t know if we had the right training to be ready, but we sure knew we had each other to go into the race.
It turns out we were ready. And it was a blast!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
I like to imagine the church as a group of training partners for the Tough Mudder. It’s a “huge crowd of witnesses” that helps strip off what’s going to hold us back from running the race. We each bring our own strengths, and together we are stronger. Life will be hard and grueling a times, but I’ll have a people who will encourage me along the way. When we are done with the race, we’ll be able to say it was all worth it.
Written by Mark
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
He deserves our thanks, our praise, and our love. He deserves much more than we give Him. But in those moments when we do say a quiet thank you and praise all that He does for us, I’m sure it puts a smile on His face. When my family says “great dinner mom," I know they love and appreciate what I do, and that puts a smile on my face too.
(I do feed my family, by the way!)
Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Written by April
While trying to write this post, I tried to find something to inspire me. I turned to my Bible and opened it to
1 Thessalonians 5:18. Inside I saw I had put a bus pass there. But this isn’t any ordinary bus pass: it has a special place in my heart.
During the summer, I got an awesome opportunity to go to this 2-week almost-seminary-type camp, where I got to live in an intentional Christian community and learn about my faith in new ways. While I was there I got to experience really cool mission trips, which really impacted my faith-journey. The last one I went on was one of my favorites.
We started off by talking about all the people that are under the poverty line in America; even though they get benefits from the government, it still isn’t enough for them on a day-to-day basis, especially when the families have children under 5. They get a set amount of money that is supposed to help them a lot, but sometimes, life just happens.
Then we started our activity. We - 8 kids and 2 adults - were split up into groups pretending to be a family of 4 with 2 children under the age of 5. We were given the task of getting groceries for “our family.” We were expected to spend 30% of our SNAP benefits (what the government provides us), which amounted to around $130. But since life happens, we first had to spend $50 of it for an urgent care bill because one of our kids broke their arm on the playground, leaving only $80 to spend on food.
Next we were given a map and a bus ticket and were told that we had to go to an HEB. Also, as a roadblock, our adults could not help us; in fact they were pretending to be our kids under the age of 5! None of us knew where any bus stops were or even what they looked like. On top of that, we had to make sure our “kids” didn’t run off and get lost.
Eventually, after walking around for almost 20 minutes, we found the right stop and got on the bus. I didn’t even know how to put my ticket in the machine because there were so many different holes and buttons that the bus driver just had to do it for me. Once we were on the bus, we had to figure out when to get off. We also decided the bus ride would be a good time to discuss our budget and what we had to buy.
It was hard at first because no one had really budgeted before and we didn’t have a clue what anything costs. We had a variety of items on our list and hoped for the best. While we were on the bus, one of the adults pulled out a piece of paper with more roadblocks that we had to deal with in order to do the challenge correctly: we had to buy dog food; one of our kids’ birthday was that week, so we had to buy a cake of some sort; and finally our other child broke their flip flops, so we had to pay $7 to buy a new pair. We had to factor all of those things in when we went into the store.
By the time we got to the HEB, we were almost out of time. A lot of us argued about what would be the best to buy, and we were so crunched for time that we were all stressed out. We had less than 20 items, were almost at $65, and barely had everything we needed for the week. If it had been real life, we would have failed.
On our way back to the bus stop, we realized that if this was real we would have had to carry everything with us back onto the bus - maybe even carry a child - so we couldn’t have gotten everything on our list anyway because it is not like your two kids under 5 years old can help you carry much.
That experience was eye-opening and made me feel really grateful for everything I have. It made me thankful that I have a car so I don’t have to take the bus to get places. It made me thankful that my parents are able to provide for our family so we don’t have to worry about having enough groceries for that week. Also, it made me feel that I take way too much for granted and that I should be able to appreciate what I have and be thankful for what my family provides me with.
Written by Sarah
Ask what I am thankful for during a normally busy moment and I will tell you (in no order of importance): my parents, sister, wife, kids, distant family (both by blood and marriage), my job, house, and working vehicle…
However, in silence - just a few moments of peace - I am thankful that, according to Jeremiah (the prophet, not the bullfrog), God knew me before He began to knit me in my mother’s womb in 19(cough, cough). He didn’t bring me into existence in the 2nd century, the 1500s, nor the 1800s. God knew me, my very essence, and determined I would be born to those two parents of mine at the exact time it happened because He already knew me.
I grew up a child of the 19(cough, cough)s because He knew it was the right time for me. I am thankful for His faithfulness; even when I am not, He is! I am thankful God crafted a life and a path that is just right for me to walk if I so choose.
Has my life been perfect? Nope. My parents perfect? Nope. When I was young I was pretty sure I’d be the perfect parent…NOPE! I am thankful God has given me (and you) His inspired words so that I can understand why my life has not been perfect, even down-right difficult at times, why my parents were not perfect and I am not the perfect dad…HE is the perfect dad.! His way leads to the perfect life everlasting!
I am also thankful for the First United Methodist Church of Katy. My children were baptized here, but more importantly I came to know the real Jesus because here I came to know Gerry, a real teacher of The Holy Bible. To find someone who is thoroughly well versed in Scripture, unashamed of it, and unafraid to share it is priceless, and for that I am forever grateful.
Thanks be to God as He will use things in our lives for good to shape us into those who will be worthy of eternity with Him in Heaven. I believe it with all my heart, have seen it with my own two eyes, and experienced it with my very being.
God is loving and faithful. Aside from creation itself, the very act of love that Jesus did is beyond our imaginations. He was tempted, yet without sin: the perfect atonement. Thank you, Jesus.
To show His awesomeness and great power He spoke millions of stars into existence and even more planets.
And with all of that all He wants from us is our heart.
Keeping this in mind, I remain in a thankful posture towards Him throughout the day, in good times and in rough ones.
Mostly I am thankful that God so loved the world - the cosmos - that He gave His most unique, His one and only begotten Son, Jesus, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Written by Harry
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.