Thanksgiving…..

Growing up a spoiled brat who got every wish on her list and more, Christmas was always my favorite.

Now I resent what most holidays have become. I’m actually kind of  a scrooge.

 

Somehow Christmas, the birth of Christ,  has morphed into gifts given mostly out of obligation, shopping, stress, a fat guy who sees you when you’re sleeping, and “holiday” music.

 

And money, lots and lots of money… Did you know that over 450 BILLION Dollars is spent each year on “Christmas”. Did you know that it would only take 10 BILLION dollars to give clean water to every person on earth? (Check out the Advent Conspiracy Video, it’s only two minutes)

 

Easter is more about a big bunny bringing a basket of gifts instead of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Saviour.

 

Valentines is about marked up red roses, chocolate, and cheesy poems that seem insincere, and would be more appreciated it written by the giver, on May 23rd.

 

And then there is Thanksgiving.  My favorite. Virtually untainted by any American commercialism.

It’s friends, family, football, food and a whole lot of Giving Thanks.

Giving Thanks Bye Bye Plastic

I don’t even remember what my first credit card was, or what I bought with it, or why I thought it having one was such a good idea.

 

It wasn’t just that I was spending money that I didn’t have. It was that I was trying to live the lifestyle of an executive, as an intern. I was at the lunches, wearing my cute new outfits. I was getting Starbucks and adding the extra shots. I was buying presents for people.

 

I was trying to gain the acceptance of everyone around me while the only One who has ever truly loved me and accepted me watched as I put another shackle on my ankle. I was an idiot.

 

I have nothing to show for the over $30,000 of credit card debt that I had racked up between the ages of 18 & 23. Nothing.

 

I was living in Ohio and part of the community at sevenoseven the night I laid my debt on the altar, literally.

 

Pastor Dan Burgoyne was preaching on radical amputation . Remember the whole “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” business? Yeah, that was Jesus (Matthew 5:29-). And He was serious.

 

Pastor Dan challenged us something was sin in your life, and you know sin separates you from God, Jesus commands us to radically amputate that sin.

 

There he was, calling all of us twenty-somethings out on our junk. He challenged the hormone driven men to burn their porn, our lust, our flirtations, our overeating, drinking, sleeping, spending,  gossip magazines. If we are the body and bride of Christ, why are we so entangled in our self pleasure and sin? And what does that say about the redemptive message that God is our all in all that we preach to the “unbelievers”.  And I knew.

 

My credit cards had me in chains. I could not run hard after God while in bondage to sin.

 

So there we were. A community broken over our sin. I knew what I had to do. I cut up my credit cards to pieces. I returned to my seat to continue in worship of my Creator, and Provider.

 

I remember Ryan Wilkins leading worship that night. I remember it as though it was just yesterday. Through the tears we sang….

You are the only one I need

I bow all of me at Your feet

I worship You alone

You have given me more than I could ever have wanted

And I want to give You my heart and my soul

You alone are Father And You alone are good

You are alone are Savior And You alone are God

I’m alive, I’m alive I’m alive, I’m alive…………

 

With my credit cards on the altar I made a commitment to not rely on the false security credit offered. So I closed all my accounts and made an aggressive contract to pay all the debt back, with a negotiated lower interest rate, in just over 5 years. I had to trust that this was true obedience and that He who started the good work would be faithful to complete it.

 

God proved Himself faithful.

 

The last several years have been rough. It has been total dependence on Christ and His provision. I have had to ask for help from my parents. I have freaked out in prayer about my money and bills. And God led   people to randomly, and anonymously bless me with cash, or gift cards, or checks through the church in the mail. Friends have noticed me being on fumes and filling up my car. There were seasons of not being able to find a job, and He was faithful.

 

In September I made my last payment to my creditors.

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace………….

I’m alive, I’m alive I’m alive, I’m alive…………

Giving Thanks North Ocean Drive

 

Yes, This is where I live. In one of the homes I have walked by and wondered who lives there. Now I do.

Yes, my bedroom overlooks the ocean, and snorkeling is just 8 floors down. But as great as it is, the people are the best part.

 

Miss Flo is the woman I care for. She cares for me. She has welcomed me not only into her home, but into her family (I was going to say “into her heart”  but that was too cheesy chiche’, even for me.) She is 89, sharp as a tack and likes to eat popcorn for dinner sometimes. She loves, really really loves, Glenn Beck, calls her representatives to talk about the “Pelosi Heath Care Plan” that is cutting her benefits, all while reassuring me that the Lord is in control, and that I need to know that she knows that. She tenderly prays for me and my family before meals.

 

She does not let the fact that she is partially blind and pretty darn near completely deaf hinder her from trying to look above today’s standards of presentable at all times. If her hair is graying, she wears a hat to match her outfit. Even around the house.

 

She has spent her life working. And that has not stopped! She and her husband had a potato farm in Idaho. She raised their 3 children, then went back to school later in life to become a teacher. She was a widow for many years, content, and hesitant to date when she met her second husband Henry.

 

And my goodness she loves her husband. He passed away a year ago this week, and through her own limitations, she humbly cared for him night and day as hisParkinson’s robbed him of the full life they lived together. He was a biblical counselor, and she traveled the world by his side. She tells stories of their adventures, and the people along the way. She recaps his books and sermons and still cracks herself up retelling his jokes.  She plays DVDs of his conferences, and I am amazed at how he still shepherds her soul towards the Lord through modern technology.

 

She is lovely, but she is also lonely. She is aware that she has outlived most of her friends and all of her family, including her only son. Her condition has forced her daughters to decide to sell the home she shared with her Henry.  It’s on the market. And it’s a rough market.

 

 

And then there is the staff. They are my adopted grandparents.

Mr. Mike works the front desk. Has a thick New York accent. I don’t see him much, but I think I have busted him flirting with my friends.

 

Mr. Bob works at the guard-house out front and checks in on how I am doing on the weekend nights. He notices when I get home earlier or later than usual. He wants to know if I am sleeping okay. He wants to know if I will have a coworker waiting for me in the parking lot at work when I get to Starbucks in the morning because “A girl should not be alone at this time at night.” He even came into Starbucks the one morning “just to say hi”. I wasn’t there. He is so sweet.

 

Ohh my, then there is Miss Trudy. She is spunky.  I have only had one guy friend over to Miss Flo’s, ever. So the girls and I were hanging out and having dinner and he was the only guy. They had just come from the beach, and he was in visiting from out-of-town, so he had his suitcase to clean up for dinner. And sheflat-out asked me in her sweet southern drawl asked me if he was our stripper. I was beyond embarrassed, red as this white girl can get. Spunky indeed.

 

Miss Barbara encourages me in my singleness. She met her husband at church, and they have been married for 40 years or something crazy like that. She is afraid of driving on i-95 and she gets ticked off that people assume she is “less off” because she guards the door at North Ocean Drive. She is actually retired from a profession, and yes her diamonds are real. One of the residents inappropriately asked one day, and assumed they weren’t. She laughs when she sees me come in from work late at night, then leaving way too early in the morning, running late with a towel on my head.

 

Finally, Miss Sandy. She is the youngest of the bunch. She works the midshift. I have such a heart for her. She saw me with my Nike shirt the one morning and we had an opportunity to talk about weight loss and our lives. She admitted that she gained all of her weight after giving birth to her now grown children. Her choices have led to diabetes. The one morning as I was walking through the lobby, she asked if she could talk to me. Through her tears she told me that she was considering gastric bypass, but she knows it’s not right for her. The Lord used me to encourage her, and she has chosen a healthier path guided by a team of doctors. But as it always turns out, I am more encouraged by her than she is by me.

I don’t know how long I will be at North Ocean Drive.  So today I give thanks.

(Yep, didn’t know how to end this one… still thankful that one day I will have an editor.)

Giving Thanks 2009

So, I pretty much feel like a slacker. I have so much to be thankful for, and my “month of giving thanks” is starting as the month is coming to an end. 

 

The last thing that my life needs is something to be legalistic about. Feeling that I must write “because”…..

 

I refuse to have something that I love become a miserable noose.

 

So, I’ve been laying low over here at julieUnscripted. It’s been a bittersweet combination of living life and not writing about it, joy and frustration, complete chaos in the midst of the most consistent schedule I have ever had.  Having less possessions and  less money than ever, being more mindful of the kingdom of God, yet somehow finding myself more complete . And then there is being out of, into, and back out of my “fat pants”.

 

Plus my computer’s hard drive died.

 

Today, I am thankful that we were created for community. Thankful that I need you, and that you need me to be real and vulnerable, and that you embrace me, my mess, but don’t let me stay there. I am thankful that you are still here. Thankful that you are still checking in.   Thankful for friends who refuse to leave me to myself and refuse to let me shut down and become a recluse. Friends who pull me closer, even as I shove away.  Thankful for those whom I have never met encouraging me. 

 

Let’s hug.

 

And we can all be thankful that one day I will have an editor who will correct my grammar, and unsplit my infinitives, yet still let me be me.

 

 

Philippians 1

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,  5in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

 6For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

 7For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.

 8For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

 9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,  10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;  11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Giving Thanks Paid in Full Nov26

I stood there sobbing on the phone.

She said it again “Miss Stein your debt is paid in full”

I sobbed not only in celebration of the freedom of bondage to American Express for the first time in 8 years – but I sobbed because it is a glimpse of the eternal significance of being Paid In Full.

One day I will stand in judgement and God will say “Julie, your debt is Paid in Full”

My debt of sin is so great, and the wages of sin is death.

Unlike my budgeting and cutting back to be able to pay back my debt to one my creditors and then being released from my obligation because I kept the terms, no amount of good works would have ever been enough to cover my debt of sin to God.

My salvation is by God’s Grace, through faith. It is all in Christ.

 
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
 
For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.
 
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
 
He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
 
For it was the {Father’s} good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, {I say,} whether things on earth or things in heaven.
 
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, {engaged} in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach– if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

 

This world is not my home. And although I can be glad about almost being debt free here on earth. I hope it never determines my joy – and that through trial or triumph I never loose an eternal focus of Christ.

And for that I give thanks.

Giving Thanks Garbage Picking Nov13

Ok so not really garbage picking but recycle bin by the mailbox picking… I may get slightly obsessed.

 

RaceTrac gas station just remodeled, and they sent a coupon, and I noticed that many of my neighbors just “recycled” their coupons…  so for about 3 or so days last month, I would go through the recycle bins, and take out the coupons.

 

One sheet has a coupon for a free sandwich, a free hot dog, a free slushie, and a buy one get one free hot cookie coupon.

 

For about three years I have been saying I need to put together little food zip lock baggies to give out for people who request money at the intersections……  best of intentions, never happened… 

 

So I am glad now that I have an abundance of coupons to share with people.

 

That’s what I am thankful for today…. recycled bin picking…….. and being able to help provide from someone elses “recycled”