When you’re worried and you can’t sleep Count your blessings instead of sheep And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings. —Cole Porter White Christmas
If you’ve ever watched the iconic Christmas movie, “White Christmas” you’ll recognize the words to this song. The other night when I couldn’t sleep but was wide awake worrying about a doctor’s appointment I had the next day, these words came flooding into my mind. With nothing else to do, I decided to take them to heart. Looking back over 2019, I starting thinking of all of the things for which I am thankful. Before long, my nerves were calmed and I was filled with gratitude for all that God has done and given Jamie and I this year. In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll share my list with you. —First, I am thankful that God helped us complete a successful 2019 Mantour. As many of you have heard, early in January, Jamie’s disability moved beyond his foot into his wrist. A few days later we were given a very bleak diagnosis. Even though Jamie chose to fight through determined that nothing would stop him, I have to admit that I had my doubts as to whether or not we COULD finish. Thankfully, God came through and gave Jamie health, strength, and endurance that helped us follow God’s call and reach over 1200 men through the Mantour Conferences. We are so thankful. —I am thankful for the opportunity to serve Jesus in ministry. The life we are living now is something I’ve dreamed about all of my life—-yet there were so many years when it didn’t seem like it would ever happen. Every day, I am grateful just to have the opportunity to serve, —We are so thankful for all of the churches that host Mantour Conferences. Without them opening the doors to their facilities without charge, Mantour Conferences would not happen. We are grateful for their generosity, their support, and the amazing job they do as hosts. —I am thankful for all of the individuals and churches who support us monthly through Assemblies of God US Missions. It’s not a clique for us—-we know we could not do what we do or follow God’s call on our lives without your support. We are well aware that every life that is touched through 4One Ministries is THEIR victory. We are so thankful for their prayers, their support, and their partnership. We are also thankful for the opportunity to serve as Assemblies of God US Missionaries. This opportunity has been life-changing for our ministry. We love working with them. —I am thankful for all of the men who donated to the Mantour Challenge allowing us to give over 1200 books to prisons, half-way houses, and Teen Challenge Centers. The testimonies we hear back are phenomenal. It’s only possible because of the men who give. —I am thankful for the 4One Ministries Board of Directors. I seriously have no idea how we can be so blessed to have these amazing people in our lives supporting us, advising us, partnering with us, standing behind us in ministry, but even more as friends. We often say that they are kinder to us than we would ever be to ourselves. We love them like family. —I am thankful for Mia and Joey Cullen. Even though we only see them a few times a year they bring so much laughter and joy to our lives. We love watching them grow! —I’m thankful for Christmas trees—and yes, mine is up way before Thanksgiving. —I am thankful for friends. Ten years ago after our Mom went to Heaven, Jamie and I felt completely alone. Except for our Dad, we had no family we could rely on and maybe one or two people who knew our situation and helped us out. Now more than a decade later, I am amazed at all of the people God has blessed us with who make our lives so rich and full. People to laugh with, cry with, work with, and just do life with. I’m not going to list you all because I wouldn’t want to miss anyone. You know who you are. Just know that we love and appreciate you all more than you can imagine and we are so thankful for friends. —I’m thankful for my peri-menopause support group. Although I only know most of you online, I love having a safe place where I can go and be reminded that everything we’re going through is normal, we’re all in this together, and this too will pass. (Perhaps like a kidney stone, but it will pass.) —I’m thankful for sandals and sundresses (but everyone already knows that). —I’m also deeply thankful for chocolate. —Also, I’m thankful for Hallmark Christmas movies—they give me something to watch when football is on—plus I don’t have to feel guilty because I’ve watched something I shouldn’t have. —I’m thankful for laughter. The ability to laugh at life, ourselves, and even our struggles is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It really is the best medicine available. —I’m thankful that God helped me write and publish the new book “The Adventure: Discovering Your God-Given Passion, Place, and Purpose.” —Okay, you know I was going to get here—-I am SO thankful for our new office space.
This was a complete surprise for us. At this time last year, it was not even on the radar. (Seriously, not even a little bit). Then around January, the Holy Spirit made it clear that this was God’s next step for us. Even though it was a HUGE (I mean tremendous, gargantuan, unbelievable large, leap of faith for us), I LOVE it. I love having a separation from work and home. I love that my personal living space isn’t filled with ministry supplies. I can eat at my dining room table, hang up my clothes in my closet, and have a private phone call. Even though I will miss wrapping Mantour promo materials like Christmas presents and putting them under the tree this year, I could not be more thankful for the new office space. —I am so grateful for all of the churches who made additional donations—above their monthly giving—-to help us build the new office space. We are forever grateful and indebted for your generosity. Thank you so much! —I’m also grateful for the friends and churches who made the long drive to our house and volunteered to help us finish the office space. You literally saved the ministry thousands of dollars, but more than that, you saved Jamie a lot of pain. Your help made me feel like George Bailey when everyone gathered around to help him in his time of need. It meant the world to us and we are so grateful. —I am thankful that God provided us with an honest, hard-working contractor who did a fantastic job on our office space. We’ve heard contracting horror stories, but we could not have asked for better. —Okay, I have to say it. I’m especially thankful to have a second bathroom in our home. Only those who have lived in a one-bathroom house can truly understand my bliss. It’s something I’ve wanted for such a long time—in fact, whenever there’d be one of those games where you have to answer ‘What would you buy if you won a million dollars’ I’d always answer ‘A second bathroom.” So this is a dream come true and I’m so grateful! —Finally, I’m thankful that our Dad let us turn his garage into an office. It was a huge sacrifice (especially in the rain and snow). But enough about the office space—although it was a BIG deal this year. Here are a few special ones: —I am thankful for Jamie. Every once in a while someone will try to pay me a compliment by saying, “Jamie’s so lucky to have you as a sister.” While they are right (I am a pretty good sister), the truth is that I’m the lucky one. Jamie is the best brother, friend, and ministry partner that I could imagine. He listens to me (even when I’m being a little nutty), he respects my opinions, encourages me in life and ministry, and helps me be all that God wants me to be. What a lot of people don’t know is that he is more than just a partner in ministry—we partner together in life. We laugh together, have fun together, go through the hard times together—-he even takes turns cooking and helps with the dishes every night. We share the same snarky, sarcastic sense of humor (which is good because it would be awful if one of us was oversensitive). I could not ask for a better friend with which to do life. I am so thankful that this incredible, godly man is my brother. I am so grateful for his passion for Jesus, for ministry, and his dedication to our little family. —I am thankful to have grown up in a Christian home with a Mom who taught Jamie and I to have a personal relationship with Jesus and that there is no greater purpose in life than serving Him. I’m also thankful that she was strict and raised us with high Biblical standards because it has saved us a world of heartache from reaping poor consequences. She raised us in the way we should go and we will not depart. —I’m thankful for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Even though I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit when I was seven years old, this year I have experienced a fresh appreciation for it. After accepting a challenge to use my prayer language on a more consistent basis, it’s made a significant difference in my daily life. It truly is the empowerment we need. —I’m thankful for inner healing—that we serve a God Who says we don’t have to be bound by the mistakes or pain of our past, but that we can be healed, free, and turn our pain into our testimonies. —I am thankful that I get to live in a country that at least for the time being, offers us the religious freedom to live for Jesus, to share the Gospel with others, and to advance the kingdom of God. I pray that we will always have this freedom—for now, I pray that we will use it wisely. —Last, but absolutely not least, I am thankful for my Heavenly Father. I’m grateful that He is not far-off, but that He is actively involved in every part of our lives, leading, guiding, challenging, and walking with us throughout our lives. The depth of love and gratitude that I feel for Him is hard to sum up in words, but can perhaps be expressed by these lyrics:
Never once did we ever walk alone Never once You leave us on our own You are faithful, God you are faithful, Scars and struggles on the way But with joy our hearts can say Never once did we ever walk alone Carried by Your constant grace Held within Your perfect peace Never once, no, we never walk alone Every step we are breathing in your grace Evermore we’ll be breathing out your praise You are faithful, God you are faithful (Never Once, Jason Ingram / Matt Redman / Tim Wanstall) And I am forever and ever grateful.
So there it is—my 2019 Blessings List. I hope it encourages you to make one of your own—-to take a few minutes and think of everything you have to be thankful for this year. Tonight, fall asleep counting your blessings.
Just for fun...here's the video clip: