Grateful, after all these years serving in Ethiopia and Vietnam!
Do you keep a grateful journal? It’s a critical tool for good thinking and spiritual health. But it’s been tough this past year. I’ve tried, but skipped many days. Pondering this Thanksgiving Newsletter, I reviewed my journal. I use the Five-Minute Journal app and find it very useful. A few things I discovered from my journal:
- I often told God how grateful I was for his presence in my life—even while I was feeling miserable, alone, forgotten.
- I often focused on God’s creation, its beauty, whether from a flower, sunlight, rain, rice fields or jungle (often posted on Instagram!) My eyes saw the physical beauty all around me in an intense way, sustaining me when I wondered where Jesus was in our worldly trials.
- I tried to focus on the good things people were doing—whether people helping here in Vietnam, or what I’d hear from friends serving around the world, including at home in the USA.
- For daily affirmations, I forced myself to acknowledge God was in control, that Jesus lived in me no matter what, that the fruit of the spirit was springing out of the mire of worldly life.
So the deep canyon of emotions and “the world” didn’t crumble over me. When I was in “normal” moment-by-moment mode, I believe I sometimes acted and spoke in ungraceful ways. But, by doing a grateful journal where I forced myself to concentrate on the “good” in life (what God was doing), I achieved a balance, and became re-directed towards him.
God sustains us. I pray God sustains you now, and forever. With the right focus—toward something greater than this moment in time—we can truly celebrate Thanksgiving.
Other things I was grateful for that I discovered in my journal:
- Family—though I couldn’t physically see or touch them.
- Work—I missed teaching terribly from February-May when school closed because of the Coronavirus. We need “work,” however you define that word. Even those in retirement need “work,” a passion to do something worthwhile.
- Ethiopia and Vietnam—So often I remembered times of serving, and while the details include success and failure, challenges and despair, I am so grateful to God, and you all who gave us this opportunity.
- Students—I’ve appreciated the students even more since school reopened in May—their questions, their ambition, and their innocence. School closed for a month again in August because of the virus spread in Quang Ngai, but we were back in face-to-face teaching in September.
- Friends—near and far. Most of my friends are on the same page as I regarding worldviews; some were not. Those that are staunch friends remain genuine friends, and the “fiery debates” sharpened our togetherness.
Most of all, however, I’m grateful to all of you who have cared about Gigi and I, and followed us on our journey. We’ve felt the prayers, the love, the concern. Such mutual feelings make us human, but more so Children of God. The journey continues for all of us. With the Lord, we will overcome all trials and tears, and acknowledge our lives in the Kingdom of God.