Gratitude For Some Things Being Different {30 Days of Gratitude, In the Middle, FOR the Middle}

This post is a reach. I know that. But sickness can make one speak in strange tongues. "30 Days of Gratitude"...yeah. The reading has been most edifying the last couple of days...


Shooting a flare up into the sky tonight. No matter where you are in the world right now, if you see my signal, make your way towards it.

Bring cold medicine. And if you happen to find my voice, bring it with you, if you don't mind.

I've lost it.

My poor Preacher is slowly going crazy, what with the mandatory Vow of Silence in this house. We are going into our 6th day of me not being able to talk. I swear, today the strain is showing on his face. It's like he has aged ten years in one week.
He is relational, big time. Our lives sort of revolve around the spoken word, and our conversations are always rich and easy and done out loud.

Sick. Of. Whispering.

Can't wait for Thanksgiving tomorrow! The family will all be gathering at my daughter Sarah's house tomorrow - adorable granddaughter pictures will be forthcoming. This Thanksgiving year will be different in two - no, three - ways:

My youngest son will be unable to be there for the first time, ever. He will be working. This makes me proud and happy. Truly. He is beginning to make it all on his own! Both he and his brother are working hard and making it with no help from us other than the occasional momma's home cooking.

As it should be. Much, much to be thankful for. We are loving being empty nesters. An empty nest, when accompanied by sweet and full relationships with all fledglings, speaks of a job done right. Nests are supposed to empty. It's good and natural.

Such grace.

The second thing: Hannah, Justin and our monkey will be with Justin's family this year. Again...makes me proud and happy. The McConnells are a fine clan - my daughter married so well.

The third way that everything will be different? If I don't get my voice back very soon, my own special brand of humor will be missing from the event.

What will the family do???

Pray, friends. Pray big.

This simply cannot be allowed to happen.

Do you see that flare in the sky?

Gratitude for Stuff and Things {Ramblings of a Writer Down With the Flu}

So the goal was 30 posts on gratitude, in 30 days.

Then, The Wretched Plague set in. So I need a break from deep thoughts, because my thoughts don't go deep right now. I have no voice, and an elephant is sitting on my chest. My favorite pants have no pockets, and I had no Kleenex until this morning. Just thought I'd share.

But I still feel gratitude, from my messy bun to my desperate-looking toes (sadly in need of a pedicure. Self-care is not my strong skill set...that is why I teach it.)

A small-business-owner, and new-ish friend of mine hosted an open house "Meet The Artist" night in her home last weekend....for me. I was overwhelmed, right there. But add to that the turn out on a rainy Friday night - and the fact that I sold several of my originals, sold out of some jewelry pieces, and was able to share God's favor in the Gospel with some women I had never met until that night... can I not be grateful? I looked around at the faces, as I spoke on the unearned favor of God, and I saw tears in the eyes of several women - all of them professionals...nurses, small business owners, even an engineer...

New design that sold, and more orders placed....

She sold, and four more of her must be created, soon as I can move my body into the studio...

This one sold and I was almost sad....because I wear it often, and always get compliments.

"Brave, Bold, and Beautiful" may or may not have sold. Today is the deadline. She may still be available!

This bag style sold out. I am working on another run, but I don't think I can source this beautiful tapestry and get more made before Christmas. All my bags have lavender sachets sewn between the outer tapestry and inner lining. All come with a personalized, stamped leather strap...inspiring words like "blessed" and "grace" and "loved" stamped discreetly above the rivets...all come with a metal ring, ready to receive a piece of my artisan bag jewelry...

Sorry. I truly am not trying to sell you here on my blog. I have a website for that. It's just that I honestly get excited over the work of my hands. I am passionate about my art and designs. If I weren't, I should not be offering them. Life's too short to just pimp your need to feel geeked-up over what you have to offer.

I am so geeked.

And grateful.

Add to that....this:

I know. You want me to stop bragging and get on with my bad self.

(this girl is also still available....truly, my original art is almost sold out. Email me if you want her...she is a 5x5 canvas original)

Grace and Peace,

Sheila Atchley

All blog content is the property of the writer, including all "In the Middle" intellectual and visual art property...

Gratitude for Good Tidings {30 Days of Gratitude, In the Middle, FOR the Middle}

God rest ye merry, beautiful women.  Don't let anything dismay you, this season.

Please, oh please, remember Christ our Savior was born for save you from the grip of whatever discomforts your soul and even your body.

I bring you these simple tidings:  His birth is for you.

For right now.  For whatever you are facing.  His great favor and lovingkindness is right now, in this special season, enlarged towards, there, the one with a name and an address and a history.

See, the tidings have to come first.  Someone has to tell you the good news.  I just told you, and I plan on spending the rest of November making it as clear as I can.

First comes the Good Tidings.

Next, comes the comfort.

Then comes the joy!  

Gratitude for the Shift Key {30 Days of Gratitude, In the Middle, FOR the Middle}

Shift: a small change or transfer from one place, position, direction, person, etc., to another.

If your decisions over the last, let's say...five years...

...if decisions made in your recent season have landed you in a place of broken relationships, or emptiness, or depression, know this: it all began with your perspective. The trouble began with your thinking.

This is good news! Because your perspective is a renewable resource!  Repentance has gotten a bad reputation - mostly because repentance is portrayed as melodramatic.

No weeping or self flagellation necessary. In all cases, repentance means to simply change your opinion: change your mind. That's it. In some cases this change causes strong emotions to surface, in most cases it is a common sense choice, with little to no emotion involved.

What crazy woman wouldn't want a major program update? Who wants to continue with the problem? Every time my iPhone updates its various apps, bugs are worked out, better features are added, and life is made (often) measurably easier.

My spirit and my thinking are no different...when I hear truth, I often need to allow the update to my wife app, my parenting app, my church attitude app, my doctrinal app. The shift can be so small, but the felt impact can be enormous.

So, I am mixing metaphors here: analog and digital. Shift keys and iPhone apps. Such is life. Repentance is old-school, but the results will propel you into the future like no other kind of shift can do.

Hit your shift key, girlfriend. Small changes. Let the junk go...those fears and beliefs that keep you stuck...whether it be about doctrine, a relationship, grace, your job, food and your relationship to what you eat, exercise, or simply getting a revelation of just how dang amazing you truly are.

It takes discipline to steward the embarrassment of riches that is "you"...and that discipline becomes easy, with small shifts in your thinking, which will cause small shifts in your actions, which will create big changes in your destiny.

Next time you feel angry or frustrated, mutter to yourself, "Aw, shift!"

You'll be speaking truth to your soul...and you'll be reminding yourself of an important key to making big changes: that tiny shift key.

Written for you with love...

Sheila Atchley

All blog content is the property of the writer, including all "In the Middle" intellectual and visual art property...

Grateful to be "Zealously Affected in a Good Thing" - {30 Days of gratitude, In the Middle, FOR the Middle}

Legalists "zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing..."

The gist of this passage out of Galatians 4 is that self righteous people are always zealous and sincere, and their top priority is to influence you away from the gospel-preachers, to separate you from a gospel-centered church. The Message puts it this way:

"Those heretical teachers go to great lengths to flatter you, but their motives are rotten. They want to shut you out of the free world of God’s grace so that you will always depend on them for approval and direction, making them feel important."

You will be wined and dined, you will be invited to the parties, you will get the friend requests on Facebook, you will be the friend of the Pharisee, so long as you allow yourself to be affected by them. Because their goal is to separate you from the teachers they disagree with. They will flatter you with their friendship, but the motive is to "exclude you", which in the Greek means to separate you out for themselves. If you are in the grace-camp, a Pharisee will target you to hang with them, to make them feel validated and important. A Pharisee craves admiration like a pig craves the mud. They have to have followers, and they will look you up years later (lucky you!), they will call you with an invitation when they never even really liked you, all because they are searching near and far for yet another person to join them. And because they don't want you hanging out with the likes of Paul...

It's lonely at the top. These high achievers don't have the means for emotional continuity in friendship, because all us low achieving little people have such glaring flaws. No wonder we talk so much about grace, we need it...take one look at us and our children, after all. We haven't achieved much, other than a middle class income and some true middle-age friendships. We drive cars that aren't old and  aren't new, and our goals don't go much beyond loving God and loving people. We got nothing to show for all this grace-talk other than righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

A little law mighta' dun us good.

Ah, well. Legends in Their Own Minds always end up, in the words of Peter Pan to Captain Hook, "Old. Alone. Done for."

Give me the low place, any day. I will choose the least important seat. The one with all my rowdy middle-friends close by. The seat with all those young prodigal sons and daughters. I'll sit there, thankyouverymuch. Who knows? At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, I just might be the one told, "Come up here and sit."

Wouldn't that be fine?

I agree with Paul - it is good to be zealously affected in a good thing. I do not plan on shutting up, not in this life, about the finished work of Christ. Gentle Reader, I am out to zealously affect you in a good thing...a very good thing. The Word of His Grace.

It will be good for you to be zealously affected. It will be health to your very bones.

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (II Timothy 1: 13, 14)

Heaven Is a Real Place {30 Days of Gratitude, In the Middle, FOR the Middle}

I have heard it taught that worship is what we will be doing for all eternity.

I am not so sure.  If you will bear with me, I can explain!

I have also heard it said, so many times,  that  "if we can't handle noisy praise and intimate worship here on this earth, we'll be mighty uncomfortable in heaven."

Um-m-m-m....again...I'm not so sure. There has to be something special about a glorified body and the dazzling resplendence of seeing God.   There has to be something special about the final and complete knowledge that I am eternally loved, that if I wasn't so animated in my worship in my brief and deeply fallen earthly sojourn, I'll be hugely motivated in the sort of eternity that needs no sun to light it - God is the everlasting glory, in that place! Oh, I'm thinking that'll be some easy worship, no matter what our worship styles are, this side of heaven.  (Though I do admit that I believe I am getting an early start!)

I don't think worship will be the only thing we do, though, when time and space as we know it are rolled up like a scroll and tossed aside permanently. I think another, very significant activity will be...

...eating.  And drinking.

Work with me, I'm onto something big.

Personally, I am convinced that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will take about a million earth-years to finish. The courses will be innumerable, and the conversations eternally engaging. The wine will be heavenly. The musical entertainment will be live - and something our ears have not yet even heard, lyrics that have not yet entered our minds - but the words and the notes to that musical score are yet being written, even now, by angelic orchestras.

So could it be, that the two things that get us the closest to heaven-on-earth are both musical worship ("Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!") annnnnnnnd a sumptuous meal shared with dear friends?

Absolutely. Decidedly so.

I'm fervently committed to practicing both worship and fellowship. With abandon. Singing at the top of my lungs, clapping and praising, bowing and gazing on the Lord, laughing and talking, eating and drinking with precious prepares me for heaven. I certainly want to be as ready as I can.

So next week, as we par-tayk of our Thanksgiving meal, let's remember that heaven is a real place.

We will feast there, friends!

I leave you with a quote, from Homer's "Odyssey" ~

"I myself feel that there is nothing more delightful than when the festive mood reigns in a whole people's hearts, and the banqueters listen to a minstrel from their seats in the hall, while the tables before them are laden with bread and meat, and a steward carries round the wine he has drawn from the bowl and fills their cups. This, to my way of thinking, is something very much like perfection."

Goodness and Mercy Follow Me {30 Days of Gratitude, In the Middle, FOR the Middle}

(The original, or a print of this piece is available here)

As much as I'd like to believe that I am one who follows through on my every task and committment, when I read the fine print of my days, I see much left unfinished. Another unpleasant characteristic of being "in the middle" is that everything you've left undone sort of sits and stares at you.

In point of fact, I could write a book, all of it in fine print, about things I've left undone - let's don't even include things I've done wrong! I've made messes, big and small, some as a result of my doing, others a result of leaving important things undone.

All my messes require clean-up. So do all of yours.

Some years ago, back when my nest was completely full, I was patrolling the house before leaving for church. Everyone else had left, so I was the last to dash out the door, and lock up.

Since someone usually ended up coming home from church with us, I wanted to make sure, for about the third time, that various rooms were as charming and trash-free as I had left them the last time I had checked them,  a mere half an hour before.

To my distinct displeasure, I found a plate with crumbleys all over it, a glass with a half inch of milk in the bottom, and...of all empty soda bottle. Where did it all come from, and who did it, and how did it materialize so quickly? I fell upon the mess, as a warrior to the battle.

"In the Zone" does not begin to describe me, when I am intent on straightening up things. I'll automatically pour out Tim's tea before he is through, and put the glass in the dishwasher. I'll sweep around the feet of my family, while I dust the coffee table with the other hand, and put a stray book away with my toes. Honestly, all this is mostly mindless, and done without the first complaint. Ask any of my kids. I do it without realizing I am "working". I am almost always "working", and since that is the case, it is rather nice that 99% of it is hard-wired into my psyche, and thus doesn't bother me. I couldn't "not do it" if I tried.

This particular morning, however, I heard myself grumbling out loud to myself. I said, "I am so tired of following behind people in this house, cleaning up their mess."

It was then I experienced one of God's "suddenlies". Suddenly, He spoke. When He speaks suddenly, it cuts through the static. It arrests my attention.

He said: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life."

No exaggeration, I hit my knees, right by the kitchen sink, and tears flowed in an instant. (How lovely to have been alone, just then, because I think I couldn't have NOT worshipped. Such divine wisdom, such understanding and love displayed to me could not have gone unacknowleged. I was late to church that day.)

I hadn't even realized that I'd been subconsciously toting a heavy load of "undone's" and "not-done-right's". I had left what I felt to be a few messes behind, figuratively speaking. I was in desperate need of a Father who loved me so much, He was willing to allow His goodness and mercy to come behind me and clean up. What is the mercy of God for, if it is not at the point of my need, the place of My Mess?

I wanted a God who was that good, but I almost dared not believe it. That is a God too good to be true, in my graceless mind. A God so good to me, that sometimes He would not even be upset at me for a mess. Surely, He said,  His goodness and mercy would follow me, and simply clean it up.

Oh, how many times had that already happened, and I didn't even realize it? Just as, I promise you,  not one member of my family realized that I cleaned up a mess for him or her that morning.

I certainly don't want to associate the beautiful, scandalous cross of Christ with a few breakfast crumbs. But facts are, the blood of Jesus covers it ALL - the large and the small messes. The cross is the only clean-up, the only solution. A mess is a mess is a mess, and small messes become life altering if left to accumulate.

Thank you, Jesus, for your goodness and mercy, following this mess called "Me"....all the days of my life. How I need You!