Three Psalms to Inspire Gratitude


3 psalms to help you pray grateful prayers

Gratitude is so good for our hearts. It reminds us to look past today’s temporary troubles to see the big picture of God’s everlasting care and concern. It reminds us that life is not as dark as it sometimes feels. It heals our wounds and protects us from bitterness. It reminds us of God’s faithfulness in the past, which gives us confidence as we look to the future. Gratitude strengthens our faith, cures our self-centeredness, and makes us happier people. The minute we start thinking about things we are grateful for, our mood and perspective start to shift. (Try it! Quick—think about 5 things you are thankful for. I bet you feel happier already, don’t you? Keep going with that list and you might even hit warm-and-cozy-in-a-cuddly-blanket-on-a-cold-fall-day levels of happiness!)

With Thanksgiving upon us (How is that possible? I just vacuumed the summer sand out of my car!), we are all looking for ways to express gratitude. I love borrowing words from the psalms to guide my prayers. I start by reading the psalm aloud to God, and after a few verses I usually find myself taking detours, adding praise and thanks of my own inspired by the psalmist’s words. If your prayer life needs a boost in gratitude, try praying through these three psalms! I abbreviated them a little here, but they are (of course) beautiful in their entirety.

3 psalms to help you be thankful

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God. . . .
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion. . . .

10 Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 89

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
    with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
    through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
    that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
    and make your throne firm through all generations.’”

The heavens praise your wonders, Lord,
    your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?
    Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
    he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
    You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

Psalm 66

Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
    Sing the glory of his name;
    make his praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    So great is your power
    that your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down to you;
    they sing praise to you,
    they sing the praises of your name.”

Come and see what God has done,
    his awesome deeds for mankind!
He turned the sea into dry land,
    they passed through the waters on foot—
    come, let us rejoice in him.
He rules forever by his power,
    his eyes watch the nations—
    let not the rebellious rise up against him. . . .

12 You let people ride over our heads;
    we went through fire and water,
    but you brought us to a place of abundance. . . .

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God;
    let me tell you what he has done for me.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth;
    his praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened;
19 but God has surely listened
    and has heard my prayer.
20 Praise be to God,
    who has not rejected my prayer
    or withheld his love from me!

Thank you for reading, and for sharing a bit of life with me here on this little corner of the Web. Wishing you a wonderful holiday with the ones you love.


Looking for a great gift for Thanksgiving or Christmas? When God Says “Wait” is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.com. I am deeply thankful to all of you who have read, reviewed, and shared WGSW. You are on my heart and in my prayers.

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind


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When Your Life Feels Wasted


When Your Life Feels Wasted

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

My mom has this funny prayer she prays whenever she comes for one of her always-too-short visits: “God, please make this visit feel like a long time.” At first I laughed—my delightful mom has the most faithful prayer life, and she prays about everything—but then I was like, “Oh, why not?”—and I started borrowing her prayer.

But you know what I’ve found? There’s something to Mom’s crazy prayer. Whenever we pray those words, time somehow moves a bit slower. Her visit, however short, feels long enough. Even if we only have hours together—a layover between flights—every minute feels fulfilling. Meaningful. Rich. When she leaves we may cry, but still we feel satisfied, knowing we made the most of what time we had. In the mysterious ways of God, he helps us stop and savor and be fully present in our fleeting, priceless moments together.

How to pray when life is delayed

Sometimes we want time to slow down . . . but when we’re waiting, we want it to speed up and slow down at the same time. We want the wait to be over now, with no more time lost. We feel this pressure most acutely when we’re in the middle of one of those life-altering waits: The wait for a husband. For a baby. For a healing. Tick, tick goes the clock; flip, flip goes the calendar page—and you’re still stuck.

You feel your twenties passing you by, and you’re still single…

You’re well into your thirties, and you fear your biological clock will expire before you get to have a family

Your forties are flying, and you’re still sick or depressed—not quite yourself—unable to fully live the life you have…

Your fifties are coming to a close, but still your adult child wanders . . .

And if you’re like me—always watching the clock, painfully conscious of life’s brevity—you can start to get paranoid: My life is wasting away. I’ll never get back this time. These are lost years.

Slow down time

But guess what? God is more powerful than time. Listen to this beautiful prayer:

“Relent, Lord! How long will it be?

Have compassion on your servants.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,

that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,

    for as many years as we have seen trouble.

Psalm 90:14–16 (emphasis added)

Do you get what the writer is saying here? He’s asking God to redeem lost time. To make up for lost years—to make Israel glad for as many days, as many years, as they have suffered.

Who wrote this prayer? Moses—Moses who spent forty years wandering in the desert, waiting for the Promised Land. Moses understood the pain of lost life and wasted years better than anyone. And yet he saw that God could still redeem that time, those desert years. In Moses’ eyes, it wasn’t too late. All was not lost. He knew the power of God—God who rained plagues and parted seas, God who appeared in cloud by day and fire by night, God who dwelled on the holy mountain. God could transcend time. God could make up lost years. God could make His people glad, so glad they couldn’t help but sing, for as many years as they had suffered.

We see God do this often in the Bible, showering suffering people with later-life blessings: Joseph. Naomi. Job.

I have seen God do this in my own life more times than I can count. After a tumultuous time in our church life, God provided a way for me and my husband to live in the same town as both our parents—we had never believed it possible, but we got to share eight happy years with both our families. We felt as though God went out of his way to comfort us after a time of trial.

After two years and nine months of infertility, God gave us three babies in…wait for it…two years and ten months. I can hardly see my computer screen for the tears filling my eyes—tears of gratitude, wonder, awe. It’s been eleven years, but still the joy of this blessing staggers me. Even now I ask God, “Why us, when so many others are still waiting?” I can’t answer that question, but I celebrate his gift even as I pray for others still awaiting theirs.

If you’re stuck on pause, mourning a delay, borrow Moses’ prayer. Remind God of the pain you feel watching time pass you by, and ask him to redeem the lost days. Ask him to restore joy. To make you glad for as many days—as many years—as you have suffered. I don’t know when or how God will answer your prayer, but I know he is listening. He is listening, he is concerned, and he is able.


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When Life Is Uncertain


When life is uncertain

 

Some seasons, life is boring, predictable, uneventful: all the same things, all the same people. Same familiar road we’ve traveled a thousand times before, the view never changing.

We complain about monotony.

Dream of excitement and change.

no bends in the road

Photo credit: Marcelo Quinan, Unsplash.

And then…and then: A sudden bend in the road, a detour. The path unpaved, the future uncertain. We’re off-roading, exhilarated and terrified in equal measure. All in a rush, life takes us somewhere we’ve never been: New stages or roles, new places or people… Unfamiliar, intimidating territory. Situations and difficulties we’ve never faced before, in myriad forms.

curve in the road

Photo credit: Orlova Maria, Unsplash.

During times like this, I cling to Isaiah 42:16: “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

Light to my path image

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Let us find comfort in this:

Where we are blind, God can see.

When our path is unmarked, He knows the way.

When the road is uneven, He can carve a smooth path.

When ankles turn, legs burn, and lungs cry out, He can grant strength.

Where shadows gather, our God—world-spinner, star-maker, light-giver—can shine sun.

And no matter how long the journey, no matter how winding or perilous the path, He never forsakes the ones He loves.

“Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10).

Wishing you safe travels, friends, wherever He leads you, now and always. 

(Want more from the Bible on this? Read Psalm 121, Psalm 23, Psalm 18:36, Isaiah 40:28–31, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 18:28, Psalm 33.)

A lamp to our feet

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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5 Simple Ways to Bring God into Your New Year


family devotion ideas for the new year

I’ll be honest: I’m not a big new year’s resolution girl. I find the idea of making a list of commitments for an entire year daunting. Perfectionist that I am, new year’s resolutions feel like an invitation to fail and feel guilty, all year long. (I know, I’m kind of dramatic. I’m working on it.)

But new starts and fresh attitudes for the new year? That I like. Drawing closer to God in the new year, and having a more spiritual focus? That I get excited about.

So now, instead of making new year’s resolutions, I view January as a time for re-charging my personal life and my walk with God, and for jump-starting our family’s spiritual life. January provides a fantastic opportunity to redirect our family’s focus outward and upward after the self-focus of the holidays.

Here are 5 simple ideas for helping your family jump-start your new year spiritually. Whether you’re married with no kids, or up to your ears in sippy cups, or spending your whole life chauffeuring teenagers around town, these ideas can help you kick off your new year with fresh focus and with God as the center.

Look back on the old year together.

We’re quick to look to the future, but what about the great things that have already happened? Spend an evening remembering the blessings and answered prayers from last year. Write them down and spend time praising God for what he has already given. If you made a prayer list last January, bring it out and look at it again. Can you cross some prayers off your list? God loves it when we remember his gifts and come back to praise him.

Start a new year prayer tradition. 

Every January, we take our kids out to the beach for a new year prayer. Once we convince the kids that making sand angels is NOT the same thing as making snow angels, and will involve hours of hair-washing to get the sand out, we spend a few minutes shivering in the sand, talking about our hopes for the year. Each of us describes one thing we plan to ask God for in the coming year. And then we all pray together and take home a sea shell to commemorate the prayer. At home, we write our prayers on the shells. Simple, fun, and frigid!

godly family traditions

Come up with an “impossible prayer” list. 

“Impossible prayers” are things that seem impossible from a human perspective, but that our amazing God can do if we are bold enough to ask. Sit down as a family and come up with a list of things you all hope God will do this year—the crazier the better! Write them down where you’ll all see them, and commit to pray your impossible prayers all year as a family. Then sit back and watch what God does for you. (Want to read our family’s so-amazing-it-sounds-like-we-made-it-up “impossible prayer” miracle story? Click here.)


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Pick a theme scripture for the year. 

Choose a scripture that represents what you want your year to look and feel like spiritually, and revisit that scripture often as a family. Memorize it. Write it on the fridge and on the calendar. Remind each other of it frequently. Bring it up in family prayers and devotional times all year long. You can either pick one scripture for your whole family, or each person can choose their own.

Pick a theme word for the year. 

What one word describes the focus you want to have in the coming year? Faith? Discipline? Kindness? Patience? Renewal? Selflessness? Vision? Generosity? Pick one, and make it your theme word! Find a scripture or scriptures that relate to the concept, and study them on your own and as a family. You can choose one word for the whole family, or let each family member pick their own word.

 

I wish you and your family a fantastic beginning to the new year, a year full of faith and joy and spiritual growth. A year rich in love and lasting memories. A year embracing the messiness of life, remaining faithful through the unexpected twists, and having the wisdom to find joy in imperfection and small blessings.

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By This Time Next Year… A Christmas Miracle


A Christmas miracle about faith and the power of prayer through infertility, via @lizzylit

The Christmas chaos had finally died down.

My family members were lying around my parents’ living room on Christmas night, 2004—tinkering with new gadgets, trying on new clothes, laughing at the same old jokes that somehow never got old. Everyone was full of eggnog, fudge, and joy… well, everyone was happy except me.

The living room was crowded with the people I loved most, and yet in my mind, someone was missing— someone I had never met. My baby, the child I could not conceive, was not there, and that baby’s absence spoke louder than all the words of Christmas cheer.

Christmas miracle from @lizzylit

Christmas is about children, but there were no children in our family anymore. My three siblings and I had grown up, and now that I had been married to my college sweetheart for five years, a baby was long overdue.

thompson-155

But we couldn’t get pregnant, and no one knew why. As the lonely months stretched into years—two childless Christmases came and went, and our refrigerator was covered with photos of our friends’ babies wearing Santa hats—I sank into a deep sadness. I began to question everything, even my lifelong faith in God. Did he hear our prayers at all? How could he stand by silently while Kevin and I suffered?

As we faced that Christmas, I had vowed not to let my aching emptiness ruin our family festivities, and yet the loss cast a shadow over the whole day. As night fell, my father, who had been a preacher for more than forty years, gathered the family together, and we began to recount the blessings we’d been given over the past year. The talk turned to the future. What did we hope to see next year? What were our dreams?

Every family member wished for the same thing: a baby by the following Christmas. We shed tears, and as the hour grew late, Dad ended our Christmas by asking us all to pray for the coming year. Around the circle we went, each of us asking God the same thing: “Please give us a baby by this time next year.” We had prayed for a baby before—pleaded, cajoled, bargained—but never like this, never as a family, united in the same plea: “By this time next year…”

The next month, I began to see a new doctor, who had some fresh ideas for my treatment. And that spring, we received the news: I was pregnant! I embraced the months of exhaustion and nausea with ecstatic gratitude—every time I hung my head over the trashcan, I was singing inside.

The baby was due December 18. All through my pregnancy, people teased me: “A Christmas baby, how terrible!” But I, in my first-pregnancy naiveté, was convinced that the baby would come early, so that I could recover from the delivery in plenty of time for Christmas. We had waited so long to get pregnant, surely we wouldn’t have to wait past our due date to meet our child!

Christmas baby overdue

But December 18 came and went, and the baby only seemed to settle deeper into my womb. December 19, December 20, December 21… nothing. Not a single useful contraction. As Christmas day loomed, I began to despair.

I was never going to have this baby.

I had prayed for so long to get pregnant, now I’d be the only pregnant woman who stayed that way forever.


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When Kevin and I first awoke on the morning of Christmas Eve, we called to check in with our doctor. Minutes later, we were throwing suitcases into our car, rushing to the hospital to have labor induced. On the way to the hospital, we laughed and cried, terrified and giddy in equal measure, sure that our baby would arrive by that night. A Christmas Eve baby! Wouldn’t that be delightful?

But labor dragged on into the early hours of Christmas morning. Our families drifted in and out of the hospital’s waiting room all Christmas day, rushing through the morning gift-opening without us, eating Christmas dinner with cell phones by their plates, waiting for news.

Labor and Delivery 019

But the baby wouldn’t come, wouldn’t even move into the birth canal. Finally that night, it was clear that our baby was not coming without help. I would need a C-section.

That first wail—the cry I thought I’d never hear—was a foreign but familiar sound, the song my heart had been singing all those years. And what lungs she had! The baby cried angrily—after all, it hadn’t been her idea to come out—but the moment my husband spoke to her, saying, “Daddy’s here,” she quieted, calmed by the voice she had come to know from inside my womb.

And when the doctor held up a tiny head with chocolate eyes and a scrunchy nose, my brain tried to reconcile sight with faith. That squirming bundle was our baby! Cassidy Joy Thompson entered the world—seven pounds, five ounces of answered prayer—on Christmas night, 2005, at 9:46 p.m.

But we didn’t get it right away.

It was several weeks before my mother suddenly turned to me, tears filling her eyes, and breathed, “Do you remember our prayer last Christmas night?” And we realized that Cassidy Joy had been born, to the minute, one year after my family had begged God, “By this time next year, please give us a child…. ”

Now, whenever I am tempted to wonder if God remembers us, if he hears our prayers, I look at my daughter—our family’s Christmas miracle—and I know that he does.

miracle Christmas baby

Labor and Delivery 031

 

Christmas Card (2)

And here she is on her first birthday, Christmas 2006:

IMG_1537 - Version 2

And today, almost age ten:

Cassidy hugging apple tree

By God’s astounding grace, this is our family today:

Christian infertility

kids01

This story first appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas!

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