#ThirtyThankfuls Day 7: Work.

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

The insidious danger of complaining is that it often occupies a mouth that should instead be filled with praise and thanksgiving.

It’s easy to complain about work. It’s almost expected in our culture to talk about how terrible your job or boss is, how you are underpaid, how your customers are obnoxious.

To be honest, my attitude toward work isn’t always what it should be. I struggle with complaining about this or that situation or person, or how the upper management should be running things differently (based on all my great wisdom and insight, of course). I still fight the long-instilled idea that I should instead be “following my dreams.” Thankfully, the good thinking and preaching of faithful believers and pastors (including some men I know personally), as well as the wise insights of secular writers like Cal Newport, have been slowly disabusing me of that Disney-minted idea that simply “following your heart” is anything other than childish and disastrous.

I’m not working my dream job. Of course, my “dream job” would be to be given a comfortable leather arm chair, a bottomless cup of coffee, and all the time in the world to be left alone to read. I’ve looked into it, and in most cases, no one pays you to do that. (Also, if The Twilight Zone has taught us anything, it is to be careful what you wish for.)

By the grace of God, I don’t have a dream job, but I have a good job in which I can apply my skills and abilities with reasonable success. While there are still thorns and thistles on a regular basis, and there are days that are more drudgery that delight, I can apply myself, take care of my customers, and provide for my family. We have good insurance, flexibility, and top-tier benefits. I can afford housing, food, clothes, and some small luxuries for those under my care. God is kind.

The best part of my job is the commute: I walk down a hallway to my home office. After over 15 years of cars and buses and trains and traffic, the unexpected blessing of the #ForeverPlague is that my employer pays me to tap a keyboard for 9 or so hours a day while sitting in my house in sweatpants and a tee-shirt. I get a hug from my 1 1/2 year old every morning. I give my wife a kiss when I walk in to pour a second cup of coffee. God is kind.

So I am thankful for work. I’m thankful for the work that God has given me that will provide for my family and for the good of others. I’m thankful that He has given me the skill, ability, and strength to do good work and earn a living. I’m thankful he has given me a job that is pretty unique in its benefits and flexibility.

And on the busiest and most frustrating of days, I need to remember that this blessing is a gift to me from a loving Father who is teaching me how to lay my life down for others in a thousand tiny ways, so I can better reflect the Savior-King who came not to be served but to serve.

#ThirtyThankfuls Day 3: Caffeine.

I suppose I could reach a point in the future where I live in perfect alignment with my circadian rhythms. I would sleep when I’m tired and wake when I’m rested. But right now, I’ve got three small kids and a demanding job, so I don’t sleep as much as I should. Sometimes, I just need to power through because the people around me depend on me to get the job done.

On days like that (currently, most days ending in “y”), there’s caffeine. Right now, my main source of caffeine is dirty bean water, otherwise known as coffee.

Look, I’m not going to engage in the petty chest-thumping of “how dark and unadulterated is your coffee” because let’s face facts, y’all: sometimes coffee isn’t that enjoyable. Sometimes it doesn’t taste great. Sometimes it needs that little extra something.

As the great bon vivants known as the Beastie Boys once opined: “I like my sugar with coffee and cream.”

Rage in the comments if you must. Call me a philistine, call me a child, just don’t call me late for a fresh mug of coffee with a healthy dollop of heavy cream and some sugar sprinkled in there. I want a mug the size of a child’s sandpail, so big that I can hold it with both hands, breathe in its steamy aroma, and drown out the world for a few minutes.

Sometimes I drink too much coffee. My brother-elders have encouraged me to cut back and I’ve endeavored to do so. (The comment above about the pail-sized mug was a slight exaggeration.) But truth be told, the thing that curbs my coffee habit the most right now isn’t the health concerns of over-caffeination; it’s the cost of the doggone beans. Coffee’s gotten more expensive in this here mean-tweet-free economy, and as I am now becoming a bit of a coffee snob, I’m finding myself opting for quality over quantity. That means I need to slow down just to make sure I don’t run through my monthly stock of mid-grade coffee too quickly. (Speaking of which, if you feel so inclined and want to encourage my coffee consumption by tossing a fiver in the empty coffee can on the counter, I’d appreciate that.)

God made a good world for us to enjoy. One of the natural delights that God created in His good world is a bean that can be roasted, ground, and percolated into liquid energy. So the next time you fill your cup with some fresh-brewed joe, breathe a prayer of thanks along with me to the God who made coffee beans.

#ThirtyThankfuls Day 1: My Wife

I don’t know how even to start this. My wife is my heart, my right arm. She’s the second-greatest gift that my gracious Savior bestowed to me, after my salvation.

I’m not yet the man I should be, but I’m closer to that goal under her influence and with her support than I ever would have or could have been on my own.

She’s the delight of my days and the cool breeze of my evenings. When I hold her close, her head nestled under my chin, I feel my whole body relax as if I am finally able to breathe again.

She is the mother of my daughters, and I see her in them in beautiful and surprising ways. If they grow up to be just like her, the world will be triply blessed.

She is a gardener, a baker, a household manager, a teacher. She dispenses comfort by the soup ladle, and bestows hospitality by the fresh-baked loaf. Her heart is expansive, her mind is deep, her kindness is warm.

She loves God and is hungry to know Him more every day. She prays for me and for her babies. She gives good counsel to those who need it. She listens well.

She is my bride, my joy, my crown, and my jewel. Precious above rubies.

I am blessed. I am blessed by this woman. I praise God for her.

#Septemblog Day 30: What comes next?

Hey there, reader.

First, I wanted to say thank you for hanging with me for the last 30 days. If you’re one of my beloved email subscribers, you were probably pulling your hair out by the end of this month because you weren’t expecting daily babble from me. But if you’re still subscribed after all that, I have to believe you derive some benefit from what I’m doing here, and for that, I say again: thank you.

So what comes next? Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks (truth be told, I’m writing this post several days in advance because I’m just so excited about this!). Here’s what you can (actually, seriously, not just blowing smoke) expect over the next few months:

  • Starting tomorrow, over the month of October I’m going to share books on my TBR bookshelf that I want to read over the next 12-14 months. I’m calling the series #OcTBR2022. I’ll post a pic of the book, a blurb about why I want to read it, and invite your opinions and pre-reviews. And you can expect that, as I read through that stack over the next year-plus, I’ll be reviewing, responding, quoting, or critiquing them on the blog, so that we can engage the ideas together.
  • In November, I’d like to go back to something I did a few years ago: a Thankful List. Each day, I’ll write about a person, thing, or situation for which I’m thankful. I’ll talk more about that as we get closer, and I’d love for your to join me and do the same, either in the comments or on your own social media or blog platforms.
  • In December, I have a couple of ideas that I’ll keep in my pocket until we’re a week or so away, and we’ll see how I’m feeling once we get there. The goal is the same, however: I want to try to keep posting every day, at least through the end of the year, and then in 2023, I would like to continue with regular daily or weekly posts. I think that’s good for me. I hope that’s beneficial to you too.

If you’re still on board, I’ll see you tomorrow and we’ll talk about some books I’m excited to read over the next year!

#Septemblog Day 15: 19 Years.

I’ve been doing the same job for 19 years, as of today.

When I was in college, I studied English and had a vague notion that I’d like to write novels for a living (which is funny, since I wasn’t really writing much beyond sappy lovelorn poetry at the time). When some well-meaning soul suggested shifting my major to English Education, I scoffed at the thought, because that would mean fewer English classes and more education theory classes, and what’s the fun in that? (Note: I mistakenly thought going college was about the joy of learning. I don’t really believe that anymore.)

I made it halfway through my senior year before realizing in a panic that I would actually need gainful employment if I wanted to eat beyond May. After graduation, I moved back in with my parents and reached out to my small private Christian high school to ask if they had any openings. They brought me on as an English teacher, assigned me 6 class periods (2 electives), with the intention of earning “emergency certification” at the same time I taught my first year.

I had no idea what I was doing. Having just finished college, I tried to replicate what I had experienced in high school and college and idealistically ramped up the challenge for my students in order to prepare them for university the way I felt I was prepared. But I had no clue what that looked like from a pedagogical standpoint. All I had were my subjective experiences to draw upon and none of that pesky theory training that would have otherwise gotten in the way of my Fiction Genres and Literary Criticism classes.

My lack of understanding of how to be a teacher, combined with my over-eagerness to prove myself to my superiors, led to a lot of frustration on the part of both myself and my students. I loved being in the classroom, I loved the act of teaching, but I just couldn’t keep up with the daily grind of grading papers and tests, so I quickly got backlogged and overwhelmed. (This is the set-up for the a punchline later.)

I honestly don’t know what the school administrators were thinking when they hired me, other than “Dave was part of our first graduating class, so that would be quite a PR story!” and “We can pay him next to nothing!” (Side note: Be cautious of any Christian organization that refers to its clients as “customers” but justifies its low wages in terms of “being a ministry.” Just my experience, YMMV.) After a semester of floundering and some minor conflicts with administration, I was given an exit ramp, which I took.

I was out of full-time work for 9 months. Still living at home. Delivering pizzas and working as a temp at an air-compressor parts and maintenance company (while knowing literally nothing about air compressors, air compressor parts, or air compressor maintenance). Finally, after a long job hunt, I found an editorial job at a research hospital that listed its highest preferred qualification as having an English degree–no experience listed. It’s like it was tailor-made for me.

And now, almost 2 decades have passed. I probably should have moved up into management by now–blame my own lack of direction and motivation flaring up at exactly the wrong times, blame my tendency toward overwhelm and missed deadlines when I’m stressed–but I’m doing the exact same job I’ve been doing since the early part of George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

What job exactly? I’m editing and proofreading documents for grammar, clarity, and readability, making sure they follow all appropriate regulations and guidelines.

In other words, I’m grading papers all day, every day.

I don’t believe in karma, because I’m a Christian. But I do believe in God’s sense of humor.

Jokes aside, I’m thankful. It’s a rare thing to stick with an organization this long, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. God is kind.

#Septemblog Day 14: Upbeat Update.

The Lord is good, y’all. My God is gracious and kind to me.

  • Clean bill of health from the dermatologist. See you in a year, doc!
  • We had gotten a notice that our car insurance was going up $60 dollars next month, so I called to ask if there were any other discounts or changes that could be made to mitigate that. The woman on the phone said many states were having big jumps in premiums due to increases in medical liability coverage. But when she looked at my file, she noted that we had been with the company for 10 years and had never had a “credit check review.” Ten minutes later, not only is our monthly premium not going up $60, but after one month of about $10 more than what we were paying, it’s actually going down $20 a month!
  • I received some mercy related to work projects that I was not expecting and, frankly, am still not sure how to believe or trust. But it has taken off some ongoing anxiety that has been hanging over me for the last…year?
  • My wife and I had resigned ourselves to the loss of about $500 worth of her time and effort due to circumstances we couldn’t control. Despite the window for completing the transaction having passed, we got word that everything was fine and she would still be paid for her efforts.

The biggest worries in my life right now are health and finances. (No, duh, Dave, you’re an overweight married man in his 40’s with 3 kids.) We have been and are continuing to pray and trust God for provision and protection. Yesterday was a reminder that we aren’t abandoned.

If you don’t believe in God, maybe you write off all these things as coincidences, lucky breaks, happenstance. That’s fine; I don’t envy the chaotic and capricious world you live in.

But I believe this is my Father’s world, and every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of the heavenly lights. He’s a good Father who will not give his children a stone when they ask for bread, or a serpent when they ask for fish.

Today was a reminder: even in a wilderness season, my faithful God provides manna. Praise His name, all you saints!

#Blogtober2021 Day 9: A Moment of Beauty

I learned something about hibiscus flowers yesterday.

My folks have a braided hibiscus bush in their yard. I noticed yesterday when I stopped by to visit my mom that there were multiple vibrant blooms on the bush. She said, “You know those blooms only last a day, right? They bloom once, close, and fall off. There are some old ones there on the ground.”

For some reason, that struck me as lovely. I know it’s a commonplace thing, and there will be several blooms on the bush each season. But knowing that these blooms I was admiring would only be there for a few more hours made the moment special to me.

I felt privileged, honored to bear witness to these blooms.

It’s so easy to take for granted how beautiful the world can be. We glide right past a thousand daily glories, distracted and dulled, blind to the wonder of creation.

I believe God made this world by the word of His power, by speaking this delightful globe into existence. Let it be. And it was. And He made it good. Not only good, but He made it better than it really even needed to be.

Have you considered the fact that all these delights are unnecessary? Vivid color, enticing flavor, delicious smells. All superfluous. Not that they don’t all serve a purpose—but they don’t have to be so enjoyable, so vibrant.

The tiny delights of daily life are gifts from a generous and creative God who has shown kindness to all His creatures—even the senseless, stubborn people who should recognize His grace and so often refuse to do so.

The next time you experience God’s superlative daily kindnesses—your child’s laughter, the smell of flowers, the sweetness of sugar or delicious aroma of coffee—take a moment and give thanks for His boundless grace, shown to humanity in these countless temporary gifts.

My valentine.

This weekend, I was reminded of several reasons why I adore my wife.

  • We’re about to have our 3rd daughter in a few weeks. You hear stories about crazed, hormonal pregnant women–not my wife. Not that she doesn’t get frustrated–she does, certainly–but other than a few times when the kiddos have driven her to her very last nerve, she has been incredibly easy-going and even-keeled. She’s flexible when things get frustrating, she’s gentle with irrational toddler behavior, and she’ll even remind me (in an undeservedly kind way) when I need to take a few minutes alone to pray and get my head right.
  • We moved into a new rental within the last month (the pic above was our first family meal in the new place–a Chick-fil-A “picnic” in the living room). The house is 70 years old, and we didn’t realize before we moved in that it had quite a few “kirks” (an accident portmanteau she coined–character + quirks). The doors and windows hang slightly crooked, the floors are uneven, the house has clearly been “repaired” often by folks who aren’t exactly professional-grade, the cold gets in, the water pressure’s weak, etc. etc. etc. But my beloved wife doesn’t complain or moan; she makes the best of it. She calls it an adventure. She comes up with reasons why she really likes the house every time I do my “Mr. Stormcloud” routine about something going wrong. Her optimism buoys my spirits.
  • On Saturday night, I was sharing with her some doubts I had about my ministry and concerns about my spiritual walk, and she had the wisdom to ask good, probing questions and make some direct but gracious observations. Rather than hammering me for my weaknesses or blindspots, she held up the mirror of Scripture to me. Then she took the extra step later that night of encouraging me to address those issues, but did so in a manner that was supportive and gentle. We ended the evening watching a sermon together and she looked over and said, “I’m really thankful you’re my husband.” She sees me in a way no one else does, and rather than attack or nitpick, she nutures and binds up.
  • Today, as our coastal southern city faces a wildly bitter and cold arctic blast, and some of our pipes (specifically the two bath/shower pipes) have frozen, my sweetheart doesn’t complain or pitch a fit. She takes some pitchers and carries hot water from the kitchen to the bathtub, like we’re in one of her British period-piece TV shows. When I mumble apologies for the weather (and my foolish mistake of not checking for a hidden third exterior water pipe!), she just laughed. “It’s fine, babe! I’ve dealt with worse. Besides, this is so much easier in this one-story house than it would have been in our last one! We’re good.” Seriously, who responds like that? My wife. That’s who.

I don’t deserve this woman, y’all. I don’t deserve the wisdom, the encouragement, or the joy that she brings. I’m profoundly thankful that she is my wife, that she’s the mother of and model for my girls, and that she’s the one I get to spend my years with. I didn’t get married until my 30’s (which doesn’t sound old to most people but for me was an eternity), but I’m so, so thankful that God protected me from many other relationship mistakes before I met my wife. She was worth the wait, a thousand times over, and the last almost-7-years of marriage have been a delight. May God grant us 50 more.

I praise my God for you, my darling, my bride; you are worth more than rubies, exquisite and beyond compare. You hold my heart in your hands; you steal my breath with your eyes. You bring honor and joy to me, instead of bitterness and shame. Your name is prized and honorable, and all who know you are blessed. For your good and your joy, I pledge all my strength and meager fortune and remaining days, if only for the privilege of holding your clever hands and being your companion until the day you enter the Great City of our King.

Happy Valentine’s Day, beloved.

Still Feeling Thankful.

Hey friends! Thank you for your patience. Over the last several days, I’ve been busy with husband/dad stuff that always must take precedence, along with a challenging sermon to deliver this past Sunday.

But you know what? God is faithful. My wife is feeling better, the kiddo is still a sweetheart, and the sermon turned out okay, praise God. I worked a long day Monday so I could take the rest of the week off, and today I’ve tried to help out where I could around the house and honestly just rested up a little bit–I’m running on low power myself this week.

I am thankful for how God continues to show Himself faithful and provide me with everything I need. I’m thankful for the encouragement of friends and brothers over the weekend and in the days since, regarding my preaching. I’m thankful for my amazing, patient, and kind wife, and for my brilliant, affectionate, and (generally) sweet-natured daughter. I can’t wait to spend time with my parents and siblings on Thursday for the holiday.

Never fear–#30ThankYous resumes tomorrow. For the rest of the week, I’ll be writing more personal letters for ThankYou’s #21-25. Interspersed among those, I’ll try to play catch-up and publish ThankYou’s #14-20 (which feature a pastor, a president, and a pro athlete). My goal is still to post all 30 letters by the end of the month, as promised.

So once again, thanks for hanging with me, and let the thanks-giving continue!

And if you are posting your own #30ThankYous, please let me know in the comments! I’d love to check those out!