Category Archives: Choose Thankful

A Conquest for Coffee

goodLord, this week, may the good things, even though they may be less in number, shine brighter in our lives than the frustrations and struggles that we find ourselves facing. 

This was my prayer on Tuesday morning as I drove home after dropping the kids at school. My heart was heavy for my husband and kids, each with their plate full and feeling the burden of frustration as we launched headlong into another week.  I didn’t think it was an outstanding prayer at the time, just an honest plea on their behalf.  I didn’t realize how God would turn it into a lesson later in the week.

This morning the alarm greeted me and our puppy’s shrill barks beckoned me to rise and shine.  Another day was waiting.  Maybe you can relate to the way this morning wound itself out…

All I wanted to get my morning started was a cup of coffee but first I had to take care of The Puppy.  Our Old English Sheepdog, Beezus, is just 10 weeks old and we are still adjusting to life with a puppy.  (In hindsight we should have named her Sham-Wow, for we are finding out that with all of her “fluff” she soaks up the accidents she has in her crate overnight, looks awful and smells even worse.  Needless to say, we found out over the weekend that she has a bladder infection so she can’t help it, and although she is getting better, this morning she was definitely in need of a bath before anything else got done. She’s lucky she’s so cute!)

Through teamwork, my husband and I got the bath and the coffee started.  He finished puppy bathtime and I moved onto making breakfast and lunch and waking two sleepy teenagers.  I could hear and smell the coffee brewing (we have a coffee station in the utility room) from the kitchen as I went about the morning routine.  When I went to grab the pot and fill our two waiting cups I realized that coffee and grounds had found their way all over the utility room counter, floor, and everything that had been moved away from the utiltiy-sink-bathzone to the other side of the room into the unfortunate-coffee-overflow-zone.  In my haste I hadn’t gotten the pot all the way under the basket and so we had a mess. I did triage and had about 3/4 of it cleaned up, rescuing the things that needed saved from the staining, soaking coffee before needing to move onto the next morning task.

Coffee Plan B.  We would just use the Keurig to make our morning brew, one cup at a time.  My husband took this task over while we two-stepped around the kitchen, each trying to stay out of the other’s way.  He brewed the first cup, added the cream, and the coffee curdled.  Apparently, the vinegar that I had used to flush the Keurig yesterday hadn’t gotten rinsed thoroughly out.  (I thought I was being on top of things…clean the Keurig – check.  Ruin the next cup of coffee – check.)  I was past wanting coffee at this point to needing coffee.

Coffee Plan C. As I moved to the gathering of the sports items part of the morning (game uniforms, football apparel, and pre-game snacks) my husband moved back to the coffee pot, cleaned the rest of the mess up and made a new fresh pot, ensuring it would drain properly this time.  God love that man!

As my family headed out the door, I sat down with my much delayed first cup of coffee (ahhhh…) and I remembered my prayer from Tuesday morning and thought, yep there’s the frustration I was praying about.  Then God prodded my memory to each of my family members and the little shiny pieces of good that each of them had shared with me already this week.  Each courtesy of God moving in their lives.

Phil – coming back from his second trip to the West Coast in 10 days.  (He has spent more time there than at home lately and was coming off of his worst trip ever.) This was the text I got as he boarded his plane to come home. “One empty seat on this flight, and it’s next to me in the exit row.  Sometimes Lady Luck smiles on me.”

Ty – Tuesday’s forecast was 90 with bright sun and plenty of humidity.  This means football practice is especially awful  and Ty was dreading it. When I picked him up afterwards this is what he had to say.  “It wasn’t that bad.  It was an answer to prayer actually.  Literally, an answer to prayer.  I prayed that we would be able to practice in shorts instead of our pants and we did.  I prayed that we would get a pass on Lombardi’s (these are just strait torture) and we did.  I even got some breaks on scout team.”

Mae – my steady as she goes trooper.  There isn’t much that throws her.  She is my still waters run deep kid and every now and then I get a peek into what is going on in her brilliant, creative mind.  On Tuesday night she had to write a magazine article on prayer that she had me proofread.  These are her words. “Why should you pray? You should pray because you grow in knowing God. You shouldn’t pray just because you need something, you should pray to thank God and praise him for being awesome.”

Shiny pieces of good, outshining the struggle, even if they are tiny and in the minority.

Answered prayer, mine and theirs.

And I read these words from Isaiah…

“I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth the road ahead of them.  Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

God’s promise for my family and for me.    As I sat with my coffee I was reminded of all of these things and couldn’t help praising God for being awesome.

What’s your shiny good this week?

The Cure

As Thanksgiving winds down I thought this was a great reminder to take with us into the next season as we are continuously looking ahead to what is next…next to do, next to buy, next to find, next to achieve contentment.  In the process we are missing the now and all of the gifts held within it.

Forgive me Lord for my waiting room addiction…addicted to always thinking I am waiting.  Counting down the days until I enter real life, when real life is happening right now and You are the one waiting for me to give you thanks for the miracle of now.  Wake me up from my waiting room addiction. 

As we kick off advent today please try and enjoy every second of the upcoming Christmas season.

Thanksgiving Chair

How often do you sit in the seat of thanksgiving throughout the day?  I am trying to do a better job of this on a consistent basis.  As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, realize, amidst the chaos, the dysfunction, the laughter or the tears, there is always a reason to be thankful.

 Always be joyful. Never stop praying.   Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

The Gift of a Legacy


Today, I am thankful for legacies.  I am thankful for the gift of an extraordinary, quiet man of God whom I was able to call Pap.  A man, who has left a legacy of what it truly means to be the hands and feet of Jesus…

These hands, once strong and able, with age became weak and unsteady but never less powerful. These feet that once ran in youthful excitement over time became homebound, but never lost their impact.

pappic2We are called to be like Jesus and in reading this last week I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather, Pap who died 5 years ago today…

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.” (Isaiah 42:1-2; Matthew 12:17-19)

Jesus wasn’t like some of these people we see today, going all-out, being loud and obnoxious, in the name of the Lord. He really didn’t draw attention to Himself. In fact, He blended into His world so well that in the Garden of Gethsemane, if Judas hadn’t betrayed Him with a kiss, His enemies would never have recognized Him. Here was a Man who had healed, and fed, and taught thousands, yet He remained unidentifiable because He moved in such humility and grace.

To move in humility and grace, Jesus legacy to us, Pap’s way of life…quietly, unassumingly, being the hands and feet…feeding, clothing, teaching, loving, giving, caring for others.

Edwin Eugene Charles, known to all as Pap.  As many times as he has stood on death’s doorstep and came back to us gives testament to his fighting spirit and determination as well as God’s plan to show His Glory and Greatness through miracle after miracle.  Today marks 5 years since this man, who lived his last days in such pain, was freed from that bondage and now celebrates in Heaven.

Born in the early 30s into a coal-mining family in a small town in Pa., he grew up with very little but in doing so came to understand early the important things in life.  Faith, family, and laughter.  These are the pillars upon which his life was built.

My challenge today is how do you, in the shortness of a few paragraphs, even begin to capture the entirety of who Pap was to so many different people.  The difference he made in living the way he did.  Our memories of him are an integral part of who we are and there is no way to properly pay honor to such a great man.

Pap was the Go-To-Guy.  Not just ours but everyone’s.  Did you need someone to listen and give advice?  He was there, a great listener and his advice wasn’t off the cuff.  It was thoughtful and contemplative and filled with love and your best interests in mind.

Did you need a little money to get you through til pay day? Or maybe you needed a lot.  Pap gave it graciously without any strings attached.  It wasn’t just money though.  If he had it and you needed it it was yours. It didn’t matter what it was, the shirt off of his back if that would have helped.  He was the hardest worker that I have ever encountered, sometimes working three jobs in order to provide the things for his family that he never had.

He loved his garden and his tomatoes especially. He babied his plants and watched them vigilantly waiting and watching for the first one to ripen.  Nothing tasted as good to him as the first homegrown tomato of summer, salted and savored.  He shared his garden’s bounty with anyone who would take it.  He even boxed it and shipped it across the country to family.

pappic4He attended every sporting event, recital, program there was from his children to his grandchildren, taking pride in the accomplishments of each and every one of us.  Sports were one of his great passions, baseball, football, wrestling.  He was a student of the game.  He studied plays and players, from the peewee level through the pros and took great pride when any Pennsylvania team beat any Ohio team.  He was sure to remind you of the victory if you weren’t together at game time.  The phone would ring after a game and you knew who was on the other end.  Pap, just wondering if you had watched the game, innocently asking if you knew the end score.

Pap was often the first call when you had good news to share.  He enjoyed a good story, but, even more so, a good laugh.  He loved to joke and to tease.  His laughter was infectious and it came from deep within him.  It was a large part of who he was.

pappic5Pap’s giving and generous spirit were evident year round but during the holiday season he would shine the brightest.  He provided magical Christmases for many, many people.  The memories that we carry in our hearts of Christmas Eve’s spent with him over the years are our most cherished.  He embodied what the season is supposed to be about.  Not Santa, not presents, not stuff, but remembering God’s gift of Christ to us and glorifying Him for all that that gift meant.
pappic6In his last days we had to bring the outside world into him.  He lived through the stories that we brought him.  Stories of the great hunt, or a great game.  The visitors were a constant stream in and out, a testament to the lives that he touched. Thank you to all who stopped in to share a story or just say hello.  You helped him continue to be connected and pass the days of being homebound.

Someone once said that he was an uncommon example of kindness and generosity.  What made him uncommon?  It was his faith.  The Lord was his guidepost, his rock. His faith quiet, understated, but evident in every day that he lived.  And today he suffers no more.  He doesn’t cease to be but lives on in heaven.  Because of his faith he has gone home to be with his Lord and Savior.

The legacy that Pap was in life, and now leaves us with in death, will be a summons to all to live in a way in which God’s love through us can touch the people whose paths we cross for the rest of our lives.  That we may be one fraction of the man that he was.  To live in kindness, humbleness, and generosity.  Always putting others before ourselves and living our lives in faith, surrounded by family, and with a good dose of laughter.

pappic3This…this is what it’s all about.  This is what it looks like to be the hands and feet and tonight I am so thankful for this man, for my memories, and for his legacy that I hope to pass on to another generation.

Choose Thankful


Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. There are turkeys to be thawed, potatoes to be peeled, tables to be set, parades to be watched, and blessings to be counted. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way though…

Come gather around at the table
In the spirit of family and friends
And we’ll all join hands
And remember the moment
‘Til the season comes round again*

Last year, my sweet niece Hannah was born the week after Thanksgiving. All of 26 weeks into the pregnancy she was 12 in long and 2lbs 6 oz of fighting spirit. Our little Tiger. She is living, breathing proof of God’s answered prayer and miracles as we prepare to celebrate her 1st birthday.  But last year at this time? We couldn’t know all that would happen, the heartache that was to be endured. (See We Interrupt This Christmas… for the first Hannah story.)

Let’s all try to smile for the picture
And we’ll hold it as long as we can
May it carry us through
Should we ever get lonely Til the season comes round again*

Five years ago my grandfather, my pap, passed away the week before Thanksgiving. This man…I really have no words…it still hurts and I still miss him dearly, but I will try to do him justice in the coming days as I introduce you to him because I can promise you there is no one else on Earth that embodies what he was to so many. His legacy I can only hope to carry on.

One night, holy and bright
Shining with love from our hearts
By a warm fire, let’s lift our heads high
And be thankful we’re here
Til this time next year*

Three years ago this week the barrage of testing began to determine why my heart was suddenly, literally, broken. In a span of a 24 hr holter test I had over 3000 irregular beats and it felt as if my heart was doing somersaults in my chest. Tests and questions and tests and questions all to finally receive the news that my body is at war with itself, attacking the main arteries off my aorta.

May the new year be blessed with good tidings
Til the next time I see you again
And we’ll all join hands
And remember this moment
And we’ll love and we’ll laugh
In the time that we have
‘Til the season comes round again*
(*Til The Season Comes Round Again, Vince Gill)

Thanksgiving…a time to be thankful and count our blessings. What do you do when the blessings feel thin and the hurt runs deep? I Choose Thankful. It’s a choice and I hope that over the next two weeks you will follow along with me, especially if you are struggling with Thankful. I hope that through the stories I share you will be encouraged and uplifted.  May we laugh together and cry together as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18