First World Problems


Last Sunday I completed a 1,000 mile, cross-country road trip with my husband and four children to spend time with my family of origin. We planned to start our trip on Friday morning, but due to the huge snow storm coming, we decided to leave Thursday instead.

Just a few hours into the trip, the whining began. No, no. It wasn’t my kids (although they did have their fair share of it as well). It was me. Shocker, I know.

I whined about the type of hot beverage my husband bought me (it was different than what I wanted).

I complained about the size of water he bought at the gas station (I needed a larger one. I am a nursing mom, for goodness sakes!) He turned this into a joke by buying me an entire gallon of water, by the way, which made us both laugh. (He’s not a whiner).

When we got to the hotel, I sighed that there wasn’t a “perfect” set up for our baby’s pack n play and inwardly lamented that we would (all six of us) have to sleep in the same room for three nights.

I was just plain grumbly.

That night, I slept on a pull out bed that was basically all springs sticking in my back. I made sure my husband knew how badly I had slept. He sighed.

A Wake Up Call

The events that had brought us across the country were sobering and thought-provoking. We were there to be with my family in the midst of a tragedy.

And here I was whining about little inconveniences and preferences. It was eye-opening and convicting.

I decided to make a choice. No more whining.

The next night, my baby woke up several times crying. Each of my girls took turns coughing and the daughter I slept with kicked me all night. But I woke up that morning, asked my husband if I could take a short nap (instead of more whining) and chose to thank God for my many blessings.

I chose to focus on the fact that I was here with my amazing family.

I chose to rejoice that I had a roof over my head and that my children were warm and well-fed in the midst of a snow storm.

I chose to thank God that we had traveled safely and had been having a meaningful time with our relatives.

As a result, my spirit was flooded with joy that no “perfect circumstance” could ever replicate.

First World Problems

It’s been proven that our sense of satisfaction with life doesn’t tend to improve much after our basic needs are met. Meaning, when I have a roof over my head, clothes to wear, and food to eat, I am pretty much just as happy as when I have way more than I need.

More stuff, more circumstances going my way, more this or that doesn’t make us happier people.

Choosing to give thanks does. It actually releases joy in our spirits and into the lives of others.

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

When we give thanks for what God has given us and the moment that is before us right now, we choose to unwrap the gift of the present.

It no longer matters if our latte is cold, if our refrigerator broke, if there is construction going on outside our window, or if someone took our parking place.

These are all first-world problems anyways.

We give thanks because we know that life is a gift and right now we are breathing, we have food, water, and shelter.

Complaining digs a pit which hides us from the beauty that surrounds us. Praise lifts us above our circumstances so that we can see the gifts that we have been given.

Thankfulness also allows us to emerge from our own pre-occupation with self and enter into the needs and joys of those around us.

Since we are capable of either encouraging or discouraging the eternal souls of the people around us, let’s choose thankfulness today.

The present awaits your unwrapping…

In Pursuit of Beauty

The rain poured down from the heavy sky, soaking our clothes and hair, dripping off our fingertips onto the grass beneath our feet.

We had an umbrella but abandoned it long ago in favor of the wetness which permeated our skin and seemed to cause new life to flourish in our souls as well as in the plants all around us.

To be honest, we looked hysterical: I with my baby strapped to my chest and my girls like three little ducklings tramping behind me. We wandered along our street in search of twigs, acorns, pretty flowers and clovers and a few stones to collect for a fairy garden we were making.

It was Christmas Eve Eve and this was school. Well, this and making a heaping batch of sea salt Nutella fudge for our neighbors.

Inspired to Seek Beauty

I love nature. I always have. Fondly I recall a childhood filled with the marvels of the great outdoors – the great mountains and lakes of Utah – and then on to another lake where I lived, played, and swam until I went to college.

My favorite place on earth is our family cabin in the woods of Cashiers, North Carolina, where as a child I created homes for salamanders, snakes, and lizards and named streams and waterfalls.

But the inspiration to trek out into heavy rain with my four children that day came from C.S. Lewis. The last few years I have taken a headlong plunge into his works and still haven’t come out. I’m in “literary love” with this man’s writings and can’t seem to get enough of them.

So when my pastor encouraged us to read Lewis’s “Surprised By Joy,” I eagerly accepted the challenge. One of the first lovely discoveries I made from its contents was a story of Lewis’s first encounter with beauty as a child. It came in the form of his brother’s toy garden:

Once in those very early days my brother brought into the nursery the lid of a biscuit tin which he had covered with moss and garnished with twigs and flowers so as to make it a toy garden or a toy forest. That was the first beauty I ever knew…It made me aware of nature – not, indeed, as a storehouse of forms and colors but as something cool, dewy, fresh, exuberant. I do not think the impression was very important at the moment, but it soon because important in memory. As long as I live my imagination of Paradise will retain something of my brother’s toy garden.

In Pursuit of Beauty

Beauty – real beauty, is all around us if our eyes are open to see it.

The older I get the more certain I am that beauty is often not found where the world says that it is.

It is not on the glossy pages of magazines filled with photoshopped models.

It is not in crowded stores with racks of designer clothing.

It is not in picture perfect houses, sparkling clean and flawlessly designed.

I see beauty in the wrinkles of my Grandmother’s 95 year old hands, rough with age and life and stories of generations past.

I see beauty in a simple clover covered with dew sticking through the pavement on my driveway, happily reminding me that life always finds a way through.

I see beauty in my messy kitchen and toy-covered floor, because life happens here and people are enjoying it.

This year, I am inspired to seek and be surprised by beauty all around me…to appreciate the lack of ostentatiousness in a simple daisy and the non-dramatic cover of an old but classic book which stimulates the imagination.

Where do you find beauty? Where do you seek it? Perhaps it can be found in humble people and quiet places – or simply where and when we least expect to find it.

But when we have caught a glimpse of genuine beauty we will know it – for it will be, as Lewis said, a foretaste of Paradise itself and whet in us a thirst and hunger to know the author of such beauty – God Almighty- the Beautiful One.

You Have Searched Me and Know Me…

a meditation on Psalm 139:1-6


It was a week. And like most other weeks in this season of my life, it was a doozy. But this week was a double doozy for a myriad of reasons. Let’s just say that by Friday at 4pm, I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck and couldn’t seem to pull myself up off the pavement.

So I did what any reasonable American mom would do – I phoned a friend. My best friend, to be more precise…my husband. Actually, I texted him these words:

Don’t have it in me to cook. Can we order pizza tonight?

I wish that I had a tally of every time that exact text has been sent through space from one phone to another and I’m sure the pizza companies do too for their marketing research!

He replied, “Of course,” but before I could put in a pizza order, I heard a knock at our front door. On our front porch sat a very large box with two frozen deep dish pizzas from Lou Malnatti’s in Chicago. They were sent by my loving father-in-law as an early Christmas gift. In case you haven’t ever tried deep dish Chicago pizza, you are missing out. This is what it looks like, just to make you salivate:


And here is a screenshot of what my husband wrote in response when I let him know what had arrived:


You want pizza – God says – I already knew that..Here is the best pizza you could ask for.

The God Who Already Knows

I popped the pizzas in the oven to cook and pulled out my Bible to read Psalm 139:1-6:

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

No, God does not always give me what I want or ask for, but He always hears my thoughts and knows my requests even before I verbalize them. And the same goes for you.

He is a God who cares about every hair on your head. He hears the times when your prayers aren’t even technically prayers. Maybe all you can muster up is a groan or a sigh in his direction at that moment, but he hears. He knows. And, when we are least expecting it, when we may think that we’re just trying to get through to the moment when we can put our head on our pillow that night, He shows up at our front door and surprises us.

The God Who Hears Us

My encouragement to you this week is this – in your little moments of frustration or happiness or need, know that God cares. He hears. He’s on it. It may not always be as obvious as pizza showing up at your door, but if we are watching and expecting, we will see His fingerprints of activity all around us.

He’s inviting us to see Him in the details of everyday life. So let him know what’s behind that sigh you are already uttering. He knows already and has a plan and purpose to reveal.

Let Him search you.

Let Him know you.

Let Him hear you.

And in the process, you will come to know Him better, too.


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