Once, when I was 11 year s old, maybe 12, I remember bounding into our house with something important on my mind. “Mom!!” I yelled at the top of my voice, “Mom!!” Where was she? She wasn’t in the kitchen or the living-room or the study. I found her in her room on her bed, curled up with an afghan, sleeping. Why is she so tired? I wondered as I proceeded to wake her up to share my important news.

As I watch my little ones run around with boundless energy, leaving me dizzy and hoping for a nap each afternoon, I can see the same question in their eyes: why is she so tired. So I hope that all you moms out there know, the understanding does come one day. And with understanding comes gratitude for all the late nights you spent taking care of things so we could have good days!

We’ve been discussing Sabbath Rest and The Lord’s Day in church recently. It’s gotten me thinking about rest and our culture. I won’t say much here, but how lovely that a God who never slumbers nor sleeps took a day to rest—as an example for us, to enjoy what He created, to make it clear that rest is a privilege—and offers it to us as a gift! May we all find joy in our labor, rest for our well being, and many opportunities to give joy to others.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

There is a story in Luke 17 about ten lepers who Jesus healed. They all called out to him and begged him for mercy, and Jesus stopped briefly to tell them to show themselves to the priest. It was the priest who could declare them “clean” or “unclean;” fit to be in society or unfit to be in society. They turned to obey Jesus and on their way they were all healed of their disease.

Of the ten, one, so overcome with gratitude, turned back, worshiping God, and thanked Jesus. The text makes the point that this man was a Samaritan, an outsider not only because of his disease but also his racial heritage. After questioning this man about the others who were healed, Jesus tells him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

I have heard a number of sermons preached on this text. And some of those have come to mind recently. The sermons always get to the point with questions like

“What has God done for you?”

“Are you one of the 9 who wander merrily into your state of mercy and grace forgetting the giver, or are you the one who turns back with a grateful heart, remembering that apart from Jesus you can do nothing?”

“What part does thanksgiving play in your daily worship?”

Gratitude is not something we can conjure or fake. It wells up deep within us when we are certain that the gift is beyond our ability to grasp for ourselves…something we always wanted, but could not attain. In the absence of true gratitude, we can always practice thankfulness. Thankfulness as a discipline makes room in our hearts for us to begin looking outside ourselves for the good things in our lives. God does not hold back rain or sunshine for the just or the unjust; so my thought is that every good gift we receive comes from Him, even if we are not seeking Him. When we practice thanking Him, no matter what our situation, there is an in-road for His Spirit to draw us into true gratitude, and somehow that can ignite faith that makes us well.

Our pastor recently asked us to write down some of the things we are thankful for, ways that God has shown up throughout our lives, and so here is my list. I am sharing it with you in hopes that you might consider making your own list. My list is more chronological than by importance, and each of these things is a story or memoir yet to be written, so stay tuned!

As we write our lists may the Lord make all of our hearts truly grateful. May we come to see that it is by Him we live and breathe and have our being.

I am thankful for

1) parents who love me and taught me what a relationship with the Living God through Jesus looked like by their life examples.

2) a brother who truly loves me and admires me even when I don’t deserve it.

3) a chance to travel and live in another country far away from the culture I grew up in so that I could really see the goodness of God.

4) a second chance to follow Jesus and a clear understanding that the path He chose for me is more desirable than any other path I might chose for myself.

5) hope that does not disappoint.

6) good friends and mentors who push me toward truth and challenge me to live my life according to my deepest convictions.

7)a good education.

8) a chance to run cross country for high school and college; it was while running God revealed to me some of my deepest understandings of relationship with him.

9) failure because it forced me to find hope beyond my circumstances.

10) countless opportunities to share my stories with people, so they can see how well God loves.

11) a chance to teach and mentor young people.

12) 11 to 15 year olds because I like who I am with that age group.

13) a full house, plenty of food, and music…in short I am thankful for good parties, both planned and unplanned!

14) a husband who loves me and helps me laugh at the quirkiness of life when I’m tempted to take things too seriously; all the moments in public and private that my husband and I get to share together.

15) in-laws who are kind and more generous with themselves and their lives than I deserve or could ever hope for.

16) three good children and the hope for more someday.

17) a chance to pass on to my children what was given to me.

18) a burden to care and a heart to pray.

19) that I was expected to memorize scripture all my life, because when my spirit was awakened by the Holy Spirit, it was through the scripture that I memorized He most often spoke to my heart.

20) a chance to love and serve and grow in a community of people who want to know and follow Jesus.

21) the opportunity to write.

22) dreams that I know will be fulfilled either in this life or the next!

23) friends who take time to listen to my dreams and thoughts and hopes and fears.

24) prayer partners.

25) all of the little daily ways the Lord is constantly showing up and telling me He loves me, relieving my fears, giving me rest, placing me in intimate moments, revealing Himself through the mundane and the miraculous, making me constantly aware that He will never leave me.

I asked Thomas if he thought I forgot anything. He said, “I’m sure you did.”

“Can you think of anything?” I asked.


So, for today, that’s the list…of course it will always be a work in progress.

Please share some of yours with me. I love to know the joy in other people’s lives.

When I was 11 years old, the Disney Channel aired a mini-series called “Anne of Green Gables” and its sequel mini-series “Anne of Avonlea.” My mom taped both series, and there began my deep love for Anne Shirley. I watched those tapes countless times, I read the original books, and I daydreamed about moving to Prince Edward Island. In fact, my cousin Maggie and I had a plan to open a deli on Prince Edward Island where we would serve stuffed olives and sandwiches and meet our own “Gilbert Blithes.” If you have never seen this series or read these books, you are either seriously deprived, or a guy. So if you are a guy, I forgive you. If you are female, you MUST see this series at some point soon (Netflix or Blockbuster are calling your name), and read at least the first “Anne book” by L.M. Montgomery. I know you won’t be sorry.

The idea of a kindred spirit came from these stories. Anne was always on the hunt for kindred spirits. They were more than just what some might term best friends. They were people with whom she felt a deep connection and with whom she felt safe and secure to be herself who understood the world as a place filled with hope and romantic possibilities. In the stories, she often found kindred spirits in the most surprising places and the most surprising people. Many kindred spirits never stayed around long enough to become truly close friends, but there was always an unspoken deep understanding with those of the race that knew Joseph (as another character in the books called them).

When I look back on my childhood, I did not have very many kindred spirits before my teenage years. I was sort of a strange child, who most people did not understand. In fact I can think of only one girl who would fit the bill, but her parents did not like me. I think it was because I talked too much. And maybe because I told them I didn’t like their butter, which happened to be cream cheese, on one particular visit to this friend’s house.

This girl, Amy, pulled me aside one Sunday after church and told me that she could no longer be my friend because her parents did not like me. She felt so bad, but had to tell me because she did not want me to think it was her who didn’t like me. She said she knew her parents just didn’t understand me. We were both sad. I never told anyone, partly because I was afraid she might get into trouble for telling me, and partly because I did not know how to put into words my emotions over the matter. I liked Amy tremendously. I understood that she really loved me, and I never once felt ill will toward her. She was a truly kind girl. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday.

That was around 3rd grade, 1983/84. Of course, I had several play mates, and never lacked for love from my family, but I think my lost friendship with Amy awakened the possibility that there were really people who understood me somewhere in this world. After experiencing Anne of Green Gables, the longing to find these people intensified. Several times I thought I had found the real thing, but discovered those friendships lacking either because of betrayal or what I will term suffocation. Some people feign a kindred spirit, but in reality they are insecure and lost and masters at being who other people want them to be in order to slowly leach the life out of more stable people. They may not fully understand what they are doing, but unguarded relationships with these people leads to co-dependence and idolatry (putting something or someone in the place of God in our hearts).

I have always been, of course, an extreme extrovert, so, I rarely worried over whether my friends were kindred spirits; I just enjoyed the company of the people I knew. I had the confidence in most cases to overcome betrayal and keep suffocation at arms distance. In general I was perfectly happy and found my like minded friends in books and daydreams.

Then in 8th grade, I met Jennifer George. Jennifer George befriended me on my first day of school at Bethel Christian Academy (BCA). I had recently transferred to this school in Lancaster, California after homeschooling in 6th grade and attending another private school in 7th grade, which my mom found severely lacking in several areas. BCA was much stricter than most private schools in its behavioral standards, but produced students of higher academic ability.

I remember feeling awkward that first day of school. I wore a new dress and was eager to make friends, but I held back because I felt ugly. My face was a mess of pimples, my hair was extraordinarily frizzy and really the beginning of puberty just left me somewhat insecure. The fact that anyone would talk to me was a relief, but Jennifer was not just anyone. She was well known and well respected by teachers and students. She was a cheerleader, which I admired deeply. She was friendly and warm, and I knew I was privileged to be in her company. She invited me to eat lunch with her and Sarah DiGiovani. I gladly accepted.

Those lunches together became a constant in 8th grade. We had more fun than I can truly describe in words here. I remember often laughing until I cried. Once I even fell out of my chair laughing from the stories we told about our lives. We bounced around ideas and dreams and thoughts. We wrote poetry and debated theology and theories and then laughed some more. Jennifer and I got each other.

Thinking back on those days, I am humbled and grateful all over again. Jennifer was a master at recognizing kindred spirits. I really think that it was from her I learned how to see people more clearly. She taught me how to be myself and draw people out of pretense so they could be themselves. I can’t say that I always treated our friendship with the utmost respect or care, but I am grateful that love covers a multitude of sins, and that today we have re-connected and are once again friends. Truly, I believe, once a kindred spirit always a kindred spirit!

After embarking on friendship with Jennifer George, it seemed that suddenly the world was full of kindred spirits. True kindred spirits will do that—open the world for you. I found one in the woman we carpooled with to school, Tami Vincent. I found them in teachers and classmates and neighbors. It seemed that the best thing for drawing out kindred spirits was to be real and open and sincere. When I approached people with sincerity and was secure in myself, they often met me with open hearts.

From time to time, I still ran across betrayal and suffocation, and sadly, I was not always the victim, but occasionally the perpetrator of those in my weaker life moments. Still, after wallowing in those moments, I knew how to look for the place of peace and security, found in surrender to my Creator. He ultimately drew me back to a place of hope and set me in the company of people who understood. There I found I could still carry on and offer trust to a community of kindred spirits with whom I related.

These days, I cannot imagine life without true friends and kindred spirits. The more I put my hope in Jesus, the more he draws me into relationship with people who see life and the world as a place for growing and overcoming. The catch for me is always choosing Him above the relationships with the people I love. Yet that very act seems to make my relationship with those people deeper, richer, and fuller.

To all my dear kindred spirits (you know who you are!), I say, thank you for walking through life with me and teaching me so much about love and friendship along the way. May our eyes always be on Jesus so we may find the abundance He offers.

Fall is upon us. This is my favorite time of year, even though I have never lived where there are an abundance of color changing trees. Just the nippy morning air and the faded sunshine make me feel alive. Another reason I love Fall is because it is chili weather. People traditionally hold chili contests during the cold football season, and this is when I work on perfecting my famous chili!

One of the best things about making chili is slow cooking it all day long. Coming home at the end of a hard day to the wonderful smells of slow cooked chili cannot be beat. My mom bought me a slow cooker as a graduation gift/house warming gift for my first apartment along with a cookbook she put together of all my favorite recipes from growing up (a very treasured item). The Slow Cooker is a 6 quart West Bend. I love this Slow Cooker. If I was forced to move and could only take one kitchen item with me, this would be IT! My older version is not available these days (sadly because one perk of my cooker is that the lid can be used in the oven as a casserole dish!), but the newest models can be found at the West Bend web site. (click to see!)

I wish I could give one of these cookers to each of my readers, but instead I will give you my chili recipe, which might still bring a smile to you and your family. It can be used in any traditional crock pot or slow cooker.

My chili recipe is an adaptation of a recipe found in the owners’ manual from my West Bend Slow Cooker. I have changed and altered this recipe to its current perfection; so although the basic outline is not mine, the unique subtlety of married flavors is mine! I cannot tell you how many long hard days suddenly felt better after coming home to great chili and good friends. I hosted countless chili parties and have entered and placed in many chili contests with my chili. Remembering the fall and winter seasons of my twenties go hand in hand with having chili parties where people would laugh and tell stories. So this is to all of you who have made fall and winter memories warm by sharing a bowl of chili and your friendship.

Beth’s Famous Chili
Serves 8
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Crock Pot Cooking Time: 7-10 hours

2 lbs ground turkey or ground beef
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely cut
2 cans diced tomatoes (14 ½ oz each), undrained
2 cans black beans (15 oz each), undrained
2 tsp salt
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin (ground)
(Fresh serano peppers or crushed red pepper to taste—optional)

Brown ground meat thoroughly.
Dice onion, green pepper, and garlic cloves.
Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on medium heat for 7-10 hours
Serve with rice or tortilla chips and shredded cheddar cheese.