A picture of gratitude

Susan Miller, America's Moving CoachlistI am a list maker. I have lists on my phone, on post notes, and on scratch paper. I confess,  I will even list something I’ve done and draw a line through it just to visually see my accomplishments. I have a pretty notebook for special long-term lists–categorized by subject, of course. I am a very well-organized, well-functioning, obsessive list maker. A list clears my mind, prioritizes my day, keeps me on track, and most of all, helps me to remember what I would normally forget.

My usual list-making for Thanksgiving is a grocery list. I go through all my traditional Thanksgiving recipes and write down all the ingredients that I don’t keep in my cabinet the other 364 days. Going through the family recipes for the holidays is a tradition in itself. It turns back the years of memories, not only in my kitchen, but also in my grandmother’s and my mother’s kitchen, as we assembled and prepared the ingredients, then cooked and baked for Thanksgiving Day. I have to tell you that I actually came across an old, handwritten list my mother had made for ingredients that had been tucked in some of her treasured recipes. One day, I’m sure my daughter will find one of my lists among the recipes too. And so it goes…

Around Thanksgiving, it seems the conversation starters, or question probers, are to make a list of things you are grateful for. It’s a question that’s asked around the Thanksgiving table, when friends gather together, in casual conversation, and on social media. Gratitude lists are shared and commented on in articles, blogs, and newsletters, and are discussed on talk shows, the national news, and commercials.

I love reading, or hearing the list of a grateful heart. You and I should have a long list every day, because God doesn’t give us a short list of blessings. They are bountiful, they overflow with abundance. Even if you don’t list them all on paper, extend the list to ponder in your heart. The spoken and unspoken gratitude list brings us to a place of being humbly aware of God’s grace, mercy and blessings in our life.

Since I am such a visual person, my written gratitude list is going to look a little different this time. I’m going to share some pictures from my phone that have been taken over the past year of people, places, and things. They speak volumes for my grateful heart.

gratitude list in pictures

Happy Thanksgiving y’all! It’s time to gather recipes and a grateful heart…

Susan Miller signature@SusanJustMoved

 

12 summer challenges to do or not to do

flowerJune will be here soon, and I’m already breathing in the anticipation of slowing down. For the three months of summer, I thirst for a calendar that is less scheduled, more random acts of fun, and frivolous times spent with family and friends. And yet at the same time, I don’t want to waste away the months and find myself thinking in September, “What in the world did I accomplish over the summer?”

All that said, I want to keep a few challenges in mind, something that I can choose daily to do or not to do. They are not necessarily tasks to accomplish, but rather an attitude of the heart, a mindset, or a conscious choice in words or actions.

You might consider coming up with your own list, or even choosing some of mine. Yes, let’s seize the summer for a change of pace, but also seize the challenge to make daily choices in our attitudes, words, or actions.

Begin anywhere, just begin. 

Hold hands around the table and say grace before each meal. 

Spread random acts of kindness without anyone knowing you did. 

Take time to say, “Tell me your story.”  Then take time to listen. 

Be the last to criticize, the first to praise. 

Spend less, give more. 

Wear a smile, even when you don’t feel like it. It will begin to grow on you. 

Go the extra mile…for a friend or for your favorite ice cream.

Live in the present. Not the past. Not the future. 

See all the good around you, even if you have to squint. 

Be loving to the unlovable, even when you don’t feel like it. It may not change them, but it will change you. 

Be yourself, nobody does it better.

I’d love to hear about your summer challenges too. Email me at susanmiller@justmoved.org and let me know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and how I can pray for you.

In the meantime, be safe my friends. Make happy memories and take pictures, and when September comes, you’ll have a summer to remember.

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The Messy Tree Next Door

rakingIt’s intrusive and messy.

Huge limbs that reach out in all directions not only hang over the wall in my back yard, they also shed leaves that I have to rake up, along with small branches and pieces of bark that I have to pick up. Every time the wind blows or the season changes, leaves, small branches, and bark come tumbling down to mess up my well-kept little yard.

Sometimes I get frustrated and angry, and imagine cutting it down in the middle of the night, or picture a bolt of lightning striking it to the ground. Either way would suffice to take care of the problem.

One day, I decided to change my attitude about the messy tree, and give it a little grace. Especially since I couldn’t control the situation and had to live with the clean-up.

I began to appreciate the shade it provided in my yard. I noticed the hummingbirds that visited my flowers would go back to their nests on the limbs of the tree. I realized the cool breeze I enjoyed came from the long leaf-filled branches. Maybe the trade-off wasn’t so bad after all….

Then I began to think about the people in my life who are a lot like that tree. Their lives are messy, and sometimes their needs intrude on my well-planned day. I find myself trying to pick up the pieces of their brokenness that fall over into my own life. I try to imagine ways I could help take care of their problems, but then realize I am helpless to change or control their situation.

But then I remember–God has given me a lot of grace when I haven’t deserved it. The least I can do is to give a little grace to those who happen to fall into my life. It is a privilege to come alongside a friend in need and help pick up the pieces of her brokenness with the comfort of God’s word, committed prayer, and a listening heart. Friends have certainly picked up my pieces in my time of need. No, I can’t solve or fix their problems, but I can let them know I’m here for them with outstretched arms. Friends have opened their arms wide for me when I came tumbling down.

You see, all of our lives can be messy, even on our well-kept days.

God picks up the pieces of our brokenness. He will “intrude” and make His presence known in the middle of our mess.

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Little did I know

mom and daughter readingMy daughter, Ginger, is a substitute teacher at her children’s elementary school every day–but Thursday. That’s the day she takes off to go to a Bible study at her church. 

Recently she was sharing with me how much she loves the study and the women who sit around the table and discuss the teaching at the end of class.

A young woman with three small children spoke up and said how difficult it was to read or study the Bible with the all-consuming time it took to meet the needs of her children.

I was amazed at Ginger’s response. Little did I know…

“Well, I sure understand that!” Ginger said to her new friend. “I’ve got four kids, and I know how hard it was when they were little to do anything for myself, much less read or study the Bible. Here’s what I did that might help you. My kids would crawl up in my lap, or sit beside me, and I would read them stories from their children’s Bible, which had pictures, and story illustrations. Not only did they learn about the Bible, but I did too! It may have been written for children, but during that time of my life, it sure worked for me.” Her friend said profoundly, “What a great idea! I can do that!”

Two things came to mind as I listened to Ginger recount this story.

One, I didn’t even know she was reading the Bible to her children, my grandchildren. That alone warms my heart.

Two, she is now at a stage of her life where she can mentor younger moms through her own experiences.

So, I’m just thinking…

Do I seize the moment to take time to read and study my Bible, even when I am crazy busy? It’s really easy for me to get distracted by all the things on my to-do list, even without having small children. Psalm 46:10 says, Be still and know that I am God—I need that reminder. I’m not very still most days.

Do I seize the opportunity to share my life experiences with younger women who need encouragement on their journey in marriage and parenting? It’s really easy to brush by the need when my schedule is so full. Titus 2:4 says,…encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children…I need that reminder. My calendar is pretty full these days.

Thank you, Ginger—you have taught your mom well.

Susan

I always keep pom-poms in my car

pom poms
I always keep pom-poms in my car. You just never know when you might need to cheer someone on, or who might need a wave of encouragement. I’ve shown up with pom-poms at the airport, the hospital, birthday parties, sports events — anywhere I can add a touch of sunshine to someone’s day. I especially love showing up at soccer and basketball games to cheer for my grandchildren and their teams. My family used to give me that look that says, “Oh no, she’s going to do THAT again!” But after all these years, they are used to it, and even expect the pom-poms to appear.

When my son, Bill, told me he was coming to Phoenix to run the P.F. Chang Half Marathon, you can imagine my excitement. He had been training for the thirteen mile run for months, and wanted to break his previous running time. A few years ago, Bill and his sister  ran the race together, and I have a picture on my refrigerator with them crossing the finish line. Of course I was there, along with all six grandchildren, all of us waving pom-poms for their mom and dad. (I have a picture of them too!) So for the race this year, I was ready to cheer him on to victory at the finish line. I was so proud  when he accomplished his goal and beat his own record!

Someone said they couldn’t believe I would get up before daylight to get Bill down town for the race, fight the traffic, find a parking place, and join the crowds of spectators, when he could have done it on his own. But that’s what we do for our children, isn’t it? No matter how young or old they are, we are their cheerleaders through life. Whether it’s with pom-poms, words of praise, an expression of encouragement, or simply by being there for them — the things we do and say have a powerful positive influence on their lives. They don’t ever outgrow the need to be loved, affirmed, valued, and encouraged.

And, by the way, I’ve passed the pom-pom tradition on to the next generation in my family. They are equipped to cheer one another on to run the race of life and become the best they can be.

Susan

Six Words Worth Repeating During the Thanksgiving Season

wordsI’m getting a little bit crazy with the holidays coming.

Calendar getting full… schedule time with friends… ministry is busy… thinking about turkeys—the ones on sale… stuffed or unstuffed this year?.. remember to find recipes… make list of ingredients… pull fall decoration boxes from garage… take a deep breath… Christmas boxes are next to them.

Say it isn’t so. Really?

It is obvious that my mind is like a merry-go-round, whirling with things to do. You are probably not far behind me. Let’s take a minute from this craziness before it consumes us. You and I both know there is so much more than the tasks and to-do lists of the holidays.

Simply put, Thanksgiving is all about being thankful.

I stop and get off the high horse I am riding. I refocus from doing to being. I let my thoughts drift to the people who matter in my life. My heart begins to overflow with thankfulness. My mind is flooded with gratitude. I need to tell them how much they mean to me. I need to share what I feel through my words, in the midst of showing them I care through my actions.

This is how I will begin…

I LOVE you because…

I APPRECIATE you for…

I VALUE you because…

I ADMIRE you because…

I RESPECT you for….

THANK YOU for…

How about you? Now is the perfect time to say what you’ve been meaning to say for a long time—to your spouse, your children, your family, and your friends.

From my heart to yours,

Susan