I think I’m becoming one of those people who likes to take their holidays one at a time.

Maybe it’s this season of life that I’m in, but I find anger gently welling up almost every time someone talks about Thanksgiving like it’s a day to be pushed to the side, brushed it under the rug. I really like Thanksgiving. I really like Christmas too, but I just can’t stand the idea that Thanksgiving is just a bump in the road on the way to the extravaganza of the year that is Christmas.

No, I don’t want to decorate for Christmas before we eat our Thanksgiving feast. No, I don’t want to receive my Christmas presents before I can even take the time to be thankful for what I already have (and it’s not like I truly need anything for Christmas anyways).

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I honestly don’t remember when we as a culture decided Christmas trumps Thanksgiving even on the actual holiday.

Please don’t hate me if my Thanksgiving conviction offends you (I will admit I’ve been listening to Christmas music for the last few days–it’s just so catchy!) because this is what I’m really trying to say:

I want to start enjoying my life one bite at a time. One day, one holiday, one moment at a time.

Lately, I find that I’m really getting tired of always trying to be one step ahead. See, I’m a planner. I always have a to-do list, a future goals list, an everything-and-anything-you-can-think-of list actually. I love lists. But I’m starting to realize that my lists are becoming a crutch.

My lists hold all the hope.

Because if I can accomplish x,y, and z today; if I can accomplish x, y and z in the coming year, then, maybe then, I might have it all together. Then my life might feel more in control.

I’m realizing that trying to stay three steps ahead at all times is only leaving me tired, disappointed, and absent from what is going on in the moment. In my dreaming of the future, I’m missing out on the present.

And the other thing is, when I’m waiting for the future to finally make me content and fulfilled, I’m forgetting to be thankful today. I’m constantly saying “Thanks Jesus for today, but what I really will be thankful for is when you give me all my hopes and expectations next year.

And I don’t think that it’s working.

I think my waiting on the future is robbing all my joy in the present. And this is where it stops.

I’m ready to be thankful.

And there’s more: I don’t want to just be thankful on Thanksgiving. Even more so, I don’t want other people to believe that I’m only thankful on Thanksgiving. I want a heart that pours out thanks and praise on Jesus and others every day of my life. I never want to leave someone questioning whether or not I appreciate and love them, that I’m thankful for their friendship, encouragement, support, etc. I want to wake up to each day ready to leave bits of thanks-giving at each stop along the way. I want a heart bursting with thankfulness and encouragement that would become the culture of my life.

And that requires a little more dying to myself so that my gaze can be set on Jesus.

Because when it’s all about me, I’m not thankful, I’m only scraping for more. More satisfaction, more praise, more attention, just more. And just like the stomachache we often experience after we have gorged ourselves on turkey and potatoes (plus all the other Thanksgiving sides and goodies) we realize that more is not always good. More can leave us feeling sick and tired and just plain gross. And in this season of life I don’t want more. I just want Jesus. Don’t get me wrong in this moment, I’m not very successful at just wanting Jesus because I’m human and fleshy and out of control ninety percent of the time, but I think there is something to be said that even when I take my gaze off Jesus and put it back on myself, somehow He always draws be back so gently, brushes me off and, in his kindness, reminds me of how foolish it was to ever think that this life was actually about me.

So let’s make a pact. You and me here while you’re sipping your coffee or lying on your bed reading these words on a screen, let’s fight to be thankful. Not only on this fabulous day of thanks, but every day. Let’s make a point to put down our phones, close our laptops, get our focus off ourselves, and actually look those we love in the eyes and tell them that we’re thankful. Tell them what we love about the way they love us, call out the good things and the potential that we see inside of them. Let’s not ever leave a place again without telling someone that we’re grateful for them, for what they’ve done, or even just for being alive. Let’s train our hearts to be overflowing with thankfulness. Let’s look to Jesus and thank him even more quickly and frequently than we thank those around us. Let’s take quiet moments to reflect on His goodness and what he has done in our lives this week, this semester, this year.

Because I think if I can learn to be thankful in this moment here, I can stop clinging so desperately to the hope that I will find satisfaction in the future. If I can be thankful for this life, this body, these gifts that I have today, maybe I will stop wishing my life away in the hopes that I will be made whole and perfect while I’m here on this earth. The fact is, this world is messy and I’m never going to be truly content until I make it home to Jesus. And to me, even though eternity with Him is the deepest longing of my heart, it would be such a shame to get to Heaven only to realize I never appreciated anything Jesus gave me while living here on earth.

Look around people (myself included)! This place is beautiful! Jesus is alive! He’s redeeming us moment by moment, day by day, from glory to glory! Let’s be thankful. Let’s be alert and always ready to give thanks for what He’s doing today. Because when we do that, we’re going to find that joy and contentment isn’t so far gone; it’s not found in the plans of my future, but it’s hiding in the everyday moments of the present, just waiting for us to turn around and be thankful.

My prayer in this holiday season for you and for myself is that our eyes would be opened, our hearts would be quick to become aware of what Jesus is doing in this moment, in this day. And that we would just be grateful. That the overflow of our hearts would be a resounding song of thanksgiving, rising from our souls into the throne room of Jesus.

He deserves every ounce of praise and I want to spend my life singing that song of thanksgiving to my Daddy.

Won’t you join me?

Be blessed today and always sweet friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Losing It

So today started out great.

I had planned out my day, had sweet Jesus time and a yummy breakfast with friends, had great discussions in class and then, out of the blue, my plans got changed over a silly extra credit assignment. And you know what happened?

I lost it.

I went from having a Spirit-filled, I’m-so-joyful-and-happy-to-be-alive kind of day to my blood pressure sky-rocketing. I became flustered and frustrated everyone around me because I’m nearly sprinting to my car and no one can seem to move out of my way fast enough. Stupid people, taking their sweet time getting to class when I have somewhere to be. I made it to my car after my swift trek across campus and hit a fast food line and drove like a mad woman down Cumberland as I shoved Zaxby’s chicken strips down my throat (if you happened to be a victim of this scene I am deeply sorry-It was a really, really low moment).

And then I got to church.

I was meeting to plan for lifegroup and as I entered the parking lot, pausing before I got out of my car I became keenly aware of my fifteen minutes of fury and I. Was. Appalled.

I felt silly and ashamed.

Here’s the thing: Stress makes me ugly. Frustration makes me ugly. Rushing makes me ugly.

And there was honestly no reason I should have been any of these things.

Yes, my plans changed and I had to move a meeting up earlier meaning I didn’t have time to make it back to the house for lunch and I would have to make my meeting short and sweet but you know what?

It all got done.

The sun came out from behind the clouds.

My world didn’t crumble.

So why did I do that?

Why did I stress eat, why did I glare at everyone near me who was walking less than four miles an hour, and why did I let my emotions run wild just because of a tiny bump in my plan for the day?

Seriously, it was not that big of a deal.

To be honest, I really don’t know why plans changing seems to shatter my world every single time.

But I know it isn’t pleasant, sure isn’t beneficial and definitely doesn’t honor Jesus.

In Matthew 6, Jesus is sharing with a large group of his disciples and tells them, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in). Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? (Matthew 6:24-25 AMP)”

This is a fantastic passage but most of the time I ride it off as just a positive suggestion.

“Don’t worry, God’s got it, yada yada, yada..”

And today the when I read that Jesus said I can’t serve Him and “whatever is trusted in” it stops me in my tracks.

The Amplified Bible just hit the nail on the head.

I’ve been trusting that my plans and my expectations for my day are better then what God has in store for me.

And that is robbing a heck of a lot of joy from my life.

Because when my life is all about me, I’m not really living.

When I’m focused on the minute details of my day, I miss the opportunity to bless other people and see what Jesus is doing in my life at the moment.

I know that completely contradicts everything our society tells us, but Jesus is just continually teaching me that when my eyes are focused on myself, I lose control and become that scary monster shoving food in her face and speeding down the street.

And that’s really not who I want to be.

So I keep having to run to Jesus, the one who faithfully continues to refine me.

Because I really can’t do it myself.

That’s really all I know to do. As I find myself losing control, feeling consumed by anxiety, inadequacy, etc. the only thing I know to do is run and throw myself at the feet of Jesus. Because He’s the only one who can rescue me.

Mary Cate Ownby is not the rescuer. Mary Cate Ownby is a drowning, screaming mess who has no hope for redemption without the Blood of Jesus.

But oh! How sweet it is that He LOVES me! That He loves YOU! He’s so quick to rescue us and remind us of how deeply He cares for us. Like a Good Dad, Jesus is so willing to bend down into my mess, brush me off and remind me who He says I am. He provides for you and me in every season, in every moment, through every shortcoming. He clothes us more beautifully than flowers and feed us with more intentionality than He cares for all creation.

So it’s okay that we don’t have it all together. I can once again lay down my plans and fears and need for control and I can trust Him and watch as He provides. Because He always comes through.

And in case you weren’t already sure of the fact that I am a mess of a person with no hope without the sanctity of Jesus, the next time you’re stressed up to your eyeballs, just picture me inhaling chicken fingers and driving with a crazed look on my face like the madwoman I can be, laugh, and then go run and talk to Jesus.

Because He is so FOR you. And even though we are never going to fully grasp His totally faithfulness, we can keep running back to Him when we forget. We will always forget. But He’s so good.

So go run to Jesus sweet friends. Run and be reminded of who He is.

Be blessed.

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Currently reading: Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Jeanne Guyon. READ IT EVERYONE!

Brave Like This Sweet Tree

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From where I sit

It appears as if her arms are stretched wide.

This tree.

This Beacon of shelter on days when the sun beats down.

This promise of hope.

At first, a seed

Pressed deep into the earth

Nurtured in a blanket of soil

Its soul quenched by the cool and refreshing tears of the air

Spoken to lovingly

Encouraged to grow.

Safe.

Strong.

Yet always reaching.

And as this tree ablaze in orange glory stretches out her branches

I am overwhelmed at the sight of her beautiful leaves

Her splendor

Her identity

Falling to the ground.

A season of death is upon her.

A stripping away

A season of rest

Cold, waiting rest.

But there is a promise in the death

A promise of things to come

New life waiting to arrive in the dawn of a new season

If only she can hold on

If only she can hold fast to the promise of spring

A promise whispered deep into her heart by a gentle creator.

And, alas, she is protected.

Her skin is thick

And grows thicker

Year by year

Season by season

Each winter leaves its mark

The harsher the winds, the darker and deeper are the traces

And yet she still is beautiful.

And here I stand

Just a speck in comparison.

And I remember.

Each season passes

Winter comes and goes

And so it is with life.

Each season makes me stronger

Each season adds another layer to my life

My heart

My story

And within each layer lies a glimpse of beauty

An inkling of the past

What once was so present and tangible is now only a story

And somehow this comforts me.

I feel safe beneath her branches that kiss the sky

Thanking it for each moment

Each season

Each scar

For in each one bears the Glory.

This Glory I will taste and chase for all eternity

Until I am made brave like this sweet tree.

Until I am made new.

10/29/13