Moving Back

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Our family is moving again – as was planned.  This will be the third time moving back to our house, to a “home base” as you might call it.   If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning, you would know I began writing this  blog when I faced major upheaval in significant areas of my life (The Rock Tumbler), and that I move frequently (See About and Let Me be your Home).  ‘Where are you from?’ is never a simple question to answer.  The short one is ‘Texas’, or the place I last lived.

Due in part to my life’s frequent relocations, building a community of friends is a challenge because it takes time to develop enough shared experiences, to build trust, and to get to know people.  I’ve learned how to get involved just enough to not be too lonely, to appreciate those people who share of themselves, and who allow me to share with them.  It’s a vulnerable state of living to always be the “new girl”.

I just want to share two quick things here that I’ve learned while living in Williamsburg, Virginia.  This small, retirement community, centered on America’s colonial history, is quite relevant in today’s modern world.

First, I’ve learned how important it is to maintain one’s health now, so that I can still kick butt when I’m 70 and older.  Just because there are a lot of older people here does not mean people aren’t engaged in athletic activities, like running, yoga, cycling, and so on.  Watching women several decades my senior working out with better strength, cardio, and endurance was inspiring.  I want to be that person when I get there.

Second, the Christian community here is thriving, and God is moving across so many lines.  I attended the Williamsburg Community Chapel (The Chapel), and the opportunities to engage across the community are phenomenal – intergenerational and racial diversity are celebrated assets.  One such opportunity is a collaboration with the Historic First Baptist Church of Williamsburg.  This church was officially established in 1776, by slaves, and is still vibrant and active in the community.  These two churches are working together for the Williamsburg community to make things better.  I had the privilege to attend and meet several members of this church last summer and was overwhelmed with the spirit of unity among their members.  I am so encouraged to witness how God is moving in these two amazing churches, and I imagine the impact this collaboration will have on their community, and throughout the Christian family.

As we leave the small town of Williamsburg and return to the crowded and fast-paced Northern Virginia area, I wonder what the next year will bring.  It’s another short-term and temporary move.  I know how easy it is to get caught up in work and worries, to not engage with others on a meaningful level. We’ve lived there several times, and each time is a new experience.  Things change so quickly, that each time is like moving to a new place.  Will old acquaintances be welcoming?  Will I need to start new?  I expect it will be a mixture of both.

Pastor Travis Simone of The Chapel wrapped up the sermon series of the Kingdom Mission by talking about what partnering with God looks like.  To my amazement, he pointed out that the mission involved partnering and leaving.  I’m leaving Williamsburg, but I’m leaving having been strengthened by the community and partnership of the many believers at The Chapel and others in the community.

I’m moving back to Northern Virginia.  We typically stay only a few years at a time, and that hinders the ability to create lasting friendships.  Each time has had a significant atmosphere and set of friends/experiences.  I wonder what God has planned for this next stay.  So, I’m moving back while still “moving forward in faith“.

Kindness Counts

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I have been struggling to publish this last lesson in the series, “Daughters and Disciples”.  I’m not really sure why.  I have plenty of valid excuses, but not really good reasons. I decided to go ahead and post tonight due to some gentle pressing by friends and strangers who did not realize what their words and actions were stirring in my heart. 

Several new people have decided to follow this blog even though I haven’t posted in a while.  Thank you! I’m honored that you found what I’ve written to be interesting  enough that you wanted to keep reading more.

Today, a friend challenged me to be more open, to be more vulnerable.  This isn’t the venue we were discussing, but I do know I’ve added something to this lesson that makes me feel quite vulnerable.  It may have something to do with why I’ve been putting off posting it.  And another friend with whom I was sharing some of what’s been heavy on my heart encouraged me as she always does.  I am so blessed to have these two powerful encouragers in my life.  

Then tonight, I attended the small group with these lovely ladies.  Most of them are far wiser than I, but as I listened to some of what was being shared, I realized the theme of vulnerability, of being real, of being honest, was present there, too.  So here goes . . .

The final lesson in the Daughters and Disciples study – Lesson 6

Kind words

The objective here is to gain a better appreciation for how we speak to one another. We all know how difficult it is to maintain self-control over our words, but if we are more aware of the impact of what and how we communicate, we may find it a little easier and develop a habit of using our words for good rather than harm. We may also find ourselves better able to forgive others when their words cut us.

Proverbs 31:25 – 26 (NASB)  Strength and dignity are her clothing,  And she smiles at the future.  She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Discussion Questions

  • What was the result of the TBH (To Be Honest) trend on Facebook from several years ago? (If you participated.) How many of you learned some neat things people thought about you, or hurtful?
  • What are some of the most encouraging things someone has told you? What was the result?
  • Define snarky. Is it really ok to speak in this way?
  • What does it mean to speak with “wisdom and faithful instruction?”
  • When might you have the opportunity to speak this way?

Our lives are filled with relationships, good and bad. These relationships alter our moods, can change the way we think or act, and effect more than just two people. The way we treat and talk to each other has a greater impact than we realize.

The level of jealousy and contempt, the competition for Abraham’s affection, the realization of promises made and misunderstood, all these things served to breed an ugly outcome. One thing that again stands out in this story is that even though it was through Sarah’s lack of faith in the promise that led to the birth of Ishmael through Hagar, God was still there for Hagar and Ishmael even though the covenant promise was meant for Sarah and Isaac. Sarah and Isaac, as well as Hagar and Ishmael, endured hardships due to a lack of faith, and both mothers and sons received blessings from God.

Questions To Consider

  • Can you imagine the little looks, the words, and the gossip whispered in each other’s tents about and by these two women?
  • Do we ever look at each other and judge whether or not we think another has received a blessing we thought we should have for ourselves?
  • Does the impact of what we say have an expiration date? Where it no longer contains any power?
  • Notice how God took care of Hagar and blessed her. What do you think that means?

Why It Matters

The words we use to communicate, how we communicate, and the actions that go with those words have far reaching effects. The book of John opens with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God” (John 1:1). In Hebrews 4:12, the Word of God is described as being sharper than a double edged-sword. We have the love of God in us, and we are living, breathing, and speaking examples of Christ to the world. Our words matter to the ones who hear what we say, whether they are the intended audience or not. Knowing what to say and when to say it is part of being a wise woman. Our words show us the condition of our heart. Pay attention! Learning how to speak with wisdom and kindness takes practice, and all of us mess up. Thank God for His forgiveness and grace.

TBH – So, as I have mentioned previously, I wrote this lesson several years ago. And even though I know I want to be kind, I sometimes mess up in a HUGE way. Not that long after I wrote this lesson, I said something less than flattering to another mom about one of my son’s teammates. I strongly suspect that teammate’s father was listening to what I said. I did not know the father when I said it. Those unkind and critical words came from a place of my own insecurity, and I still regret the likely impact on the father. The family was going through a difficult time dealing with significant illness and eventual loss. There is no way I can take any of it back. My words likely caused more heartache for that dad instead of being an uplifting and encouraging experience when he really needed it. It also reflected poorly on my witness, my son, and altered other relationships in a negative manner. Unfortunately, that is not the only time I said something ignorantly. Another huge mistake was sent in written form with some anger and frustration expressed. I extended an apology right away, but again, I know my words did not reflect the love of Christ. Sometimes, the opportunity to ask for forgiveness is present, and sometimes, the damage remains – with or without forgiveness.

I know that I am careful most of the time. I am certainly more careful since the two examples mentioned here. It grieves me to know that as I try to walk in the light, to be a light, I may have caused others to stumble, to doubt God, to have a lesser opinion of what Christians are like. Oh, I know I won’t be perfect. It’s hard to always know what to say, when to say it, and how to say things in the right way. Basically, if what I want to say is a negative opinion that really doesn’t have a purpose other than to vent frustration, I think it’s better left unsaid. Now, I pray I may continue to choose to follow what I know to be true.

My Story

In middle school and high school, it is a rite of passage to deal with the very issue of mean-spirited comments and thoughtless gossip. I certainly dealt with it. It got so bad for me that I viewed even a compliment as a possible attack. Because of this, I didn’t trust other people for a very long time. I learned to keep people from getting close to me. How can we, who are revered for our beauty, gentleness and nurturing nature, be so mean and vindictive? How much do we internalize and believe well beyond the time and circumstances of those moments? Often, those words are echoed over and over until we believe the lies or let the root of bitterness go deep in our hearts.

It took God’s patient and persistent love to break down the walls I built around myself for protection. In trying to avoid the risk of being hurt, I realized I also created a barrier between God and me. The first time was out of rebellion, and the second time was out of fear. There is nothing more painful to me than to realize I cannot hear or feel God’s presence, especially by my own doing.

Not long ago, a few other moms and I were talking about at what point we realized we needed other women in our lives. Each of us tried living our adult lives by being self-sufficient. Eventually, we had all reached a point in our lives where we realized we needed the help of other women. Opening my heart to other women still leaves me feeling quite vulnerable (It looks like that’s still a work in progress!), but trusting God to help me navigate through the perilous waters of female friendships allows room for Him to work through those relationships – for His good purposes.

It’s not only friend relationships that get tricky. Every relationship is affected by how we speak. This includes our relationships with our siblings, our parents, and our spouses. I love my husband, and it kills me when he lets me know my words have made him feel unloved or less valued. That is not being the kind of blessing, or desperately needed helper, I want to be.

It is through my trying to speak words of love, life and kindness that I realize how much I fail. It is by these failures that I am able to learn where I need more work, and to not let the words of others cut so deeply, especially when I know they may not realize how they sound. Grace abounds.

The Big Question

  • How do you speak to the people in your life?
  • Are you speaking with words of wisdom and kind instruction on your tongue?
  • Who in your life can you practice speaking encouraging words to?
  • Here is a challenge. Either for your parents or siblings – Speak only encouraging and grateful words to them and notice the responses or changes in reactions.
  • Write down the results.

  Dig A Little Deeper

  • The Book of James
  • Proverbs 10:31 (HCSB) The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be cut out.
  • Proverbs 4: 23 (HCSB) Guard your heart above all else, 
for it is the source of life.
  • There are MANY verses throughout Proverbs about anger, gossip, kindness and the right time to speak.

Let kindness be on your tongue!

If you want to leave a comment on this page, I take the time to review any comments before they get posted.  If your comment doesn’t show up right away, I will likely respond by the next day. 

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Rights, Right, and Righteous Indignation

I am an idea person. I have all these great big ideas, but I am rarely in a position to actually make many of my ideas happen. And right now, I have this idea, but I’m not really in a position to make it happen.

You see, like many of you, I have been following the current debate over the protests related to “taking a knee” during the National Anthem at the beginning of football games. Personally, the older I get, the more emotional I become when I hear the National Anthem played, especially since I understand what our freedom means after living outside our country. Many people whom I love and know have served in the military, and I love the United States of America.

Because we live in the United States of America, we have unalienable RIGHTS as stated in the Declaration of Independence and specifically in the Bill of Rights, to freedom of expression.

Yet, many people do not think the protests are being done in the RIGHT way. This then leads to RIGHTEOUS indignation by parties on both sides of the issue. And that is not the only issue of disagreement. Every subject seems to bring out strongly expressed opinions.  My heart is so heavy when I see so much mean and hate-filled comments.

But wait, this article is not a political post. And my idea is coming.

See, we have become a nation divided, and there are so many different sides and issues with people engaging in RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION over the absolute certainty that they are RIGHT and the other side is wrong, that there is no room for grace and mercy in our interactions.

I follow the Proverbs 31 Ministry’s First 5 App, Proverbs 31 First 5 app, and this morning’s devotion was on Lamentations 3:40 – 66. Lamentations is about suffering due to disobedience, and yet, still finding hope. I like to read comments, and I read three that gave me an idea. Darline spoke about moving forward even when things are hard and taking that next step, Diane referenced Elisabeth Eliot’s radio programs and Ms. Eliot’s encouragement to “Do the next thing” when feeling overwhelmed, and Sonja included a prayer asking that we could take a knee to pray and not protest.

So, here’s my idea, or my question. . .

What if we organize some sort of Christian response to pray on our knees for our country and ask for forgiveness?

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people would humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive them and heal their land” (NIV).

Our land is definitely broken, and in our righteous indignation, we are practicing pride. We feel justified to judge and criticize.

In Deuteronomy 6:5, we are given the first commandment, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” In Matthew 22: 37 – 40, Jesus expands on this while being tested by the Pharisees, “He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most import command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

As Christians, we are to love God first, and others second.  Yet, it seems expressions and acts of Christ’s love seem to occur more rarely than judgmental and angry statements.  It feels like were being manipulated into a false sense of self-righteousness and defensiveness. Perhaps we have made being RIGHT more important than loving others.

I don’t currently attend any football games, and I don’t know what it would look like to be able to do this without adding to the disrespect to our flag if done during the playing of the National Anthem, but it’s an idea. Maybe it can be done before or after a game. Or maybe at a specific time, like even during halftime. I don’t know. It’s an idea.

What would it mean to have such a public expression of humility and prayer for forgiveness? What would it mean for Christians, and what would it mean for our nation?

Maybe this idea is something someone else knows how to implement. I’m just saying, we aren’t heading in the right direction with all this pride. Let’s continue to pray for one another and treat each other the way we are commanded – with the love of God.

 

Holding It Together

Jesus Holds All Things Together

I am grateful for a small break in my classes to be able to write another post. Over the past several months, there have been many papers to write, tests to take, and an “Intensive” week where I was actually staying on campus in a dorm room with a roommate. Ah, just like old times!

I found myself in a true identity crisis last year when the expectations and plans for the empty nest period of my life suddenly evaporated. After taking a season to mourn my lost purpose, I started this blog to share what God has taught me, and continues to teach me, about His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, and His loving-kindness while remaining open to what God’s plan was for me. With the encouragement of my husband, I am now working on a master’s degree for school counseling. Going back to school after more than 20 years has been just a little bit intimidating.

During the months since, with each class and assignment, there have been times when I felt like I wasn’t able to do what was required in the time frame given. When moments of doubt, weakness, and insecurity take hold, it can be difficult to continue giving my best effort. Yet, I know I am not alone, and the only way to fail for certain is to give up. I can’t give up.

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Every adventure and challenge calls for perseverance. But this perseverance only comes when I believe that Jesus knows and provides what I need. And, when I’m only getting a few hours of sleep, isolated from my family and friends, dizzy from staring at the computer screen for hours on end, struggling to make a complete thought, much less an intelligent sounding one, it is easy to give in to the fear that I can’t do it. That this was all a mistake.

I remember having similar thoughts and feelings in my earlier college days. Back then, I didn’t have the level of faith and experience to fully trust God. My confidence, faith, and belief wavered, and while I got through school, I didn’t feel like I had conquered and achieved a victory.

This time is different. I remember and hold onto faith that this task is part of the plan God has for me, and I am able to get through it even when it’s hard – with an expectation of a battle won. He knows what I need, and He sustains me. He holds me together. Sometimes, it is just by the act of a simple prayer thrown up in desperation, and other times, it is in the sweetness of my husband, one of my children, or a friend encouraging me. But through all of it, I find just enough strength to press onward.

You also may be going through a difficult time where things seem to be falling apart or too difficult to manage. But, if you know Christ Jesus, you may allow yourself just enough faith to believe that the One who spoke the world into being is sovereign, and He holds all things together. His plan is bigger than what we can see right now.  He doesn’t show us the whole plan, but He will help us through today.

**I wrote the above last week, before everything happened in Virginia. It may seem our country is falling apart, but let’s remind ourselves of what is true.

John 1:1-2 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

1 In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.

Hebrews 1:2-3

In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Colossians 1: 15 – 17

15 He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation

16 For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.

17 He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together.

Get Your Shine On

It’s been a while.

I’ve missed writing. I mean, non-academic writing.

I didn’t expect to be away this long.

Here’s an update.

I’ve started the 2nd set of classes while still working on the 1st set. There’s a small 3-week overlap. I’ve been reading and writing academic style for the last month and a half. I feel like I have to write with APA style now all the time! Everything must be properly cited APA style.

Just kidding.  Not really.  No, Really!

I’ve also been participating in the last Bible study for the Spring session.

It’s called, All Things New – Bible Study Book: A Study on 2 Corinthians (Living Room) by Kelly Minter. It’s a great follow-up after Entrusted  by Beth Moore. Perfect for Spring.

We’re reading 2 Corinthians, and it’s just as challenging as the previous studies.

Over the past several weeks, there have been things I wanted to share with you.

Today, I share one, with no pictures because I have a research paper to finish and another one to start!

Here’s the main visual I have in mind.

A light is hidden under a basket with a veil on top of that.

That’s what I’ve been like. Any time I’ve moved and kept others at arm’s length. I’ve been hiding. It’s not like I really think I’m a star. Don’t get me wrong.  However, I do have the light of Jesus inside. And, when I am unwilling to get to know people, to make friends, to share, I am hiding His light.

Reading about God’s light reminded me of this verse I shared with my family when my kids were young.

14Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”c Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philipians 2: 14 -16 NIV

It’s related to a verse in Daniel:

New Living Translation
Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever. Daniel 12:3

So, when my kids, or I, would complain, we would think of this verse.

So, in this Bible study with Kelly Minter, I read these verses already having the others in my mind.

New Living Translation
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.  2 Corinthians 3:18

Read on . . .

Paul talks about when Moses came down from the mountain with his face glowing from being with the Lord. It scared the people, so he put a veil over his face. Paul compares the glory of Moses receiving the law to the glory of Christ. This same glory shines through us only the glory Moses reflected dimmed over time – ours doesn’t.

But, sometimes, we, or rather, I, hide it.

I blame it on fear, or being too pushy or inappropriate, or just, wanting to stay separated and quiet. If I share something that is so important to me, and it is rejected then I am rejected.

It’s not just sharing the gospel that I hesitate to do. It’s sharing me. For a variety of reasons, I want to stay hidden, and I’ve been convicted. I can no longer keep this light hidden and be who God made me to be.  I have to be willing to let others get to know me, and get to know them.  I can’t do it anymore in the old style, “Let’s be friends, but not too close.”

The Light of the Gospel

1Thereforesince we have this ministry because we were shown mercy,a we do not give up.b 2Insteadwe have renounced shameful secret things, not •walkingc in deceit or distorting God’s message,d but commending ourselves to every person’s conscience in God’s sight by an open display of the truth.e 3But if our gospel is veiledit is veiled to those who are perishing4In their casethe god of this agef has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,g, h who is the image of God.i 5For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord,j and ourselves as your •slaves because of Jesus6For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”k has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledgel of God’s glorym in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:1 – 6  Holman Christian Standard Bible

So, today, I’m not making this pretty and perfect.  But, I am sharing what’s important to me – what God has impressed on me to do.

And, I haven’t forgotten about you, the ones who are reading this blog.  I’m interested in hearing from you.  Leave a comment about how you let the light of Christ shine.

Together, let’s get our “Shine On!”

Let Me be your Home

“You don’t know anybody?”

“You really don’t know anyone in the room?”

The youth leader’s eyes open wide as he hastily scans the group of teens chatting in small groups looking for some proof to counter our assertion.  He even asks a few as they walk by, “Do you know these kids?”

He fumbles for words as the true meaning of the situation becomes clear.  Finally, a grin appears as he shakes his head, still in disbelief, welcomes us to Sunday school, and asks us our names.  “Wow, you really don’t know anyone and you’re here anyway.”

My family had returned to Texas after living in Mississippi for several years.  My father believed in going to church every Sunday, and not just worship service – Sunday school, too.  Maybe other teenagers would have refused to go, or have been embarrassed by the attention, but my younger brother and I took it in stride.  We were used to being new faces in a crowd of people with established friend groups.  We had learned to smile, adapt, and make new friends.  For me, the joy of being back in Texas was worth whatever uncomfortable social situation I could encounter.  I’ve never had quite the same open reaction as that, but I have been in the room without knowing anyone too many times to count.

Even though I vowed as a teenager I would never leave Texas again, I met this wonderful man whom I married and who promptly got a job out of state leading to a life of transitions.  I didn’t know when or if we would get to live in Texas again, but both our families lived there, and we visited every opportunity we could afford.  After 14 years, my husband was able to get a temporary post in Houston.  When my husband told me, I cried. It had been so long.  I embraced every bit of Texas culture, people, and weather I could.  I prayed God would help me when it was time to leave, and the closer that date came, the more I went to God about it.

I prayerfully thanked Him for allowing us to get a few years back in Texas, asked Him if we would get to return again, and how many more moves before we would settle – hoping it would be in Texas.  He gave me this answer. “Let Me be your home.”

I found the answer just a little bit frustrating.  No answers to my specific questions, no clue as to where I would eventually be, or the duration of enduring new places.  Just – “Let Me be your home.”  What does that even mean?  I struggled with it, and tried to figure out how I was supposed to obey Him.

Sometimes people ask me if moving around so frequently is hard.  It is, yes.  It’s hard to make close friends in short amounts of time, to leave friends, and to see relationships within communities that have grown over long periods of time when I cannot have that experience.  I long for a place to call home, for community, a safe place to stay where you are loved, cared for, and a place of belonging.  I know I have a heavenly home for eternity, a REAL place that far exceeds anything I can imagine.  That’s great for later, but I also need a place to call home in the Present!

As I spent time studying His word for clues to show me how to do that, I was confronted with the truth that my identity is in Jesus Christ, not in being a Texan.  God faithfully revealed to me through the Holy Spirit and His word, promises and instructions showing me what it means to let Him be my home.

He tells me to abide in Him.  He says He is my refuge.  He reveals to me there is nowhere I can go where He is not there, I am a member of the body of Christ which is bigger than my local church, and I am never alone.  Even today, I found yet another verse that encourages me, “I am like a flourishing olive tree in the house of God.”

For me, I don’t know when or where we will eventually settle.  It may not be in Texas, but I trust God to cause me to feel peace and at home wherever it is.  Whether you are in a new place this season, your family is far away, or in a place you cannot call home, you can find peace, refuge, joy, and know that you belong when you believe and trust God and Jesus Christ.

May the Peace of God be with you!

Here are the scripture references:

John 15:5

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Psalm 139:7

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

2 Samuel 22:3

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me.

Psalm 52:8

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.

Colossians 3:15

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Hebrews 13:5 [Full Chapter]

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”