Sunday, November 19, 2006


Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

~ Psalm 100:1-5

Cornucopia – cor·nu·co·pi·a (noun): a great abundance of something

Recently when I sat down to compose my annual Christmas poem recapping the major events of the Umbehr family from 2006, I discovered that the task was a little more challenging than usual. I mean, really, have you ever tried to find a word that rhymes with mastectomy? When I read the first draft of my poem to our son, Josh, I must admit that it sounded terribly tortured and had us both in stitches. Even though I didn’t intend for it to be comical, that’s how it came across. Afterwards I made up the following mock verse, just to poke fun at how pathetic that first draft sounded:

Grandma fell and broke her hip
And as if that weren’t enough,
Grandpa broke his tailbone
When he went to help her up!

When I asked Keen what he thought about my poem, he had a little different view. “Well, it’s not very cheery, but it shows that we’re survivors.” His comment gave me pause. Then our son, Keen II, added his thoughts:

“Hey there Mom, sorry for taking so long to get back to you on this but I'm just now getting caught up on email. I would have to echo Dad’s opinion here. I think it is a great mixture of all of the real life things that have been happening in everyone’s life. Of course I can relate to it because it’s my family, but I feel like it just created a 'feels like home' feel when I read it. Of course I may be a little biased, but I think it’s great!”

As a result of the unexpected optimism conveyed by the two Keen’s in my life, I decided to rework the poem in an effort to salvage it. In the end, even Josh agreed that the revised version was a great improvement over the original.

As Keener pointed out, most people can relate to the ups and downs of life. The important thing is that we continue to have a heart of thanksgiving for all the good that remains.

“…gratitude is a sure cure for self-pity – that special illness at the heart of all grief.” ~ Catherine Marshall, To Live Again

I’m reminded of my special friend, Rebecca Miller, who is such a shining example of someone who chooses to focus on all that she has been blessed with, rather than on the things she might not be able to do because of her condition. Rebecca finds the time to bake cookies for others, play the violin at her church, and write kind, encouraging notes to people like me. We could all learn a valuable lesson from Rebecca’s inspiring life.

Last week I was invited to speak to a wonderful group of women at the First Christian Church in Junction City, Kansas. That was a first for me – but hopefully not the last – because I enjoyed the experience immensely. I appreciate any opportunity I have to share from my heart, whether through writing or public speaking.

Marge Ingmire, who has kept up with our life story through my column in The Prairie Post, suggested I talk about some of the trials we have gone through this past year, and how God’s strength sustained us through every one. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it was natural for me to tie those experiences in with a theme about being grateful.

One significant point that stands out in my mind regarding thankfulness in the midst of trials is that being a Christian doesn’t mean you’ll never have any struggles. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The Bible says “many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19) Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b) It’s a message that prepares us for the realities of life here on earth and yet offers a message of hope that no matter what comes our way, He will be there to see us through. Jesus said these things so that in Him we might have peace. (John 16:33a)

“Fear not; (there is nothing to fear) for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties; yes, I will help you; yes I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand of rightness and justice.” ~ Isaiah 41:10 (Amp)

My point is that our life this past year has been a cornucopia of both challenges and blessings. But we’re still here – and we’re still standing strong. And that, my friends, gives our family an abundance to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

God’s blessings to each of you this Thanksgiving and all the year through!

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” ~I Chronicles 16:34 (NKJV)