Staying vertical

When asked, “How’s it going in your world today, Daddy?” His answer is likely, “Any day I’m vertical is a good day.” If asked about how he’s feeling, the answer will be, “Great!” because in saying so, he somehow makes it so in his unique world.

For example, I picked him up one day last week to ride around with me, running errands and gathering supplies. We even stopped to have some brunch outside a favorite local spot–no doctor appointments or vaccines or bad news, just a familiar daily experience of “noodling” around town. It was amazing to watch him simply savor riding in the car, looking at the colorful trees and leaves floating on the breeze, feeling the cool wind on his face, and interacting with others during our time together. At one point, we walked into a downtown bank to drop off some company materials for M and dad left with a lollipop and four new acquaintances who knew little about him other than he’s a witty, personable guy.

While Dad never sweats the small stuff (“preventative worry” was my mom’s job according to him), he embraces the small everyday pleasures with the greatest of ease. He rarely allows his unknown setting or situation to get in the way of being a decent human being. His brain may not hold names, dates, or many memories, but deep inside his heart and soul, kindness and decency prevails. He waves and greets, smiles behind his mask, compliments, thanks, and even holds the door for others. He finds purposeful, meaningful ways to interact and showcase his gratefulness for remaining vertical. As a former private pilot, dad often attributes life’s events and experiences to the weather–the various storms, winds, and pressures come and go whether he can fly in them or not. He simply chooses to be grateful for all of them because each season of life brings it own unique opportunities and blessings anyway. And oh how I marvel with the way he keeps moving forward vertically and in gratefulness for as long as he has voice in this world.

So today: When challenges attempt to prevail in your life, what purposeful ways bring fresh perspective and possibility for gratefulness anyway?

Stay vertical y’all, and as always, be blessed and be a blessing as you care for yourself and others. 🙂

For all the Saints

All Saints’ Day…All Souls’ Day…All Hallows’ Day…Sabbath Soul…Dia de Muertos. From my perspective, this particular day has always provoked an emotional reaction.  Within our worship service, this first Sunday in November is marked as a day of special remembrance for those who have gone before, not just this year. The service is sprinkled with responsive readings, special hymns, remembrances, lit candles, the presentation of a white rose to a surviving family member, and clergy reading aloud the names of those saints from the congregation who have passed in the past year. Most disheartening, the list was long this morning; the alter lit with too many candles. As my Granny B. often observed, All Saints is the time “to open and honor the ‘thin space’ where all the saints meet.”

Thanksgiving, 1996.  My mom holding kitchen court while preparing the family feast. As expected, she is dressed in holiday attire, festive jewelry, coiffed hair, spotless makeup with her beautiful eyes sparkling intelligence and southern sass. I would quietly sneak up to her with my camera; she NEVER liked having her picture made (though she always took the most stunning pictures). She passed in 2016 and I miss her every single day, but especially on certain remembrances like today.

Ironically, I find myself deeply nostalgic and profoundly grateful every year on this day. Grateful for all who came before me, whose shoulders I continue to stand upon. Grateful for the treasured stories, the powerful memories, and the lasting legacies of these saints. Grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the transformational stages of my own life journey. Grateful for each new day and the chance to clear away the broken parts while exploring new paths to grow in grace and hope. 

So today, take a moment to reflect on the saints in your life.  Who are you particularly grateful for and why?

Here’s hoping we never lose sight of the gifts gratefully given to us by those who come and go before us…for when one is missing, the whole is somehow less. “For all the saints who from their labors rest…” May you be blessed and be a blessing as you care for yourself and others, my friends!

Simple Gifts

This one’s for you, Floramay Holliday… “‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free. ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be; and when we find ourselves in the place just right, ’twill be in the valley of love and delight. (Chorus:) When true simplicity is gain’d, to bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d, to turn, turn will be our delight; till by turning, turning we come ’round right.”

You’re humming it now, aren’t you?  Penned by Elder Joseph Brackett (1848) while he lived in the Shaker community of Alfred, Maine, these original lyrics were a one-verse song with chorus.  Multiple versions, from Sydney Carter’s hymn entitled “Lord of the Dance” in 1963 (also used in Michael Flatley’s dance musical of the same name) to Aaron Copeland’s adaption of the melody in the music for the ballet Appalachian Spring, have popularized the tune and lyrics through generations.  Many songwriters, recording artists, instrumentalists, and poets share versions and interpretations.  In fact, did you know there are two additional non-Shaker verses in existence?

‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return, ’tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn; and when we expect of others what we try to live each day, then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say… ‘Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be; ’tis the gift to think of others not to only think of me. And when we hear what others really think and feel, then we’ll all live together with a love that’s real.  ‘Tis the gift to be loving, ’tis the best gift of all.  Like a quiet rain it blesses where it falls; and with it we will truly come to believe, ’tis better to give than it is to receive.”

In my opinion, the most powerful message of the poetry speaks to the simple gift of practicing gratefulness daily. Simple gifts help to grow our soul so we become more loving, kind, fearless, peaceful, gracious, and hopeful.  Even in the midst of heartbreak, despair, sadness, or profound grief, our burdens may ease some when we take a moment to gratefully notice a simple gift each day. It may be the sun coming out on a clear morning or the fresh smell of pine trees after a night of rain. It may be the cardinal in the bird feeder watching you pour that first cup of coffee or colorful chrysanthemums fluttering in the autumn breeze. Choosing to live with an open heart in that moment helps create space for gratefulness, a simple gift by itself.

Like the song says, simple, but not always easy each day. Brain research shares how gratefulness creates positive feelings and emotions. Gratitude showcases the positive around and within us. Negativity cannot occur in the brain at the same time as gratitude; it melts away without effort. Our brains naturally work to track success. We notice what is good when the brain focuses on gratefulness. The simple, sweet, little things we do for ourselves and others each day softly seep inside us where possibilities arise, where the light shines brightest, and where serenity calms the soul.

So here’s your challenge on Day #2:  What is one simple way you can cultivate your own gratefulness today? 

May we continue to help each other seek simple, real, meaningful inspiration in the practice of living from a grateful heart. Just know you’re not alone on this journey; I’m walking right beside you. May you be blessed and be a blessing as you take care of yourself while caring for others.

And by the way, Floramay, I’m still wearing the smile you gave me on a Sunday morning when we talked about you doing an album of hymns…this one might need your consideration as well. 🙂

November enters…

There are everyday blessings; no need to look far

To know at a glance just how special they are.

A leaf falling slowly to a littered forest ground

A squirrel scampering a tree trunk all the way down.

The geese honking above on their trek south

With a frog croaking response from its mouth.

The quick gust caressing softly a freckled cheek

The sun’s rays warming aged bones that often creak.

As we look to autumn shifting with the cooling northern breeze

Our time for grateful reflection starts this first November eve…

Day One of Gratefulness: What did you observe in your daily life today, just one thing, that made you grateful? Take a moment to say THANK YOU for this one thing. Today, I’m grateful for outside observations on my walk and the words to share them with you.

As we move through this time of reflective gratefulness once again, may you take a moment each day to breathe deeply, show up, pay attention, speak your truth, and let go to the possibilities. Be a blessing and be blessed, and remember to care for yourself as you care for others, my friends.