Seeds of Promise…

“If we had no winter the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome…”  ~ Anne Bradstreet

Every year at this time (and especially because Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this year), my hands begin to itch to dig in the dirt, sowing seeds for flowers, herbs, and veggies (and new ideas) to blossom and flourish.  While the cold and snow of winter lingers, there’s always hope of a spring that waits to be.  Even in the midst of long and dark cold days filled with uncertainty, changes, and daily transitions on a personal level, there are small seeds of promise emerging as the mind processes all that is.

As a little girl, I marveled how seeds and bulbs would surrender themselves in the ground to be used for a greater purpose.  Even today, as I find myself uncertain of the next steps in this overwhelming journey with dad, I stubbornly plant myself in order to be used for a greater purpose.  After all, Momma herself observed, “when you plant yourself to make a difference, you grow as a person whose harvest will benefit others and, in your unique way, blossom into your own greatness.”  (I still marvel when finding her pearls of wisdom jotted down in unusual places, like this little jewel written inside a book cover hidden on dad’s shelf.)

In this daily journey with dad, I’ve come to see firsthand how many days pass in semi-unawareness, a busy oblivion if you will.  Ironically, we both find value the mundane and the magical moments, especially when dad is truly present.  We both appreciate we are here together and the most important thing we can do in the situation is just show up.  Nothing about Alzheimer’s or his journey in it is a straight line…everything curves, dives, turns, and twists.  It is filled to the brim with mystery, obstacles, defeats, victories, dead ends, delays, detours, and too many questions.  The one thing I’ve come to personally realize is my immediate purpose may not be the ultimate purpose, but it serves as a catalyst to live and share in this time with him.  And just like the process all seeds and bulbs go through in order to become all they are destined to become, we each continue to go through a unique process to become and do what we are meant to do at this time and in this place.

With all that’s swirling in 2020 so far, having little seeds of promise helps to refocus my energy and hope in the days ahead.  This particular season of winter has not been so pleasant, yet the coming spring is planted in seeds of promise.  It’s time to get busy and continue sowing… 🙂

A Star is chosen…

“We ARE the Magi, searching, resplendent in this world’s accouterments of knowledge and wealth and achievement…but we search and seek something more.”  ~Ann Weems~

Epiphany. Three Kings. The gifts of the Magi. Star Sunday.  I had the privilege to worship this morning from an colonial pew in my sister’s church, a blessing since she continues to recuperate from a recent major surgery.  Today is Epiphany, and affectionately known in this church as Star Sunday, where everyone is given the opportunity to choose a “star gift” to guide them through the coming year.  Each “star gift” is a cut-out star with one word printed on it.  Words like creativity, caring, imagine, healing, grace, patience, acceptance (and so many others) are prepared in anticipation of this annual opportunity.  As you leave the worship service, you prayerfully close your eyes and select a star (without seeing the word printed on it).  Like the Magi who chose to follow a Star without truly understanding where it would lead, we take a leap of faith to use the “star gift” in guiding our journey through the year ahead.

For the past three years, my “star gift” has profoundly complemented my personal “one word” for the year.  While my annual “one word” comes to me gingerly over a period of reflection in preparation and anticipation for the new year, the “star gift” word chooses me at random.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Each new year presents new challenges, new hopes, new opportunities; suddenly it’s time to actually embrace all this new.  With the gift of new beginnings (and new words) in a new year, we need opportunities to ponder them in our hearts and to take action as well.  Exactly how my “one word” and now my “star gift” interact and help guide my journey in 2020 remain to be seen, but I accept the clarity and purpose of each.

So may we all carry the faith to gratefully accept the star we are given this year and the courage to follow where it leads…and may grace and peace be yours in 2020.  🙂

20/20 in 2020

In just a couple of hours, we set our sights on new beginnings for a new year and new decade…the 20s!  WOW; truly remarkable!  While the “auld lang syne” literally offers “old long since” for “old time’s sake,” this new year and decade offer sacred opportunities.  The changes, growth, triumphs, missteps, JOYs, and sorrows of prior experiences bring a fresh and clearer perspective to forgive, to do better, to do more, to give more, and to love more.  As we observe, our traditions are the stories we narrate and write together as family and friends; gratefully, we all begin another year of building on those traditions while continuing our stories.  After all, it is said no gift is too small or simple to receive when wrapped in thoughtfulness and tied in love.  So…I offer this hopeful challenge to us all in 2020 to:  BE in the moment, breathe deep and fortifying breaths, forgive with grace, share softer answers, encourage one another, keep promises, forgo grudges, apologize, work to understanding, walk more, seek adventure, smile at strangers, examine personal demands (this is me preaching to me), think first of others, be gentle and kind, laugh more, learn a new skill, observe the beauty and wonder of the world, ask questions, explore nature, express thanks, welcome others, and speak your love over and over and over and over again and again and again and again!  The spiritual gift of actively living this challenge with grace and gratitude fills my soul with hope as time marches onward, and hope, my friends, constantly prevails in all our daily humanness.

May this new year and new decade bring to you and yours bountiful blessings filled to overflowing with hope, peace, JOY, and love.  Happy New Year 2020!

The blessing of music…

The chords are so grand they send shivers down the spine.  The sound of familiar melodies fill the air with emotion so sweet the heart and soul feel warmly wrapped in the glorious blessing of music…

We’ve all known this feeling when the JOY of a Christmas carol or holiday song swells deep within our souls and rises through our senses.  It brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eyes.  Each year we bring out these musical favorites to dust off and tune up, and like a fine antique, they become more priceless with the passing of time.

Many of my most powerful Christmas memories and blessings are firmly stored within the refrains of beloved carols.  Such was the conversation with Pop recently as we listened to various Christmas carol renditions while decorating and packing up holiday treats for him to share at his art class party.  While not a musician (he was the BEST audience member ever), his long-term memories surrounding music focus strongly on momma and her solo work in our church for over 50 years.  He reminded me how she sang the inaugural service dedicating the beautiful Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ on Christmas Eve 1966.  I remember sitting between both grandmothers sucking on Lifesavers with my eyes closed while listening to momma sing a beautiful story about the birth of a King.  The organ in all its new majesty and her powerful soprano voice in all its glory…whew!  What I wouldn’t give for a recording of this event to savor once more.

As the mystery of the season rings and sings all around:  What does the blessing of MUSIC mean to you?

“I think music in itself is healing.  It’s an explosive expression of humanity.  It’s something we are all touched by and no matter what culture, everyone loves music.”  ~ Billy Joel ~

May the blessing of music bring hope, peace, comfort, healing, and JOY to your world, my friends.  🙂

Christmas blessings, anyone?

It’s a cold, rainy, dreary day outside, but warmth, music, and twinkling lights bring a feeling of comfort and JOY inside.  Once dad officially begins the day and joins us in the kitchen, he’s amazed at the holiday transition taking place inside our home.  Stockings hanging from the hearth, the Wise Men traveling way-from-afar (that’s another story), the smell of cinnamon and orange burning on the stove, and the first candle of Hope burning from the Advent wreath for the season of anticipation greet him.  He smiles, pats my back, and notes, “Ahhh, Christmas…more than just a day on the calendar; it’s a warm place in my heart everyday.”  We stop and embrace in this flurry of Yuletide preparations; a seasonal blessing of warmth in our hearts and soul in that particular moment…then, he immediately wants to know what I’m getting him for Christmas! 🙂

WARMTH… As one who frequently suffers from “personal summers,” moderate heat is not necessarily a blessing all the time, however, let us concentrate on the “affectionate” part of the definition for this blessing today.  Fervor, enthusiasm, and zeal come to mind when reflecting on the blessings of warmth.  Having a conversation with someone who gives eye contact when speaking and listening is warmth.  Showing empathy by grasping the perspective of another is warmth.  What does the blessing of WARMTH mean to you? 

As we transition from one season to the next (even though the calendar shows another 19 days until the Winter Solstice), may we challenge ourselves to take precious moments to breathe and reflect gratefully upon the WARMTH of simple blessings during these final days of 2019.

I’m so gratefully glad we had this time together…

(I know I’ve shared portions of this before, but it bears repeating again…)

One of my all-time favorite performers is the iconic legend, Carol Burnett.  My family would eagerly gather around our TV every Saturday evening to marvel, laugh, and share memorable moments reveling in the sublime work of a talented group who weekly created the famous comedy hour known as The Carol Burnett Show.  She always did a thoughtful gesture at the end of each show in tribute to her beloved grandmother while she sang the closing song each week.  In several interviews, she remarked it was her unwritten, non-verbal way of sending love and a huge THANK YOU note each week to the one who never gave up on her.

Shakespeare famously noted:  “I can no other answer make but thanks, thanks, and ever thanks…”  In the spirit of my gratefulness for your part in my journey these past 30 days, please allow me a little poetic license to offer these two simple words:  THANK YOU.

A THANK YOU has the power to transform our health, happiness, performance, personal excellence, and ultimate success.  Researchers note how grateful people are happier and more likely to maintain strong friendships.  An attitude of gratitude is shown to improve the heart’s rhythmic functioning, which helps us to reduce stress, think more clearly under pressure, and heal faster physically.  My own cardiologist tells me it is actually physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time!  When you are grateful you flood your body and brain with positive reactions (and those important endorphins) to uplift and energize rather than drain you.

Gratefulness is similar to a muscle in the body though—the more we use it, the stronger it gets.  In the spirit of our 30 Days of Gratefulness, here are 3 simple (but not always easy) suggestions to practice daily in order to assist us in strengthening gratefulness beyond today…

  1. Keep a Gratefulness Journal:  Take a walk/talk/squawk opportunity to write down, say out loud, pray, meditate, and more exactly what you are grateful for that day; it’s a mindset for choosing to focus on gratefulness in a purposeful way.
  2. Take a Gratefulness Tour:  Write and send a letter or card each week expressing your gratitude to others in your life – or – visit them to share your gratefulness in person.
  3. Purposefully say “THANK YOU” to someone every single day: When we take time to sincerely and authentically express our appreciation to someone, we definitely help ourselves in the process.

While these work best for me, please do what works best for you!

So on Day #30:  What one thing will you commit to do in developing your own personal plan to practice gratefulness each day?

THANK YOU for walking this gratefulness journey with me these past 30 days.  THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts verbally and in writing, reflecting with me and each other, while sharing JOY in simply being grateful together!  Let’s find ways to continue encouraging and uplifting each other while keeping the importance of daily gratitude, gratefulness and grace alive and well each day, my friends! 🙂

Do we have enough?

“Gratitude can turn common days into Thanksgivings…”  ~William Arthur Ward

Days like today fill me to the brim with memories, sacred moments, and the bittersweet recollections of those going before me, yet I’m  humbly reminded how living in a mindset of gratefulness allows each of us to see we have enough…

  • happiness to keep us sweet,
  • trials to keep us strong,
  • sorrows to keep us human,
  • hope to keep us JOYful,
  • failure to keep us humble,
  • success to make us eager,
  • family/friends to give us comfort,
  • wealth to meet our needs,
  • enthusiasm to look for tomorrow,
  • faith to banish worry, and
  • determination to make each day better than before! 

(These specific words were written in Granny B’s penmanship on the back of a Thanksgiving card from 1939; no indication if she wrote them or someone else should have this intellectual credit.)

It’s a struggle some days to feel we have enough; we are human after all.  Focusing on the blessings and placing the challenges aside is simple, just not easy.  Living in gratefulness and gratitude challenges us to ponder the fact we really do have enough.  Again I say, gratefulness is a mindful place–perhaps THE place–we find our truest and best selves.

On Day #28 of our journey:  If you created your own “have enough” list to share with those gathered around the table, what would you gratefully include on it?

As we gather and feast at our tables of thankfulness, may we all celebrate the gifts we pass and receive to and from one another with profound gratefulness.  Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!  🙂

Saluting the Apron

The day before Thanksgiving is typically celebrated as Apron Day; most appropriate in light of the ovens and stove tops burning at full speed.

I have an eclectic set of aprons hanging in my pantry.  A couple are vintage oldies from Granny and Nanny, some I stitched by hand, and the “grateful” one was a gift from a friend (notice grandma kitty, Addie, posing for this pic?).  While I don’t always a wear an apron (I prefer a large flour-sack towel on my shoulder most days), there are times it just feels right to wear one, like today, when prepping several family recipes at once.  Donning an apron brings powerful memories to the forefront of previous times shared in the kitchen with momma, family, friends, and most especially, my daughters.  Yes, food is definitely a love-language in our family…

In honor of this day, the following poem beautifully sums up my grateful appreciation for the little piece of well-loved cloth worn in honor of those before me (male and female) who courageously and lovingly conquered the “beast-of-a-feast” through the generations in our family:

Grandma’s Apron

A poem by Tina Trivett

The strings were tied, it was freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.

She may have used it to hold some wildflowers that she’d found.
Or to hide a crying child’s face when a stranger came around.
Imagine all the little tears that were wiped with just that cloth.
Or it became a potholder to serve some chicken broth.

She probably carried kindling to stoke the kitchen fire.
To hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
When canning all her vegetables, it was used to wipe her brow.
You never know, she might have used it to shoo flies from the cow.

She might have carried eggs in from the chicken coop outside.
Whatever chore she used it for, she did them all with pride.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I’m sure the apron that she chose, was her Sunday best.

So on Day #27:  What memories do you gratefully treasure of your family members wearing aprons? 

Just know I’m waving my rick-rack-and-gingham in salute to all you cooks and bakers galore who are preparing to serve the bounty of edible blessings we celebrate as Thanksgiving tomorrow!  And secretly, I’m also thanking each apron for the blessings of precious memories.  Feast on and remember to set your scales back five pounds.  May extraordinary thanks and giving shower you and yours in grateful blessings, my friends    🙂

A pondering of numbers…

One hundred forty three… Mr. Rogers (yes, that Mr. Rogers), maintained a body weight of 143 pounds for most of his adult life.  He kept his weight by eating a vegetarian diet (“nothing that had a mother”) and famously swimming laps each day.  He also observed it personally in another profound way:  “One letter for the word ‘I,’ four letters for the word ‘LOVE,’ and three letters for the word ‘YOU.’  We have to tell ourselves ‘I LOVE YOU’ and learn to love ourselves before we can learn to love others.”

St. (Mother) Teresa believed in numbers this way:  “Never worry about numbers…help ONE person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”  Her life’s work had to be completely overwhelming, yet she reached millions starting with just ONE.

John Green, in his best-selling book The Fault In Our Stars, captured it brilliantly:  “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities…I cannot tell you how grateful I am for our little infinity.  You gave me forever within our numbered days, and I’m grateful…”  

St. M says we are “90.41% complete with this year, so on this 330th day of 2019 and Day #26 of our Gratefulness Game:  Is there a special number in your life and how does its significance spark gratefulness? 

Personally, I like the number 8.  It’s the third letter in the word, GR8FUL, and a gr8ful heart most definitely serves all of us well 365 days a year, so let’s finish the last 9.59% of 2019 gratefully strong, my friends!  🙂

A cut above…

Sugar. Butter. Flour. My hands pluck the things I know that I’ll need
I’ll take the sugar and butter from the pantry
I add the flour to begin what I am hoping to start
And then it’s down with the recipe
And bake from the heart…

Such are the lyrics to a fabulous musical and opening number from the Broadway show, Waitress.  The first time I heard the song, my heart skipped a beat and my eyes instantly watered.  I felt certain Sara Bareilles stepped directly into the kitchen with grandmothers and me…

There’s a metal string of pastry and cookie cutters proudly hanging in our kitchen to this day.  They’ve packed up and moved with me to each kitchen since I was a “baby teacher” in my first apartment.  Rusty, some broken, and all likely requiring an extra tetanus shot just to be in the vicinity, these delicate shapes remind me of the many hours gratefully spent in both of my grandmothers’ kitchens.

Our experiences usually started by gathering our ingredients from the pantry – sugar, butter, flour, eggs, and such – while locating the recipe card covered in prior smears, smudges, and fingerprints.  If it was a particular pie or a batch of cookies, the cutters came out as well.  We mixed shapes and holidays because, well, we could.  Both Nanny Folsom and Granny Brock lived by the philosophy to make (and sometimes eat) dessert first.  As one who rarely breaks from tradition or “Granny Law,” it’s remains my first task in tackling a meal (besides, you never know who might stop by and need a little something sweet to go with a cup of tea or coffee).  🙂

So on Day #25, consider this:  Is there a kitchen tool or implement bringing a touch of nostalgia to your culinary world and what does it gratefully remind you of each time you use or see it?  

While permanently retired now, this special collection of shaped cutters gracefully resides in tribute and gratefulness to the bakers in our family who rolled and cut out scrumptious treats and beautiful memories all baked with the most important ingredient…love.