Category Archives: Gratefulness

Simple Gifts

“‘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, 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.”

To me, this song powerfully speaks to the gift of gratefulness…helping to grow our soul, become less trivial and more loving, kind, fearless, peaceful, gracious, and hopeful.  Living with an open, grateful heart creates a spirit of JOYfilled expectation in everyday life because gratefulness is a stunningly simple gift!

Simple…not easy!  I didn’t say it was easy!  What I do know from brain research is how gratefulness creates positive feelings and emotions; our gratitude gives birth to the positive all around and within us.  Negativity cannot occur in the brain at the same time as gratitude.; it melts away without effort.  AND, our brains naturally work to track success, to notice what is right, when it focuses on gratefulness. Good news, my friends!

So here’s your challenge on Day #36:  How will you continue to commit, practice, and cultivate your own gratefulness during the remaining days of 2018?  

Simple…not easy!  My sincere hope in sharing my personal reflections and journey during this mini-series is for all of us to continue seeking real, meaningful inspiration in the practice of living from a simple, grateful heart.  One of the most wonderful discoveries for me in sharing is how full and blessed I feel from the gift of gratefulness.  Just know you’re not alone; I’m with you…and by the way, I’m still wearing the smile you gave me!

Smashing pumpkins

He did the smash…the pumpkin smash.  Yes, it was THAT day around here when the Jack’0’Lanterns and excess porch pumpkins are sacrificed in the woods for the neighborhood wildlife to enjoy and the seeds to hopefully germinate into pumpkins next year.  St. M was especially excited to use our trusty old ax we recently had sharpened at the local community hardware store.  These locals LOVE to see us coming, especially since we rarely know what to do or how to do it.  🙂  I do know how to sling an ax for firepit wood and survival; just ask the copperhead family I stumbled across last May…

St. M started the annual Pumpkin Smash over 20 years ago.  It’s the one day each autumn he feels especially outdoorsy and manly powerful enough to accomplish hard labor tasks our grandfathers did on farms on a daily basis (they are laughing at us).  After his massive shoulder surgery last year from the aftermath of the previous year’s deer attack (story for another day), this was the ONE activity he anxiously awaited to specifically test how well his recovered shoulder and range of motion were functioning.  We both got in the yard, raking leaves, slinging pine straw mulch, planting bulbs, smashing pumpkins, and sweating in the chilled air to “winterize the land.”  I know; you’re laughing out loud just visualizing us, huh?!

While we may not be naturals in the wilderness (other than appreciating it and hiking in it for fun), we  gratefully give ourselves credit for going beyond the comfort zone by trying and never giving up in attitude or effort.  We know and appreciate our strengths and weaknesses but never allow either of them to get in our way when a task must be completed.  Besides, there’s something gratefully cathartic about smashing pumpkins (and you should try it too).  So here’s your question on Day #35:

What’s something you are grateful to be able to do, but must carefully navigate outside your comfort zone to make it successful? 

Sometimes, it’s the simple thrill of hope and what may result quietly from doing tasks just beyond our standard reach…and here’s hoping we have more pumpkins to harvest and then smash next year, my friends.

Brewing questions…

There was a rousing game of 20 questions taking place when I stepped into the local coffee bar for our weekly bag of fresh-roasted beans this morning (yes, on my best behavior too; keep reading).  I was immediately invited to participate and felt inspired in spite of being somewhat intimidated by the local intellectuals of our town (and the same set of “THINK” blog baristas behind the counter from last week).  Here’s a small sample:

  1. What kind or thoughtful thing has someone done for you recently?
  2. Who is always there for you, and how do your feel about them?
  3. What’s something that inspired or touched you recently?
  4. What about this day, right now, has been better than yesterday?
  5. How have you recently used your gifts and talents to help others?
  6. What is something you’ve recently learned to help you in the future?
  7. What made you belly laugh out loud this week?
  8. How does helping someone else in turn help you?
  9. What’s the best thing about your home?
  10. What’s improved about your life since this time last year?
  11. What choices have you made in the past 5 years that you’d thank yourself now for making?
  12. What’s something you’re looking forward to in the near future?
  13. What’s something you witnessed recently that reminded you how life is good?
  14. What’s something you witnessed recently that reminded you how others are a blessing to you?
  15. What event or interaction made you feel good about yourself recently?
  16. How have you made personal progress lately?
  17. What’s a beautiful thing you’ve seen just today?
  18. How do others show they care about you?
  19. What movie, book, film, article, or other affected your life in a positive way lately?
  20. What simple pleasures can you enJOY today?

And that’s when it occurred…an unexpected verbal apology came my way along with a free bag of “Holiday Blend” roasted beans. Today, THIS is my simple pleasure. WHEW…and I’m truly grateful to be welcomed back into the local bean house once again. 🙂

While this is just small sample of the MANY questions they had gathered on index cards, you get the gist.  As folks came inside the shop, they were encouraged to participate as well.  So in place of just one question on Day #34, I propose we gratefully consider using some of these (and others you add) with our family and friends as we gather and ponder in the coming days. It’s a simple way to spark extraordinary conversation while we share our gratitude and gratefulness fully with one another.  Magical things happen every single day, if we simply allow them. Be a blessing and be blessed, my friends.

Grace and gravy

“Some days, doing the best we can may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect—on any front—and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else” ~ Mr. Rogers ~

It’s not rocket science.  It doesn’t come with an instruction manual nor suggestions for improvement.  You don’t have a required license or certification to navigate it.  It’s not neat and tidy, even on the good days.  Life is messy, slow, awkward, funny, fast, puzzling, serious, rewarding, full of adventure, and frankly, just so daily!

This is where grace (and gravy) gently enter the scene.  As a recovering perfectionist, I work daily to hold myself (and others) to a standard of grace, and not a standard of perfection.  Living with an elderly parent who struggles to remember simple tasks is one example of how grace weaves powerfully into our daily lives.  Daddy is dad, but then he’s not; he needs assistance at times even when he refuses to ask for the help.  He wants to be independent and yet he’s fully aware he requires some guidance.  It’s a pivotal tipping point when, as daddy has noted on many occasions, “the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child…”  As to the gravy part, daddy loves a cream gravy and still makes a mean batch of it when pressed.  While I do my personal best to accommodate his sophisticated palate, he shows grace every time when it doesn’t have his required consistency.  You see, Daddy has spent my lifetime favoring me with grace (often when I least deserved it and always when I’m making his cream gravy); it’s an opportunity for me to actively demonstrate the same with him… and most days, I do it gratefully and with a cheerful heart. 🙂

So here’s your question on Day #33:  How will you be gentle with yourself and gratefully practice grace while remembering you’re doing the best you can, and others are too? 

Gracefully and gratefully be kind to yourself while doing the best you can and helping others to do the same.  After all, as Helen Keller valiantly observed:  “When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another…”  Let’s continue to help each other by allowing those precious moments when the cream gravy of our personal best soaks in and beautiful grace shines forth, my friends.

PS:  Vanya Lynn, I need some of your biscuits and gravy please!  🙂 

A spot of tea and talk

I’m convinced the secret to a well-balanced day is a friend at one hand along with a strong cup of tea and a great book in the other, especially today.  Our monthly Book Club met this afternoon.  Since moving across the country, these gals have hugged me up quickly and endeared themselves through our mutual love of reading, family, books, laughter, life stories, and easy conversation.  And yes, we are a “serious” thoughtful group of readers, actually reading the books and then meeting at the Noon lunch hour in someone’s home to share noshes, enlightening book discussion, and personal updates on our life journeys.

This month we read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by the hyper-creative genius, Douglas Adams…what a cosmic ride indeed!  Naturally, an afternoon tea party made sense, huh?!? (not really, but it was so much fun to prepare nonetheless).  Since the group literally traveled over the rivers and into the woods of the northern territory (galaxy) to attend, I wanted to make their trip worthwhile.  Just a little “quick bite at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe…” if you will. 🙂

The gift of reading is never one to take for granted and I remain grateful every day for my continued ability and passion about reading.  Access to books and being able to read them provide profound purpose, direction, escape, and so much more in my life.

Day #32:   What is a gift of yours you are grateful to have and how do you nurture it?     

Remain grateful for the blessings of your many gifts and may you always find extraordinary ways to nurture them, my friends!

Pi, Pie, and Stars…oh my!

“What has a little house with no windows and no doors, but a star inside?” 

It was exactly 3:14 am this morning when St. M announced the time to me as I rolled out of bed toward the bathroom.  Obviously, he was thinking about Pi; in my world, this means I ponder Pie.  Once back in bed, I asked St. M the age-old riddle, but he simply commented, “How about baking an APPLE pie with STARS on the crust today?”  While I can never catch him off guard, I get points for trying, huh?!  He then added, “Sweetheart, you have lots of brilliant stars inside your little house; they shine gloriously all the time.”  🙂   Yes, this is just one reason why I love this man so…  It also begs the question on Day #31:

How will you gratefully shine your inward stars out into the world in the coming year?  

We ALL have stars of light within to shine onto others, so remain grateful and hopeful we find our best way to reflect gloriously together.  And just in case you are curious, yes, we have apple pie with star leaves along the crumbly topping for dessert tonight.  Who’s bringing the Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla to go with it?  🙂



Simple truths…

Children say and do some of the funniest things!  An acting friend of mine always notes, “Never take the stage with children or animals; you (and your character) will never have the lead.”

While going through another stack of school memorabilia recently, a most enlightening witty piece we entitled Simple Truths caught my eye.  This special letter of gratefulness was written by my classroom learners at the time and contained a list of ten things they were grateful to have learned about life so far:

10. The best place to be when you are sad is in Granny’s lap.
9. Don’t try to use the vacuum cleaner and the cat at the same time.
8. You can’t hide a piece of broccoli (or anything) in a glass of milk.
7. Puppies and kitties still have bad breath even after eating a mint.
6. Absolutely don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
5. You can’t trust dogs to watch your food while you go to the bathroom.
4. Never ask your little brother to hold a tomato.
3. If your sister hits you, don’t hit her back. They always catch the second person.
2. When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.
and then…
1. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t baptize the cat.

My students and I shared this piece with our parents that November as part of our focus on gratefulness.  To say we garnered some chuckles and responses is an understatement.  It gratefully opened the door to deep conversation about being observers and active listeners in life–noticing those interesting little things popping into your world out of nowhere in particular.

So on Day #30:  When and how do you take opportunities to gratefully observe your simple truths? 

I am beyond grateful for the many decades I was truly privileged to be a part of these profound observations and discussions on a daily basis!  Here’s hoping you take time to enJOY and appreciate the simple truths around you too!