Gratefully having enough…

As Henry James noted, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”  Such was the afternoon tea my youngest daughter provided for us in the midst of our travels this week.  We enJOYed a scrumptious menu, conversation, laughter, stories, and respite from the hustle-and-bustle surrounding us in the big city.  These precious moments humbly reminded me how purposefully living in a mindset of gratefulness allows 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! 

(I found these specific words written in my 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 credit.)

So on Day #39 of our journey:  If you created your own “have enough” list to share with those gathered around the table tomorrow, what would you gratefully include on it?

Yes, it’s a struggle some days to feel we have enough; we are human.  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.  As we prepare our feasts and gather together at the table of thankfulness, may we all celebrate the gifts we pass and receive to and from one another with profound gratefulness.

While on our early morning backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall today, I met two delightful ladies from Scotland who marveled with me at each nook and cranny of the iconic 1932 Art Deco structure.  The majestically rich history of legendary performers alone is breathtaking, with each back hallway and secret corridor filled to capacity, representing all genres of musical entertainments.  As Santa himself explained during the 90-minute Christmas Spectacular performance last night, the most famous “seasonal stockings” of all time represent the splendor and magic of this historic landmark:  The Rockettes! 

So, I know you’re wondering now… What do The Rockettes have to do with the two ladies from Scotland?  One of these dear ladies (originally from Inverness, up in the northern area) was a former Rockette in “another lifetime, my dear.”  While taking our restroom break (another unique experience with pedestal sinks and the original foot-pedal hand dryers from 1932!), we struck up a lively conversation, the type a dear friend of mine calls a “visitation.”  Elspeth talked about “seeing this building for the first time today.”  When I asked her to elaborate, she observed, “When you land the coveted opportunity to work for this company and create a sense of teamwork for several shows a day during an intense period of time, you focus on each performance so intensely you forget to really appreciate the special and spectacular moments surrounding you…I can look back fondly and marvel at the magnitude at this point in my life…it’s given me a level of gratefulness I never knew existed so deep within my soul…”  WOW!  In that one moment, her powerful wisdom sprinkled with her obvious attitude of gratitude helped her (and me) lift the cloak of indivisibility to gratefully appreciate her personal experience as a real Rockette and me to focus more on looking at daily experiences from the perspective of them being the first time.  This is definitely a restroom break that will resonate for a while!

Perhaps, being able to simply see things “for the first time” helps us to not work so hard at experiencing daily gratefulness.  Gratitude becomes a natural response every time, thus opening our eyes to the plentiful bounty within our lives.

So here’s your challenge today:  Think of a “visitation” in your life experience.  What did this person gratefully share with you to enlighten your situation in that time together?  

Elspeth, thank you for the conversation, the profound personal insight, and your beautiful “visitation” today.  I’m beyond grateful our paths crossed in a most touching way, on a blustery Highland-like day in the heart of NYC inside an extraordinary performance venue. Keep dancing in your heart, special lady…and may we all take the opportunity to see things “for the first time.”   

When I retired, a lovely group of colleagues had this metal piece commissioned as a gift of gratefulness for the “lessons you unknowingly revealed in the face of some insurmountable odds at times.”  It hangs in a prominent place as a gentle reminder of how hard some of these powerful lessons were in my journey…

You see, gratefulness is an all-out committed life practice and it’s cheating to be only be grateful for the good while shunning the bad.  NONE of us want the bad things to happen, but we must meticulously seek the gratitude for the soul lessons inherently placed in our path on this life journey.  We progress when we find ways to use the hardships of bad things and experiences to become more patient, more kind, more present, more fun, more loving…

As a personal testament, my physical self (my personal body) has a definite history of betrayal.  From multiple abdominal and reproductive issues to years of cancer treatments, my body has repeatedly betrayed me with some bad issues. Doing everything right is no guarantee of complete health, thus I’ve learned to let go (AND let God) of my wanting it to be permanently better. I’m grateful for the good medical reports appearing at times, but more importantly, learning how much I can still contribute even when going through another health crisis makes my soul sing.  The “blessing in disguise” of the bad thing may be invisible and not surface during the moment you expect, but it’s coming!

A former yoga teacher also taught me how to practice gratefulness for my body parts as I maneuver and meditate as a blessing for what each one can do in that moment; no wishing or hoping (or cussing out loud) for anything to be different.  You’re probably rolling your eyes, but it works for me!  She also pointedly commented to me one day, “Never question why the suffering comes for you; listen for what the suffering can teach you. Be willing to see the gift in each experience when it is revealed so you are stronger and better in this life.” 

Here is what I unexpectedly know to be true:  Gratitude and gratefulness, like interest, compounds.  The daily practice of consistent and purposeful gratitude creates clear vision to pay closer attention and seek particular reasons to be grateful in the face of uncertainty. Attitude is mandatory and daily effort is non-negotiable on this journey.

Day #37:  If you could design your own etched metal piece or mantra, what would you place upon it to gratefully speak your lessons?

May we all find our way to embracing the bad along with the good on the journey.  Be a blessing and be blessed, my friends!

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!  🙂