Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Moving Day

What a week! It’s been one replete with blessings, heartaches, work, and worry. It has also had bright moments of joy lavished with laughter and seasoned with love.

Daughter the Elder and I moved Daughter the Younger into her dorm room on Thursday. The minivan was completely loaded, but it all fit nicely into her space (see photo above), and she’s not contacting me much, so that means she’s doing o.k. No news is good news when it comes to the college freshman on the first weekend.

Is it easier the second time around? No, not really. At least one knows what to expect, but it’s still an emotional day. You want your child to soar. You want her to do well, make good friends, be inspired to learn, grow as a scholar and person, and have fun, too. You just want it to be good.

Yes, there were a few tears, although I held it together until we got to the highway. She’s ready. I’ll be fine. It’s all good. I am thankful she has this opportunity, and I’m grateful to have had this day with both daughters. Even the requisite trip to Taco Bell was alright.

I am so thankful to have spent this day with two young women whom I love so very much. There’s only one problem now; it’s way too quiet around here. Sigh.

The Power of Blessing

Want to really make a difference in someone’s life? Offer them a blessing. Let them know through your words and expression how much you care about them and  their well-being.

Adrian, a retired gentleman in the congregation I serve, offers me a blessing as he exits the building each Sunday. He probably doesn’t realize it, but his blessing means a lot to me. “Drive carefully and be safe going home,” he says with a firm handshake. I can tell by the look in his eyes–one of kindness, caring, and concern–that he means it. And I do feel blessed when I finally get into my car and turn the key. The fact that someone has wished me well with a simple act of blessing makes the journey homeward both more intentional and more joyous.

Think about it. We receive so many negative messages as we move through our days. We pass like ships or collide like bumper cars as we hurry and worry and scurry about. A blessing possesses real power to transcend the negative. A blessing provides common ground even between or among the most different of folks. A blessing pours healing balm into the wounded heart and calms the weary soul.

Don’t believe me? Try it. Bless someone close to you. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. A simple “You are important” or “May you be blessed this day with the goodness of God.” You can wish someone wellness, safety, security, peace or whatever seems right. You possess the power to bless, to make someone’s day better, to bring joy, happiness, and respite from suffering.

I give thanks for Adrian’s blessings. I am thankful for the lesson he teaches me each week in the power and importance of blessing others. The gift of blessing is free, and it is yours and mine to share prodigally.

May you be blessed this day with peace, love, and hope. Be safe now! Be blessed!

Photo by Sahaja Meditation used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Be Real! Be You!

What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet this is often just what we also fear more than anything else . . . . Little by little we come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. — Frederick Buechner

It’s called being vulnerable, transparent, and real. Like Frederick Buechner says, it’s what we really want, to be accepted for who we are. Unfortunately, fear all too often prevents us from embracing our true self–with all of our gifts, talents, failures, achievements, and imperfections.

Western culture and advertising are good at telling us what we don’t have and what we need to make us feel better about ourselves, look more attractive, be more financially secure, attract the person of our dreams, have an amazing body, and be wittier and more appealing. The idea is to cause us to want and to feel like our wants and desires are really our needs.

We are bombarded by somewhere between 500 and 3,000 advertising and marketing messages each day, all of which appeal to our need for acceptance, love, and personal betterment. No wonder we edit ourselves for public viewing! I don’t know about you, but I’m no super model; in fact, my youngest daughter wants to submit me as a candidate for “What Not to Wear.” Now Google and other sites on the Web are tailoring advertising specifically to my searches and browsing history. Oh, brother!

Thankfully, I have reached an age and stage where I really like the real me more than the edited versions of my younger years. What I’ve discovered by trial and error is that most of the time when you accept who you are and start feeling comfortable in your own skin, not only will others be more likely to accept you, but they’ll also feel more comfortable letting you meet their own authentic self.

You, dear friend, were uniquely created, and there is no one exactly like you. You were created for a purpose, you have a reason to exist and much to give to the world. If you haven’t stopped editing your innermost self, please consider doing so now.

Only when you let your real self shine through can you achieve what you are called to do and be who you are designed to be. Drop the masks, quit the posturing, ignore the ads, forget the perfection you will never achieve, and let your beautiful soul shine through.

Live, my friend. Live life in your own wonderful skin. Learn, laugh, love, give, share, and be real. Be you and believe that you are here for a purpose. Don’t settle for anything less than the real you. Give thanks for who you really are.

Thankful for Slow Saturday

I promised myself a slow day, and I have enjoyed just that. This morning I slept late for the first time in quite a while (9:00 a.m.). I made coffee, enjoyed it, and finished laundry at a leisurely pace. Mr. Husband and I took the dogs for a long walk at the cemetery overlooking town and the surrounding hills and valleys. It was breathtakingly beautiful today. I tended the garden, and picked basil and tomatoes.

I did a little work and finished my sermon. I stayed hydrated and relaxed. We made a wonderful supper together: pasta with fresh homemade pesto (recipe below) or homemade Alfredo sauce, a lovely salad with cucumbers from our garden, and peach sundaes made with fresh local peaches for dessert. We enjoyed a leisurely meal with good conversation. Now I’m winding down and hoping for a good night’s sleep so that I can feel rested for tomorrow.

It was a lovely slow day. Did I accomplish as much as I would have liked to done? No. But that’s o.k. I am content.

How did you spend your Slow Saturday?

Fresh Pesto

Two heaping cups (press down) of fresh, washed, and drained basil leaves

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 to 2/3 cups Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best)

8 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped (use less if you’re not a garlic fan)

1/3 +/- cup extra virgin olive oil (add oil to get a pleasing consistency)

freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Process in a food processor until desired consistency is reached. Mix with hot cooked pasta. Any extra can be put in small containers (press out air bubbles to avoid discoloration) and frozen. Will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. I put a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to prevent discoloration.

Use as a sandwich or wrap spread. Mix with a little mayo or plain Greek yogurt in pasta or chicken salad. Spread on fresh artisan bread, top with a slice of homegrown tomato, sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese and broil. Yum.

Photos by zoyachubby and diekatrin used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Slow Down!

There’s absolutely no reason for being rushed along with the rush. Everybody should be free to go very slow. ~ Robert Frost

It’s finally Friday! Are you still scurrying around in a frenzied fever pitch? Is your to-do list all too handy? Do you have yourself booked solid for the weekend? Are you speeding through life as fast and furious as your little human self will take you?

Why? What’s the rush?

Think about it. You know the guy who tailgates you for several miles until he finally gets the clearance to whiz by you with an evil glare? You shake your head and drive on. Guess who ends up in front of you at the next traffic signal? Yes, that’s right. There sits Mr. Speedypants in all his grumpy glory. You just know he’s fuming. All that fuss and increased blood pressure for one car length’s advantage. What a pity!

You, on the other hand, are free to take your time, to enjoy the day, to treasure the moment. Unless you’re more prone to behave like Mr. Speedypants, that is. I will admit that I have my speedypants days, more often than I’d like to acknowledge.

But here’s what I’m learning. Speeding through life is not worth it. Savoring life moment by moment is better. Being mindful enough to slow down and really live, to truly appreciate what it means to be drawing breath and taking nourishment, is a much more thankful way to live.

You are free to go slowly and deliberately through life. You really do have a startling degree of choice about whether to rush about like an angry tornado or move gracefully and calmly through your own life.

What might it take to slow down and savor your one precious life?

  • Do you need to do a better job of saying no to excess commitments and obligations?
  • Do you need to learn to pare down your wants and live beneath your means?
  • Do you need to take all of your vacation time and quit worrying about whether your job will be o.k. without you?
  • Do you need to unplug and take a tech Sabbath?
  • Do you need to simply take a real day of Sabbath rest on a regular basis?
  • Do you need to put family and friends above money and stuff?
  • Do you need to reconnect with the natural world?
  • Do you need to lay off the fast food and enjoy some slow cooking with fresh, local ingredients?

What else might you need to decrease the speed of your days and increase your capacity for thanks-living?

I certainly don’t have all the answers, and I am a work in progress. Right now, however, I pledge to make tomorrow (Saturday) a day where I am free to go very slow, to focus on living, giving, and sharing. How about you? What can you do to enjoy a slow day, month, year, or rest of your life?

Photo by dannysullivan used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

In Praise of Home Grown Tomatoes

I am thankful for home grown tomatoes–those orbs of deliciousness that taste so much better than their bland grocery store counterparts. If you grow tomatoes you understand. For weeks you watch them hanging green on the vine, and your mouth begins to water at the thought of tasty sun-warmed fruit on bread with mayonnaise, or in Caprese Salad or in salsa or in sauce or in juice. Maybe the best way to enjoy one is to bite into it like an apple, fresh off the vine.

As the old song goes, “There’s only two things that money can’t buy–true love and home grown tomatoes.”

Not familiar with “Home Grown Tomatoes”? Here’s a link to a YouTube version by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. Enjoy! Oh, and as you’re eating your next home grown tomato, don’t forget to give thanks.

Photo by Dave Stokes used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Less Clutter = More Living

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” — Wendell Berry

What does clutter have to do with living thankfully? A lot actually. Clutter and excess possessions have a way of keeping us from seeing clearly and from enjoying life. If you are so tied up in the clutter and “stuff” of your life, then how can you really enjoy the moment? How can you focus on being generous with others when you continually focus on amassing more possessions? How can you live thankfully when you can’t fully appreciate, much less use and enjoy, all that you have?

To me nothing is sadder than seeing a yard or estate sale following the death of someone who has spent his or her life collecting stuff that no one wants in the end. It is sickening to see someone’s possessions thrown out as rubbish. Not only is this a huge waste of money and resources, it is also a sad commentary on our obsession with possessing.

When you possess only a few items of real value, you are better able to appreciate what you have. You will not likely live above your means, and you may even have enough resources to share with others. Less clutter can equal a better quality of life and help you to live thankfully and with a minimal ecological footprint.

How much do you really need? What is essential? What can you give away? Recycle? Share? Re-purpose?

One blogger, Erin Branscom, even proposed a “40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge to declutter. Her idea is to fill one trash bag each day with items to give away, recycle, or (as a last resort) discard. She suggests repeating this process until your home is how you feel most comfortable. She also reports hearing that if you declutter your home by 40% you will cut your household chores by 40%. Sounds like 40% is a magic number in the decluttering process (You may remember my 40/40/40 Challenge during Lent). Click here to visit Erin’s blog.

So do you want to be more thankful for what you have? Declutter. Do you want to have more time, resources, and energy? Declutter. Do you want to be able to share with others? Declutter and share your stuff, trusting that you will have enough when you give out of your abundance. Start right now. Look around you. What one thing can you share with someone else, give to charity, recycle, or (if necessary) throw away?

Photo by misteraitch used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

You are Gold!

Percy Williams of Canada on the shoulders of his teammates after winning a gold medal in the men’s 100 meters race at the VIIIth Summer Olympic Games

We don’t have television anymore, but I’ve been following the Olympic games via the BBC and other online sources. It’s wonderful to see athletes from around the world who have invested everything they have to get to the games and compete for the gold. The faces of the gold medal winners are a sight to behold.

The only problem is that only one person in each event comes home with a gold medal. Somehow the second place silver just doesn’t have the luster in the eyes of the world’s onlookers. The silver and bronze medalists worked hard, too. They gave the competition their all. And what about the athlete who came in last place? Didn’t he or she give it the best effort? Just to earn a spot on an Olympic team is a herculean feat.

Fortunately for us, in God’s economy we are all gold medal material. The Creator of the universe looked at creation and proclaimed all of it good–very good. When the Creator looks at you and me, those divine eyes of love see the very best in each one of us. God sees our potential not our failings. God looks at us with eyes of love because God doesn’t make mistakes or junk.

What you and I may see as broken and damaged in our own lives or the lives of others, God sees as redeemed and reclaimed. We are constantly recycled and re-purposed to be the best we can be. We are works in progress, and we are golden. We are precious in God’s sight.

So, dear friend, you deserve a gold medal from God. You may feel damaged, and the world may have told you that you are “less than” or “not good enough,” but that is not the end of the story. God says otherwise. Isn’t it time we started telling ourselves and others this truth?

Doesn’t the single mother who works as long and hard as any elite athlete to keep her children clothed and fed deserve God’s gold medal? What about the teacher who works long hours in a tough school district for peanuts and precious little praise? Doesn’t he deserve God’s gold? How about that teenager who keeps pressing on despite the taunts and torture of his or her peers? Or the pensioner on a limited income who still finds myriad ways to serve and give?

If we can look at one another the way God sees us, then maybe we can make this world a better place. There are no losers in the divine economy–only gold. Own it, live it, and share it! Now that’s something for which we can all give thanks.

Photo by Library Archives used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

One Small Thing

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Choosing to live a life of thanks-living doesn’t have to be complicated and overwhelming. The idea is for gratitude to become so ingrained as an attitude that it is second nature in how you approach every action and each moment of your life. The best way to accomplish this is to take a deliberate series of small steps, to repeat these small steps until they become habit, and to add more small steps so that your life becomes layered in thankfulness.

A good first step is to take a few minutes one day each week to write, e-mail, text, or call someone who has made a difference in your life. Tell them thank you. Be specific about noting one or more attributes and/or actions you observe in them that have had an impact on your own life. I like to say a prayer for that person, too, giving thanks to the Creator for them and asking that God bless and keep them as they continue to bless the lives of others.

Small snowflakes of thanks like these add up quickly. Soon you will find yourself seeing more and more in others for which you are thankful. As you open your heart and mind in this way, you too will be blessed. Start small, be faithful in your small actions, and watch the joys, blessings, and gratitude grow. Thankfulness and a generous heart grow exponentially. You will never run out of reasons to be grateful if you mindfully attend to one small thing at a time.

Blessings on your thanks-living journey. As for me, I am thankful that you take your time to join me and share in this adventure.

(Photo by Iain Farrell used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)

How to Begin a Thankful Day

You open your eyes to the new day. Maybe you’re still tired from yesterday and didn’t get enough sleep last night. You might be excited for an event or opportunity that will come your way in the next few hours. Perhaps you wish you could pull the covers over your head and avoid another day of drudgery on the job.

Wait! You have a choice. From the moment you first open your eyes you can choose to have a thankful day or an ordinary day. There’s no set formula to ensure a day of thanks-living, but I can offer you some tried and true methods that work for me.

  1. Let the first thought that runs through your head or lands on your lips be a word of thanks that you are alive and have the opportunity to live another day on this earth. A simple “Thank you for life” will do nicely, but feel free to take more time and elaborate on the reasons you are thankful.
  2. Begin your day gently with some stretching or yoga and prayer or meditation. Take time to let your body wake up and feel the thankfulness.
  3. Drink a glass of water. Give thanks that you have ready access to clean, fresh drinking water.
  4. If you enjoy tea or coffee, take the time to savor one cup–if possible with a loved one or friend. Share at least one thing with each other for which you are grateful.
  5. Eat a simple, healthy breakfast. Try some oatmeal and fruit, whole grain bread and cheese, yogurt, eggs, and/or nuts depending on your style of eating. Fueling your body properly is critical. Avoid choking down food while commuting, and resist the urge to fill up with fast but unhealthy food at the drive-thru. Both your body and bank account will thank you.
  6. Plan to tell one person why you are thankful for them today. Of course, you can choose to tell more people what you appreciate about them or their actions. The more you give thanks and express gratitude, the more thankful and gracious you will become.
  7. Choose to look for the good in every person, place, thing, or event. The easiest thing is to look at the inconveniences and problems; remember, however, that every problem presents another opportunity, and every negative has a positive spin if you look hard enough for it.

If you’re breathing and can move, you have much for which to be thankful. If you have food to eat, work to do, and people you love, you are indeed blessed. Count your blessings and start each day with thanks. It makes all the difference.

Photo by Kansas Poetry used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

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