Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A new perspective...

The first miracle attributed to Jesus was when he turned water into wine at a wedding party.

He asked some people around him to fill six large water jugs with water. Each one held between 20 and 30 gallons of water which was normally used for ceremonial washing.

Then he told the servants to give some of the water to the master of the banquet. Between filling the jugs and carrying some of the water to the master, the water turned into wine. The best wine of the night.

In that one act, Jesus transformed the vessels associated with rituals of cleansing
into vessels that contained 120+ gallons of joy-filled celebration.
Forget all the rules and regulations along with the somber, serious religious stuff.
Celebrate. Party. Dance. Rejoice and be glad.

It's not that life is gonna be easy all the time. Marriage can be one of the most difficult things in life.
But the engagement, the ceremony, the wedding feast - those are moments that are meant to be celebrated with gusto, with family, friends, and a lot of wine. Later on, when things get tough and we forget why we chose each other, we can go back and look at the videos. Flip through the photo albums. Remember those early days. And celebrate again.

Every now and then, I need to find a new perspective, a new way to look at what I see everyday, at the people I see everyday, the stories I read so often.

Every now and then, I need to pour myself a glass of something strong, take a deep gulp, and let the celebration begin again.

There is so much to weep over: the aftermath of the storm, homes burned, cars washed away, NYC hospitals being evacuated due to lack of electricity, mammograms that don't go as expected, and cracks in the facade and the foundation of otherwise strong homes.

But there is also much for which to give thanks. A roof over my head. Food in the pantry. Electricity powering our fridge and freezer. Clothing. Access to options.

I choose to focus on the latter, the blessings of life. And rejoice. So tonight I'm sipping a small glass of port, remembering the blessings of this day, and basking in my new perspective on this, my life's journey.

I am reminded of Jesus' words at the end of John chapter 16 - "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world."

Here's to life, laughter, love,
to health, friendships, joy,
to hugs, peace, and hope for tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Best Story of All

People talk about vocations.
People talk about calling.
People talk about doing what they were put on the planet to do.

My vocation is motherhood.
My calling is motherhood.
I was put on the planet to raise the two amazing children I was blessed to give birth to.

The eldest of my two offspring is celebrating her 19th birthday today.
She arrived 15 days late... which was right on time for her.
She weighed 9 pounds and 1 ounce.
She was 22 inches long.
She was big and juicy, beautiful and strong.
She emerged from the womb ready to see the world.

This girl has been unstoppable since Day One.
She made up for her "late" arrival by crawling early, walking early, and talking early.
She hasn't sat still or stopped talking for very long since those early days -
and I mean that in a good way.
She has been to Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, England, Spain, Italy, at least 15 of these United States,
and she wants to see much more of the world.
She consented to being homeschooled by her mother all the way thru - from kindergarten through 12th grade. She never minded my frivolity, lack of organization, and easy distractability.

She developed and has maintained interests in horses, turtles, dogs, jewelry making, painting, journaling, reading, photography, babysitting, cooking, art history, writing, and laughing at my antics. She is one of the most creative people I know.

She has faced serious challenges during her teen years -
but I will let her tell her own story.
Or ask her permission to tell more of it here on the blog.
I will say this: when the shit hit the fan in her life, she stood unflinching and strong.
She didn't run and hide.
She didn't deny what was happening.
She still doesn't.
She is the bravest person I have ever known.

And today, I get to celebrate 19 years of raising her,
and being raised by her,
teaching her,
and being taught by her.
Today, it is my great honor and privilege to call her my friend.

Happy birthday, Kristiana.
Thank you for being the one who showed me
what my true vocation,
my calling is - being your mother.

From the first time I felt you kick me from inside,
I knew.
I knew you would be one of my best teachers,
one of my closest followers,
and I hoped that you would love me as much as I loved you.
Thanks be to God, that wish has come true.
At least, that's the vibe I get from you most days.

These days, I find myself behind you, following you, wondering where you will end up,
and cheering you along the whole way.
You rock, girl. You ROCK!!!

Even as I type this, your song is billowing around me.

I have a hope
I have a future
I have a destiny that is yet awaiting me.
My life's not over
A new beginning's just begun
I have a hope
I have this hope. 

God has a plan
it's not to harm me
but it's to prosper me
and to hear me when I call.
he intercedes for me
working all things for my good.
though trials may come,
I have this hope.

I will yet praise him, my great Redeemer,
I will yet stand up and give him glory with my life
He takes my darkness and he turns it into light
I will yet praise him,
my Lord, my God. 

My God is for me,
he's not against me.
so tell me whom then, tell me whom then shall I fear?
He has prepared for me
great works he'll help me to complete.
I have a hope.
I have this hope.

Goodness and mercy, they're gonna follow me
and I'll forever dwell in the house of my great king.
No eye has ever seen all he's preparing there for me -
Though trials may come, I have this hope. 

I will yet praise him, my great Redeemer,
I will yet stand up and give him glory with my life
He takes my darkness and he turns it into light
I will yet praise him,
my Lord, my God. 


Your life, your courage, your beauty, your strength,
who you are, sweet and wonder-filled Kristiana,
gives me hope.

No one on earth loves you more than I do.

PS. I write this joy-filled post with a heavy heart. I am overcome with sadness and grief for all the suffering that is going on in the Northeastern states as a result of Superstorm Sandy. May power be restored soon. May homes be rebuilt. May losses be remediated. May sadness be alleviated.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with all who work or watch or weep this night.
Give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, we pray, and give rest to the weary.
Soothe the suffering and bless the dying.
Pity the afficted and shield the joyous -
and all for your love's sake.
(Taken from Night Prayer, by Robert Benson.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

47 to 47

My 47th birthday is 47 days from today.
Time flies - whether or not you are having fun.
Mercifully, for the most part, I have been having great fun.
Anybody who regularly reads this blog knows that I am enormously grateful for my life, 
for the blessings, the challenges, the joys, and the sorrows. 
I have been blessed indeed.

Approaching 47 years of age, I know that I'm in the latter half of my life. Honestly, I don't want to live to be 94 years of age; I know I would be a burden to a lot of folks if I get to be that old. So here is the truth: I am officially living into and through the second and final act of my life.

As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the east coast over the next two days, as I pray, plead, hope, light incense, and pray some more for the safety of all those that are in the storm of that path, I am reminded of the need to count our days aright. To live fully every day. To look up and enjoy the beauty around us - the birds, the trees, the rooflines of buildings we frequent, the airplanes overhead. To give thanks. To love those with whom we live, those to whom we have made commitments, and those whose paths we cross. We ought to smile at strangers, help the weak, and serve each other and the world. 

Anyone who has lost a home to a storm, had ancient, beautiful trees fall onto or near their homes, anyone whose sky is black with storm clouds, they would say - Sure, it's just stuff. But be grateful for it nonetheless. Enjoy it. Take none of it for granted.

Anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer, watched someone suffer with a chronic illness, or is awaiting a diagnosis, they too would say - Be grateful for health and strength. Eat well, exercise regularly, and enjoy your life fully. Every day.

During the next 47 days, I'm going to spend as much time as I can spare looking back on my life, journeys I've taken, storms I have survived, places I've lived, schools I've attended, lessons I've learned, remembering friends and other loved ones, sharing stories, favorite songs, books, and movies, and recalling as many moments as possible for which to give thanks. 

I close today's post with this blessing, repeated often by my dear friend, Kirk Hall, when he gives the benediction at church. These words echo deep within me today, on this 47th day before my 47th birthday. 

Life is short,
And we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of 
those who make the journey with us.
So be swift to love and make haste to be kind.
And the blessing of God, 
who made us, who loves us, and who travels with us
be with you now and forever.

Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I keep trying...

I read other people's blogs. I print out what they write and glue it into my journal. I read magazines. I watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and even subject myself to Fox News for 90 seconds at a time - all in an effort to find out what is happening in the world out there. Mostly, the news is bad, sad, and heart-breaking.

After wiping the tears from my eyes, I promise myself: I've gotta get serious about this writing thing. I need to tell tougher stories. I need to confront bullies and blowhards. I need to set the record straight on mental illness, faith, women's issues, politics, race issues, war, peace, homeschooling, breastfeeding, prayer, marriage, the environment, parenting, travel, journaling, the institutional church, and other small issues like these.

Vatican City, 2008 

War sucks. So do poverty, hunger, sexual slavery and drug addiction. The economy in this nation and all around the world is faltering. People are losing their jobs, their homes, and their dignity every day. Those without medical insurance are forced to go to emergency rooms for assistance or to live with constant pain, creeping infections, and advancing diseases without relief. I have no idea what it feels like to send my children to school and not be sure if I'll be able to pick them up later for fear of deportation, but I know people who do know what that feels like. There are personal stories, individual stories that need to be told, that must be told. And I tell myself that I ought to be the one who tells these stories.

Nicaragua, 2008

I keep trying to get my act together and be a more consistent, more important, more widely-read blogger telling serious stories about serious topics. I keep on trying to go deeper and be deeper.

Haiti, 2012

But I keep coming back to the same place and the same topic: gratitude.

I am so doggone grateful for every good and perfect gift, every bowl of soup, every slice of bread, every cup of tea, every cookie, every roll of glue tape, every morning that I wake up with the roof still suspended above my cozy bed, every cup of pumpkin-spice flavored coffee, every push-up, every Tae-Bo inspired side kick, every Monday Night Football game, every conversation I have with my kids and my husband, every safe flight and car ride, and every keystroke on my computer, iPad, and blackberry.

Myrtle Beach, 2011

I am grateful for the changing colors of autumn, the clear blue sky overhead, the chirping of birds, the scampering of chipmunks, and the easy smiles my neighbors cast in my direction.

I am grateful for Staples, Cheap Joe's Art Supplies, Good Will Stores, Omega Sports, Rack Room Shoes, Michael's, and Barnes and Noble. I am grateful for gas stations, dry cleaners, shoe repair shops, bakeries, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, construction workers, the people who stock supermarket shelves, the truck drivers that move products and produce all over the country, and hotel cleaning staff.

Roma, 2008

I am grateful for the Bible stories of the woman with the twelve-year issue of blood, the prodigal son, the midwives who let Moses live, Rahab, Esther, Ruth, Bathsheba, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Jesus. I am grateful for the imperfections in David, Solomon, Moses, Jacob, Elijah, Jonah, Peter, Judas, Miriam, Delilah, Jezebel, and Martha. I am grateful for how frequently I find my own story embedded in the stories of the Scriptures I hold dear.

Sevilla, 2009

I am grateful for my family - my husband, my children, my nieces and nephews, my brothers, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my mother and father, and the deceased grandparents I never knew. (Happy birthday, Lizzie. Make tomorrow a fantastic day!!! I wish I could be with you to celebrate your amazing, courageous, inspirational, musical life. You rock, girl. You absolutely ROCK!)

I am deeply loved, fondly remembered, and frequently hugged. The faces of my loved ones, the stories they tell me of their lives, the memories we share - I am overwhelmed with goodness, kindness, wonder, love, grace, and joy.

I do not mean to imply that all is perfectly well, because it's not.
I have very little contact with most of my family members.
I struggle with loneliness and the fear of being forgotten.
I wonder what I did wrong anytime someone doesn't respond to an email or text.
I worry about the bumps on my face and the dry patches on my legs.
I wonder if I'll ever lose what Anne Lamott refers to as "the fanny pack of flesh" that childbearing deposited just below my belly button.
I am reluctant to do breast self-exams for fear of finding a lump.
I wish we had more money in savings and six-figure bonuses coming in every year.
I wonder what we would do if a natural disaster destroyed our home or if the bank my husband works for went bankrupt.
I hope no one I love ever dies, not even our dog.
The "what ifs" wash over me in waves sometimes.

Madrid, 2009

I keep trying to stop worrying and let go of my fears.
I keep trying to write better, to write more frequently, and to write deeper stuff.

The truth is that we have more than enough money for the life we live and enough food in the pantry to feed us for quite a while.
I am in excellent health and always have been.
I'm almost 47 years old; bumps on my face, dry skin here and there, and a couple of inches of soft flesh around my midsection are badges of courage and medals of honor.
No marriage is perfect, but I'm enjoying mine more now than I have in years. And I realize that my previous lack of enjoyment was no one's responsibility to resolve but mine.
(A deer walked across the front lawn as I wrote the last sentence.)
I haven't done anything wrong; some people just don't want to be in contact with me anymore. Their loss, not mine.
I write just fine, just enough, and just what I need to write. I'm gonna let the deeper folks write deeper stuff. I will stick with my gratitude, my contentment, and my deep love for the rich blessings of the life that I have been given.

Life, with all its attendant mishaps and misunderstandings,
with its disappointments and failures,
with its alienation and isolation,
with its dashed expectations and unfulfilled dreams,
with its too-frequent moments when we say,"good-bye,"
and too-infrequent times when we say, "I love you,"
life is a gift.
And I am enormously grateful.

A statue outside the children's library here in Charlotte

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Everybody's Got Something..."

There is great beauty, deep love, unspeakable joy in this world. That is true.

But there is also great pain, deep sorrow, and unspeakable grief. That is also true.

Within moments of posting my Thankful Tuesday list last night, I read this story, posted by one of my favorite writers. My heart is broken for her and her family.

Someone I know buried her dog this past week... not the neighbor I mentioned last Thursday, another friend.

Someone else dear to me was recently confronted with the fact that her soon-to-be-ex-husband has already moved on.

Another sister of my soul and her three children have been abandoned by her husband; he chose a woman 20 years her junior as his new companion.

After years of panic attacks, another dear one recently decided to ask for pharmaceutical assistance.

His live-in girlfriend took her stuff, the cash he had in the apartment, the car he bought her, emptied their mutual bank account, and left him. 

Houses on the market for months while money drains to a dangerously low level.

Devastating medical diagnosis, surgery, rehab, medication - and the journey is far from over.

Her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery. Fingers crossed that "they got it all."

Her mother had late stage breast cancer.  Surgery. They didn't get it all. She went back under the knife. Chemo. Radiation. Crossing the fingers again. 

Brain tumor. Kidney failure. Congestive heart failure. Unexplained fainting. Blood clots. 

Jobs still being sought.

Marriages disintegrate.

Friendships dissolve.

Children are anxious, broken-hearted, fearful of being told they are inadequate, wary of bullies, and terrified of going to school. Their parents feel the same way about their own circumstances. 

Here in our house, we say, "Everybody's got something." Without exception, everybody has got something they are facing. Everybody is dealing with something dreadful. Everybody is afraid of something. Everybody is worried about something. Everybody. Every single body. 

So here's my goal, my desire, my suggestion: 
Be kind. Be gentle. Be patient with everyone you meet. 
You never know what people are going through. 
You never know. You don't need to know. 
I don't need to know. But I can be kind nonetheless. 
I shall be kind all the more.

"Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a tough battle."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thankful Tuesday

My heart is so full of gratitude today that I couldn't wait until Thursday to be thankful.
Today I'm grateful for -

* the mellow sounds of a hammered dulcimer wafting between the trees of a friend's backyard

* walking into my kitchen, seeing my son's best friend grabbing a bowl from the cupboard, preparing to serve himself pasta for dinner

* sharing two sandwiches and asparagus fries by the water with one of my dearest friends

* sharing the simple, profound beauty of walking a labyrinth with the same wonder-filled woman

* preparing to teach another Bible study at a local senior community's devotion time tomorrow morning

* being invited to return there to teach again and again

* tearing magazine pages and gluing favorite images into a recently handmade journal with recently acquired friends

* pumpkin spice coffee in the morning

* eating Barack Obama's face... wishing his gorgeous teeth could have been reproduced on the cookie

* rediscovering my sponsor child's mailing address (she lives in Swaziland) and sending her an envelope full of goodies

* that newborn baby smell I breathe in every time I hold little baby Graeme Murphy, my newest crush

* an unexpected evening phone call, laughter, stories, stumbling over one another's questions and answers, wanting to say it all at once

* the powerful new sound system that goes along with the new car smell

* a small cup of Trader Joe's tawny port, which sells for a meager $5.99 per bottle: the perfect way to end the day

* dinner with ridiculously generous friends in a fabulous restaurant before seeing Tosca

* the love of a loyal dog, even though said dog is loyal only to my husband and not to me

* cozy sweaters on cool autumn nights

* being greeted warmly, smiled at broadly, and welcomed graciously every time I show up at the church we now attend... not that we attend every week, but we are treated like first time guests every time we do show up

* blueberry pancakes, coffee and orange juice, especially when all I had to do was make the coffee

* the scent of sandalwood candles

* lying quietly on my yoga mat after a challenging session of pilates

* brand new thick red bath towels and wash cloths - discovered on the clearance table at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I paid $5.99 for towels that were originally priced at $19.99 and 99 cents for wash cloths originally priced at $12.99. (Do people really pay more than $10 for wash cloths???)

* the sound of the washing machine hard at work on a load I didn't start

* realizing that the only other person in the house is my 16 year old son

* a little while later, having him ask me if he should hang up his tennis clothes to dry on the drying racks in the laundry room...
me: yes, you should hang them up. do you need any help?
him: nope.
me: smiling broadly and silently in the next room, thinking to myself: "that boy is gonna have one very happy wife!"

* realizing again, for the first time and also for the umpteenth time, that I am abundantly blessed

***** Thanks be to God.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thankful Thursday

* Today is 10/11/12. I like when the date is an interesting numerical order.

* I've had some long, funny, provocative conversations with my children lately. These two teenagers make me happy, very happy. I love the fact that they are willing to talk to me about anything - and by "anything," I mean "everything." Politics, sexual slavery, tennis racket stringing, hymn singing, friendship, ESPN, Project Runway, housesitting, dogsitting, babysitting, cooking - just to name a few of our recent topics.

* I spent several hours today with a dear friend who had her first child last Friday. I sat with him sleeping in my arms for nearly three hours this afternoon. Those long fingers. That tiny mouth. His legs folded up between his tummy and mine. Tiny. Beauty. Peace. Hope and a future.

* I am grateful that this election hoopla will soon be behind us. Debates. Commercials. Insults. Finger-pointing. Fear-mongering. Deceit. Accusations. Smugness. Sarcasm. It's exhausting. It's almost over.

* My neighbor's dog died this week. Midnight was a fixture on the block, barking his big, black lab bark at everybody who walked past, eager for and always ready to receive a good scratch behind his ears. I'm not grateful that Midnight is gone; in fact, I cried when I found out he had passed away. But I am glad I knew him for the past eight or nine years. I'm glad he liked me as much as he did.

I am grateful for the reminders that his death has provided: love your dog, love your spouse, love your children, love your friends, love your life - and love it all wildly. Wag more, bark less. Eat everything with gratitude and gusto. When something makes you uncomfortable, wet, or cold, shake it off. When you are tired, lay down and rest. When someone playful shows up, get up and play. When you want something, ask for it, ask loudly. If the answer is no, ask again the next time you see that person. Maybe they will say "yes" sometime. Forgive, forget, and wag your rear end some more.

* Tomorrow I will spend all day with friends - creating art, eating both homemade and professionally prepared food, walking a labyrinth, attending the release party for a friend's new cd, and stimulating conversation, laughter, and stories all day long. There will be much tail wagging, eating with gusto, and many playful people all around me all day long. 

I am grateful in advance.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's Your Deepest Question?

This morning, I read something that moved me, challenged me, and encouraged me. I've mentioned Kristin Noelle and her blog before, but this morning's post resonated with me more than any other, I think.

Please read it here at this link.

And then ask yourself, what is my deepest question?
What is the question that wakes you up at night, that distracts you during the day, that shortens your breath and tightens your chest when you ponder it?

Does he still love me?
Will anyone ever love me for who I am, screw ups and all?
Was it my fault?
Is there enough for me?
What if it happens again?
Do I matter to anyone?
What if there is no God?
Why us?
Why did that happen to her?
Why did that not happen to me?
Doesn't anyone care enough to help?
Will I ever be noticed?
What if there is a God?
What if I am alone forever?
Will this suffering ever end?
Why is there any suffering at all?
What if I'm wrong?
What if I'm right?
Why me?

My deepest question is buried in that list, but in truth, I've asked myself every one of those questions.

In the end, and all along the way, I can choose trust.
I can choose joy.
I can choose peace.
Those choices may not and often do not come easily to me.
Or to anyone.
But we all have a choice.
At every moment of every day, we have a choice.
I pray that we will choose trust, joy, and peace more often.

At those times when we choose fear, bitterness, and anxiety instead,
may we somehow be reminded that,
unlike in the realm of politics,
it is okay to change our minds.

At those times when I choose cynicism, criticism, and ostracism instead,
may my next thought be: it's time to flip-flop.

At those times when you choose rejection, retribution, and revulsion,
may you decide for hope and for change.

What is your deepest question?
Perhaps it doesn't matter.
Perhaps it is enough to trust that all is well.
If all is not well at this present moment, let us hold onto the hope that all shall be well.
Sometime, somehow, all shall be well.

In the meantime, trust anyway.
Hope anyway.
Love anyway.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Part Four... The Church Saga Continues

What I didn't say in the piece about finding our house was that Steve had suggested that we find a church first and then find a house close enough for us to get back and forth easily and quickly. What I didn't say in that earlier piece was that our new home was less than two miles from our new church.

Within a week of arriving in Charlotte, we were up to our necks in church activity.
Certainly, I was.
Morning services in English and Spanish as well as Sunday School on Sundays.
Evening services on Sundays.
AWANA children's activities for the little ones on Wednesday nights.
I attended a Bible study in Spanish on Wednesday nights.
I began to attend Saturday morning prayer meetings - at 6 am.
I began to teach women's Bible studies in Spanish on Saturdays at 8 am.
I was asked to serve as translator for the pastor of the Spanish congregation, first at the Wednesday night Bible studies and then on Sunday mornings. On a weekly basis, I stood next to the pastor, either in a classroom or in the pulpit, and translated from Spanish to English. Line by line. Verse by verse. Statement by statement. For more than seven years.

I felt as comfortable and happy in my new church as a pig feels in fresh mud. Rolling around, happy, satisfied, engaged, working hard, and having fun, I couldn't imagine how my church life could get any better.

It didn't get better. It got overwhelming. All-consuming. Exhausting. Demanding. Guilt-producing. No matter how much I did, how much time I spent in the big pink building, how many documents I translated for people, how many classes I taught, how many hours I spent listening to stories, writing letters of recommendation, and showing up for parties, meetings, services, and gatherings of all sorts, it was never enough. There was always something else to do, someplace else to be, someone else to give something to. It wore me out. It wore me down.

The jokes told from the pulpit at the expense of women didn't help. Nor did the frequent statements that insulted, belittled, and condemned gay people and "liberals." Being reminded regularly that women could sing, translate, and teach children, but could never and would never be allowed to preach, pray, or teach in any church gathering that included adult men - that wounded me profoundly every time I heard it.* The wisdom of women, our words, our experiences, our understanding of God, faith, love, community, and the Bible was fine to share with other women, but men did not need to hear what we had to say. There were those who believed that that's what God thought as well.

Then on November 15, 2008, our lives changed forever when our daughter was hospitalized for the first time. Seventeen days the first time. Fourteen days the second time.

Apart from sporadic responses to emails I sent out requesting prayer for our daughter, the profound silence, the lack of visitation, the dearth of phone calls, and non-existent "Jesus-with-skin-on" presence of the leadership of Calvary Church during our time of deepest crisis shocked my family to the core. I feared we would never recover from the pain of their silence and absence.

I am glad to say that we did recover. Some of the kindest, funniest, best educated, hardest working people I've ever known came to our rescue. While our family struggled to find its footing on the new life journey that we were embarking on, several of the women of the Spanish-speaking congregation brought us meals, cleaned our home, called, texted, emailed, and came to visit regularly. Some of them continue to express their love for us even though we left the church two years ago. As it turns out, "the church" is the people, the women with their open arms, generous spirits, weeping eyes, and enormous hearts. "The church" never fell silent. It was only the dudes in charge who did that.

With the help of those dear Latina women, the love of other friends and family, and the soul-affirming knowledge that God never turned away from us, we have recovered. As a family, we are stronger.

As a woman of faith, a friend, a mother, a wife, a daughter and sister, I am stronger today than at any other time in my life.

Who knew that leaving that church, a church that I loved passionately for six years and then resented even more passionately for two more years, would be the best thing that ever happened to my faith?

*One notable exception - one year, I was asked to give "a brief devotional" for the Spanish congregation on Mother's Day. The message I wrote was read and approved of ahead of time. I was never asked to speak independently at any church service again, nor has any other woman been asked, to my knowledge.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Thankful Thursday

* Yesterday my daughter and I attended a cooking class at our church. I tasted pomegranate molasses for the first time. I didn't even know such a thing existed. It is exquisite. I cannot wait to get a bottle for myself and experiment with it.

* Last week, my friend's son broke his arm while playing hockey. I am sorry he got hurt, but I am grateful that there were many good and available doctors to help him when he was in need.

* My son, a friend of his, and I spent last weekend in Raleigh, NC, at a tennis tournament. Two of the four days we were there were completely rained out. I am grateful that we safely navigated rainy highways, found restaurants open late in the evening, laughed at silly antics by other players and their parents, watched ESPN together, and that they played a little tennis as well.

* A dear and distant friend sent me a beautiful card in the mail and a button, a button that we both have now. Every time I look at it, every time I sip my morning coffee, I will think of her across the miles between us and smile.

* Today I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee at 10 am at a coffee shop 20 minutes from home. At 9:57, I stood in front of my calendar in the kitchen and looked at the little box for today - and there wa her name. I slapped myself in the forehead and said, "Oh, shit." I didn't have her cell phone number handy, so I found the phone number of the coffee shop in the phone book (yes, I still have a phone book), called, apologized, and we decided to meet at a different coffee shop near her next appointment. I am enormously grateful for her merciful forgiveness of my screw up. I am grateful that I am learning to apologize, not make excuses, and ask how I can make amends for my wrongdoing.

* The Duke Power Company sent an offer to send a representative to our home to do an energy audit. Where are we wasting energy? What can we change in order to use less electricity, less gas, less water, and otherwise make our home more energy efficient? He went up into the attic, down into the crawl space, checked our windows and doors, looked up the chimney, and inspected at our water heater. Who knew so much dust could get caught under the refrigerator in ten years? Who knew that leaving the pilot light lit in a fireplace that we never use was a foolish and wasteful thing to do?

He left us with a roll of foam insulation to seal under doors, a few of those fancy spiral light bulbs, a low flow shower head, and two sink aerators, one of which he installed on the kitchen sink. All for free! Thank you to the kind and patient Duke Power man who answered at least 50 questions I posed during the 90 minutes you spent here. Thank you, Duke Power, for this service you offer.

* Steve bought me a new car! We still have the faithful minivan - which, in a moment of deep boredom in the rain this past weekend, Daniel and his friend, Sam, named Fran. Fran the Van is still in our family, but she has been passed on to Kristiana, who is now a licensed driver. Someday soon, I will post photos of the new Indigo blue Hyundai Sonata living in our garage. Who knew that you could get into a car and start the engine without a key?

* What else am I grateful for today?
- a powerful vacuum cleaner, dust rags, and an automatic dishwasher
- red seedless grapes - which were on sale for 99 cents a pound last week
- my children's willingness to laugh at my silly stories and tell me their own tales
- rain, soaking rain
- the convenience of a large-capacity washing machine after my dog peed on a comforter on the futon
- the colors of the sky tonight while we ate dinner, pink, white, blue, gorgeous
- old friends, new friends, the honor and joy of friends
- being texted, called, emailed and asked to pray for someone in crisis, someone in need, someone traveling, someone weeping, someone in need of love, support, encouragement.

Tonight, I am grateful to be alive, to be alert, to be here.
I am grateful for health, for strength, for the ability to get out of bed and get dressed. For the opportunity to homeschool my son. For the ability to drive to the supermarket, push a shopping cart, select foods, and come home to store, cook, and enjoy it all. There are many people who don't have a car, a market, money, or the physical ability to do any of this.

Every day, every hour, I am reminded of how blessed I am.
It is easy to take life's blessings for granted;
but I am determined to see them,
to name them,
to bask in them,
and to always, always, always give thanks.
And not only on Thursday.

PS. Sarah Bessey wrote about it before I did - and wrote it so well right here. But the truth is that the people, memories, situations, and things I am most grateful for, the stories, the lessons, the moments that mean the most to me are far too personal to list here. This list is the tip top of the iceburg list of great and small things that bring tears to my eyes and goose bumps to my skin when I consider the wonder of them.