Thursday, September 04, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Why I haven't blogged in a week

I think about blogging every day. Every day. Here's a small taste of what goes through my mind when I'm thinking about blogging - "What should I write? Will I sound crazy? Am I too happy and too thankful? With all the terrible things happening in the world - in Ferguson, MO, in the Middle East, the earthquake in CA, sexual trafficking, abuse, more and more and more people being diagnosed with kanswer - how can I write happy, thankful, simplistic, God-focused pieces on this silly little blog? Who cares? I care. Some people care. There are people who read it. But they must be getting bored with my ramblings..." You know, stupid things.

But then Thursday rolls around and I feel compelled to write what I'm thankful for again. This is the easiest blog for me to write. I spend much of my life with my mouth hanging open - physically and mentally. I am amazed by the wonder and beauty of the world we live in. I am awed by the generosity and kindness of people. I am silenced by trees and dogs and babies and rainclouds. I get goosebumps when I hear people's stories and ponder all the miracles and co-incidents that bring people together at just the right time for a conversation, a hug, a connection, deep laughter, and soul-cleansing tears. Sometimes the miracles of life, the joys of life, the experiences of my life are so moving, so deep, so intense that I have to take a few days, a few weeks to process them before I can write or talk about them in a public setting.

Today's post on thankfulness will consist of a list of things that happened to me, things I saw, and things I felt this past week.

* Today, I had to drive my son to community college because his car was in the repair shop. I sat in the dining area in the building and wrote this blog while listening to and watching the students mill about, hugging one another and eating and surfing the internet and studying. Young women in hijabs. Young men with ear gauges - stretching out their earlobes. Study flashcards. Backpacks. Highlighters. No 2 pencils. Oh, the energy of college campuses. Oh, the power of being educated. Oh, the beauty of young people socializing across racial, gender, and ethnic lines.

Then I dropped him off so he could pick up his car and I headed off to my favorite volunteer activity, giving food away to people who need it - Loaves and Fishes. An elderly gentleman, family of one. Another family of one, but he came with a female companion. A woman who represented a family of six - she chose a lot of cans of veggies, fruit, and a lot of macaroni and cheese. Her sweet baby boy pulled at the hem of my skirt every time I got close enough for him to reach it. A family of five. Yogurt, rice, chicken, turkey, cheese, pork, dry milk, cereal - food to feed the hungry. I want to hug them all. I want to hear their stories. I confess that I often let them take a few more items than they are eligible for - may I be forgiven for my excessive generosity. Once I was done with serving the clients, I spent half an hour breaking down five pound bags of rice into one and two pound bags. Scooping it into small zip loc bags. I smiled often as I thought about the many meals that will be made from those bags of rice. I am grateful to the many supermarkets and businesses that donate food for our friends.

* Yesterday, I went to Wednesday Worship at our church, a noon time service of quiet worship, prayer, singing, and a devotional, given by a new pastor who is becoming a dear friend. After church, I went to lunch with another woman from the church - where we talked about art and Charlotte and where my parents grew up, my interracial mariage, racism and prejudice and why I think white people need to talk to other white people about racism and not ask black people to explain it all to them.

When she returned to work at one of the big banks here in town, I went to the library where I watched a documentary called "Food Matters - You are what you eat," on my ipad and had my mind and heart challenged about the food I eat and the effect it has on my body. I spent much of the afternoon and evening pondering what I learned. Is it possible to eat my way to excellent health? What would I feel like if I ate a diet that was 80% raw, vegan and organic? At 4:30, I returned to the church to discuss an upcoming event with my pastor friend, Erika, and then drove her to get her new car. The salesman who worked with her told us some amazing stories about what he does when he's not selling cars. What a guy. What a story. What a day.

I am grateful to have the free time and the resources to go to church in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, to eat a beautiful salad at an outdoor table in the center of our fair city, to sit for hours at the public library - that amazing place where they give out books and videos and resources FOR FREE, and that I get to be closely involved with both members and pastors of our church. I am grateful for the technology of ipads and WiFi connections and headphones.

* On Tuesday, yet another friend and I drove up to Asheville to see my daughter, to take her a few goodies and also to take her out to lunch. Fortunately, Kristiana is thriving at school and making friends and doing her school work and going on adventurous walks and spending time in tea shops doing observations (two or three hours of people watching while sipping tea sounds like quite the awesome homework assignment) for her sociology classes. After meandering conversations in the car, excellent food at my new favorite restaurant, many hugs and much laughter later, we found our way back to Charlotte where she went to comfort a bereaved friend during which time I bought new undies at Marshalls, and then we reconnected for a delicious dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. I came home from dinner and watched some US Open tennis with my husband and then stumbled upstairs to bed. The last thing I wrote in my journal that night was, "What should I write about, Lord?" See? I'm always thinking about this blog, even when I'm not actually writing anything.

Have you ever seriously pondered the wonder of highway travel? The mountains, hills, and valleys flattened, the trees cut down, the property acquired so that roads can be laid. The ramps and exits and bridges and drainage, the lanes, the lane markings, the shoulders, the guard rails, the reflectors, the overpasses - the thousands of people who create all those things, manufacturing beams and paint and tar and asphalt, those who operate the machinery, and those who inspect it all to make sure it won't collapse unexpectedly. The measuring and remeasuring - because if the beams don't meet properly and the curves are not at the right angles and grades, then disaster is imminent. The upkeep and repairs are endless, it seems. Then there are the cars and trucks, the drivers and GPS systems, the CB radios, the state troopers, the tacit agreement that (for the most part) we will follow some agreed-upon rules of the road in order to not kill ourselves or others. Fortunately we have access to the tow truck drivers, the ambulance drivers and helicopters that are available when traffic rules aren't followed. Who designs and creates and manufactures and purchases and maintains and drives and improves all those rescue vehicles and the tools they employ? Who cleans up the deer and raccoons and squirrels and other critters that are killed on our roads every day? What happens to the people whose homes and property are bought and sold in order for the roads to be made? Who decides what roads need to be created and where they should begin and end? Why have I been so enormously blessed as to never run out of gas or have an accident or a flat tire while on the highway? How can I NOT be grateful for the blessing of safety on all of my journeys?

* On Monday, I made a huge green juice and ate a large salad and cleaned a little and listened to music a little and otherwise enjoyed my final day alone - Steve and Daniel were making their way home from Alabama where Daniel had participated in a tennis tournament. I read and journaled and walked my dog and watched a marathon of silly shows on television. I began this year's "Learn Something New Every Day" class with Shimelle Laine. She is a gifted teacher and guide in the world of journaling and creativity. And she is extremely generous - you sign up once and every year you get to participate in the same class again. I take this September class with her - this is probably the fifth or sixth year I've done it - and I also take her Journal Your Christmas class and have done that one for seven or eight years.

Here are a few quotes/notes I wrote in my journal that day from my current read, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen by Mark Nepo. (They are not necessarily direct quotes, but they are my response to what I read.)

- The soul's calling helps us discover our life's work. The calling of the soul is a continual call to aliveness.

- The aim of spiritual practice, whatever its form, is to untangle the nets that life snares us in.

- Life is a never-ending weave of becoming tangled and working to get untangled. I must accept the weave of tangle.

- We need to put what we've been through into the small fires between us to keep us warm for yours. (I love this image so much - that what we have endured, what has scarred us and scared us, can serve as kindling for the fires between us and keep us warm and connected and on the road to healing and wholness.)

- When someone we know and love has "fallen through the ice" in their lives and are in the frigid waters of life's challenges, we can listen to them and stay close to them. We can offer ourselves, our presence as blankets to keep them warm. We do not need to offer a rescue but we can stay close until the way out presents itself to them.

- If we want to be held, we have to behold. When present enough to behold the Universe, we will be held by the mystery.

- Direct quote - "I know I'm being held by the nature of things when I feel this ache way inside. After kanswer, I began to realize that this deep ache is the tuning fork of my soul. It is how I know I'm close to what matters. This deep and nameless ache in the presence of beauty and suffering has been a steadfast teacher and friend... The breakings of heart are awe-filled events from which I don't recover but through which I am uncovered. When I am present to the breaking process, I am broken open. When I withhold my presence, I am just broken."

* On Sunday, I went to church for an old-fashioned hymn sing which was followed by the morning service. On the way home, I stopped and wandered through the mall, where I didn't buy anything, but I thoroughly enjoyed my stroll and the people watching. From there, I went to the shop where my favorite brand of clothing is sold... Eileen Fisher. I went straight to the sale rack - and found two pieces that I invited to join the other items in my closet. Both pieces graciously accepted my invitation. The thoughtful woman behind the counter added a $25 online coupon to the 25% discount that was added to the previously marked sale price. They were practically giving those things away - not really, but it's what I told myself in order to justify buying clothes I didn't need but wanted nonetheless. All the more...

* Here's what I tell myself in those moments - "You are 48 years old, Gail. Almost 49. You have always been a bargain shopper. You still buy clothes at Good Will and the Salvation Army store. Heck, you even sew some of your own clothes. You deserve new clothes every now and then, so it is okay to buy new garments that are appropriate for your age and station in life. Go for it." Not bad as far as justification goes, right?

* Last Saturday morning, I got up early to head off to volunteer at the Sandwich Kitchen where I worked with a team of ten or twelve people making hundreds of sandwiches for our homeless neighbors in town. Then I met up with a friend and her daughter - who is planning her wedding. Can somebody say "Cake Tasting"? On display in the shop were novelty cakes in all shapes and sizes, cake pops, and cupcakes of all types and colors. Good thing I've cut back on my sugar intake or I might have taken several of those treats home. Lunch with them overlooking a golf course. Laughter and stories and job descriptions and childhood perceptions. A delightful time was had by all - especially by me.

I came home and sewed an infinity scarf from a rich purple knit fabric. I had cut a skirt from the same fabric on Friday night and with the leftover fabric, I made the scarf. I had an unusually difficult time getting the fabric to lie flat on the cutting board and the results of my imprecision and impatience were evident when I attempted to sew the skirt together. Disastrously uneven edges on the sides and the bottom. I'm hoping I can convert the maxi skirt to a knee-length skirt and salvage the project. Considering the fact that I have made several skirts and scarves and dresses without any similar difficulties, I am not as upset as I could be.

Every time I make a garment while sitting comfortably at my dining/craft table, cooled with air conditioned, satiated with ice water, able to get up and stretch and take breaks and postpone completion for hours or days at a time, I am mindful of the thousands, the millions of people who create clothing in sweatshop conditions. I am mindful of how little they get paid and how much they are taken for granted or not even thought about when we wander through stores and malls and even tag sales. I am grateful for their hard work and sacrifice. I am grateful for the ability to buy clothing and fabric and thread and grateful for electricity and the internet and curiosity and everything else that has made my sewing hobby possible.

* Last Friday morning, I met my mother for breakfast at Panera - her treat, thanks, Mom. We talked and laughed and she flirted with the toddler at the next table. When I left, she was sitting at the table with a fresh cup of coffee creating a grocery list and planning out the rest of her day. I went and meandered around in a Good Will store, where I didn't buy anything but thoroughly enjoyed the few moments I spent there. Of course my mind wandered while I wandered - who brought these things to the store? Why did they let these things go? Are they downsizing and no longer want these items? Did they upsizing and can no longer fit into these items? Who has bought the things I've taken to Good Will? Who thought of this idea - selling used clothes and household goods on such a large scale? Who decided that this business would be focused on providing work for people who sometimes cannot find work in more "traditional" businesses? What am I doing here? I don't need anything - that's when I left. But notice - that line of thinking did not stop me from buying garments at the Eileen Fisher store two days later.

When I got home from that visit to Good Will, I spent an hour or so organizing and decluttering the garage. I filled the back seat of the car with things that we needed to pass along. It feels so good to reduce and recycle those things that are no longer useful to us. May those who find them be as blessed to have them as we were.

And that takes me back to last Thursday, when I wrote the last Thankful Thursday post.

Why didn't I blog all week? I was busy living. I was busy being awed by the gift of life, of friendship, of love. I was reading and journaling and talking on the phone and exercising and laughing and telling stories and scrolling through Pinterest photos and cooking and cleaning and driving and eating and praying and spending time with friends. I was obsessing about my hairline and my waistline and how much money I spend and how much our hardwood floors need to be refinished and our need for new gutters on the house and whether or not I would forget an appointment and hurt a friend's feelings or be charged a no-show fee by some money hungry doctor or dentist. I was texting with my daughter and talking to my son, laughing at my husband's antics and trying to figure out why our dog threw up in three different places in the house on the same day.

I was shaking my head and feeling outrage at the racism, sexism, religious intolerance, and gun violence that are wounding and dividing our country. Does a child really need to learn how to shoot an Uzi? How can we be shocked or surprised that the powerful recoil of such a weapon caused her to lose control of it? What were they all thinking? I pray for that young girl and her family and the family of the man who died - and I pray that they will never, ever, ever feel the need to pick up a gun again. Ever. I was praying for peace, for forgiveness, for provision, for safety for people I knew and for their children who were traveling, for discernment on various decisions I need to make, for those who are sick, for people in search of gainful employment, adding "and please bless all people everywhere" frequently.

I have lived a beauty-filled, wonder-filled, joy-filled, tear-filled week. I am grateful for this Thankful Thursday habit I have created and for the opportunity I give myself each week to look back and recall the many miracles and gifts that come my way.

Thank you for inspiring me to be aware of the majesty, the devastation, the joy, the despair, the need, the bounty, and the pageantry of life and for encouraging me to keep on sharing what I see and feel. Thanks be to God.

FYI - I am not involved in any affiliate programs for any of the courses or books or other items I post on my blog. I connect you to them because they matter to me.

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