Thursday, February 08, 2018

Thankful Thursday - The Simple Things in Life

Some of my best times of prayer are when I look out my kitchen window while washing dishes.
Those are often the moments when I am most grateful.
After all, doing dishes means that my family and I have eaten.
And eating means that someone planted, tended, harvested, packaged, and transported the food to a market where my husband or I (or more recently my gainfully employed daughter) bought the food and brought it home.

I am thankful for food.

And if we've brought the food home, that means our cars are working well.
There is electricity to keep the traffic lights in order, so that we can travel safely,
so that we can keep our food cool or frozen, and later we can cook it.

Someone made made these pots and pans and dishes and silverware.
Someone made kitchen appliances.
Someone built this house we live in.
Someone made the bricks that keep our house upright and strong, warm and cool.
Someone laid out this street and this neighborhood.
Someone engineered the streets and turns, the tunnels and bridges, the overpasses and underpasses through which all these materials, these appliances, these pots and pans, these groceries traveled to reach our house, down at the end of our street, so that we could eat and be strong.

I am thankful for engineers and manufacturers and construction workers.

I cannot forget about the folks at the water treatment facilities who keep clean water flowing in and out of our homes. I know that many would and do argue that the water we drink is laced with chemicals and medications, with chlorine and other things that aren't great for our bodies and our health. I don't argue with those people. I drink the water that is filtered through our refrigerator filter. But I wash our dishes with tap water, and I shower in it, and I use it to brush my teeth. It may not be the purest water, but it is pure enough to keep us alive and hydrated.

I am thankful for water.

In order for us to have water and food, a home and working automobiles, someone has to work. In our home, that someone is my faithful husband. For more than thirty years, he has worked consistently to provide for our family. And for the three months in 2002 when he was unemployed, he searched diligently until he found and was offered the job he has now. I was enormously blessed to be able to quit my job as a teacher, coach, and college counselor so I could raise our children, homeschool them, and usher them off to college. Now I'm a seminary student. All because my sweet husband works so hard and earns enough to support us and provide for us. It is my fervent hope and prayer that I will soon be employed as well, serving God and God's people with my whole heart... and also earning a paycheck that will contribute to the upkeep of our home, our son's college tuition, and a couple more trips to Madrid too.

I am grateful for a husband whose diligence has made my life and my children's lives much easier than many other people's lives. I am grateful for the possibility of work, for the hope of contributing to and participating in the work of God in the world.

I have often stood at our kitchen sink, hands submerged in warm, soapy water, and thought, "I am so thankful for this life I get to live. I am thankful for the simple things in life, the simple pleasures."

I am enormously grateful for simple things like
* salt grinders
* loose tea leaves
* local honey in my tea
* olive oil from Spain
* matcha green tea from Japan
* strawberries from California
* fragrant India temple massage oil from Yogaville
* flowers in bloom
* the sound of rain
* the scratch of the pen on the pages of my journal
* chopping up almonds and dried cherries, dried mango and crystallized ginger for homemade dark chocolate bark
* the steam from the iron as I iron my clothes
* clean sheets and warm towels
* laughter with a friend
* prayer with someone facing a challenge

But as I have gotten older, as I look back on the battles we have won around here, as I contemplate the many journeys we have taken and the fact that, almost without exception, we have arrived home unscathed, uninjured, minds and souls intact, I am reminded that very few things in life are truly simple. So much goes into the production of the things and moments and people that make up our lives and our days.

As I scroll back through the many blog posts I have written here, as I take journals off the shelves here in my study and flip through them - sometimes looking for specific information tucked away in them; sometimes just rereading accounts of moments long forgotten - I am reminded of the great blessings of my life. The love I have known. The fear I have felt. The hope I have clung to. The dread I have endured. I am reminded of the trips I have taken both out into the world, and deep inside my own heart and soul.

I am grateful for every moment of this life
the good, the bad, the ugly
the spectacular, the messy, the ordinary
the painful, the joyful, the hopeful
all that is, all that has been, and all that is yet to be

Francesca Johnson said it well at the end of the movie version of "The Bridges of Madison County:"
"There is so much beauty."
Indeed there is so much that is beautiful, even in the midst of pain and ugliness.
So much for which to give thanks.

As the days of my life have become the decades of my life, I am reminded more and more frequently of the final words of one of the best books I have ever read. It's called Interpreter of Maladies, and it was written by Jhumpa Lahiri. It was her first book, a book of short stories, and it earned her the Pulitzer Prize.

The final chapter of the book is called, "The Third and Final Continent." It is the tale of a man from India who is reflecting on the wonder of his life and how he ended up where he ends up. This is how his memoir ends: "While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination."

Yes and amen.

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