Be Thankful, You Ingrate!

blog-give-thanks-pumpkins

As I was going for our daily country drive (which seems to be the only way to get my baby daughter to take a decent nap), I passed a church with a sign out front that simply read:

Be thankful for what you have. 

The message of that sign really hit home. In the words of a former pastor, “If you can’t say amen, say ouch!”

I’ll be 100% honest with you: I can often be an entitled ingrate, grinding my teeth at the abundance enjoyed by others, mistaking my own feast for leftover crumbs.

We’re currently looking to buy our first house in a new city because my work is relocating there. We’ve fallen in love with 6 houses, have bid on 6 houses, and lost on 6 houses.

The real estate market is hot, prices are at an all-time high, and we’re feeling pretty low and discouraged. It’s easy, so easy, to let my thoughts turn bitter, to clench my fists at the unfairness of it all. It’s so easy to forget all the ways in which God has been faithful.

blog-thanks-banner

But the words of the sign are a wonderful reminder:

Be thankful for what you have. 

And if you stop to think about it, that’s a lot. 

As I drive down country roads lined with trees turned orange and red, fields that shine gold in the sunshine, I often look in my rearview mirror to see the sweet sleeping face of my daughter who, just a year ago, was a tiny bit of cells joining together. The blessing I didn’t know I had.

And my heart swells with thanks.

 

Advertisements

All You Need is Love

Last night I dreamt that I was pushing my nephew in a stroller around the mall. I would say to him, “I love you!” and he would say back to me, “I love you too!”

I woke up feeling drenched in love and the feeling has not left me.

photo courtesy of google image search — “surrounded by love”

As today marks the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I’m reminded of how short life is and how important friends and family are.

If you’re in my life, you’re there for a reason, and today, and every day, I thank God for you.

You are valuable.

Every moment we spend together is valuable, and I treasure your precious time, the present of your presence.

I think I lose sight of it sometimes, and I get so ensnared in pettiness and fears and busyness and I don’t remember what matters.

People matter. You matter, and without your friendship and your love I wouldn’t have much of a life at all.

I love you.

photo courtesy of google image search

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in)]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go, you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

— e.e cummings, from Complete Poems: 1904-1962

Living the Good “Chai”

Chai is the Hebrew word for life, so let’s celebrate it. Let’s raise our glasses to us, to ourselves, to each other, and drink deeply to the good chai and all its daily wonders.

life is a gift we can choose to unwrap

The only ones for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars …  — Jack Kerouac

Here’s to the dreamers, the seers, the believers and deep sleepers.

Here’s to secret keepers, weepers, sighers and wishers.

Here’s to the pioneers, the forerunners, the trailblazers and groundbreakers, the innovators, the strivers and succeeders.

Here’s to the thinkers and feelers, the followers, the resolvers, the carers and creators and supporters.

Here’s to careerists, to workers, to healers and helpers and everyday heroes.

Here’s to the inbetweeners, the 9-5ers, the punch-in / punch-outers, the stepping stoners, the mobile phoners, the just-get-byers and one-more-dayers.

“you and me and five bucks”

Here’s to the cafe lingerers, the hummers and singers, the coffee spoon clinkers and fresh air drinkers.

Here’s to the ones that wake up, back to sun, already undone as the alarm sounds their impending day.

Here’s to the ones that jump out of bed roaring, ready to attack the invaders of peace.

Here’s to wallflowers blossoming in corners.

Here’s to late-bloomers who make the sweetest flowers.

Here’s to the broken who are just on the mend, and here’s to the soothers with honey in their hush.

Here’s to dwellers of the Land of Someday, the citizens of Maybe and the clairvoyants of Tomorrow. Here’s to the keepers of the Past, and the ones that live on the high mountain of It’s Possible.

the best time to celebrate is whenever you can

And here’s to the moments that make this life rich and wonderful and, well, worth rising for.

Here’s to:

Evenings you could drink in a cup, the sun setting in resplendence, the trees lush and green and waving good-bye to a day fully lived.

Hundreds of hands raised and swaying like sea anemone in the strobe lights at a raucous concert and everyone nodding yes and music pumping in hearts and stomachs.

Hands fingering tall weeds and grass as you stroll.

A friend lovingly touching your hair.

Pink sky, blue lake.

Cities still sleeping at 4 am, lights across water twinkling.

Long stretches of road to be driven down, roads winding leading to stories yet untold, country roads with stories in the overgrown brush and untended fields.

Idling atop your car, looking out onto the world with quiet meditation and good music instrumenting what words cannot express.

Getting fresh air, getting fresh thoughts.

Hope spoken in ocean spray and whispering winds.

Teaching toddlers to speak Pirate and tickle the clouds with their feet on the swing set.

Soy lattes made with love by singing baristas.

The world made magical by sunshine, strength, and possibility.

All I was searching for was me

But if it just hurts too much, and you can’t see the sun for the clouds, and you feel like everything in your life is broken,

remember:

Keep your head up. Keep your heart strong.

Celebrate one thing and celebrate it anyway, and distract yourself with something beautiful, knowing that this too shall pass.

Gracias

Thanks = gracias.

Gracias = grace. Grace–to thank; to show favour; God’s favour or help; pardon, divine grace, mercy, elegance, virtue; enjoying favour; to show gratitude.

We say grace before meals to thank God for the blessing of food and the community of others gathered around the dinner table. On Thanksgiving (which is this weekend in Canada), we pause and reflect on all of the ways in which we have been blessed. We feast, we break bread, we gift loved ones with our time and share a meal or two. We feast on the extravagant beauty of nature set on fire by autumn’s Midas touch, we commune with nature and ourselves and the God who blessed our eyes with changing seasons, our faces with sunshine, and our bodies with fresh air.

The view from my Niagara Escarpment. I am incredibly blessed to live in such a beautiful area

This Thanksgiving, we here in Southern Ontario are enjoying an autumn weekend that feels like summer, only the leaves are painted in a riot of colour–a beauty which nearly escapes language or depiction. As I’m sitting here on the back porch with my laptop, enjoying my third cup of tea of the day and listening to the wind delicately rustle the leaves on the trees, I’m thinking about all the things for which I have to be thankful, the things that demand my saying grace.

I’m thankful for the BIG:

For my parents and my highly functional, solid upbringing and happy childhood. For the morals instilled in me at a young age, Biblical principles, and leftist political tendencies. For the country drives and airport pickups, Kinder Surprises, and Starbucks runs. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for my incredible parents.

For my three siblings without whom life would be a lot less funny and a lot less bearable. For the similar, kooky sense of humour and the fact that we can communicate with mere looks. For the phone calls from Alberta, sharing of music, and automatic support system. I’ve always loved that there are four of us and am happy we’ve all grown up to remain good friends.

For my wonderful sister-in-law who couldn’t be a better fit to our weird and wonderful family and my adorable nephew, who has made my life so much more expansive and laughter-filled in the two years he’s been on earth.

For my cousins, who are few and far between but absolutely amazing–all of them. For cousin D. who is more like a friend who just so happens to be related to me and the way we’ve gotten even closer in the past few years.

For my dog that likes to sleep on my bed by my feet whenever I’m working on my laptop.

For my friend L. and her daughter (my niece), and for all of the fun and wisdom she’s shared with me all of these years–my sister from another mister.

For my friend B., the soothing haven that is her home (wherever it happens to be), and for the tea and sympathy that has been a balm to my soul.

For my friend M. with whom every slight occurrence is, was, or will be an inside joke and the esoteric language we speak that only we can understand.

For my coworkers–the guys who are like big brothers to me and the girls with whom I always laugh my butt off, and the customers who have turned into friends.

For my small church community that is more of a second family than it is an institution.

For the means and the opportunity to travel this summer to the UK, for R. and L. who were the perfect travel companions, and for all of the adventures we had on that trip of a lifetime.

For blog friends from across the continent who seem to be going through the same things I am and the encouragement and inspiration we give each other.

I'm thankful for cuddles with my furry boyfriend!

And I’m thankful for the seemingly LITTLE:

For that first sip of the first cup of tea of the day.

For my financial course.

For good books bought for $2.00 each at Value Village.

For incredible songs by The Cave Singers, Isbells, Foy Vance, Golden Kanine, The Shins, Rae Morris, Lucy Rose, etc. that I currently have been playing on rotation.

For the ability to walk up the escarpment several times a week.

For my book club.

For poetry written at 4:45 a.m.

For smiles from strangers.

For my new laptop.

For hugs.

For graffiti written in the fitting room at Winners: Above all else, remember you are beautiful.

Whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend or in November, what are some of the things (big or little) for which you are thankful?

One Thousand (and counting!)

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

So it seems I’ll have to add Ann Voskamp to my ever-increasing list of women writers who inspire me. After hearing about her from Christine and checking out her blog, I decided to purchase her book, One Thousand Gifts, from Amazon. It’s absolutely gorgeous and her writing style is infused with poetry. I’m reading it slowly and savouring it, which is just how I feel it should be read.

In the book, she works on making an ongoing list of God’s little daily gifts–things for which she is grateful. She keeps a Gratitude Journal (something Sarah Ban Breathnach also recommends keeping) and in doing so, discovers just how blessed she truly is. While it may at first seem trite (“I’m thankful for chocolate? Really?”), Voskamp shows how a heart overflowing with gratitude actually brings one closer to God:

I think how God-glory in a cheese ring might seem trifling. Even offensive, to focus the lens of a heart on the minute, in a world mangled and maimed and desperately empty.

I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.

–from One Thousand Things, AnnVoskamp. Zondervan, 2010.

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

I’ve started my own Gratitude Journal and I’m noticing that ever since I started recording the tiny little things in life that make me smile and my heart say thanks, I’m much more aware of their abundance. And when I’m noticing, aware, saying thanks, and recording, I’m in a constant state of prayer. Gratitude is a beautiful thing.

Here is a portion of my gratitude list thus far:

1.  receiving books in the mail

2.  finding old letters from good friends and rereading them

3.  yoga by candlelight

4.  napping under a thick pile of blankets

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

5.  a tree in Vineland adorned with tiny china teacups

6.  pictures of tea and personal tea rituals

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

7.  my Billy bookshelf stacked with books

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

8.  piecrust

9.  the craft aisle at Walmart

10.  pink toenails

11.  church bells

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

12.  personal, amateur photographs

13.  smooth black ink on the blank white pages of my journal

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

14.  a hot shower after shoveling the snow

15.  the sky turning light blue to orange gold at 6:30 a.m.

16.  dancing to The Smiths first thing in the morning at work

17.  licking honey off the lip of a teacup

18.  dessert first!

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

19.  thin steam rising from a coffee cup, dancing and curling

20.  listening to Nick Drake’s meditative “Black Eyed Dog” on my bed with my eyes closed as the sun sets and my dog’s  head rests on my arm

A Christmas Full of Thanksgiving

for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

The last few days have been tough for my family with the sudden passing of my uncle. When something like this happens so close to a season when you’re supposed to be jubilant and jolly, you really begin to see that for many people, “the most wonderful time of the year” is more like “the most difficult time of the year.”

Grief is a complex and interesting thing, and in that state of fragility, many emotions come to the surface when you’re least expecting them. Standing in the checkout line at Dollarama. Driving along a country road listening to Christmas carols on the radio. You’re more sensitive to the smallest of slights, whether real or imagined, and sifting through the myriad feelings of hurt, anger, relief, hope, resentment, shock, and peace can leave you feeling exhausted. It’s hard to keep the tears from spilling over when someone cuts you off in traffic or bumps into you in a crowded store and doesn’t apologize or deletes your comments on Facebook, and to remind yourself that–like all things–this too shall pass

Despite everything, my heart is overflowing with gratitude for all of the many gifts and blessings in my life, both big and small. Even though Thanksgiving is traditionally the holiday for counting one’s blessings, I think it’s even more important to be grateful in the midst of loss and pain. As a friend used to ask, “Are your hurts going to make you bitter or better?

In no particular order, I am thankful for:

  • Amazing friends. You know who you are, and whether we see each other on a regular basis or hardly at all, I love you and keep you in my thoughts. Thanks for the encouraging text messages, coffee dates, listening ears, prayers, and most importantly, the gift of your friendship. Some of you have really helped me through some difficult things especially this past year, and I’m eternally grateful for your unconditional support. A special shout-out to both my Book Club and Writing Circle. Cheers to dovetailing interests!
  • The best family ever. We may be small, but we’ve got a heck of a lot of love for each other and have dealt with more than our fair share of death! However, we’re stronger than ever and continue to prove that blood is thicker than water. I have incredibly strong, spiritual, powerhouse parents who are still as much in love as they were in the 1970s and my mom is my best friend who knows me better than anyone. I have an inspiring big sister who has followed her heart and is carving her own path in Alberta. I have a loving and sensitive big brother, a wise and beautiful sister-in-law, and the sweetest little nephew who has captured my heart. I have a hilarious little brother who is 20 going on 25, and an affectionate and loyal pet schnauzer. I have a handful of pretty amazing aunts and uncles and the best cousins ever, one of whom feels more like a pal who just so happens to have had a very similar upbringing. Whew … I could write a novel about how fantastic my family is, but I mean every word of it!
  • Music, always and forever. I don’t know you personally, Marcus Mumford and Sufjan Stevens, but your beautiful music has especially spoken to me in the past few months (and you’re both rumoured Anglicans. Interesting.) Your faith is inspiring and something reflected so creatively in your art. As you sing in “Thistle & Weeds,” Marcus, I will hold on hope. For your listening pleasure, here’s my favourite band of 2010 by far:
  • Beautiful books. Specifically this year, I think of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, both of which have had a profound effect on me.
  • The simple, everyday moments that take your breath away with their perfect orchestration. The other day, I was sitting in the coffee  shop waiting for my friends to arrive and drinking a chai latte. For a brief moment, no one in the coffee shop spoke any louder than a whisper, if at all. No milk was being steamed and no smoothies were being blended. “Dream a Little Dream of Me” was playing on the radio. Sun was streaming through the window. In the words of Stephen Chbosky, and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.

it goes without saying, but most of all, i'm thankful for this--the fount of every blessing

  • Favourite hymn + favourite band =

On that lovely note, let this be my bloggish Christmas card to you: my friends, my family, and the wild and wonderful blogosphere which has provided me with some great friends.

Wishing you comfort and joy this holiday season.

Little Things

keep your chin up, buttercup!

Dudes.

When I named my year The Year of TRUST, I had no idea that beginning January 2nd, God would begin to test my faith in every little area in my life, including some very big things. To be completely honest with you, it’s like He’s saying to me, “You named your year The Year of TRUST. So how much do you really trust me?”

My answer to that, I’m afraid, is sometimes not that much.

When your faith is being tested, especially when it comes to some big things, it’s difficult to stay positive. It’s hard to keep your chin up and not get discouraged with the fact that your life seems to be at a standstill. It’s a constant battle of the mind and ignoring the thoughts that tell you you’re a failure and your situation will never change with every empty inbox, every day the phone doesn’t ring … when it seems like God has been so busy blessing the lives of others and throwing opportunities their way that He’s forgotten to take you down from the shelf, and you’re just getting older every day, collecting dust.

what doesn't kill you ...

BUT.

God is in the details. This I know. Sometimes I get so caught up in turning these BIG THINGS around in my head, over and over, until they become ginormous and monstrous and grotesque, that I forget to notice the ways in which He’s been speaking to me in the little minute details of the everyday. Sometimes I throw myself the grandest, most elaborate Pity Parties known to humankind, and feel so badly that I’m dancing with myself and all these issues and fail to notice that He’s dancing with me, hand-to-hand, guiding my feet … and when it gets too hard to keep dancing, He graciously lets me place my tired feet on His.

So I’m trying to count my blessings, even when my faith is weak and nothing seems to be falling in place. I’m trying to shut up and let go. Let go and let God. And spend more time meditating on all the wonderful, lovely things in my life and thanking Him for them than constantly going over my troubles and demanding Him to do something about it already!

I am thankful for these things in my life, big and small:

All the single ladies!

My friends. This is the craziest, silliest, girlie-est group of girls you will ever meet. And I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else.

Me and the siblings, and baby Liam

My family. My parents and sister-in-law aren’t in this picture, but you get the idea. As I’ve gotten older, my parents have become my good friends, and have been so patient, understanding, and encouraging to me during this time. And my siblings … well, let’s just say that when we’re all together, people outside our family can’t understand a word we’re saying because we all have very zany senses of humour that, when combined, results in nonsense and hilarity. I also have the best sister-in-law in the whole world. True story.

my nephew Liam

My baby nephew Liam. Words can’t describe how much I love this handsome dude. When he smiles at me, my heart just melts into a puddle of mush. He’s got his auntie wrapped around his chubby little fingers!

He's a talented dog!

My dog Sammy. He’s the #3 man in my life, after Jesus and Liam. One of his favourite spots in the whole house is on my bed, snuggled up to one of my sweaters, and he seems to always know when I need some cuddles.

photo courtesy of http://www.weheartit.com

My book club. I’m so excited for our first meeting on February 21! And I’m grateful for the ability to do things now that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, like start a book club, learn how to knit, and rewrite a novel I wrote in Grade 8.

I’m also grateful for hot cups of delicious tea, trips to Starbucks, job hunting coffee dates with my dear friend at the local café, sunshiney blue sky days like today, and the times I spend in prayer.

How about you? What do you do to keep yourself afloat when nothing seems to be going your way?