Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thankfulness, Part 2

During the month of November, I've been posting "thankful" posts each day of November.  Here are the posts from November 11-20.  

I am thankful for sunshine.  Early dawn mornings, when the eastern sky begins to lighten from nighttime to gray, I know that soon the sun will cast its first brilliant beams into the world, bringing all the colors with it.  On chilly days, I love to find a sunny spot so I can feel the warmth upon my skin.   The sunshine hits the trees; in the vaults of my mind I recall an elementary school science lesson about photosynthesis, where I realized that the sunshine and trees were directly related to the fresh air I can breathe.  Even on “bad” or unhappy days, the sunshine reminds me that brighter days are ahead.  Yes, today I am thankful for sunshine.

I am thankful for freedom.  Today we honor our US Veterans for their sacrifices to win and keep our national freedom.  I never experienced military life but I very much appreciate the freedom that my country offers to me.  I am thankful for my personal freedom as well.  Life is too precious to waste time in chains, either real or imagined.  Yes, today I am thankful for freedom.

I am thankful for my friends.  Some friends I’ve known my entire life – a few of them are cousins as well as friends.  A special friend was there for me during the roughest days of my life, with her smile and words of encouragement.  More recently, I discovered that it can be tough being the “new kid on the block” when you are over 50, but a handful of dear folks have made a big difference since I moved here. Then there is my online girlfriends group -- a source of support and laughter every single day.  I’ve “known” some of those ladies for over 10 years now.  In my circle of friends, I am also blessed to have many precious friends from Ghana, a couple from Australia and Tasmania, some from Honduras, Sri Lanka, China, and Canada.  I realize that I am blessed with friends from all walks of life, many different faiths, and from all around the world.  It is through my friendship connections that I believe I can see the face of God.  Yes, today I am thankful for my friends. 

I am thankful for my comfortable, warm bed.  At the end of a day when I’ve worked hard in the yard or in the house, I am glad when I can at last crawl in between the fresh clean sheets and pull a blanket over myself before I drift off into dreamland.  On cold mornings (like this one), I am especially grateful that I can snuggle in my toasty cocoon.  Since retiring, I still wake up at my usual 5:15 time but now I can just smile, roll over and sleep a little while longer – a pleasure denied while I was working!  Yes, today I am thankful for my comfortable, warm bed.

I am thankful for real-life heroes.  Not sports figures or movie stars, but REAL PEOPLE I have known.  Like the young lady fighting for her life at Duke as she endures treatment for cancer, and her mother who remains cheerful and optimistic in the face of the challenges faced by her daughter.  Or like my elementary school principal who later became the superintendent – a gentleman who encouraged me throughout my entire educational experience and hired me for my first teaching job.  Then there’s my friend who is serving on the Mercy Ship in the Congo, giving two years of her life to help folks on the other side of the world.  Friends I know who have broken through barriers of racism and sexism.  I know a couple of gentle women who took in and raised children who needed a good stable home.  These are just a few of the real-life heroes I have been blessed to know.   Yes, today I am thankful for real-life heroes.

I am thankful for prayer.  It is comforting to me that I can say or think a prayer at any time of the day or night.  I believe God hears and answers all prayers; sometimes the answers are not what we expected, or even what we thought we wanted – but all things work out for good with time.  My prayers are not flowery; often they’re just simple sentences, uttered here and there.  It is a divine privilege to speak to my Creator, and to believe He listens.  Yes, today I am thankful for prayer.

I am thankful for grace.  It is hard to explain exactly what grace is.  The dictionary defines it as favor or goodwill, mercy, clemency, or reprieve.  I think it involves understanding that each person is human and prone to make mistakes, and we all need to extend grace to each other because we all need grace extended to us as well. In other words:  forgive, don’t hold grudges, do not judge.   Sadly, many people spend a lifetime going to church services and still don’t grasp that concept.  A grudge is way too heavy to hang on to, it weighs down your life’s journey.  Grace extended, grace received.  Yes, today I am thankful for grace. 

I am thankful for daffodils.  I think they must be my favorite flower because I’m so glad to see them after a long cold dark gloomy winter.  Lovely golden daffodils are one of the first heralds of springtime and re-birth.  I like driving through the country in the spring and seeing old “home places” that have neat rows of daffodils nodding their heads in the sunshine.  Someone, some time, put down roots there enough to plant beautiful flowers in the yard.  Often the house is crumbling or has even been torn down, but the sunny yellow flowers come back every spring as if to beckon a human to come back and make a home there again.  I have planted daffodils in the yard of every place I’ve ever lived.  Long after my days here are gone, they will come back and bloom as if to say “Hello, Beautiful World!”  That thought makes me smile.  They have no idea that they help to create that “beautiful world.” Yes, today I am thankful for daffodils.

I am thankful for inner strength.  Sometimes I have to rely on it when I don’t think I have it in me.  There have been a few times when I surprised myself.  It is tough to go through adversity, particularly when you feel alone.  But God bolsters us from within, and it is good to know that you can put your head into the wind and keep pushing forward.  We women sometimes refer to that as putting on our “big girl panties” and dealing with life.  A quote from A. A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” comes to my mind:  “Promise me you’ll always remember:  You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  Yes, today I am thankful for inner strength. 

I am thankful for hugs.  A hug can be a pat on the back, a gentle squeeze, an offering of a shoulder to cry on, or a giant bear hug.  But every variety sends a message of care.  I missed an opportunity to share a hug with a dear friend on Sunday (and I think we both needed hugs), so I am counting on seeing her again soon.  In the meantime, here are some cyber-(((HUGS))) for you all.  Yes, today I am thankful for hugs. 

I am thankful for things my mother taught me. I could spend a year telling you why I am thankful for my mother, but today I’ll just focus on a few things she taught me.  Like how to act like a lady, how to sing harmony, and how to love teenagers in a classroom.  She taught me to view life optimistically, to study my Sunday School lesson, to keep a piece of chalk in the silver chest to keep the silverware from tarnishing.  By watching her, I learned to make Russian Tea (the secret is using GOOD oranges!), how to moisten thread before I push it through the eye of a needle then wrap the thread around my finger and roll it off to make a knot.   I learned to be kind to others – when I left for college she told me that the cleaning lady of my dorm deserved the same dignity as the college dean, so I should respect them equally (something I have tried to apply with all people I meet).  She gave me a love of books and reading.  She gave me a love of music – and to this day when I hear a piano playing Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” I can remember sitting on the living room floor listening to my mother play. I learned that a smile is the most basic fashion accessory you can have. These are just a few things I have learned from my mother.  Yes, today I am thankful for things my mother taught me.   

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