#Thanksgiving: A Gratitude Workout

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder… When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”  G.K. Chesterton

Thanksgiving arrives tomorrow in the U.S. For many of us this year’s holiday will differ greatly from years past. It may not be the Thanksgiving we hoped or planned due to the current escalation of COVID-19 in our country.

Things are difficult right now. It may take a bit of doing to be grateful.

This week we may not be together in person to share celebratory feasts, but we can still partake with thanksgiving by giving our hearts a gratitude workout.

It’s easy to be thankful when good things fill our lives, but an attitude of gratitude goes a long way when life is hard. Perhaps because it’s difficult, we can appreciate the good in our lives even more.

Living overseas this redhead missed many Thanksgivings – it was a workday, not a holiday. One year in Tanzania after a long day of meetings I picked up Indian take-away at 9:00PM, partaking with gratitude when my parents called to wish me “Happy Thanksgiving!” All those Thanksgivings away from family made me appreciate their love and presence in my life even more.

Maybe this year we can’t be with loved ones, but we can give thanks for their love. We can also thank God for constants in our lives, what keeps love and hope growing in our hearts.

Papa gave thanks to God every day for Mama!!

My (in-pain-24/7) bedfast quadriplegic papa began every morning by giving thanks. Papa couldn’t even wipe his nose, but he always said: “My blessings outweigh my challenges.” Every morning he counted his blessings then asked God for help facing his challenges.

Taking a lesson from my papa, why not pause and give our hearts a gratitude workout today? Thank God for Heavenly paintbrushes busy around us and within us, the provision of vibrant grace to face our challenges, for our loved ones near and far, and for the presence of Eternal Love in our hearts…

We are never alone!

grace, peace & gratitude workouts

Virginia  : )

“It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.”  Tim Keller

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Fall (Gasp-Gorgeous) TREES and LEAVES!

Last week Virginia and her brother Dwight enjoyed another staycation daytripping close to home. We had plotted driving several hours to the mountains to see fall leaves, but found plenty of fall colors right outside our front door.

One of our dogwood trees clapping with color last week…

Instead of spending a whole day in the car we decided to drive down the Colonial Parkway, a 23 mile scenic cobblestone-ish road maintained by the National Park Service that connects Jamestown to Yorktown. It’s a beautiful drive in any season, but truly gasp-gorgeous last week as fall leaves peaked here in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The Colonial Parkway (a fall peak view)

With a plethora of gasp-gorgeous trees on display, it felt like we were driving through Tolkien’s Lothlórien.

Even on a cloudy day, yellow leaves took my breath away!

We enjoyed our Parkway crawl last Monday so much that on Tuesday we drove down the Colonial Parkway, again! On Monday we journeyed across the York River to points further afield in Gloucester, VA, while on Tuesday we traipsed about Yorktown, VA.

We were glad to be visiting Yorktown on Tuesday when we saw the Coleman Memorial Bridge to Gloucester open for a Very Long Time as a big ship passed through.

Later in the week we meandered around the streets of our hometown Williamsburg, catching trees like these on every corner.

A peek at fall trees “peaking” in Colonial Williamsburg

Gasp-gorgeous trees in Colonial Williamsburg

grace, peace & gasp-gorgeous trees

Virginia : )

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12

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Quickie Quote: In This Moment

As turbulence continues to shake our world and knock our serenity down a few notches, here’s a timely reminder…

“God is God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful and painful.” Henri Nouwen

 “Be still and know that I Am God.” Psalm 46:10

grace, peace  & present moments

Virginia : )

Photos: James River (James City County, Virginia)

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VERVE AND NERVE

Virginia’s definition of verve = Guts. Gumption. Courage to have at it.

Virginia had verve in spades at various times in her life, but these days hesitation has done something to her nerve, a vital requirement for verve.

Why hesitate? The question, “What will others think?” (a nerve blocker of calamitous proportions) usually tops the list.

Putting ourselves out there the possibility of rejection exists. When rejections pile up their weight crushes our nerve and verve to try again.

Another nerve-and-verve crusher? Apathy. Sometimes we put ourselves out there and there’s no response. We pour our hearts into our art (or whatever we are putting out there) and there’s nothing. Nada.

Sometimes it’s not our art, it’s us. We put ourselves out there for new relationships and BANG, the door of rejection slams in our face.  Or, once again, apathy leaves us feeling unsettled in our innards.

When our verve and nerve desert us it’s hard to keep on going – to be brave, to give it another go. (Trying again is verve’s specialty.)

It’s easier to wall ourselves into finite fortresses. Constrained by walls, our verve and nerve slip into stagnant pools of resignation. We isolate ourselves and give up on our dreams that demand verve and nerve.

But, here’s the kicker: If we give up, we will never know how far we can go. “Fall down seven times get up eight.”

Yes, people can be mean and unconscionable. Yes, rejection is painful. Yes, apathy hits us hard in our innards.

But, if we don’t try, we’ll never know how far we can go.

Thomas Edison tried 1,000 times before creating a workable light bulb. Madeleine L’ Engle received 25+ rejections before her now famous book “A Wrinkle in Time” found a publisher. That’s heaps of failure and rejection to manage.

But, they didn’t give up.

Here’s the deal. If your verve and nerve reservoirs are in low ebb at the moment, just do it. The next step, however small, take it. Let nerve and verve out of their finite fortresses, polish stagnant stuff away with courage, and try again.

Now is the time. Don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes. Let nerve strengthen your verve to KEEP ON GOING.

grace, peace & nervy verve

Virginia : )

“We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.” Madeleine L’Engle

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Quickie Quote (the Hope-filled kind!)

On this ponderous Friday here’s an inspirational quote from one of my favorite authors to keep on going amidst whatever we are facing…

“Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.” J.R.R. Tolkien

grace, peace & new days!

Virginia : )

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(a little more) CIVILITY, PLEASE!

As we head into evening on Election Day in the USA, Virginia (the person) thinks it might be a good idea to contemplate CIVILITY. Here are relevant excerpts from a blog she posted during the last presidential election in 2016. BTW, I wanted to put up a KIRK/SPOCK 2020 yard sign this year, but my brother said this election is nothing to joke about. No kidding! If you haven’t voted, please head for the polls before they close!

What happened to civility in our political discourse?

On Sunday a spiffy Cadillac pulled up next to me at a stoplight. As the tinted window buzzed down, I thought, “Have I done something wrong?” Then a well-heeled lady waved and said, “My husband and I want to thank you. Your bumper sticker made us laugh all down this road, something we haven’t done much lately. Wherever did you get it?”

When the light changed, my spirits lifted with theirs as we drove our separate ways.

This American election season has been polarizing and depressing to folks from all ends of the political spectrum, and to the indecisive bouncing betwixt volatile extremes. Social media antics have increased the stress factor. Some posts on Facebook and other outlets have made me cringe. People boast they have “unfriended” those of differing views.

Name calling, nasty rhetoric, polarizing tweets and instantgrams zing back and forth.

What happened to civil discourse? Like, when we agree to disagree and still be friends? I have been blessed with friends from different cultures, religions, countries, ethnicities, and political backgrounds who have enriched my life. Yes, many times we’ve disagreed on specific issues (sometimes heatedly) but they know I care about them and I know they care about me.

But, puhleeez! I am fed up with religious leaders saying one candidate is “the right choice.” Get real! We Americans are a diverse bunch, so too, our churches and religious places of worship reflect diversity and differing views. I’ve got news for everybody:

God is not Democrat. God is not Republican.

And, guess what?!? (This might shock some folks) God is NOT American!

God is above and beyond all our political divisions and national boundaries. And the love of God is for ALL of us, whatever our ethnicity, religion, country, gender or political hue.

In this election there are many issues at stake. Each one of us must prayerfully evaluate what’s important in our hearts and vote accordingly. Then engage in a little civility.

Treat others as we want them to treat us, like the Golden Rule.

To my Christian family and friends, I challenge you with the example of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper. After He tenderly washed their feet, Jesus commanded them, “Now, you must go and do likewise for each other.”  I imagine He looked implicitly at Simon the Zealot, a revolutionary bent on overthrowing Roman occupation, and Matthew, the former tax collector collaborator with the Roman occupiers.

Both look at each other, “You mean him? Wash his feet? The one I can’t stand?”

Jesus didn’t say to “barely tolerate each other,” but “wash each other’s feet.” So, to, we should wash the feet of those with whom we disagree with respect, civility, and love that knows no boundaries.

As people of faith we put our trust in God, Who has an everlasting well of love and mercy for us that never runs dry. God’s love is here for us no matter what happens, in disasters and after, in good times and bad, and even in a polarizing American election!

Who knows what will happen tonight? But no matter what, people of faith, let’s ask God for the grace to be civil conciliators – conduits of peace, dignity, civility and respect for all. Let’s choose to be beacons of love that dissipates hate.

Let’s show (a little more) civility, please!

grace, peace & civility

Virginia : )

p.s. My bumper sticker candidates offer serious wisdom to contemplate:

“The prejudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other.” Captain Kirk (Star Trek, “Elaan of Troyius”)

“I have been, and always shall be, your friend.” Spock (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

“I am pleased to see that we have differences. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.”  Surak of Vulcan (Star Trek, “The Savage Curtain”)

“Peace or utter destruction. It’s up to you.”  Captain Kirk (“A Taste of Armageddon”)

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

“The eternal refrain of decision is: Today, today.” Søren Kierkegaard

Sometimes indecisiveness throttles our forward momentum. We can’t decide what to do, so we dither about on the edge of possibility. When my brother and I recently visited Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield (Virginia) we encountered this blue heron in the marsh shallows near the trail.

Camera in hand I waited (and waited) for Mz. Blue Heron to Do Something (like fly away?) But 10 minutes later she was still very still where she was.

Mz. Blue Heron looked down.

Mz. Blue Heron looked around.

Mz. Blue Heron looked back.

When Mz. Blue Heron did not move (for what seemed like an eternity) we decided to move ourselves onward. 25 or so minutes later we came back down the trail to find Mz. Blue Heron in the EXACT SAME PLACE.

Mz. Blue Heron with indecision grooves going on and on.

Then – voila – a decision was made!

Mz. Blue Heron opens her wings and moves forward.

“A decision raises us with a shock from the slumber of monotony. A decision pronounces its blessings upon even the weakest beginning, as long as it is a real beginning. The archenemy of decision is cowardice. Cowardice and time always find a reason for not hurrying, for saying, “Not today, but tomorrow;” whereas God in Heaven and the eternal say: “Do it today. Now is the day of salvation.” Søren Kierkegaard

grace, peace & decision grooves

Virginia : )

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Yes, Virginia, It’s Halloween…

“There are three things that I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and The Great Pumpkin.” Charles M. Shultz, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

HaPpY Halloween one and all! On previous Halloweens Virginia has posted about her hero Skeleton Jack (a.k.a. The Pumpkin King) in one of her favorite movies “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Skeleton Jack and Sally betwixt and between holidays. You can read my post from last year by clicking here: “Happily Ever After” @ Halloween?

In the spirit of the holiday (keeping it rated “G” scary) this year Virginia (the person) decided to mix it up a bit by sharing a pictorial tour of the pumpkin patch at Darden’s Country Store in Smithfield, Virginia (the state.)

All are welcome in this Pumpkin Patch (especially PUMPKINS!)

Pumpkins (of all shapes and sizes) are hanging out.

But there’s a wild tractor on the loose (note Mr. Helpless in a Hungry Haystack – that may garner a PG rating!)

Small spiders are hanging out with other creatures – note greenish Mr. Dracula (a little sick from the sunshine?)

Saved scariest creature in Pumpkin Patch for last – Mr. Huge Spider. Yikes, those eyes are creepy!

Trick or Treat? … HaPpY HALLOWEEN!

grace, peace & Pumpkin Patch fun

Virginia : )

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Snapshots & Whatnot: Flowery Fall Colors

“When I get sick of what men do, I have only to walk a few steps in another direction to see what spiders do. Or what the weather does. This sustains me very well indeed.” ~ E. B. White

On this windy fall day here (with rain whirling and hurling outside) Virginia thought it might be calming, spiders notwithstanding, to share a few fall roses from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Hopefully they will brighten The Gloom away…

“Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.” ~ E. B. White

“When my wife’s Aunt Caroline was in her nineties, she lived with us, and she once remarked: ‘Remembrance is sufficient of the beauty we have seen.’ I cherish the remembrance of the beauty I have seen.” ~ E. B. White

“Most people think of peace as a state of Nothing Bad Happening, or Nothing Much Happening. Yet if peace is to overtake us and make us the gift of serenity and well-being, it will have to be the state of Something Good Happening.” ~ E. B. White

“I am still encouraged to go on. I wouldn’t know where else to go.” ~ E. B. White

When it’s dark and gloomy outside, here’s to continuing on and opening our hearts to the possibility of Something Good Happening.

grace, peace & flowery fall colors

Virginia : )

E.B. White (1899-1985) was the American author of the famous children’s book, “Charlotte’s Web” among a pile of others.

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25 October: PAPA! PAPA! PAPA!

Today is my papa’s birthday. This would have been a big one to celebrate: 90 years. How I miss him, especially today.

The fact that he was 83 when he passed is no small miracle. As a quadriplegic for over 25 years (12 as a bedfast quad), Papa’s doctors couldn’t believe it when he turned 70! Then 75! Then 80!

Celebrating Papa’s birthday was always a Big Deal because each day of his life truly was a gift. The festivities usually lasted the whole month of October with celebratory meals, special visits from friends and family, myriad cards and calls from afar.

Those October celebrations are now treasured memories, but I never will forget the way Papa approached life each day. He always said, “My blessings outweigh my challenges.”

Although he was in intense pain 24/7 and couldn’t move anything (even to wipe his nose) Papa had such gratitude. Not a day went by he didn’t thank us, profusely, and tell us how much he loved us.

You should have heard what he said to Mama. The Mush Police ran out of ticket paper! (Mama, we miss you, too!)

This morning in church thinking about Papa it clicked: his life demonstrated GRACE. Yes, he was also filled to overflowing with the love of Jesus, but day in and day out he dealt with pain, loss of mobility, and complete dependence on God and others with abounding grace.

To honor his 90th birthday, here’s something Papa taught me and many others about grace.

“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Papa broke down this verse this way:

“God is able to make all grace (not just a little bit of grace), abound (not just trickle), toward you (not just your pastor and missionaries, but toward you), that you (Paul repeats you for emphasis), always (not just sometimes), having all sufficiency (not just some sufficiency), in all things (not just some things), may abound (not just limp along), unto every good work (not just some good works.)”

HaPpY BIRTHDAY IN HEAVEN, PAPA!

grace, peace & celestial cake

Virginia : )

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