Category Archives: gratitude

A Lot of Faith, part 1 (we’ve been given a lot)

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“Our faith increases when we’re in enough pain, we learn enough, or we’re given enough.” Bishop Chuck Murphy (paraphrased from 20 years ago)

Our lot, the one we closed on today, overlooks a creek, as well as houses, inns, and a church on the oldest part of Pawleys Island (Pawleys for short). We can take a boat from our neighborhood to secluded islands and walk to one of the island’s finest restaurants. The strip of prime property, the one we can see from where we’re building, is in between the marsh and the ocean. Our view is a little sand and a lot of wetland.

There is affluence mixed with old, original architecture that islanders call “shabby.” Sometimes structures get upgraded and sometimes not. No one seems to mind because it’s a given the property is valuable.

Making the island our home has been a hope of my husband’s and mine for more than 20 years. We set up an appointment that many years ago to look at a house for sale in Pawleys. The following day, the owners took it off the market. We did the same with our dream. We figured it was a sign about whether we deserved to live in Pawleys or not.

We didn’t.

Since then, we haven’t thought much about moving unless we’re down that way and riding around. When that happens, one of us mentions the imaginary line in the road, that place that when we drive beyond it, we get quiet and take a deep breath. Past that line, life feels more relaxed and free. Plus, our grandkids are closer, so life is more fun in that direction.

IMG_7953 Not a geographic cure, for sure. Nowhere could fix us. We’ve had to do the hard work right here at home, most of which I’ve blogged about. Even though we know Pawleys isn’t our be all and end all, for us the place is special. It’s symbolic of something we can’t even name yet.

So, when my husband John convinced me a couple of years ago to sign up for a membership at one of the island’s highlights, Brookgreen Gardens, our decision rekindled a longing we’d dismissed – we longed to live in Pawleys.

The same thing happened when I stumbled onto a photo on Facebook of a stunning church on the island that we joined this year – we longed to live in Pawleys.

And then again recently when we made an offer before selling our house and on a lot that wasn’t for sale (a story for another blog post) – a lot with a dock, a view, and a breeze – we longed to live in Pawleys.

We rethought deserving it. Feeling undeserving is a habit, though I don’t think a holy one. Nor a faithful one.

I’m still not convinced I’m worthy. In fact, I’m overwhelmed by the bigness of our decision and overwhelmed by God’s graciousness to let us have it. Overwhelmed by His faithfulness to bring good from a “loss of faith” season. Overwhelmed John and I made it this far and intact, much less together in a place we’ve longed to live.

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But mostly, I’m …

Overwhelmed by gratitude. I’m very grateful. Tears streaming down my face grateful. On my knees grateful. “Why us?”grateful.

Grateful for restored faith.

Grateful.

How much faith does it take to hang onto a dream? To make it happen? A mustard seed or less – I do believe I had less.

What dream are you waiting for? I hope you won’t give up. Ask often and expect a lot.

In This Together,
Kim

Photo #1 is of our view of the creek from the lot.
Photo #2 is our lot.

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A Quiet Miracle (one I almost talked through)

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“A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:7 #WhileLovingthePeopleInIt

Although I wouldn’t call this a typical Thanksgiving post, today, I’m grateful.

For a few weeks now, our family’s been going through growing pains, which makes me feel crazy because, even when I don’t know what to do, I believe God needs my help.

I can’t get out of the way. I can’t shut up.

When I say, “I can’t,” it’s not that I won’t. I mean I can’t. I’ve made up my mind and tried dozens of times before. Too many frightening images pop up like the time I got out of the way and shut up with Mom and Dad, and we spoke to each other only three or four more times before Dad died.

I can’t shut up.

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I’m terrified of quiet. I mean, I’m an introvert, so I love it when I’m alone and peaceful and there is no noise. But if there’s something that needs fixing, I can’t keep quiet about it.

Last week, while I sat in the wrong parking lot that I accidentally pulled into, I talked to my daughter about feeling crazy, which is even more scary for me right before the holidays. We’ll all be together and I’ll talk, especially in the middle of growing pains.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you this story, but what you’re going through right now reminds me of what you and I went through after Claire was born. It wasn’t until you got quiet that I recognized my part,” she said.

Wait. What? When I got quiet?

Kelly and I hit a rough spot after our first grandchild arrived three and a half years ago. She and my son-in-law asked me to move in for a week to help. I changed diapers, rocked Claire, stayed up late into the nights, cooked meals, made beds, washed clothes, and cleaned, but I couldn’t do anything quite right. Kelly’s conversations with me were edgy and unpredictable. The atmosphere was tense, and it got worse when I talked with her about it.

I told you, I can’t shut up.

I finally said to my husband John, “I’d rather never see Claire again than set an example for her by allowing this kind of disrespect.”

I meant it. Disregard for women, really, people in general, runs rampant in both of our families. I set out, I think from birth, to put an end to our unhealthy generational patterns, even though clueless about how to do it. In fact, many times I did the opposite of what was right, but I did something. My resolve was never stronger than the first time I held Claire.  

Detaching from Kelly and her family ranks among the hardest choices I’ve ever made. I stepped away for about three months from grandparenting. Kelly and I talked seldom and I saw Claire even less.

Our break ended with Kelly apologizing. It didn’t happen overnight, but it still seemed she grew up right in front of me. On the phone and crying, and still in the wrong parking lot, I said, “I wondered what I said that helped you recognize your bad attitude and your resentments.”

Nothing.

I took a deep breath on the phone. I’m taking another one now. I cried then. I’m crying now while writing this.

It wasn’t anything I said. It was all the things I stopped saying.

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and she tells me the thing that worked was being quiet.

I couldn’t hear “be quiet” until this moment because of my fear of losing the people I’ve loved most. I still know there are plenty of times I need to speak up, but there have been many more times I’ve needed to shut up, but I could not. I’d shake until I talked.

This week’s been different. I’ve been quiet, which is called a miracle. It’s my Thanksgiving miracle, and I believe God will extend the Grace of it onto my family while I quietly watch.

If you’re in the middle of a mess, please believe with me that a miracle is on its way. God loves surprising us when we least expect it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I love y’all dearly.

In This Together,
Kim

Here’s a funny side note about when I told Claire, aka Amelia Bedelia, “I love you dearly.” She said, “Mammy, who’s dearly?”

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com. Wow, I’m even feeling more grateful for your site today. ‘Tis the season for gratefulness …

 

It’s Not About Being Grateful

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“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

In a book study years ago, a group leader chose a topic each week for us to discuss. Gratitude came up often, especially around Thanksgiving. Everyone gushed gratitude until my turn when I’d say, “I’m grateful I don’t have to be grateful for anything.”

So, when the story came up in church about the lepers (Luke 17:11-19), the one about 10 of them being healed, but only one coming back to thank Jesus, I thought, I’m good with this now. I’ve had a change of heart and I’m all about gratitude. 

That was, until Rev. Stu Boehmig said, “The story’s not about being grateful.”

Huh? Then what is it about?

It never occurred to me the nine men who were healed from leprosy were, of course, grateful. After all, their healing meant being spared isolation. They were allowed to again worship in the synagogue, allowed to hug spouses and children who they couldn’t touch prior to their recovery, and given a second chance at life instead of physically deteriorating.

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However, only one made the effort to come back. Only one chased down Jesus and thanked him. Only one lived out his gratitude. Here’s what Biblegateway.com has to say about Ten Lepers and a Samaritan’s Faith when only the foreigner returns to give thanks, “Now what Jesus praises here is the Samaritan’s initiative.”

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

The story’s about action.

And it reminds me of a funny tale about our daughter’s former friend. He didn’t do much, but I’d come to his defense anyway and say, “He has potential.” It turned into a witticism when my father-in-law asked, “Potential to do what? It’s not helping him much.” From then on, we’d say about anyone who wasted their time and talent, “But they have potential … ”

Since the sermon, I’ve thought about my own healing from “leprosy” – a couple of years of isolation and deteriorating mental health due to depression – and how grateful I ought to be. Some people aren’t given a second chance when they suffer a debilitating mental illness. They disappear into alcohol or a pill bottle, an institution, or a grave.

I’ve also thought about turning my potential for gratitude into a practice of gratitude. I am grateful, just like the nine lepers were grateful, but it’s the tenth one who put his potential into practice. He took action.

Intentional. Deliberate. Purposeful.

And here’s the enlightening (and Twilight Zone-y) part of all of this for me. I glanced through the church bulletin to fact check this post when I noticed, after years of reading it, the name of the final prayer the congregation prays together – Prayer of Thanksgiving. No wonder I get choked up every time I say out loud, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you … ”

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

My heart’s known for a while I’ve needed to do “thank you” instead of mouth it. And you know I’m going to tie this into getting our own lives, right? Gratitude is our way forward.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Fix Your Face, part 1 (and maybe the only part)

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"Every man over forty is responsible for his face." Abraham Lincoln (Image from iStock)

“Every man over forty is responsible for his face.”
Abraham Lincoln
(Image from iStock)

“You better fix your face, young man, and you better fix it now,” said Mom to her son who looked to be about four years old.

I turned from the clothes rack where I was shopping to see a little boy shuffling behind his mother. He pulled his hood over his head, crossed his arms, and pouted out his lips like I do mine when life isn’t going my way.

His face tickled me and so did his mom’s orders. But I also understood his pain, especially when his mother threatened to take away the next day’s fun activities. Her warning reminded me of the pity trap I fall into when my own face needs fixing, but I’d rather feel sorry for myself.

The little boy’s scene looked a lot like God and me when I talked with him last October about relocating closer to our kids and our first grandbaby. Circumstances made it obvious the answer was “no.”  

I pouted. I cried. I accused God of taking away my fun.

The scene also looked similar to the day, just a few weeks later, when I heard the news that our son and future daughter-in-law were moving for two years to Oklahoma City.

Again I pouted. Again I cried.  Again I accused God of taking away my fun.

And when __________  (I can fill in the blank with any number of situations when God’s will hasn’t aligned with my own, and I’ve pouted and I’ve cried and I’ve accused).

But those times are a changin’ because I am a changin’. I’m fixing my face and I’m fixing it now.

Here is my “powder room” list:

  • I’m practicing being satisfied with God’s answers in light of choosing “content” as my word for 2014, knowing that he always knows best. Yes, always … trust me, I’m going on 56 years of hindsight.
  • I’m recapturing my faith. Thanks to friend, Lis Morgan, and her word “recapture,” I’m focusing on and praying for the restoration of the faith that I once lived by (but lost) for at least a portion of those 56 years.
  • I’m saying grateful things more than griping, and I’m again daily making a 13-item gratitude list.

Does your face need fixing? Are you fixing it now? Care to share tips from your “powder room”?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I believe the quote from Abe Lincoln and I’m working on my makeover now.

Wrapped in Gratitude, memories of an imperfect dad

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“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” Lionel Hampton

I stook over a bed strewn with ribbon, tape and wrapping paper when I felt overcome with gratitude for knowing how to wrap gifts.

Dad used to stand for hours during Christmastime over the bed in an extra room upstairs. He’d meticulously wrap every gift, adding matching ribbon and bow. He also wrapped at our family’s dress shop during the holiday season.

I watched him tape the gift so it wouldn’t shift about, fold the edges of paper to align both sides exactly (there are two ways to do this), tie a ribbon around the package, and make many of the bows by hand even though we had a bow-making machine.

It’s not the first time I’ve felt this sort of gratitude for my father.

However, it may be the first time I’ve felt appreciation alongside opposing thoughts … too many holidays filled with anger and pain.

For years, unpleasant feelings tangled up our lives sort of like a string of Christmas lights just retrieved from the attic. Do you ever wonder how they get in such a mess just lying there throughout the year?

Today’s post is about assessments and awakenings, about this year’s Christmas and Christmases past.

Today’s post, wrapped neatly in Christmas paper and a matching bow just like Dad’s, is about gratitude in the midst of imperfection.

This day I’m entertained by all Dad gave, like the cartoonish boat captain figurine that looks happy in our living room and baseball-sized earrings he spray painted gold as a gift when I pierced my ears – instead of being bothered by what I think I missed in our relationship.

This day I’m enthusiastic about the creativity he passed down to me and to his grandkids, our inherited love of home improvement stores, and the renovation tips my husband and I learned from him – instead of low-spirited about his bad habits I made my own.

This day I’m indebted that not only can I wrap an attractive gift, but I can tuck the top bed sheet tight enough for military inspection, mow and edge a yard like a landscaper and, if I want to, scrub a bathroom with Comet till it’s sparkling clean. Just like Dad.

I’d love to hear your season’s gratitude list.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – This Christmas, my memories are wrapped in gratitude. I hope yours are also.

Never Blue for Thanksgiving

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“One of the good things about the blues is their power to make me feel better.”
Anonymous

Subject: Never Blue for Thanksgiving

I wrote this note in the subject line of the email. It was a reminder to our kids of the establishment’s name where we made reservations for Thanksgiving Day.

The Never Blue, a tapas restaurant in Hendersonville, N.C., served a spread on their holiday buffet that nearly stretched from wall to wall inside the historic building. There were more than 30 meal items from which to choose, and desserts were plenteous.

I wish I had asked the origin of the restaurant’s name. Since I didn’t, I guessed.

Maybe the owner committed to never being blue when she started passionately working as a chef.

Maybe preparing food for others drives gloomy thoughts away.

Maybe, since the theme is oceany and there’s a fountain, the name describes ocean water that is never really blue, but more bluish and aqua and gray all mixed together.

No matter the meaning, if only “never blue” could come true for all of us, for every holiday.

The reality is, sometimes holidays are the hardest times. For a wife spending her first holiday without a husband. A family who received a dreaded phone call. A friend in emotional or physical pain.

There’s no way to be never blue, so what helps when you’re feeling down?

The Never Blue
Hendersonville, N.C.

     

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Never blue is unrealistic, and pain serves up a life of purpose. But it never hurts to hope, and to aim for gratitude no matter the menu.