Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 59, February 28

Yesterday I wrote about sowing and reaping. It appears that I am not yet finished with that theme.

One of my favorite hymns contains the words "We are sowing, daily sowing, countless seeds of good and ill ..."

Let me share with you some individuals who are sowing seeds of good.

Every night before bed, our oldest son reads to his two young sons, ages six and three. The boys are energetic, frequently restless, but they know that this is "reading time with Dad." He is sowing seeds of a love for reading.

A sweet friend volunteers every week in a community preschool. Her children are long since grown. She does this out of a love for all children. She is sowing seeds of service.

Another friend tries to bring one of her children with her whenever she takes a meal to a family in need. Her children witness her quiet acts of compassion. She is sowing seeds of a good example.

Who knows where these seeds will land, what they will reap in years or eternities to come? The hymn continues, "Seeds that sink in rich, brown furrows, soft with heaven's gracious rain."

So, for today, I am grateful for seeds "blessed with heaven's gracious rain."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 58, February 27

Though we traditionally think of harvest during the autumn rather than spring, my thoughts have turned in that direction.

Last fall, my husband and I planted bulbs--tulips, daffodils, and crocus. We live in hope that they will brave the brick-hard dirt that passes for soil in our yard and bloom in spite of it. What we know for certain, though, is that nothing will flower without first being planted.

Farmers and true gardeners understand the relationship between sowing and reaping. The connection is an imutable one: without sowing, there will be no reaping. It set me to thinking about sowing other kinds of seeds. Does sowing kind words reap the same? Does sowing charitable deeds reap more charitable deeds?

I believe so.

In similar manner, sowing unkind words and selfish deeds will probably reap an unwanted result. I know of an unfortunate individual whose harsh words and unpleasant manner causes others to avoid him whenever possible. In contrast, I have a friend whose generous heart and caring manner give joy to all those around her.

So, for today, I am grateful for the Law of the Harvest.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 57, February 26

Winter in Colorado is a fickle creature. Temperatures can reach into the sixties on one day and plummet to below zero the next. A down parka may be needed in the morning while shirtsleeves are right for the afternoon. As I say to my husband, "Colorado weather changes faster than a teenage girl's moods."

Before our last snow, I spied specks of green against the chocolate brown of the dormant flower beds. Further inspection revealed that shoots of spring flowers were pushing their way up through the ground.

To appreciate the miracle of this, you need to understand that our dirt is not the rich soil of which gardeners dream. It is cement-hard clay. Despite having manure, top soil, and compost mixed with it, this dirt resists all our attempts to soften it. For tender shoots to push through it takes stunning audacity, yet they persist.

Family members and dear friends are even now pushing their way through the hard dirt of life. They face health problems, unemployment, and other challenges. Like the first signs of green in a garden, they find the grit to force their way through the hoary frosts of winter. They move forward with courage, determination, and, most importantly, faith.

So, for today, I am grateful for the first shoots of spring that defy winter ... and people who do the same.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 56, February 25

Lately I've been thinking about families. As many definitions of family abound as there are different types of families. There is the nuclear family, of parents and one or more children. There is the multi-generational family, a la Waltons. There is family as described in the Bible, where somebody is always begatting somebody else.

Just like people, families come in all shapes and sizes. Around the corner from us is the family of two parents and seven young chidlren. Across the street is a family just starting out with a newborn baby. Single individuals comprise their own families, as do empty-nesters.

Families are born of the blood, as defined in the Bible. They are also born of the heart. In our family of five children, our younger daughter is adopted. She is our daughter of the heart. My oldest son has two adopted boys. All are loved; all are wanted; all are family.

Let me share with you some other families:

For nearly thirty years, my husband and I have belonged to a dinner club composed of six couples. Every month, we meet at different homes, every couple contributing part of the dinner. We have seen each other through the birth of children and the birth of grandchildren. We have grieved with each other over the loss of parents. We had borne each other's burdens as we experience heartaches over children, suffered financial setbacks, endured health problems. We rejoice with each other; we weep with each other. We are family.

Another family is that of our church. We worship together. We learn together. We tithe together. One person's problems become of that of the congregation. Meals are brought at the birth of a baby ... and the death of one. Casseroles and love are served up in equal measure. We are family.

Yet another family is that of neighborhood. Our neighbors have watched our children grow, from rollerskates to Mustangs, from playdates to prom dates. We share garden produce and snowblowers. We bring in each other's mail and water lawns. We watch out for children and pets. We are family.

Yes, family is a matter of blood. More, though, family is a matter of the heart and of the spirit. The only ingredient necessary is love.

So, for today, I am grateful for families, wherever they are found.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 55, February 24

I spent the last week in Utah visiting with my sister. While there, I helped tend her three-year-old granddaughter, Lily. Lily delighted me with her imagination, exhausted me with her energy, and filled me with awe over her total ability to wring joy from every moment.

That is not to say that she is not without her sad times. She can be a drama queen at times, but she quickly recovers. She lives completely in the present. How much time have I wasted because I live in the past, regretting poor choices, holding onto old grudges? Similarly, how much time have I wasted because I project into the future, worrying over what might happen?

Certainly, we must learn from past mistakes. To do less would be foolhardy. We must also think about the future. But neither of these should prevent us from living now.

Finding joy in the present in not always an easy task. When health and financial worries threaten to overwhelm me, I slide into gnashing-my-teeth mode. When family problems cause my heart to weep, I cannot help but wonder what the future will bring for those I love.

Life is hard, but every day brings pops of joy and bursts of laughter, opportunities to serve and people to love. Lily, with three-year-old innocence and wisdom, reminds me to look for those pockets of happiness.

So, for today, I am grateful for the example of a three-year-old.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 54, February 23

I feel I should preface this entry by apologizing for returning to a recurring theme: that of creativity. Today is George Frideric Handel's birthday. Though he was born over 300 years ago, Handel continues to live through his music.

Handel wrote dozens of operas, arias, and other compositions. However, one stands out as his masterpiece: Messiah. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as The Messiah, Messiah has touched and continues to touch millions of people.

In 1741, Handel was destitute, deeply in debt, and severely depressed. Some spark inside him, though, moved him to write what would become his most enduring legacy, not just to the world of music but to all mankind.

Was it the text he chose, largely drawn from the Book of Isaiah? Was it the music that repeated through his mind with ever-increasing intensity? Or was it that he received divine inspiration to blend the powerful words with the equally powerful music?

I like to believe that it was all three. Could Handel have created such beauty without divine help?

It set me to thinking about my own feeble attempts at creating. When I turn to the Lord for His help, I feel the words flowing with an ease that amazes me. When I ignore Him, my mind--and heart--are stalled.

So, for today, I am grateful for Handel ... and for the spark of creativity that resides in all of us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 53, February 22

In the last week we have been bombasted with ads for Presidents' Day sales. I wonder how many of us rememmber which presidents this day is supposedly commemorating. I can't help but be saddened that though Martin Luther King receives his "own" day, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, two of America's greatest leaders, have been lumped together in one generic day that is more likely to be celebrated with furniture sales than with any true remembrance of them.

Today, February 22, is George Washington's birthday. Washington wore many hats in his years of service to America. Before the United States was the United States, he fought in the French and Indian Wars where he distinguished himself with bravery and valor. When the Colonies united against British tyranny, Washington was chosen to lead America's ragtag troops against the well-trained English army. Again, Washington served with quiet bravery, leading his men to victory against all odds.

At the end of the war, the Colonies decided they wanted a king and demanded that Washington take upon himself that scepter of power. Washington refused and, instead, allowed himself to be elected as President.

Many portraits have been done of Washington. Washington crossing the Delaware River. Washington as President and Commander-in-Chief. My favorite portrait, though, is by Arnold Frieberg, depiciting Washington kneeling at Valley Forge.

The circumstances were grim at that moment. His troops were hungry, wore threadbare garments, and were outnumbered by a superior army. Washington did the only thing he could. Humbly, he knelt and begged for the Father's help, not only for his men but for the fledgling nation that was struggling through the pains of birth.

Soldier. General. Statesman. President. Washington did them all. What's more he did so with dignity, honesty, and integrity, qualities far removed from most of the politicians of today.

So, for today, I am grateful for George Washington ... and for his wisdom in seeking Divine Help.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 52, February 21

As a small child, I was labeled as shy. The label stuck with me throughout childhood, into my teen and young adult years, and on into my adult life. Because I accepted it, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Not until a few years ago did I reject that label. I'm not shy. I'm soft-spoken and tend to be on the quiet side. I'm also an introvert, which means that I gather energy from alone time. None of that, however, makes me shy. To this day, when I hear a parent or grandparent or teacher label a child as shy, I want to take that child into my arms and tell her to reject that label.

I can hear the yawn-fest now. Why is she blathering on about a childhood label? Get over it, girl. Well, I did. But it took me a long time.

Just like people, labels come in all shapes and sizes. Fat and thin. Pretty and homely. Intelligent and stupid. Ambitious and lazy. Athletic and klutzy. The labels are as varied as the the people who apply them and the people to whom they are applied. So what's wrong with labels?

They place limitations. They limit not only the person being labeled; they also limit the person doing the labeling. Worse, for me, than realizing that I had accepted an untrue label was admitting that I am guilty of the same sin of labeling others.

In Max Lucado's children's book, YOU ARE SPECIAL, the Wemmicks label each other with stickers. One child notices that a girl has no stickers. He comes to understand that she has rejected the stickers others have tried to put on her.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who refuse to label others ... and for those who refuse to be labeled.

Day 51, February 20

I am not a cook. Even my good friends and family who love me (mostly) would not describe me as a cook. I stumble my way around the kitchen and have been known to scorch water and burn eggs. However, I have one no-fail recipe: lemon bars.

Whenever I am called to take a potluck dish to a church supper or to a school party, I take lemon bars. They are my go-to recipe. They are not heart-healthy, rich with butter and sugar, and have the perfect combination of sweet and tart.

Why am I bragging about my lemon bars? The fact is, I'm not. My lemon bars got me in trouble one day. I made a double recipe, divided them up, and took them to friends. Over-confident and perhaps a bit arrogant about my delectable dessert, I failed to taste them. (It was one of my stay-off-sugar days. It lasted precisely one day.)

The recipients gratefully accepted my offering, and I left, feeling pretty darn good about myself. It wasn't until days later that my husband accidentally found out that my lemon bars weren't very good after all. The flour I had used had turned rancid, giving the crust a nasty, metallic taste. Not wanting to hurt my feelings, my sweet friends didn't say anything to me.

The mistake was a small one and easily rectified. I bought new flour, made another batch, and delivered them. However, it set me to thinking. How many times am I over-confident and arrogant about my offerings to the Lord? How many times do I tell Him that I am giving him my all? And how many times do I fall short?

I should have tested the lemon bars to make certain they were all right. In the same way, I should test my resolve to the Lord, to doing what's right, rather than just assuming that it is good enough because I have done it that way in the past.

Like my friends, the Lord forgives me and loves me anyway.

So, for today, I am grateful for friends and the Lord who accept me and love me as I am, even when my "flour" is rancid.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 50, February 19

I like front doors. I like simple white ones. I like ornately carved ones. I like brightly painted ones. I like plain wooden ones.

When our five children were at home, we joked that our front door was a revolving door. Children, our own and neighbors, streamed through the door, letting in flies and the stray grasshopper. Noise and confusion abounded as I struggled to keep track of everyone. Dirt, mud, and freshly mown grass were tracked in with regularity.

One evening a week, our door was closed as our family gathered together for a song, a short lesson or activity, refreshments, and a prayer. (In the Mormon church, this is called Family Home Evening.) Our children and others knew that this was family time.

Front doors symbolize welcome. They remind us that a world exists outside our home. Front doors also symbolize safety, a haven against that same world when it occasionally turns harsh. And should a home not be a haven as well as a heaven?

Our home was not always a haven or a heaven. Life, with all its messiness, got in the way. Harsh words were uttered, tears shed, feelings were hurt. But we knew that home was where we could turn to when everything else turned against us. Home represented love and forgiveness and comforting arms.

So, for today, I am grateful for front doors.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 49, February 18

Yesterday I put forth the idea that life is made up of a series of small moments, small deeds, small acts. Those bits and scraps of living, like a patchwork quilt, create a beautiful whole. One of my friends said her life was a crazy quilt. I like that: a crazy quilt of life.

What gives meaning to our days? For me, it is the unexpected things that bring pops of joy. In no particular order or importance, I'll list a few:

We live in Loveland, Colorado, nestled at the foothills of the Rockies. Occasionally a small herd of elk will follow the river into town. Spying these magnificent creatures always fills me with awe.

A short while ago, I received a call from a friend who had moved away many years ago. Though we hadn't talked in years, I recognized her voice immediately. We caught up with each other's life and shared memories from twenty and more years ago.

My husband gave me a Wii for Christmas. I didn't know how much fun I would have with it until my grandchildren spent the weekend and played it with me. They laughed over Grandma's ineptitude and cheered me on, even creating a Grandma Mii figure.

These are but a few of the things that bring color and sound and wonder into my life. You will have your own.

A Hollywood A-lister has repeatedly made the news. Stories of his drinking and addiction abound in the media. This actor has everything the world tells us is important: good looks, fame, a glamorous career, millions, if not billions, of dollars. Yet I wonder if he is happy. If all of these worldly trappings were to be taken away, would he find any pockets of happiness in his life? Somehow, I doubt it.

So, for today, I am grateful for small joys, small pleasures, small moments that make up the quilt of my life.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 48, February 17

When I started this project, I questioned if I would have the stamina, fortitude, and energy to carry through with it. Thanks to those of you who have offered encouragement and support, I am continuing. Your thoughtful comments, both on the official blog site and directed to me personally, have given me the determination to keep writing.

My subjects have largely been prosaic, comprising the bits and pieces of daily life. My life, and, I suspect, that of most of us, is not made up of heroic deeds, grand gestures, or momentous events, but, rather, is a patchwork of small acts--reading to a grandchild, doing the laundry, laughing with friends.

Sometimes I doubted whether writing about such things would touch others, would make a difference to anyone. Your kind words have made me think that perhaps I am on the right track.

One of my favorite hymns contains the words "... kind words are sweet tones of the heart." What a lovely metaphor. Who does not need more "sweet tones of the heart" in their life?

I know a few unfortunate individuals who dispense kind words with stingy hands and selfish hearts, hoarding them as a miser would his gold. They find no joy in offering praise to others and are, therefore, unhappy with themselves. What misery they must reside in.

So, for today, I am grateful for kind words ... and for those who utter them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 47, February 16

Recently, I watched part of a televised Red Carpet event. I know very few actors or actresses, couldn't identify who is who, but I like to see the fashions. The stars paraded in beautiful gowns, but one stood out from the others. Her dress had long sleeves, a high neckline, and reached to her ankles.

She shone in ways that the other actresses could not. I watched how she carried herself. Confident. Strong. Powerful. But without the provocative poses that seemed to be the norm for so many. I wondered if she knew what impact she made upon me, and, perhaps, others.

Hollywood fashions and standards trickle down to the general population, and many of us try to emulate the same look, uncaring that we may sacrifice modesty and dignity in our attempt. Modesty has largely fallen by the wayside as our culture embraces what the media dictates as fashion and style.

It saddens me when I see stores offering miniature versions of these looks for little girls and when I observe parents buying these fashions for their daughters. What are we teaching these impressionable children?

Some of the most beautiful girls and women I know dress with quiet good taste. Modesty does not prevent them from wearing flattering and stylish clothes. The book of Proverbs gives us a detailed description of a virtuous woman. One verse in particular stands out: "Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come." Proverbs 31:25.

So, for today, I am grateful for women who adorn themselves with modesty, strength, and honour.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 46, February 15

A few days ago my husband and I were working on our taxes. It was a depressing activity, and I found myself muttering under my breath about government spending, politicians, and the unfairness of it all.

The following day, I read an article about Betsie and Corrie ten Boom. Most of us are familiar with the story of the ten Boom sisters, who were imprisoned during World War II for harboring Jewish refugees. Along with others, the sisters lived in horrible conditions, their barracks dark, foul-smelling, and filthy. Worse, though, were the patrols by the guards. The sisters worried constantly the the guards would see their Bible and take it away.

To make matters worse, the barracks were infested with fleas. No one could move without being covered with the bugs. The sisters knew of the scripture concerning gratitude and the commandmenet that they should be thankful for all things. Betsie told Corrie that they should be grateful for the fleas. Corrie wasn't certain she could honestly do this, but she and Betsie thanked God for even the fleas.

Weeks passed. The fleas continued to infest their cells, but Corrie noticed something. Because of the fleas, the guards wouldn't step into the barracks. The sisters were able to keep their Bible without fear of the guards finding it. In addition, they could hold worship meetings and share the message of Christ's love with other prisoners.

I have never endured circumstances close to what the ten Boom sisters suffered. I grumble, complain, and whine about any number of small matters, but I decided to accept the challenge of being grateful for all things. Could I be grateful even for taxes?

I thought about what our taxes pay for. (Truthfully, I started getting depressed at that point.) Then I realized that taxes provide for the armed services, the men and women who put their lives at risk to safeguard our nation and to protect all of us.

So, for today, I am (trying to be) grateful for taxes. I am always grateful that I live in the United States of America.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 45, February 14

Many believe that Valentine's Day is a ploy foisted upon us by the greeting card companies. Perhaps because I am a hopeless romantic or perhaps because I write romance novels, I prefer to believe differently.

The French poet Pierre Reverdy wrote, "There is no love. There are only proofs of love." Upon first reading that, I struggled with the concept. Surely the people I love know of my feelings for them. Could they not see it? Further contemplation yielded an unequivocal truth: How can anyone know of my love unless I show it? Merely feeling it is not enough.

In writing workshops, we learn to use strong verbs. I believe the same is true for love. To show love, use strong verbs. Hug. Give. Uplift. Serve.

Can a hug change a person's day? Scientists have documented the importance of touch. Without it, babies fail to thrive and wither. The same applies for everyone. We all need the healing power of touch.

What else can I do to show my love? Can I give more of myself? Can I uplift others? Can I serve more? Of course. Of course. Of course. Then comes the big question. How? How do I give, uplift, serve? By bearing others' burdens. I can do that by looking not just with my eyes but with my heart.

I have been the recipient of many acts of love. A card in the mail. A sincerely given compliment. A hug from a friend when I am feeling low.

So, for today, I am grateful for Valentine's Day as a reminder to not only feel love, but to show it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 44, February 13

In our living room, we have a picture of Christ with His arms outstretched creating the world hanging above our piano. It is no secret that the act and art of creating fascinates me. Since this is my blog, I'll continue with that theme for today.

Creativity demands persistence, vision, skill, and a host of other attributes. One quality that is frequently overlooked is that of risk-taking. The individual who has created something takes a risk everytime he or she puts it forth for others to view.

Everyone knows that the iconic movie STAR WARS was rejected dozens of times before one producer decided to take a chance on it. The mother who tries a new recipe prays her family will like it. The artist who paints a picture holds his breath when he shows it, whether to his family or at a gallery opening. The composer who writes a song wonders if it will reach inside the heart of his listeners. The writer who submits a story hopes the editor will buy it. (Ironically, two days ago, when I wrote about creativity, I received two rejections of short stories.)

Risks come in different forms: financial, physical, emotional. Whatever the risks, though, the truly creative person knows he must share what he has fashioned. The desire to touch others, to better the world in some small fashion, compels him to do so.

Christ, the ultimate Creator, risked His very life when He brought forth His gospel. Some people accepted it; others rejected it and Him. Yet He knew he had to to take that risk and suffer the consequences.

So, for today, I am grateful for those individuals courageous enough to risk sharing what their hands and minds, and hearts and spirits have created.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 43, February 43

I like pennies. I like them for their fabled good luck. I also like them because they remind me of Abraham Lincoln. It is fitting that the penny, the humblest of coins, bears the likeness of Lincoln.

We all know of Lincoln's log cabin beginnings. Let's fast forward to his presidency. Contrary to what we might believe, Lincoln was not a popular president. Members of the Republican (his own) party and the Democrat party alike reviled him.

Lincoln devoted himself to saving America. Unlike politicians of today whose sole purpose seems to be that of self-aggrandizement and indulgence, Lincoln was a true statesman who worked to preserve the United States as a nation and then to heal the scars inflicted by the war.

When Lincoln was invited to the dedication of the Gettysburg Cemetery, he was not listed as the main speaker, an intentional slight by those in charge of the ceremony. Edward Everett delivered a 13,000 word oration which lasted over two hours. In contrast, Lincoln's dedicatory prayer took only a few minutes. Yet Everett's words are largely forgotten, while Lincoln's brief remarks continue to be quoted today. " ... of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

So, for today, I am grateful for pennies ... and for Abraham Lincoln.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 42, February 11

Two days ago I wrote about recurring themes in this blog, including that of quilts and friends. One wise reader pointed out that another theme that made repeated appearances was that of creativity.

With that in mind, I decided to describe some creative friends. One friend is an expert in organization, organizing everything from papers to her family's appointments. Nothing escapes her notice. Another friend homeschools her seven young children. What energy and imagination that must take, to teach children of all different ages, making reading, history, and social studies come alive.

A woman in our church knows how to stretch a dollar. Her myriad of skills include canning everything from turkey to green beans, baking delectable whole wheat bread, and finding bargains others have overlooked. Still another friend possesses a dry sense of humor that makes her a delight to everyone fortunate enough to be with her. Other friends have turned their homes into havens for their grandchildren, turning once empty nests into places of fun and learning.

Like friends, creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. Too frequently we tend to limit our definition of what it means to be creative. Creativity is more a matter of the spirit than of the mind.

So, for today, I am grateful for friends who color outside the box.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 41, February 10

Like Moses of Biblical times, I am "slow of speech." When the public speaking genes were passed out in heaven, I'm certain I was off reading a book or attending a garage sale. I have no eloquent words, no powerful way of expressing myself. My voice is on the soft side and tends to get shaky at the mere thought of speaking in public. Angry storks, not gentle butterflies, fill my stomach.

For the most part, I accept that, just as I've accepted other limitations. That is not complacency but, rather, awareness of what I can and what I can't do.

My husband Larry is a gifted public speaker. He possesses a command of the language and a flair for getting his thoughts across that continue to amaze me. We occasionally tease each other that he is the speaker and I am the listener in the family.

It hit me then: My gift is listening. Whether in a congregation or workshop or one-on-one with a friend, I am a good listener. Just as I am an appreciative audience of musical perforomances, I am also an appreciative listener.

My ruminations led to another idea. What if I brought my heart as well as my ears to the art of listening? Would the experience of listening to a speech or a cantata not be richer? Would I not be of more service if I listened to the meaning, the sorrow behind a friend's words?

So, for today, I am grateful for hearing ears and a listening heart.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 40, February 9

In re-reading earlier postings, I realized that several topics have made repeated appearances, among them quilts and friends. Why my fascination with these subjects, I wondered. As I examined them, I found that I was intrigued by the diversity in the quilts, and in friends.

The quilts my mother gave me are made of different fabrics, different patterns. The stitching varies from quilt to quilt, even square to square, as various people sat and quilted over cups of tea and gossip. There is a Nine-Square, a Sunbonnet Girl, a Woman with Parasol, and others. Each is beautiful in its own way.

In the same way, my friends are made of different fabrics, different patterns. One friend writes exquisite poetry, weaving beauty with every word. Another excells in all things musical, playing the piano, organ, flute, composing songs, and working as a music therapist for Hospice. Still another finds joy in creating one-of-a-kind scrapbook pages and greeting cards. One friend writes inspirational romance novels, touching the heart and soul of all those who read her words. A friend and cousin writes cookbooks, flavoring recipes with family stories and history.

My friends put me in mind of a flower garden, each bringing a different color, a different scent to the whole: pansies and roses, tulips and daffodils, lilies and violets.

So, for today, I am grateful for that which is unique ... in quilts and in friends.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 39, February 8

Two days ago, I wrote about the plumbing problems in our basement. After trying to deal with it ourselves, my husband and I finally called a plumber. Two men arrrived and, within forty-five minutes, had snaked the drain and cleared the blockage. Once again, we had sinks that worked, good water pressure, and a bathroom floor not covered with guck.

I marveled at the men's efficiency and the seeming ease with which they dispatched the problem. I still can't bring myself to be grateful for plumbing disasters, but I am grateful for people who possess the skills and know-how to take care of them.

Everyday, our lives are filled with men and women who serve us. Plumbers, mechanics, bankers, contractors, lawyers, doctors--each brings expertise to make my life easier and more managable. How many times have I said "Thank-you" to any of these people? Too infrequently, I'm afraid.

Certainly, we pay others for their services. That is only right and proper. "A laborer is worthy of his hire." Still, they deserve my thanks, my acknowlegment of their efforts and skill.

So, for today, I am grateful for plumbers.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 38, February 7

During the course of Larry's and my nearly 38 years of marriage (a miracle when you consider that I am only 29), I have backed various cars into Larry's car, our daughter's car, a fence, the garage door, and an apartment building wall--I was trying to avoid a bird in the parking lot.

Larry has always been very patient with my backing sins. Still, one day I felt the need to defend myself and pointed out that I had never hit a moving object. Without missing a beat, he replied, "That's because they can get out of your way."

My record almost changed yesterday as I drove home from church, with two of my grandchildren in the backseat. In preparing to change lanes, I did everything right: I switched on the turn signal, I checked both my rear view and side view mirrors. Yes, I did everything but the most important thing. I neglected to look over my shoulder to check my blindspot. Because of that mistake, I almost clipped another car. The driver gave me a justifiably sharp blast of his horn, and, at a very cautious speed, I continued on home.

I tend to think of blessings as things that did happen: an unexpected check in the mail, an acceptance on a short story, or, rarely a book, a raise in my husband's salary. How often, though, am I grateful for the things that didn't happen? The accident that I somehow avoided. The flu that swept through the community that our children didn't contract. These blessings are equally as sweet, equally as powerful as those of a more visible, tangible nature.

So, for today, I am grateful for the accident that didn't happen ... and for the Father's loving care in watching over me and my precious cargo

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 37, February 6

Yesterday my husband and I awoke to plumbing problems in the downstairs bathroom. I won't go into the gory details. Suffice it to say that plumbing problems are always inconvenient, disgustingly messy, and frequently expensive. (Why couldn't I have married a plumber?) With some muttering, we dealt with it as best we could.

I can hear you wondering, Is she going to say that she's grateful for a backed-up drain? Absolutely not.

Recently, I've had to stand by and watch loved ones endure painful events--health problems, divorce, and other challenges. While trying to help when I could and crying with them, I could not take away their grief, their fear, their heartache. My sense of helplesssness was exceeded only by my prayers in their behalf.

My heart wept for my friends, my family. Inconvenience, mess, and expense do not compare to witnessing the pain of family and friends. My prayers turned to begging my Father in Heaven for solace for His children.

So, for today, I am grateful for a reminder of what is important ... and what is not.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 36, February 5

Recently, a bitter cold spell has swept over much of the nation, paralyzing traffic, closing schools, sending hoardes of people to the grocery store to stock up on supplies. By the third day of temperatures well below zero, I found myself wishing away the cold, wishing away the entire season of winter.

Then I stopped and realized that I really didn't want to do away with winter. In Colorado, we are fortunate enough to experience every season to its fullest. I love the colors, the smells, the sounds of each season. The rich scarlets, saffrons, and ochers of autumn, flavored by the smoke of wood-burning stoves. The sun glistening off the winter snow, casting it with a myriad of shades of blues and golds. The tender greens and bold reds and purples of spring flowers. The hard bright blue of a summer sky, the sun a bowl of yellow, the rhythmic purr of a lawnmower punctuating the early morning.

When I started this blog, I said that it wouldn't be filled with scriptures. However, this entry begs for one of my favorite passages: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven ..." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

In reflecting upon the change of seasons, I thought of my own life. My season as a young mother has passed, my children grown, some with families of their own. That season has evolved into a different, more subtle kind of mothering, including grandchildren. My four grandchildren delight me with their curiosity, exhaust me with their energy, and fill me with wonder at the sheer joy they bring into my life.

Would I trade this season for another? No. Despite the problems that come with age, I love where I am right now and, sometimes, I even love who I am, who I am becoming. (I qualify that with the word "sometimes," because who can love a sagging body, arthritic hips, and bad feet?)

So, for today, I am grateful for the change of seasons ... in nature and in my life.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 35, February 4

Those who know me well know that I love to go sailing. Garage sailing, that is. I also love to go thrifting, haunting thrift stores and consignment stores for forgotten treasures. Among the things I look for are stray china plates, those orphaned from their original set.

On these plates, I place cookies or other treats to take to friends, church members, families with a new baby or those going through a difficult time. I ask that the recipients not return the plate and suggest that they fill it and pass it along.

I have been intrigued with the idea of "passing it along" far before the movie PAY IT FORWARD or the random acts of kindness movement made their appearance. Could I change the world, one small act at a time?

In a moment of self-examination, I reviewed the past week. A sweet friend sent me a no-occasion card. This prompted me to send a card to another friend. A second friend called me up for no reason, which, in turn, encouraged me to visit someone else.

This concept is certainly not new. Christ taught the concept two thousand years ago.

My reflections yielded two conclusions: I cannot change the world. I can, however, make my little part of the world better if I but care to look for the secret sorrows that inhabit the hearts of everyone.

So, for today, I am grateful for stray china plates ... and stray acts of kindness.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 34, February 3

As I've mentioned previously, I love words. I love the sound of them. I love the look of them. I love how they can be strung together to create poetry, stories, and books. Mostly, I love the power of them. Words have the power to challenge the mind, to touch the heart, to heal the spirit.

One of my passions is to collect good quotes. With that in mind, I would like to share a few of my favorite with you today:

Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope.--Author unknown

A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition.--William Arthur Ward

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.--Dan Rather

It's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years.--Abraham Lincoln.

We acquire the strength we have overcome.--Ralph Waldo Emerson

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.--Winston Churchill

A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.--Eleanor Roosevelt

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.--Dorothy Bernard

Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.--Art Linkletter

I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.--Rudyard Kipling

If I had to sum up Friendship in one word, it would be Comfort.--Terri Guillemets

You, undoubtedly, have your own favorite sayings that sustain you, comfort you, make you laugh. I challenge you to share them with others--maybe make up your own. Who knows, you may be quoted!

So, for today, I am grateful for words that inspire.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 33, February 2

I have never been a fan of the ground hog. He has always seemed a wimpy, lazy creature, who, if he pokes his nose out and doesn't like what he sees, crawls back into his hole and hibernates for another six weeks.

Recently, some dear friends received devastating news. They met it head-on, forging ahead to do what was necessary. They did not climb into a hole and bury themselves. They did not whine or complain. They marched into the unknown and fully expect to emerge triumphant.

I cannot help but compare their attitude to that of those people who are smeared with the taint of entitlement. These individuals claim that life has dealt with them unfairly, demanding preferential treatment. They whine with every word and wear their entitlement like a hair coat, exhausting all those unfortunate enough to come into contact with them.

I think of my friends who rely on prayer and the Lord. They give of themselves, always thinking of others, even when life throws them a curve.

So, for today, I am grateful for my friends who face adversitiy with courage and grace and go forward in faith.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 32, February 1

It has been a month since I started "The Gratitude Project." Thank you to those who have borne with me during this month of discovery. When I started this blog, I voiced my doubts to my oldest son, Rob, of whether I had the emotional, mental, and spiritual energy to keep it up for a year.

Wisely, he counseled me to think of every day as New Year's Day, where determination is at its highest. "You can do anything for one day," he said.

Some days, I write and feel that the words are put in my mind by a Divine hand and that I am but a scribe. Other days, I grope and struggle for every word. Too frequently, I am filled with self-doubt, wondering if my words are touching anyone, wondering if I am making a difference.

The hard things in my life haven't changed: People I love are still beset by health challenges and heart-breaking problems. I am still a selfish person with more than my share of weaknesses and sins. But, and this is important, but I feel my heart softening, imperceptibly, as I turn to my Father in gratitude.

So, for today, I am grateful for this day.