Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 120, April 30

Tonight, my husband and I are attending dinner club. We have done this every month for years. In fact, this April marks the 28th anniversary of our dinner club.

A friend and her husband started it, inviting five other couples to participate. We rotate homes every month, with the host and hostess being in charge of the menu. Typically, they provide the main course and assign out such things as rolls, salads, desserts, etc.

We have seen each other through pregnancies, the births of babies, and illnesses. We have rejoiced over good news and grieved over sad news. Where once we shared pictures of children, we now share pictures of grandchildren. When a tragedy touches one of us, it touches us all. In many ways, we are closer than family.

Friendships have deepened, binding us together in ways that defy the winds of change. Gray hairs, wrinkles, and a few extra pounds nothwithstanding, we remain devoted to each other. Laughter over stories told many times peppers our conversations, along with a good deal of rueful acknowledgement that we can no longer remember those same stories the next month.

So, for today, I am grateful for old friends and the love we share.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 119, April 29

The road we take to our church has a twenty-mile-an hour curve. On one side is a sharp drop-off. Naturally, we slow down and proceed at a safe speed. In the last years, life has thrown us some major curves, forcing us to, again, slow down, to navigate our way through them with care, caution, and prayer.

None of us are immune to the curves of life. How we accept the good and the bad largely defines what kind of people we are. I freely admit that I don't handle "the bad" very well. I whine. I complain. I cry. I get angry. When I've cycled through my litany of wondering "why me," I seek refuge in the Lord.

As I turn to Him, I wonder why I didn't do that in the first place. Why am I so stubborn, so willful, so prideful? Surely, at my age, I've learned a few lessons along the way. But I continue to repeat that self-defeating pattern.

I look at others who seem to have it all together, who accept the hard things in life with grace and dignity and humor and wish I could emulate them. They seem to have progressed to the graduate school of life while I remain in kindergarten. And then I realize that I have the choice, every day, to make the Lord my partner.

So, for today, I am grateful for that choice.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 118, April 28

Yesterday my husband mowed the yard for the first time this season. I love the smell of freshly mown grass. I also love the look of the smoothly cropped yard, evening out the roughness of wayward weeds and coarse fescue that infest our Kentucky blue grass lawn.

However, mowing the grass does not remove those pesky weeds, dandelions, and saw grass. It only cuts them back for a short while. Then the process must be repeated. Only digging them out will result in a weed-free yard. Even then, unless you are fortunate enough to get the culprit by the roots, it will likely reappear.

The procedure reminds me of digging out weeds in my soul. I can bury them. I can pretend they don't exist. I can gloss them over. Unless, however, I yank them out by the roots, they will come back, stronger and more tenacious than ever.

How do we handle these weeds, more pernicious than any that infect our lawns? Prayer. A desire to change. More prayer. A willingness to humble ourselves before the Lord. And yet more prayer. The Father has provided the tools. It is up to us to use them.

So, for today, I am grateful for tools to dig out the weeds in my yard ... and in my soul.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 117, April 27

For nearly a week, my keys were missing-in-action. I searched for them in all the usual places and in some unusual places as well. I enlisted my husband's help. Still, no keys. I prayed about it but didn't truly believe that Heavenly Father would trouble Himself over such a minor matter.

One night, I prayed again, went to bed, and awoke the next morning with the intent to listen. I spent nearly an hour in bed, doing just that. Listening. The words appeared in my mind: Look in your coat pocket.

My coat pocket? It was the middle of April, and I rarely wore a coat. Why should my keys be in my coat pocket? Then I remembered. I had been out early one morning and slipped on my winter coat to combat the chill.

Hardly daring to hope, I climbed out of bed and went to the front closet. I slipped my hand in one pocket. No keys. I did the same with the second pocket, and there they were, waiting for me.

The incident was a small one in many ways, but it served as a reminder to listen after I pray. How many times do I pray (in a rather perfunctory manner), then go about my business without paying attention to what the Father is trying to tell me? Too often, I'm afraid.

So, for today, I am grateful for the reminder to listen ... and for the Father's constant watchful care.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 116, April 26

Yesterday I wrote about my grand-nephew who was having an operation to help correct his cleft palate. Today I'm happy to report that everything went well. Drew is a trooper and came through the operation and anesthesia just fine. When I learned the news, I knelt in prayer to thank my Father in Heaven for His tender mercies.

Tender mercies. Such a small, even humble phrase. Yet it reminds me of the many miracles that the Lord sees fit to bestow on each of us.

I wrote in an earlier post about tulips. When I saw them blooming in a profusion of red and yellow, I silently congratulated myself. A few moments later, I realized that I had nothing to do with it. It was the Father who produced the miracle. (Again, you would have to know the dirt that masquerades as soil that makes me use the word miracle for anything that manages to grow in our yard but weeds.)

A few days ago, I related the story of our kitty surviving her operation and returning to full health. Another miracle.

Tender mercies and miracles, both large and small, abound if I but take the time to look for them and to acknowledge the Lord's hand in each.

So, for today, I am grateful for tender mercies and miracles.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 115, April 25

My sister's five-year-old grandson is having an operation today to help correct his cleft palate. This sweet child has endured a number of operations during his life and will need to go through still others. Yet he remains good-natured, optimistic, and loving. In a few months, he will undergo a more extensive operation where part of a bone from his hip will be removed to strengthen his palate.

I frequently wonder how I would do if I had to endure operation after operation. I'm afraid I would complain to anyone who would listen. Most of us know people whose entire conversations are a litany of complaints, whining, and pessimism. We have sympathy for these individuals; at the same time, we grow weary of their negativity and may even tend to avoid them.

Lately my prayers have turned into a series of requests and beggings. That I am usually asking for blessings for others does not change the fact that my prayers are heavy on the asking side and light on the gratitude side. (This is especially discouraging as I started this blog to remind myself to be more grateful.) Does Heavenly Father grow weary of my constant demands? I don't think so. However, I am certain He would appreciate more acknowledgement of the blessings He has poured out upon me.

So, for today, I am grateful for people who don't complain ... and for the Father who listens to all of His children.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 114, April 24

Today is Easter. Today is also my husband's and my 38th anniversary. This remains a mystery to our children and grandchildren as I am only 29. (New math.)

Yesterday I wrote about Easter, and so today, I thought I'd write about my husband, Larry. Our marriage has suffered some bumps over the years, but we endured, in large part because I had the sense to marry a good man.

Last fall, our kitty, Harley, was extremely sick. A trip to our veternarian sent us and Harley to a clinic where we learned she had bladder stones and would need an operation. They gave us an estimate of the bill which ran into the thousands of dollars. Larry didn't hesitate but said, "Do whatever is necessary to save her." The nurses and doctors did save Harley, and we rejoiced. We returned to our local vet for follow-up tests and special food. More than $4000 later, our sweet kitty was on the way to recovery.

What does this have to do with our anniversary? I share the story to give but one example of what a good and decent man Larry is. His generosity and love, for me, for our children, our extended family, and friends, continues to awe and humble me.

So, for today, I am grateful for my husband and the years we have shared together.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 113, April 23

Yesterday evening, my husband and I attended an Easter program, "Reflections of Christ," at our church. Beautiful music set the tone for the evening, including the song "If the Savior Stood Beside Me."

As I listened to the words, tears stung my eyes as I wondered what the Savior thinks of me. He hears my words and witnesses my actions. More, He knows my thoughts, those ugly, unkind ones that I try to keep hidden, even while realizing that I can hide nothing from the Lord. I ache inside when I think of His disappointment in me.

If the Savior stood beside me, how would I be different? Could I better control my runaway tongue and selfish actions? Could I banish the thoughts that fill me with bitterness and regret? Could I be the kind of person He wants me to be, the kind of person I want to be?

So, for today, I am grateful for the reminder that the Savior is always standing beside me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

April 22, Day 112

As I've mentioned before, my husband and I have five children. During their growing up years, I did hundreds, if not thousands, of loads of laundry. Our faithful washing machine chugged away every day. Occasionally, I would encounter stains that needed extra care. I would pretreat them with a spray, sometimes soaking them in cold water before tossing the garment into the washer. Grass stains were especially stubborn to get out and required me to scrub them with a bar of soap.

Our Father in Heaven has provided us with a way to pretreat the stains of our life before we meet Him. This process is called repentance. Like washing away stubborn grass strains, repenting requires hard work. I never minded the work needed to remove the stains that came from my children's play and took satisfaction in a basket of clean and neatly folded clothes. However, I have a more difficult time in removing the stains caused by my sins and weaknesses. Too frequently, pride stands in my way. I resist doing the work necessary to make repentance possible. It means humbling myself and giving the power to change me over to the Lord. If only He would spray me with an elixir to magically wipe away the dirt and soil of my life. And then I realized He has--if I but choose to take advantage of it.

So, for today, I am grateful for washing machines. I am always grateful for the Lord's power to make me spotless before Him.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 111, April 21

Yesterday I wrote about a friend who listened to the Spirit and then acted upon its whisperings. Today I'd like to tell you about a child who also possesses a quiet sense of compassion. In our town is a nine-year-old girl who decided she wanted to do something to help the people of Japan. After receiving permission from school authorities, she placed a bucket in each classroom where children could donate whatever they could to send to the earthquake victims. However, she didn't stop there. Knowing that some children would not be able to give money, she asked that they write notes to the children in Japan. What a remarkable and sensitive thing for this young child to do. Too frequently when I hear about a disaster, I wring my hands and then do nothing. This girl made a decision to act and then followed through on that decision. What's more, she included her whole school in her idea. So, for today, I am grateful for the sweetness and wisdom of children.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 110, April 20

A few days ago, a dear friend brought me a bouquet of flowers. She said she didn't know why, but that I had been on her mind. I didn't know why either. Things were moving along all right, and I was feeling good. The following day, however, I received some disturbing news. I then realized that my friend was prompted by the Spirit to give me something to remind me of all that is good in life. I started to think of other friends who have similarly touched my life in various ways, friends who are sensitive to the Spirit and know that there is a need even when they do not understand it. I try to listen to the Spirit, but my ears are too frequently deaf to its whisperings as I allow the clutter of the world to fill my mind. How much more kind and compassionate could I be if I tuned out meaningless chatter from worldly sources and paid attention to the Lord as He seeks to touch my heart? So, for today, I am grateful for friends who listen to the Spirit and reach out to others.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 109, April 19

A dear friend shared with me the story of losing her beloved kitty. The little cat suffered from kidney failure. After doing everything they could for her, including having her hospitalized and treated, they realized she wasn't going to make it. Sadly, they had her put to sleep. I could relate. Last fall, our cat, Harley, developed bladder stones and needed an operation. Fortunately, she pulled through and is her own sweet self again. Pets are an integral part of many of our lives. They sense when we're sad or upset or lonely and offer the comfort of unconditional love. They make us laugh with their antics; they make us cry when we lose them. They ask only that we love them in return. So, for today, I am grateful for pets who enrich our lives and teach us about love.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 108, April 18

Yesterday (Sunday), my husband and I drove to church. Before the church came into view, we saw the steeple. Perhaps that is why I love steeples. They stand as a beacon to be seen for miles around. We are fortunate to live in a town with many churches, most of them topped by steeples. As I do errands, I like to count the number of steeples I see. They remind me that, despite all the problems our nation has, there are people who are striving to do their best, to be kind to their neighbors, to worship God. I occasionally wonder why the media does not report on the good things individuals and groups do rather than concentrating on the opposite. Naive, perhaps, but would it not be refreshing to hear an uplifting story for a change? For me and, I suspect for many, steeples symbolize hope and faith. So, for today, I am grateful for steeples.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 107, April 17

The May issue of Reader's Digest contains an article titled "The Art of Problem Solving." With increasing interest, I read the nine tips to increase creativity and innovative thinking. One tip was gleaned from a company which gave its employees two "I screwed up cards." Workers are encouraged to take risks. If they fail, they hand in a card and are off the hook. What a great idea. I wondered why I am not as generous with myself. Why can't I take creative risks? Of course, writers take a risk every time they submit a short story, an article, a book manuscript. Too often, however, I fall into the same patterns, turning in the same kind of work I've done before. It succeeds sometimes, I reason, so why not keep doing it? That is in-a-rut thinking. The movie STAR WARS was rejected by every movie studio in Hollywood before 20th Century Fox finally took a chance on it. Both its creators and the studio took a huge risk on producing something so completely different from anything that had been done up until that time. It went on to be one of the largest-grossing movies in film history, as well as spawning an entire series. Taking risks involves not only creativity but also courage, strength, and the ability to endure the ridicule of others. Benjamin Franklin possessed all three of these qualities when he experimented with electricity, but he ignored the nay-sayers and continued with his "crazy" ideas. So, for today, I am grateful for people who take risks.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 106, April 16

We all know them: the people who take shortcuts through life. There is the student who cheats his way through high school and college. (Do you really want a doctor to operate on you who cheated his way through medical school?) There is the writer, desperate for success, who plagarizes another writer's work. There is the job-seeker who lies on his resume. Each of these people sees a shortcut and takes it, rationalizing that he or she is entitled. Then there are the people who do the hard work, the heavy lifting, and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their goals. I mentored an unpublished writer for ten years. She was determined to finish a book and then sell it. She put in the hours and work required to sell not one book but two in a month's period. A friend determined to become a music therapist. She put in long hours of attending class and studying to make her dream come true. Now she touches the lives of many with her talent and skill. In the end, those individuals who take shortcuts will likely find that their obsession to succeed has cost them everything. And those who took the long and slow road will find that their patience, honesty, and hard work has reaped eternal rewards. So, for today, I am grateful for people who refuse to take shortcuts.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 105, April 15

In earlier postings, I've written about rejection. Most writers face rejection again and again. Rejection is not limited to writers, though. We all face rejection over the years. If not, then we're probably not doing much of anything. Have you ever had a child tell you, "I hate you?" That's rejection. I collect rejection slips like some people collect dolls. I don't do it deliberately, though it may seem so. I keep submitting stories and articles and, and the rejections keep coming. Now they come more faster through the wonders of email. Let me share with you some others who have faced rejection. See if you recognize these names. Mary Higgins Clark was rejected 40 times before selling her first story. Fifteen publishers and 30 agents told John Grisham "No" on his first novel, A TIME TO KILL. Dr. Seuss's first book, AND TO THINK I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET, garnered 27 rejecctions before being published. Louis L'Amour, who penned more than 100 westerns, many made into movies, received 350 rejections before selling his first book. Author of EXODUS, Leon Uris failed high school English three times. The stories are legion of writers, actors, and others who found success after first being rejected over and over. So, for today, I am grateful for people who refuse to give up.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 104, April 14

For the last few days, the overcast skies have obscured the sun. Because I am acutely sensitive to the lack of sunlight, I feel as though a shadow has brushed over my spirit. Today, it is snowing, yet my tulips audaciously continue to bloom. They shout with color, lipstick red and schoolbus yellow. I wonder how they manage to flower even through the snow and cold, and I wish I were as brave. I am in awe of the tulips with their gaudy colors and indomitable spirit. Spring in Colorado is a fickle thing, with temperatures dropping 40 degrees in one day, with snow in the morning and heaven-sent sunshine in the afternoon. Like the tulips, we adjust. I know several people who not only adjust but triumph. Wives who've lost their husbands, friends undergoing chemotherapy, parents single-handedly raising their children. So, for today, I am grateful for tulips ... and people ... with indomitable spirits.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 103, April 13

I've noticed another theme that keeps showing up in this blog, that of thrift and self-reliance. With that in mind, I'd like to share with you some quotes I found. Perhaps you will relate to some of them: I would rather have my people laugh at my economies than weep for my extravagances.--King Omar of Sweden. To secure the greatest amount of pleasure with the least possible outlay should be the aim of all economic effort.--Francois Quesnay, French economist. The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.--Mahatma Gandhi. Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants.--Epicurus. The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.--Frank McKinney Hubbard. So, for today, I am grateful for the wisdom of others.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 102, April 12

"Our greatest glory is not in never failing ... but in rising up everytime we fail." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson. I love these words. They give comfort and a kick in the pants at the same time. I can't count the number of times I have made the conscious decision to give up writing. Rejection upon rejection convinced me that I had chosen the wrong profession. Even my acceptances result in abysmal pay. Then I remembered: I write because I have to. Some inner need compels me to write. I believe we all have this need to create, to take what is a mass of confusion and make it into something beautiful. In my case, this mass is words. For a sculptor friend, it is clay and wax. For an artist, it is paint and brush strokes. For a musician, it is notes and rhythms. For a mother, it is time and energy and infinite love. Without this inner need and the ability to rise up after failure, DaVinci would not have painted the Mona Lisa; Robert Frost would not have penned his beautiful poetry; Andrew Lloyd Webber would not have composed Phantom of the Opera. So, for today, I am grateful for the need that resides within us all to create.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 101, April 11

Yesterday I sat in church and watched the children. I love children. I love their energy, their enthusiasm, their excitement over the smallest thing. My heart swelled as I watched the children of a large family gather around their mother as she held the youngest child, the love umistakable on their faces for their baby sister and their parents. I wrote of The Greatest Generation in yesterday's blog. We have another Greatest Generation in our children. I have four grandchildren, each unique, each brilliant in his and her own way. I cherish them for who they are and for what they represent. Too often, I despair over our nation, over the selfishness and shortsightedness of the leaders. Then I look at the children of this newest generation and realize that there is hope. Children possess the spirit of God, perhaps because they have so recently come from His presence. So, for today, I am grateful for children and what they can teach us.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 100, April 10

Several years ago, Tom Brokaw penned a book entitled THE GREATEST GENERATION. In it, he extolled those individuals who weathered the Great Depression, served in World War II, and rebuilt a nation. My parents were part of that generation. They lived by such old-fashioned principles as self-reliance, thrift, and hard work. There was no whining, no demanding that others do for them what they could do for themselves. In short, they had pride, in themselves, in their country. As I observe current events and listen to news programs, I am appalled at what is happening to our nation. A recent program spotlighted the profession of panhandling, where healthy, middle class people dressed in poor clothes to stand on street corners and beg, carrying such bogus signs as "No food, no shelter." The program followed one woman who "earned" $50.00 per hour, then returned to her well-kept suburban home. While watching this, I could not help but think of my mother, who supported herself while my father served in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. She did not ask for government aid. She did not ask that others work while she did not. Instead, she worked as a secretary, sending money home to her widowed mother. So, for today, I am grateful for The Greatest Generation and the example they set for all of us.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 99, April 9

I love flags. I love how they look blowing in a stiff wind. More, I love what they represent. When I was a school child (many moons ago), we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. (We also prayed every morning.) Like many of the values and practices I hold dear, these are considered out-of-date. As I have mentioned before, I came of age during the last years of the Viet Nam era. Just as I never understood the criticism and denigration of the men and women who so bravely served our country, neither did I understand the flag burning in which so many people felt necessary to participate. The flag is sacred to me. When my father, a World War II veteran died, I was presented with a meticulously folded American flag. I cherish it, just as I cherish the memory of my father. So, for today, I am grateful for the flag of the United States of America ... and for the freedom it symbolizes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 98, April 8

I love garage sales. I love finding other people's castoffs and turning them into my own treasures. My home is filled with Ethan Allen furniture, from garage sales. My closet is filled with name brand clothes, also from garage sales. I learned the art of garage saling from my mother. My mother was a child of the Great Depression. She knew how to stretch a dollar. She also knew how to spot value. Most importantly, she taught me how to live within my means. Old-fashioned principles, to be sure, but they have stood me in good stead. (Don't we all wish that our government could learn to live within its means?) My children occasionally ask, "Why do you go to garage sales when you can afford to shop at real stores?" The answer is two-fold. First, as I said, I love garage sales. Every sale is an adventure. Secondly, living below our means allows my husband and me to be generous. We tithe to our church and try to help others whenever we can. So, for today, I am grateful for garage sales. It goes without saying that I'm always grateful for my mother.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 97, April 7

One of my favorite parables in the Bible is that of the talents. A master gives three servants one, two, and five talents, respectively. The servants receving two and five talents doubled theirs, earning their master's praise, while the servant who received one talent buried his and earned the master's condemnation. Okay. You know where I'm going with this. The theme of talents and creativity keeps showing up in my blog. What can I say? Let me share with you examples of individuals who multiply their talents. A number of years ago, my daughter, Alanna, wanted to learn to make cards. She started by attending workshops on card making. Her first efforts were those of a beginner, but she kept working, practicing, and refining her techniques. Today, her cards and scrapbook pages are works of art. She shares her talent with her friends and has taught her daughter how to make cards as well. A dear friend enjoys music. She plays the piano, the organ, the guitar, and the flute. She also composes and sings. Several years ago, she went back to college to earn a degree in music therapy. Today, she works as a music therapist for Hospice, brightening the days of many people who are unable to leave their homes. Another sweet friend has a natural gift for caregiving. For years, she volunteered to care for people who had accidents and suffered from other ailments. Today, she works as a home health aide, helping infirm people with personal care and giving them an extra dose of love. So, for today, I am grateful for individuals who multiply their talents and bless the lives of others.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 96, April 6

"Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipation."--Charles Dudley Warner. Autumn remains my favorite season of the year, but I relish spring as well. Traditionally, spring represents renewal, reawakening, revival. For me, spring is a time to heal old wounds, to mend relationships that are strained, to try again in my personal quest to get it right. My choice of words there is deliberate: to get it right. I struggle to get it right in my writing. I struggle even more to get it right in my personal life. Sins and weaknesses, fears and frailities keep getting in my way. To my dismay, I too frequently allow them to win. How can I hope to pen words that will touch the hearts of others if my own is hard and unforgiving? The short answer is, I can't. So I continue to plead with the Lord to soften my heart, to give it the "balm of Gilead." I ask Him to take my heart and make of it what He will. My tulips are on the verge of bursting with color. I anticipate that ritual every spring. This spring, I anticipate my heart bursting with color, the colors of love, forgiveness, and healing. So, for today, I am grateful for the spring.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 95, April 5

I have a favorite pair of black pants. They skim over the lumps and bumps that are my hips and thighs, forgiving any misdeeds of overeating and overindulging. They stretch to give latitude for the ups and downs in my weight. These pants are much like my friends. They, too, skim over the lumps and bumps of my character. They, too, forgive my misdeeds of selfishness and thoughtlessness. They, too, stretch to give latitude for the ups and downs in my moods. What would I do without my friends? They forgive me, support me, encourage me, and love me, all the while knowing my flaws, faults, and weaknesses. They've seen me at my worst, both physically and emotionally, and love me anyway. They show that love in countless ways that remind me daily how fortunate I am. They are, truly, the sisters of my heart. So, for today, I am grateful for pants that forgive my sins ... and friends who do the same.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 94, April 4

Most of you will know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Two days ago, in the Church's semi-annual General Conference, Prophet and President Thomas S. Monson announced that a temple will be built in Ft. Collins, Colorado, not far from our home in Loveland. I nearly wept with gratitude at this news. Temples are special places where sacred ordinances are performed. They are sanctuaries of peace in a hectic world. When my husband and I adopted a daughter, we took her to the Denver Temple where she was sealed to us for time and all eternity. Though that occurred 19 years ago, I can still recall the feelings of love and joy that coursed through me. So, for today, I am grateful for temples.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 93, April 3

Yesterday (Saturday), my husband and I had the assignment to help clean our church building. We arrived in our work clothes. I grabbed the vacuum and started in the classrooms. Within a little while, I heard beautiful music coming from the chapel, overriding even the whirring motor of the vacuum. Despite my grubby attire, I couldn't resist slipping into the back of the chapel and taking a seat on a pew. A cellist and pianist accompanied a young man singing "Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing," one of my favorite hymns. (You might guess by now that I have a number of favorite hymns.) His pure, clear voice touched my heart, and tears stung my eyes. My chores were temporarily forgotten as I rejoiced in the music. I've mentioned in earlier posts that I have no talent for music. It is my sincere belief that when talents were passed out in heaven, I was off going to a garage sale or taking a nap. At any event, I missed out on many talents and am occasionally envious of those who possess such an abundance of them. It's taken me years to realize what a selfish and short-sighted attitude that is. Why should I resent the talents of others when they brighten the world with color and music and grace? So, for today, I am grateful for the talents of others and their willingness to share them.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day 92, April 2

We live in an ungracious world. While technology soars, manners have taken a nosedive. Good manners go far beyond simply holding the door for someone else. They help define who and what we are. Yesterday I received two thank-you notes in the mail, one from a friend and one from my son-in-law. Both graciously thanked me for a favor. I was impressed, not only with the sentiments expressed but that the individuals had taken the time to choose a card, handwrite a note, and then mail it. Recently, in an etiquette column, I read a letter from a bride's mother asking a "manners guru" if it were all right if her daughter simply emailed a blanket thank-you to the guests for their gifts. Clearly expecting agreement, the mother eschewed the idea of sending out thank-you notes, claiming them to be old-fashioned, time-consuming, and expensive. The columnist disappointed her by saying that good manners were never out of style. This example is a microcosm of the laziness and carelessness of our society. If we do not care about the small things, how can we expect ourselves and others to care about the larger, more important ones? Every morning I kneel at my bedside and pray. This morning, I noticed that my prayer contained many more "I wants" and "I needs" than "Thank-yous." This lack of acknowledgement of my blessings shamed me, and I resolved to do better. Perhaps, I reasoned, if my prayers were more filled with more gratitude and graciousness, I would extend the same to my family and friends. So, for today, I am grateful for those individuals who remind me that good manners matter.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 91, April 1

Yesterday I was fired up about something and sent off a letter-to-the-editor to our local paper. Too frequently, I take for granted the freedom that allows me to express my opinion in such a public forum, a freedom that is denied to many people of the world. The Founding Fathers wisely included this freedom in writing the Constitution. This inspired document stands as a beacon of light and truth, not just to the United States of America but to nations everywhere. The Constitution guarantees this and other freedoms, but it is the men and women of America's armed services who protect it. I came of age during the Viet Nam era, during the protests, the flag burnings, the draft dodging. I never understood the scorn directed at those who so bravely served our country. Instead, they had my admiration, my respect, my gratitude ... and they still do. "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." George Orwell. So, for today, I am grateful for the American soldier.