27 Summer Benedictions

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My summer has included grief, groans, and groping in the dark.
Same as you.
So this is not intended to be an episode of ‘my beautiful life’.
It is my retrospect of benedictions as I press onward.

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:: Farmer grandson in line to show his sheep at Stock Show ::

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 :: experimental gardening  growing Brussells Sprouts ::

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:: captivating clematis ::

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:: Mint, juice of one lime, Truvia, ice, and water ::

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:: her hair reminds me of a Fibonacci spiral ::

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:: halfway through The Pat Conroy Cookbook – a good book for foodies ::

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:: garlic scapes and wood rounds ::

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:: the moments before Susan from Munich arrived ::

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:: anniversary camping trip, Curt reading Shop Class as Soulcraft ::

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:: Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge ::

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:: reminds me of Hank, the Cowdog ::

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:: glory, glory, glory!! a surprise sibling reunion! ::

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:: Chris & Jessie’s table set for an extended family dinner ::

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:: Who knew 80 could look so glamorous? ::

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:: this girl, our youngest grand, lives life with zest ::

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:: moving up the ladder ::

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:: breakfast with Jack & Stacia, who mentored Curt in his teen years in Los Angeles ::

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:: harvest golden tones ::

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::   Papa cheesing it up with our Seattle grandsons ::

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:: Fair is where you take the hogs in August ::

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:: my ongoing magnet project — thank you, Shutterfly! ::

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:: last year I saved zinnia seeds. My frugal self is exultant. ::

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:: squash blossoms, garlic and cilantro from the garden; the makings of quesadillas ::

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:: teddy bear doubling as a pillow ::

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::  day is done (pinching myself that we live here)  ::

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:: chipmunk visiting during my day of silence and solitude ::

Awake Thou Wintry Earth

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Chives growing in my garden, February 12, 2016

Awake, Thou Wintry Earth is almost a life anthem. I came to Thomas Blackburn’s poem by way of Bach’s Cantata 129. When I heard it, I came to understand in a new way that spring is an annual demonstration of resurrection. Listening to this still gives me shivers. Singing it means I end up whispering to tell that dead is dead over a voice that is breaking.

I took a walk around my backyard this morning and was delighted to hear garlic and chives laughing at winter, death, decay.

Awake thou wintry earth,
fling off, fling off thy sadness;
ye vernal flowers laugh forth,
laugh forth your ancient gladness.
A new and lovely tale
through-out the land is spread;
it floats o’er hill and dale
to tell that death is dead.

Here is a joyful organ. 1 1/2 minutes that will lift your day high. Sing along! It’s pretty loud; turn your sound down. Or don’t. The organ is a dominating instrument and its volume is glorious!

Saying Thank You Before Opening Gifts

William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_A_Little_Coaxing_(1890)I read a passage from The Approaching Storm in September which has taken up residence in my thoughts. It describes a Czech Christmas in 1937.

This was a feudal Christmas. Castle and estate people joined in its celebration, as has always been the custom here. They were all Czech. They came to the tree gorgeously dressed in silk and satin of lovely colors, finely embroidered. The men and boys were as handsomely garbed as the girls and women. There was no servility in these people. I liked their quiet self-assurance.

The celebrations were opened by the children going up to their parents and thanking them for their love and care since last Christmas. The eldest, a son of fifteen, spoke first. He was followed by his brother and sister. This is an annual custom.  […] Then we had the presents.

My first instinct on reading this was to clap my hands together and plan a new custom in our family. Then I paused. This Czech annual custom was rooted in generations of thankful attitudes. Can we turn that around with a simple prelude to opening gifts? No, I debate myself, that is not the way to change a culture. Just another band aid fix.  It’s hard enough to get some of our kiddos to say “thank you” after they’ve opened gifts!

I’ve mulled this over. Thankfulness has to be inculcated in kids from the get go. I’ve seen parents teach thankful habits in tiny tots using Baby Sign Language. Long before they can talk, they sign “Please” and “Thank you”, the cornerstones of good manners.

I’m still pondering, still admiring this custom. Wanting the heart felt version, not the formulaic one. Thoughts, anyone?

My Thanksgivings

DSC_2423I’m thankful for the gloaming,
old hymns in minor keys,
For Reepicheep the Valiant
and our comfortable Jeep.

Forgiveness for besetting sins;
wood that crackles while it heats,
Bach’s glorious Passacaglia,
fresh mint in my smoothie.

For long long-distance phone calls,
long interlibrary loans,
long BBC programmes,
long tables set with love.

I’m grateful for grandsons, boisterous and brave,
for solo granddaughter’s exuberant cheers,
for garlic in olive oil, for book-lined walls,
for Welsh men’s voices, giving me thrills.

Pumpkin soup, spicy cauliflower,
Billy Collins’ poems, a good red,
Jack Johnson on a Friday night,
and uninterrupted sleep.

Truth, beauty and goodness,
goodness and mercy —
a life bejeweled in mercy.

For bedtime laughter,
down comforters,
freedom from debt.

I praise God for reconciliation,
John Rutter and
friends who want my books.

For the long lens,
Hand-painted cards,
alliteration and articulation.

For the befluttering be-prefix,
Besotted am I—beguiled—,
Bespectacled, bestowed,
Beholden, begladdened,
Beloved.

Extended family, a wedding in Maine, lingering memories.
Gathering from distant corners,
beauty bedecked with generosity.

Reunions:
Finding new friendship with old friends,
Finding old friendship with new friends,
kinship renewed, connections rekindled.

For a sister who suffers
Yet bears it with grace,
choosing silence
When tempted to complain.

Pesto, bubble wrap, a man and guitar on a stage,
Asparagus, steam, good water from the tap.

Sons who move in with their elderly mothers,
Daughters-in-law who joyfully rearrange life.

I’m thankful for the death of death,
for mingled tears, for clean grief.
For new widows who’ve discovered joy (!)
in the suburbs of sorrow.

Asian noodle salad, cilantro, Athanasius.
I will always be grateful for Athanasius.

I give thanks for comfy sweaters, for jeans that fit,
Direct communication and southern windows.

For a working esophagus, for toenails and elbows,
For friends who travel and post pictures,
Different cultures, different customs,
same humanity.

Countless gifts of love.

Thanksgivings

 

 

I’m thankful for the gloaming,

ancient hymns in minor keys,

Reuben sandwiches and Subaru engines.

 

For repeated forgiveness,

wood heat,

Bach’s Passacaglia,

and B.B. King. 

 

For sibling phone-calls,

library downloads,

BBC films,

an expanded table. 

 

I’m grateful for grandsons and stacks of books,

for garlic sizzling in olive oil,

for book-lined walls and long car-talks.

 

For basil, cilantro,

spearmint,

fresh limes,

toddler laughter and

blesséd uninterrupted sleep.

 

Truth, beauty and goodness,

goodness and mercy,

mercy and grace.   

 

I’m grateful for Psalms,

Proverbs, Ecclesiastes:

Wisdom for the taking.

 

I pray for reconciliation,

renewed relationship,

the safe return of a wandering soul.

 

For husband hugs and kisses,

Love you, Babe…“,

alliteration and Winslow Homer.

 

Declared righteousness,

Thanks be to God” and

We believe…”.

 

Extended family, augmented chords, lingering meals,

Scented candles, words!, and memories.

 

For daughters, and the sons who married them,

Nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews,

Extra sharp cheddar, and

The UPS man carrying Amazon.com boxes.

 

Pesto, bubble wrap, smiles that light up the whole face,

Asparagus, spiced chai, and abundant drinking water.

 

Cape Town, Johannesburg,

Budapest, St. Petersburg,

Ankara, Lusaka,

Harare, Krakow;

places where a piece of me resides.


I’m thankful for the death of death, for mingled tears,

For the grace to finish well,

For comfort in sorrow, the grip of hope.

 

Asian noodle salad, Augustine, whole wheat toast.

Reading evenings, empty nest.

 

I give thanks for Gore-tex, loving rebukes,

Laughter in the morning and southern windows.

 

For nostrils, fingernails and funny belly buttons,

For DSL, clematis, and airplane travel,

Enduring friendships,

Lively discussions.

 

I’m thankful for home,

a place to belong.

 

“Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.  His mercy endures forever.”

 

(adapted from previous posts)

The Gift of Ann Voskamp

 

She looks like a college student, not the mother of six kids, all spritely in her cute black dress and knee length boots. You expect a high voice, but it is a husky one that begins, “I’m in over my head.”

I don’t have time this morning to tell you about her humble spirit, her potent words, her exhortation to slow down, wake up, pay attention and above all to give thanks.

But you can hear her message to Wheaton College students yesterday here.