gifts, 2

So the first round of gifts were store-bought. My favorite shortbread cookies, packaged chocolates. I included a lovely card with my name and address with the festive bags. Yet the second round of gifts were received much more readily than the first.

IMG_0332.JPG

These included homemade sweet banana breads with walnuts, and delicious cookies from a blogger family I follow who often post wonderful recipes. Here is a link for the ones I made which were raved about. I recommend you visit their blog. Always informative and interesting:

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Anyway, these treats went to a nearby fire station and my local post office. The best thing about these kinds of presents was the look of happy surprise when I handed them over.

IMG_0338.JPGhappy ladybug resting in the notch of a small tree

I still have one more delivery, a pecan pie and a festive box of Hershey’s treats to my other local fire station. I will take these on Christmas Eve because they are there working on Christmas Eve. Not with their families. Maybe the firefighters there that day are all unmarried people and volunteer to work over the holiday, but maybe not. Beside, it makes me happy.

IMG_0339.JPG

So whatever your plans, whomever you will have near and hold dear, whatever you celebrate I wish you love, joy, peace, and wonderful friendship.

 

external-content.duckduckgo.jpg(from pinterest.com)

 

 

 

gifts

Talent. This word makes me think of someone who can sing, dance, play an instrument, play a sport or sail.

Gifted makes me think of someone who has intellectual acumen, or who can make things– knit, paint, draw, pottery, jewelry.

IMG_0313.JPG

Imagine creating this. A leaf. It has beauty, it feeds its plant, it gives shade, makes nests for animals, fuel. So our talents and gifts we are either born with or at least have the ability to learn.

All of us are capable of creating beauty in some way.  I took cookies to our local sheriff’s department. I have done this before and was asked for my name and address. This year when I said I had brought cookies no one said a thing. Just stared at me. The people who were in the lobby as well as the deputies. So I added, “I bring y’all cookies every year.” A person in the waiting area muttered, “isn’t that nice,” which prompted a deputy to say “Aww”, guardedly.

IMG_0328.JPG

Really?? Cookies. Maybe it was the festive bag and tissue paper. Maybe I look suspect. I think I look rather ordinary. Whatever, there was palpable tension as I stood there, until one of the brave deputies said, “You can hand it through here” indicating a glass shield with an opening the bag could fit through. I noticed the x-ray machine where persons put their briefcases and purses when they came to visit people in the jail and was glad I didn’t have to put it through that. But still. It’s sad to me that you can’t do anything nice for people without causing some degree of alarm.

IMG_0326.JPG

I brought a bag of treats to the nearby police station. There was an employee outside the building, talking with someone. As I caught her eye she said she worked in the building but did not say to give her the festive holiday bag, so I asked, “I can give this to you?” Not defensive, just clarifying. She nodded and I handed it off. Then went on to my volunteering stint at the city garden. I felt pretty good that I had done something nice for people, but sad that it had caused them some concern if not alarm.

IMG_0323.JPG

How should this be handled? I get why law enforcement might be concerned when someone brings a bag. I suppose it could be anything.

Maybe next year I will mail it.

 

download.jpg\

 

finding gifts

Not long ago a friend recommended  Ann Voskamp’s little book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully, Right Where You Are. This was a popular book a few years ago yet I’d not heard of it  A horrific tragedy that the author witnessed as a child prompted her to write the book and its premise is living fully, in the moment.

IMG_0015.JPG

Easy to forget or ignore, with busy schedules, air conditioner failures, medical problems, commitments of all kinds. It came to mind this week when Lily’s vet called to reschedule her surgery as a result of a staff schedule issue.

IMG_0014.JPG

Frustrated at first, I expressed my concern for Lily, now dealing with this knee for 6 weeks. As I spoke into the residual silence I realized my comments would make no difference. Had the surgeon a sooner opening I am certain she would have scheduled Lily for it. Was I being punished for moving from veterinarian to veterinarian, in search of one who would be open and truthful with me about my dogs? Maybe, but unlikely. Veterinarians’ primary concern is for the patient, not their person, I hope.

IMG_0008.JPG

The extra 4 days has given me opportunity to research the type of surgery she will have, and I read aloud to Lily the prognosis for success (very good) and the recovery and how she and I will deal with it.

IMG_0007.JPG

In the meantime the air conditioning unit has been busy filling up its overflow drain pan. The first time, mentioned in a previous post actually shut off the unit itself which was how I discovered the problem. Four repair calls and a new shop-vac later it is still filling the pan. The drain has been cleared (twice), the crawlspace pipe has been elevated, the unit has been examined totally and discovered to be problem-free. Clearly something still needs to be looked at.

IMG_0006.JPG

So today, as I did a few days ago, I vacuumed up 12 containers of water. The gift here? I accidentally face-timed a friend and learned how to turn the function off so it wouldn’t keep happening. I noticed the tiny attic had space to put some boxes I want to save. I went up and down those attic stairs 12 times so got in exercise steps which matters now that it is too hot to walk the dogs and Lily can’t walk anyway. Lulu won’t walk if Lily doesn’t go. And sweat! No idea how to measure the amount pouring off but I understand it’s cleansing.

IMG_0011.JPGRescue dog Lily patiently waiting for her new surgery day

My son called to let me know he’s visiting a college friend nearby and will drive up to visit me for a couple of days. Even though Lily will be in recovery and we can’t do much of anything we’ll hunker down with some tacos and old movies and have a fun time.

IMG_0013.JPG

So I’ve got lists going for things to do to prep for Lily’s big day, things to do while she is at the hospital and stuff to prepare for my son’s visit.

IMG_0009.JPG

Busy week coming up.

IMG_0016.JPGRescue dog Lulu not worried at all

 

shopping.png

 

 

letters

I love writing letters. Nobody does anymore though, because of email, cell phones. I have two or three friends who write but infrequently. My letters are not erudite or profound. I love receiving letters and answer by return mail.

I admire authors who write entirely through letters. Introspective, expressive words on paper. I am basically socially inept and do better if I write my thoughts. What I put on paper makes more sense than anything I say. I have no idea why it is easier to organize thoughts that way rather than verbally or why I find it easier.

Picture0616181528_1.jpg

I love writing paper, note cards. I have way more than I will likely ever use and I keep buying it. Maybe I can decorate the walls with it. Like those old fashioned roses that used to clutter old wallpaper. When I was growing up we lived in an old drafty farmhouse with 12-foot ceilings, my room was covered from floor to ceiling with these roses. My mother, trying desperately to change me from a lonely tomboy to make me a frilly little girl bought me a little pink wastebasket with dancing white poodles painted on it sparkling with rhinestones. She had my room painted a soft pink and adorned the 6-foot tall windows with filmy sheer curtain panels. I truly missed those roses.

Ironic that I love writing letters now. As a child I was terrible at writing thank-you notes. My godmother taught me a very important lesson about gratitude. She had sent me a pretty scarab bracelet for my birthday and I th.jpgpromised my mother I would write her promptly. I did not and soon after I received a note from her. She said as I had not taken the trouble to thank her for her gift either I had not liked it or was simply ungrateful. Lesson learned. It is always important to let someone know that I appreciate their thoughtfulness.

I never received another gift from my godmother.

Things are way more casual now. Even my family only occasionally acknowledge receipt of gifts so I not only do not know that they received it, I have no idea if they liked it. It’s tempting to take the page from Aunt Adelaide’s book and write a shaken finger letter but I keep thinking how times have changed. It’s rare to find gratitude anywhere, or humility. I suppose expecting to see that is old-fashioned, or too demanding, or takes the fun out of giving gifts (and now there’s re-gifting!).

th.jpg

When did it become uncool to be grateful? Is it the sense of entitlement so many have adopted either from a fear of losing whatever standard of living they have become accustomed to, or because so much is available to so many for so little? And we assume it will always be like this?

I don’t have any answers. Maybe I’m not really looking for answers. It is sad though. When people are grateful there is a sense of appreciation not just for the gift but for the thoughts of the giver. And a sense of joy about the recipient.

I still like to give presents. I can’t help it. I do know without doubt rescue dogs Lily and Lulu are always happily surprised to find an unexpected treat or toy.

And so grateful.

Picture0616181612_1.jpg

earthly good

Several years ago I had the privilege of visiting Israel with an Israeli-based organization. I was there 10 days and the tour guide soaked us in Jewish history as well as showing us holy sites where Jesus lived and taught like the church at Cana, Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee, Jerusalem and Golgotha. At times overwhelming, the people in my group and I shared this experience with awe, reverence and humble hearts.

But there was one traveler who seemed to be most interested in attracting the attention of a female traveler. No particular one, just a female.

He seemed a pleasant enough sort, persistent but nice. He was from Colorado and insinuated himself gently but intentionally enough as to remind me of a movie I’d seen a while before, “Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels” with Michael Caine and Steve Martin. It’s a funny film about a couple of con men, I recommend it. (Sigourney Weaver had a movie about two women cons, “Heartbreakers”, also funny).

Anyway, on the flight back to New York I was walking the kinks out of my legs and he offered a cup of coffee. We chatted a short while and he asked which church I attended. At the time I thought it an odd question so I replied I wasn’t really consistently attending and he thought that was ok, most people were too religious to be of any earthly good.

I paused a moment. I’d heard this expression all my life, basically from ne’er-do-wells trying to convince nice people to let their hair down (also heard Luke 12:19 used this way, to which I’d respond with Luke 12:20!).

Proverbs 16:3-9 basically gives advice on living in a way that is pleasing to God. That if you “commit your work to the Lord, your plans will be established”. I’d always heard “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” I’d also heard that we can control our thoughts and thus control our attitudes not just in ourselves and what we do but toward others. The first commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, spirit and soul” and the second: “Love your neighbor…” So what we do really needs to include mindfulness of God, and being considerate, thoughtful and loving of our neighbor who, for a literal person like myself I have to remind me that this is not whomever lives next door or down the street, but anyone. God created each of us, everywhere. So this means any and everyone.

So I wonder when I do or say things, and I have always had an unbridled tongue and an undisciplined mind to my occasional deep regret, the impression or ripples they make. I can’t dwell on this, my little brain hasn’t the capacity. But I offer a prayer asking forgiveness where I have offended, asking encouragement where I have actually done some good. I say done some good because I know there is “no one good but God alone.”

In many cases we’ll never know what kind of mark we have left. I just remember to use my powers for good, or ask God if He will. This doesn’t give me license to do as I please and just assume God will fix everything, clean up my mess. This makes me ultimately responsible for everything I do or say and to remember that no matter how awful the memory or the feeling brought by that memory or the lack of forgiveness from or for whomever, I am forgiven.

I have said this before but I need to know it again. God sent a Savior, His Son. For me, for you, forever.

I pray to be used for His good, His glory.

 

Picture1006171058_1.jpg

 

Prov. 16:3, 23:7; Luke 10:27, 18:19

simple gifts

As I began the slow climb up the mountain Aaron Copland’s “Simple Gifts” played on the car radio. Appalachian Spring is a favorite composition of mine. . .  “‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ’tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, and when we find ourselves in the place just right, ”twill be in the valley of love and delight… ”

I thought of a favorite author, Ann Voskamp’s book “1,000 Gifts” where she found herself at a place I reach occasionally… I can no longer see beauty for the mundane I have built in my own presupposition. So in her book Ann seeks to find gratitude in the hard, unpleasant times in her life. She finds beauty in the angry, strength in the weak. She finds God in her gratitude when she would perhaps find discouragement, instead finds courage.

So I became overwhelmed by that which I had lost sight of, what I failed to notice… rescue dog Lulu tickling me with her whiskers when she hopes to be noticed. Rescue dog Lily slathering my face with a slobbery kiss. Birdsong echoing in the pine thicket where my dogs and I walk at sunrise during summer. Tiny frogs in the eave of my house croaking loudly after a rainstorm. Puddle shimmers on the walkway reflecting under the porch ceiling. The sun gleaming on pine needles. Water droplets edged on grape leaves like tiny crystals.

During my time away I relished the sound of lively conversation and laughter among random small groups chatting happily on the lodge veranda. The gentle creak of rocking chairs as I watched a deer delicately pick her way along the edge of the woods munching leaves. The soft hum of crickets outside my open window where rainwashed, cool fresh air gently blew over my toes. Up the mountain the clouds hovered just below the peaks, hugging the light mist that floated below them. Plodding up each switchback I offered to God my challenges, cares, fears, and a few  tears. I thanked Him as I walked down the mountain, for the answers He would bring, for the comfort I already knew, for the peace over that which I cannot control.

Hope is a simple gift of the heart. It grows through faith and through my answered prayer. When allowed its freedom hope is indomitable, strengthening, comforting, and offers freedom from whatever tries to contain me. I can overcome it, whatever it is.

Picture0805171542_1.jpg

Thank You God.

— Shaker lyrics, “Simple Gifts” written by Elder Joseph Brackett, 1848

Another birthday

Each one spins by faster than the one before. This year my son came here to visit me. We did a lot of things but mainly we spent time. It cost him, yes– a plane ticket, time away from an important deadline at work, he is still recovering from his surgery a few weeks ago, but he came to spend something that cannot be bought or borrowed or hoarded. He gave me his time.

How often do we think of what someone does out of love for us as a gift? How often do we take it for granted or (far worse) feel it is deserved?

So much of life is a gift and I am saddened to the point of tears at times to realize how long it has taken me to understand how much I have that I did not work for, did not earn, didn’t even ask for but it is right in front of me, all around me.

It also makes me wonder because of the glut of richness in this life– not just the colors of the earth or the softness of a fawn’s eyes or the sound of wind in the trees or waves on the sand or laughter of a child –we do not truly see, nor do we hear. Some of us are so busy with amplifications or distortions of some sort or our selves that we can only see and hear no further than our own parameters.

My son had precious time, and he chose to share it with me. He went beyond himself, the rim of his existence. I hope he received something in return, my love, my joy at his gift.

IMG_1591 (2)