Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankful for electric lights.

I am thankful for electric lights.

It is a luxury that we so often take for granted.  Hit a switch and a light comes on.

Today is a gloomy, stormy day.  Shawn is working late.  The house was dark and lonely.

I walked from room to room, turning on the lights.  Cheerful yellow light spilled from lamps and ceiling fixtures, brightening, illuminating, cheering.

So easy.  So nice.  The sense of comfort is reassuring.

Here's a tip for parents of young children:  To help little ones make a smooth transition to bedtime, dim the lights in your home after dinner.  Turn off the TV and the computers.  Every 15 minutes, turn off a few more lights.  Play soft music but keep the heat turned up.  Be near your children as you dim the lights, talking to them, helping them change into their pajamas, reading them stories and then reading the Bible and praying.

Your nearness, and the warmth, will help them feel comfortable and happy about the dimming of the lights and the fading of the day.  They will begin to feel sleepy in the decreasing light.  Tuck them snugly into their beds with plenty of hugs and kisses.  Only after you have closed the doors on their soft, dark rooms should you turn down the heat.

What a blessing to be able to stage your own personal dusk, simply by flicking a few switches over the course of an evening.

(Of course, if you are an adult, you can just buy a pair of amber glasses.  If you wear these for 3-4 hours before bed, they'll help you fall asleep.)

Seriously, though.  Electric lights are a gift.  Humanity has not always enjoyed them, and people in some places still don't.  I am thankful for electric lights.

Sunday thankfulness.

Yesterday, I did not use the computer at all.  That in itself is cause for thanksgiving.

Accustomed now to my habit of writing daily about something I'm thankful for--even though I was away from the computer--I found myself noticing, appreciating, being thankful.

I was thankful for Sunday school and a chance to discuss Hebrews with other believers.

Thankful that our pastor is now safely home, and he preached a sermon about Jesus.

Thankful that my son Jon played his trumpet and sang a solo and blessed my heart.

Thankful for a church community that joined together to hang wreaths and put up a Christmas tree in our sanctuary.

Thankful for friends who shared lunch and good conversation with us after church.

Thankful for cozy flannel pajama pants to wear when I got home, on a dark rainy day.

Thankful for leftovers.

How do you pick just one thing to be thankful for?

I feel that when giving thanks in a public setting, it is important to be thankful for things that are not particularly exclusive to oneself.  Sometimes when people mean to be giving thanks, they end up bragging by mistake.  I am sure that they don't mean it this way.  Still, it can be unkind to make big public proclamations about things you have that other people don't have, whether it is a stable marriage, a gifted child, a tropical vacation, a fun group of friends, a new car, a happy childhood, or anything else that somebody else might lack and wish for.

We should be mindful, in this month of thanksgiving, to be encouragers, to help others generate gratitude in their hearts.  We should strive to highlight the blessings that we all share, and glory in the blessings that are daily available to everyone.  At the same time, we should avoid boasting about things we have that others may not also have.  When trying to cultivate thankfulness, it is unseemly to sow discontent.

Here's an idea:  if gratitude for something is welling up in your heart, but it's for something that other people don't have, something they might feel jealous or envious about, try to figure out a way to express your thanks in a non-public way.  Spend some time writing emails, personal notes, maybe even thank-you cards.

Perhaps I will spend the rest of the month doing that, instead of blogging.

Perhaps, but don't be sad if you don't get a card from me.  I might be scared to start, for fear of whom I'd miss and what would happen if my loved ones started comparing notes.

Just know: if you are reading this, I am exceedingly thankful for YOU.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thankful to be done cooking (for today).

I had a fair amount of cooking to do today.

Which (of course) means a fair amount of cleaning up, too.

I am pretty much done, and for that I am thankful.

I am thankful for a chance to sit a spell.

I am thankful to be done.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thankful for eggs.

If you are reading this, you may have missed yesterday's post, which was better, and which can be found by clicking this link.

Yesterday I had a massively fantastic day.

It was also a very busy day, and somehow supper got pushed to the side, as it often does when I am busy, happy and otherwise involved.  (Famous quote of the ages from Shawn:  "Just because you aren't hungry doesn't meant that the rest of us aren't hungry!")

Anyway, lacking a dinner plan, I whipped up some egg wraps.  That's eggs, ham and cheese rolled up in a gluten-free wrap.

As I pulled the eggs from the refrigerator, already full of thankfulness because of all the lovely things that were happening that day, it occurred to me how very, very pleasant eggs are.

Eggs are inexpensive.

Eggs are full of protein.

Eggs can be rather delicious.

Using eggs, a person can prepare 
a hot, homemade meal in under ten minutes.

There used to be an ad campaign back when I was a wee lass.  "The incredible edible egg."

Yes, eggs are incredible.  Eggs are nice.  Eggs are good.

I am thankful for eggs.

(Also, this is my 100th post this year.  Perhaps an unexceptional one, but on a blog of mostly unexceptional posts, why should post #100 be any different?  I am now in a quandary.  I had a goal to publish 100 posts this year.  I've done that.  I should stop.  But I also had a goal of posting thanks every day in November.  I've not finished that yet, and--additionally--I wanted to say at least something about Christmas once it arrived... )

Thankful for new friends (a day late).

Yesterday I had the most beautifully wonderful day I have had since my family began busting apart--due to people growing up and moving out--and we moved to Illinois.  For one thing, I had a Girls' Day Out with two of my precious new friends.  Then, if you can believe it, after that festivity, Shawn took me out to a play--a live theater performance--at Jonathan's school, and it was really good!  What a day!  No wonder I didn't get a chance to write!

Filled to the brim, that was my heart yesterday, and it was largely due to these two beautiful ladies right here, my new friends!

My new friends, Carol and Melinda.

I met Carol and Melinda through BSF (which stands for Bible Study Fellowship).  Bible Study Fellowship did not exist in Syracuse, NY.  However, when we moved to Illinois, BSF was alive and running, and my sweet sister encouraged me to get involved because of what a blessing BSF has been in her life.  "You will make friends, and it will be your lifeline," my sister told me.

Carol, Melinda and I are BSF group discussion leaders, so we spend all Monday morning together at the leaders' preparatory meeting, and then we spend Tuesday morning together at the regular BSF meeting (although we each have our separate groups).

After our meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays, we usually get together and walk for an hour or so.  It is a huge blessing!  I have never had a walking buddy before, and now I have two of the most delightful walking buddies you could ever imagine!  They are dear, dear friends, tremendous support and encouragement to me as I transition back to the Midwest. 

They are special because of their deep love for the Lord, their powerful prayer lives, their kind and open hearts, their fun sense of humor, and their gentle kindness.  They are also special because both of them are breast cancer survivors, and both of them have had breast cancer not just once, but twice.  They are still vibrant, active, and endowed with gracious servant hearts.  I am overwhelmingly thankful  to God for bringing these two precious ladies into my life.

Yesterday, the three of us spent the day driving all over the countryside and browsing antique shops.  Melinda willingly offered to drive, because she is familiar with where a lot of antique shops are.   Carol treated us all to lunch at the cutest little cafe with vintage tiled floors . . . and a candy factory!  Me, I just bummed along and bought a turkey platter.

 The platter I bought.  For this year's Thanksgiving.

Next time, I am determined to contribute something!  Also, next time maybe I'll wear pink, because yesterday Carol and Melinda looked like pink twins (with the cutest black, white and gray accessories), while I was wearing blue and black.  Imagine that.  Hooray!  They were nice to me anyway!

I am deeply, overflowingly thankful for new friends!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thankful for tea.

I am thankful for tea.

Tea warms you up.

Tea can settle your stomach, calm your nerves, soothe a sore throat or gently wake you up in the morning.

Tea is especially nice when the weather turns cold, a steaming cup transferring heat to your clutching fingers as the liquid warms your insides through and through.

There is a right way and a wrong way to serve tea.

I have a pet peeve about restaurants that do not know how to serve tea properly, which (in the USA) is most of them.  It is particularly annoying when they are the type of restaurants that put on airs.  If the entrees are over $20 per plate, they ought to know how to serve tea.

In restaurants, it is usually my bad luck to order tea and receive the following:
  1. A 12 oz. mug made of heavy white ceramic.
  2. An 8 oz. pot made of stainless steel with a loosely hinged lid and a tiny spout.  This is filled with "hot" water which ranges from lukewarm to maybe almost hot enough to make a cup of tea.
  3. A teabag.  Usually this is placed, wrapped, in the white mug.  Fancy restaurants sometimes give you a collection of teabags, which is baffling.  What do I do with five teabags and 8 oz. of tepid water?

This scenario always catches me off-guard.  My auto-pilot breaks, and I proceed incorrectly (which is my fault, I own that), unwrapping the tea bag, placing it back in the mug, and pouring the meager water from the stainless pot over it.  This is the wrong way to do it.  It does not produce a satisfying result.

The right way to make tea is not difficult.  No!  Not difficult at all!

First, you heat some water in a tea kettle.

This is a tea kettle:
A tea kettle is made to sit on the stove, over a burner, and heat water.  If you don't have a tea kettle, you can easily use a sauce pan.  It's just that a tea kettle has a spout, and often it whistles to let you know when the water has come to a boil.  Serious tea connoisseurs do not like their water to come to a rolling boil; they like to catch it at that fizzly point right before the kettle would start to sing.   Although that's ideal, it doesn't make me crazy if the water comes to a full boil.  To me, a full boil is much better than lukewarm.

You may pour your hot water over a tea bag in a mug, but the nicest way to do it is this: pour the hot water over a tea bag or two in a teapot.  Yes, a teapot!

The blue flowered pot near the center of the picture is a teapot.  If you look closely, you can see a label from a teabag, hanging out from under the lid.  I only used one teabag because I only made a half a pot of tea (for a whole pot, I use two).  Tea steeps in the teapot, gaining strength and balanced flavor, until it is ready to be served.

When the tea has steeped, preferably 3-5 minutes, you pour it from the teapot into teacups.

Depending on what kind of tea you have, you might like to add cream, sugar, honey, or even lemon.  Never add both cream and lemon to the same cup.  You will be mighty sorry!

Enjoy your tea.  Relax, get warm, breathe the steam, thaw your hands, savor the flavor.

I am thankful for tea.  And I am thankful that I can make it at home, just the way I like it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thankful for the moon.

On December 22, 1999, a number of things happened.

  1. I turned 34 years old.  This is not an important fact, but, to me, it was significant that the other events of the day happened on my birthday.
  2. It was the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year.  This always happens around my birthday, but not always exactly on my birthday.
  3. It was a full moon.
  4. It was a perigee moon, which means that the moon was at the point of its orbit where it is nearest to the earth.  (According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, a perigee full moon on the winter solstice had not occurred since 1885, and in 1885 it was one was a day off, the full moon being the 21st, and the perigee occurring on the 22nd.  This phenomenon will not occur again until some uncharted time that comes after 2094, which is as far into the future as I could find calculations.)
  5. In Syracuse, NY and its northern suburbs (such as Liverpool and Clay), the sky was crystal clear, filled to the brim with moonlight and shining stars, and absolutely no cloud cover.  This, in itself, is a miracle.

I remember that night because I was feeling sorry for myself.

It was my birthday, and we were "celebrating" by running a Christmas pageant practice at our then-church, Grace Covenant.  Jonny was an unruly sheep, and Shannon and Laura were angels.  David, if I remember correctly, was a shepherd who took it upon himself to chastise the unruliest of the sheep, his brother.  As mother and pageant director, I was stressed out by wild children, holiday preparations, fatigue, details, and a feeling of forgotten-ness.  I was also going to have to figure out dinner once we got home, if we ever got home. I had no dinner plan, and if I couldn't find hot food, there was a certain one of my children who was going to be most dissatisfied.  This was my birthday in 1999.

We kept forgetting things for the pageant practice.  I don't remember how it all went down, but I had to make an unexpected trip home to get something.

That's when I saw the moon.

Driving across town on Route 31 in the frozen darkness, I happened to look up and notice the huge, white moon shining with luminous beauty above me.

I don't remember very clearly.  It was nearly 15 years ago.  It seems that I forgot other things we needed, other things that necessitated other drives back and forth on Route 31, Clay to Liverpool, Liverpool to Clay.

I remember a sense of peace, calm in the cold quiet.  I remember contemplating the beauty of the moon and thinking, "I love the moon.  I love the moon.  How could you make something as beautiful as the moon, God?"   I remember starting to look forward to finding out I'd have to make yet another trip down Route 31 that night, just for the opportunity of looking at the moon.

I heard someone on the radio talking about the uniqueness of the moon that particular year, and I felt so special, so very special.  It seemed as though God had designed that moon specifically for me, so I could celebrate and enjoy it that winter evening, bedraggled and forgotten as I felt.  I swelled with emotions as full and throbbing as the light of the moon itself, deep in my chest and rising.  I remember whispering, "Thank you, God.  This is the best birthday present ever.  For Christmas, You gave me Jesus, but for my birthday this year, You have given me the moon.  It's not as important, but it surely is beautiful."

I will never see that moon again, as long as I live.  But whenever I do see the moon, I remember that night, and the love I felt God lavishing over me--undeserving, worried, selfish, petulant as I was.  I remember how God restored my sinful heart by pouring out beauty on me from the night sky and turning my face toward Him.  I remember how I stopped feeling sorry for myself because I didn't get to have a "birthday party," and realized that the Lord of the Universe cared enough about me to give me the full perigee moon on the winter solstice for my birthday.

The best birthday present I ever received-- I am thankful for it, thankful for every moon that has ever followed it.

I am thankful for the moon.