Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fire and ice (Or: "Thankful for life")

I wasn't going to come back so soon, but it isn't every day that one has a legitimately significant subject to write about.

Airfares being sky-high, we decided against trying to have everyone fly home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We decided to try something new this year.  We decided to meet in Ohio, at Laura and Matthew's apartment, for a "central" Thanksgiving.  It would be a seven hour journey for Shawn, Jon and me.  David had eight hours to drive, and Shannon ten and change.  Everyone was game.

The plan was to drive on Thanksgiving Day, for a number of reasons.  For one thing, nobody had Wednesday off for travel.  Also, we could avoid the crazy Wednesday traffic.  Additionally, Laura and Matthew could still celebrate Thanksgiving with Matthew's family, on Thanksgiving.  It seemed a good plan.

A big storm on Wednesday reconfirmed our decision to celebrate a day late.  Thursday morning, we set out from our various locations at various times.  Traffic was light, and the weather was pretty good.  We kept in touch at intervals along the way.

East of Columbus, Shawn pulled over and switched driving duty with Jon. The sun had set and, in the darkness, we looked forward to the end of the trip.  At about 6:00 p.m. Shawn's phone rang Shannon's ring tone.  I still get a surge of adrenaline thinking about it.

She had crashed somewhere in the dark, snowy wasteland of post-Nor'easter southwestern New York.  She was off the road.  Her car would not respond.  She didn't know where she was; she couldn't even see where the road was.  Her headlights didn't exist anymore.

This I gleaned from the one side of the conversation that I could hear.  "She called us herself, on her own phone," I told myself.  "She's alive.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing else matters."

Immediately, we worked out arrangements to go to New York and retrieve her.  David had arrived in Ohio earlier, so he and Matthew and Laura met us at our hotel.  Shawn, David and Jon set out for the Chautauqua, NY region, and I went home with Laura and Matthew.

By this time it was snowing again.  What should have been a five or six hour round trip turned into eight and a half.  In the snowstorm, of course Shawn insisted on doing all the driving himself.

Back in Ohio, Laura fed me some soup and some tea, and we killed time for awhile as the hours drifted on.  Finally it got late and we tried to sleep.  I lay on Laura's sofa in my clothes, under some cozy covers, in the dark except for streetlights shining snow-filtered through her sheer curtains.   I prayed and prayed--begging for the snow to stop, for Shawn to have strength, for no more accidents--and by the mercy of God I think I even slept for an hour or two.  Piper huddled at my feet and Schubert shivered on my chest, but eventually the blessedness of unconsciousness descended.

I awoke at one point, and immediately grabbed my phone to check for news.  A text had come in five minutes earlier, Jon saying that they were nearly back.  At about 3:30 a.m., they arrived.  I hugged the miracle that was Shannon, still living and breathing and all in one piece.  We cried a little, embraced, whispered and kept the dogs quiet.  Matthew was up, showing Shannon and Jon the beds prepared for them.  Shawn, David and I (and the dogs) piled into the van and drove back to the hotel.

We got to bed at about 4 a.m.  It felt so good to be in a bed, next to my husband's solid, living, breathing body.  Shawn said, "I can't believe I had the strength I had.  I wouldn't have thought I could be alert for eight more hours after the drive from Illinois.  Were you praying for me?"  God is good.  God is so very good.  Even though the family was divided into two locations, we were all present and accounted for, and relatively very close to one another.

Our Thanksgiving was more somber than usual, punctuated by teary eyes, full hearts and spontaneous hugs . . . also a few spontaneous naps.  Shannon had brought all kinds of things to share, including some sourdough bread starter that she had cultured herself.  Something I'll always remember from Thanksgiving 2014 is kneading Shannon's roll dough.  I don't know why she let me do the kneading, but she did.  There on Laura's countertop, I kneaded the tender, tangy-smelling dough, adding a little more flour and then a little more, until it was smooth and elastic, and then I placed it in the oiled bowl and turned it, swirled it around, oiling all sides.

I will always remember that dough in my hands, and the pretty green cotton cable knit sweater that Shannon wore, that I kept pressing my face into when I hugged her.  I will remember Shawn, exhausted, passed out in the big red recliner, and Laura laying out her new Fiestaware plates, one of every color in the warm tones for Thanksgiving.  There was a surreal quality to it all, almost as though it were not really happening.  But it was.  It was really happening, and we were all together, and nobody was dead, or even hospitalized, and everything was going to be okay.

Shannon had been driving along, doing so well, her dear little car all packed up with special things for our special meal.  Then the sun set, and the temperature dropped, and there was black ice, a curvy road by a New York lake, and a mishap.  No more car.  No more car, but still a Shannon, a Shannon whom we love so very, very much.  When the state trooper arrived and helped her climb out of her battered car, he let her sit in his warm car until the tow truck came.  When the tow truck pulled Shannon's car out of the ditch, she was able to retrieve her things: the sourdough bread starter, her little coffee maker, fresh herbs for the turkey, decaffeinated chai tea, a large can of Libby's pumpkin, a pretty glass pie plate, her pillow, her clothes, her laptop.  It was all there.  Her hairclip, on the handle of her purse, had a broken tooth, but most things were intact.

How would she get home again?  The train schedule didn't look good, nor the bus schedule.  In the end, we decided to have her drive back to North Carolina with David and catch a flight to Boston from there; that was our most economical option.  We made these arrangements on Friday, before or after the turkey, and each time we figured something out, a little more peace and comfort descended.  Laura and Matthew will ship the things she couldn't take on a plane.

On Saturday morning, David took his car to a garage to have the breaks fixed.  An accident can spur us to take reasonable precautions, reminding us that it is good to be careful rather than careless.

Shawn, Jon and I headed back to Illinois on Saturday shortly before noon.  I drove first, and then Jon.  We wanted to spell Shawn after his marathon day of driving on Thursday.  We drove and drove, and even driving west, we couldn't keep up with the setting sun.  Somewhere west of Indianapolis, Jon was driving, and through the dark night, I saw what looked like lights up ahead.

It didn't look like a police car.  No, there were no blue and red lights, more like yellow.  "What...?" I asked, pointing out the windshield.  As we drew nearer, I saw that it was yellowish orange, blazing, a burning car.  "Jon!  Can you get in the other lane?  Get in the other lane if you can!" I urged, gesturing to the left.  On the right shoulder, a car sat flat on the ground, tires melted, fully engulfed in flames, and I can't remember if the windows were simply illuminated by fire, or if flames were shooting out of them, like a glowing horned beast.  A few cars had pulled off on the shoulder ahead of the burning car, to help I suppose.

As we flew past, my stomach felt sick again.  I hoped that the people had been able to get out of the car.  I didn't want to imagine what would have happened to a person inside that car.

Travel can be hazardous.  The world is a dark and dangerous place.  It is hard to be separated from the people you love most in all the world, hard always to be forced to travel if you ever want to be together.

I have a hope that someday we will not all be so far apart.  Someday we will live such that we can spend days together and still sleep in our own beds at night.  Someday the paths of our lives will intersect once more.  Someday.

Until then, I will trust God, because if not God, whom would I trust?

God is good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankful for breaks.

I've succeeded in surpassing my goal to publish 100 blog posts in 2014, and I've kept up with my 30 Day Thankful Challenge, so far.

Honestly, I did have to write two blogs in a day, twice, to make up for days I missed.  It's okay.

You know what else is okay?  I'm going to take a few days off and celebrate Thanksgiving.  I think my 30 Day Challenge just turned into a 26 Day Challenge and wrapped itself up.  That's okay too, because my only blog-boss is myself, and nothing is more ridiculous than self-imposed demands that get in the way of real life.

I am thankful that I can be thankful online, but I am especially thankful that I can be thankful offline, in real life, with people I love.

DJ, recovering from a turkey coma on the dining room floor,
a couple of years ago.

I am thankful for lots of things that I can save for discussion next November (should the Lord tarry that long).  Today, I am thankful for breaks.

See you in December, probably.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thankful for indoor plumbing.

I am thankful for indoor plumbing.

I already wrote about being thankful for hot showers, which is related.

However, fresh clean water at the turn of a faucet is a marvel not to be overlooked.  When we peruse the profiles of Compassion children who need sponsors, their lists of chores nearly always include "carrying water."  While we sometimes carry a multipack of bottled water home from the store, it is hardly the same, and we are so blessed to have clean and basically safe water to drink at any time, right from our faucets.

Although I am not inclined to post a picture of a toilet, toilets, too, are a modern comfort that we usually take for granted, most of us never having lived without them.

On these freezing cold winter nights, with bitter, cutting winds, just imagine if you woke up in the middle of the night and had to bundle up to go visit the outhouse.  Then imagine trying to go back to sleep afterwards.  I mean, do you think you could avoid coming fully and completely awake under those circumstances?  What would the cold do to the pain in your lower back?

The alternative to the outhouse is the chamber pot... which, while saving you from the discomfort and indignity of using an outhouse during inclement weather, still needs to be dealt with in the morning.  Ugh.

I am thankful for indoor plumbing.

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 intend 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, an exclusive 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 mean 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 caring 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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thankful for my furnace.

Today it is cold.

Bitter cold.

Everyone is commenting on how it should still be autumn, but it is winter.  "Winter in November," they say, and I smile to myself, because pretty much everywhere I've lived before, November really was a winter month.

There is only a slight dusting of snow, but it isn't melting.

On days like today, it is such a blessing to walk into the house and feel the warmth from the furnace.

I am thankful for my furnace.

I'm thankful that it works!

I'm thankful that, when I am freezing, all I have to do is slide a little tab on my thermostat up toward a higher number.  Then, a great whoosh will resound in the basement, followed by warm air puffing deliciously out of all the heat vents.

I am thankful for my furnace.

And hot cocoa.  Yes.  That too.

But I am especially thankful for my furnace.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thankful for right now.

Right now.

We just arrived home from church.

Well, actually, we went to Menard's after church, roamed the aisles, dreamt a little bit about home improvement projects.  We only had the car, not the van, so we bought neither a grill nor a Christmas tree, although isn't it funny that we considered both on the same trip?

Then we went to a grocery store to buy ingredients for hot cocoa mix, because Shawn had a hankering.

Now we are home.  Jon is playing the piano and singing.  Snow falls softly outside.  I mixed up the hot cocoa mix.  Water is currently coming to a boil so we can test the cocoa and adjust it before I pack it away in storage containers.

In this moment, in the now, all is good.  We are warm, well fed, happy and healthy.

In another moment everything could change.  A car accident, a job loss, a cancer diagnosis could transform lives of comfort and ease into lives of fear, pain or sorrow in an instant.  If that happens, you have to trust and be thankful anyway.

But in this moment all is calm.  All is beautiful, really.

In this moment, I am so very thankful to be here, home, safe, at peace.  I can worry later, not right now.

I am thankful for right now.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thankful for fleeting pleasures.

I am thankful for fleeting pleasures.

By this, I do not mean vain, worthless indulgences.  I mean pleasures that are here for a short instant and then suddenly gone, things you have to seize in the moment or lose forever.

Saturday mornings.

Fresh flowers.

Newborn babies, fast asleep with a bubble of breastmilk between their lips.

The month of July.

Why is it that Monday afternoon drags on forever, but Saturday morning is somehow over in a blink, a wink, an elusive flash?

Wouldn't it be a treat if, sometime, January would pass as quickly as July always does, and July would linger as long as January usually does?

How many of us have ever rocked a sleeping baby and wished we could hold him forever and all eternity?

Some pleasures do not last.  Rather than bemoaning the truth of it, we need to seize hold of them while we can and enjoy them to their fullest.

Like two hands cupped around fresh, cold water, bring the joys of life to your lips and drink deeply before they leak away through your fingers.

Blooms from my favorite rosebush at the Sugar Pine house.

At least Saturday mornings roll around fairly often.  I'm going to plan ahead and try hard to catch the next one.

I am thankful for fleeting pleasures.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thankful for forgiveness.

 "This is my blood of the covenant
which is poured out for many
for the forgiveness of sins."
Matthew 26:28 (NIV)

We don't like to think of ourselves as sinners,
yet, we cannot deny that we sin.
Some lie, cheat and steal,
some carouse and fornicate,
some even murder,
while others lock themselves in bulwarked fortresses
of selfishness and pride,
ungrateful, unkind.
We all sin, and we all need the forgiveness of Jesus.

He offers forgiveness, full of grace.
He paid, the only one who could,
the only one perfect and holy and able to absorb the wrath of God--
He bought our forgiveness for us,
lavishly spending what we could never begin to repay or hope to deserve.

Are we humbled by this gift,
with hearts broken
as we understand our trespasses?
Do we grasp His gracious provision for us
and enabled to pass it forward,
forgiving those who have wronged us,
extending grace because we have received it?
Do we know that, forgiven, we are free and righteous?

If we confess our sins, 
He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins 
and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (NIV)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is His love for those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:11-12 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? 
Shall we go on sinning 
so that grace may increase? 
By no means! 
We are those who have died to sin; 
how can we live in it any longer?  
Romans 6:1-2 (NIV)

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."
John 8:10-11 (ESV) 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

In Him we have redemption
through His blood
the forgiveness of our trespasses
according to the riches
of His grace.
Ephesians 1:7 (ESV)


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thankful for slippers.

Today I awoke to a soft white sky.

"It's snowing," Shawn remarked.

"No.  Surely not," I protested.

However, upon closer inspection, I saw that there were, indeed, flakes of snow floating gently under the canopy of clouds.

"Well, nothing is sticking on the ground," I said.  We agreed that we were both happy about that.

Coffee was consumed, showers taken, and then dogs walked.  Shawn, the hero of the day, arrived back in the house with flurries of fur fluttering at the ends of two leashes.  "It's cold out there!  Bitter!" he informed me.  I took a bite of warm, gluten-free banana muffin and sympathized.

On days like today, I am particularly, specifically, especially grateful for my slippers.  On a cold day, warm feet are the key to comfort.  Toasty toes, everyone knows, that's how it goes . . . warm toes warm temperament, right?

My slippers are purple suede.  I have purple suede slippers because I purchased them on clearance, at a deep discount, from Land's End, last year.  Purple was the color that was left, the color nobody else wanted.

They're nice though.  They are warm, garnished with white fluff, and have a stable, non-skid sole that keeps me quite safe on wood floors (and oak stair steps).   After almost a full year, they still look quite new.

Purple doesn't match much of my wardrobe, but no matter.  They make me happy.  With their gilded golden stitching and ties, they make me feel like a princess from India when I wear them.

I've decided to treat this purple as a neutral.

It's fine.

I am thankful for slippers!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thankful for birds.

The birds are almost gone.

(For winter; they will come back!)

Have I described my bedroom window?  It is large, east facing, and has a half-circle top that, even after living here a year, we still have not covered in any way.  Below the half-circle, the rectangular part of the window has an off-white sheer and off-white shades which we rarely open.  The upshot: my view out this window angles sharply upward, and most of what I see is the sky, the topmost tips of my maple tree, and sometimes birds.

I often find myself stopping and staring out this window, the top of this window.  Last year it was always bright blue and brilliant, but this year I've seen more cloud cover, gray and white.  About a week ago, we had a luminous full moon that shed pearly light across our bedroom through every hour of the night.

Yes, and I see birds, frolicking across the expanse of this half circle that is my view of the world from my bedroom.  In the morning, they seem flap-dashingly happy, whirling randomly above the treetops.

As I walk the dogs these brown November days, sometimes I see a spiral of motion high in the sky over my head, and look up, looking for birds.  Often it is a leaf, plucked from a soaring branch by a strong wind that continues to toss it aloft in fluttery flight, mimicking a bird, animation granted to something brittle, dry and brown.  Grace.

The birds in my half-circle window came in flocks before they began to disappear.   South, it must be.  Who wouldn't want to head south right now?

In their glory, the birds were delightful.  We have bird-feeders outside our sun porch; mid-summer, we sat on the sun porch and watched them.  Are we birdwatchers?  I guess we're old now!

From sparrows and robins to cheery goldfinches, vivid cardinals and the occasional opulent bluebird, they feasted at the feeders in the unwalled aviary that is our backyard.  One goldfinch always perched upside down as he pecked away, gleaning seeds through small holes in the plastic, silly little yellow fellow.

Of course, there are other birds around as well: eagles and falcons, turkey buzzards and geese, hummingbirds and even the occasional swan.

Once I was walking the dogs 'round the lake, and we came upon the little path that leads to the southern tip, where the lake sometimes overflows down into the Sangamon river.  Along the shore there, a cluster of wild bushes grows near a bench placed ostensibly for contemplation.  As I passed the bushes, something rustled loudly, and adrenaline surged in my throat.  Was someone hiding in the bushes, waiting to leap out and grab me?   The noise erupted in a sudden burst, and I screamed.  My wits returned barely in time for me to recognize that it was a giant blue heron, soaring across the lake.

Blue herons thrill me.  They are my favorite.  I'm not good at photographing them, though.

Here's one I tried to capture as I was walking in a neighborhood in the city.  Can you see it?

Oh, and there was also the time we were vacationing on Sunset Beach.  I walked all the way to Bird Island and sat down on a bench to rest a spell.  As I sat there, a flock of pelicans flew right over my head, low, wings beating loud, carrying my breath away.  I could not believe it.  I still can't believe it.  Pelicans thrill me as much as blue herons.  Once Shannon, David and I spent an entire morning in Florida watching pelicans dive for fish in the ocean, spellbound.

I am thankful for birds. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thankful for 11/11

I've trained myself to pray when I see that it is 11:11.

The story of how this came about is here.

It is not superstition.  I don't believe that anything magical or mystical happens at 11:11.  I just use that time--with four vertical lines pointing upward--to direct my thoughts to the Father.  I also pray at 1:11, for the same reason.  Of course, this only occurs if I happen to look at a clock at that particular time.

Sometimes I think the Lord leads me to look at the clock when all the ones are pointing up at Him because He wants to spur me to pray for something.  I do not see this as mysticism or superstition, either--just faith that God is sovereign over all the details.

Today was 11/11, so perhaps I should have set it aside as a day of prayer.  I didn't; I had other commitments.  But that's okay, because besides the fact that elevens point me to God, today was Veterans Day, and Veterans Day is worthy of celebration in its own right.

I am thankful that I live in a free country.

I am thankful that there are people who serve every day in the military, working to keep our country safe in many ways.

I am thankful to those who served in the past and procured freedom for us.

I am thankful for the end of World War I on 11/11/1918 at 11 a.m.  Although many terrible wars have followed that one, it gives a precedent for the hope of peace, and all in elevens.

Perfect peace will come when all eyes look up to God, when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

How's that for a reason to be thankful for 11/11 (and 11:11)?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thankful for grace.

I've been having a tough time.

I'm just forgetful, and spacey, and my mouth doesn't always say what my brain was trying to tell it to say.

Today I left my best coat behind at a meeting.  Fortunately, people from the meeting held onto it for me, and I will get it back tomorrow.  I also lost my glasses a few times more than usual--but always found them.  Yesterday, I tried to order a burrito bowl at Chipotle, and although I wanted black beans, and I looked at the black beans and thought black beans in my head, my mouth asked for "pinto beans," so pinto is what I got, and it tasted fine.

I'm behind.  I shake.  I went to the doctor today, and the receptionist and nurse both grilled me on why I was there, at which point I choked and almost started crying.  All I knew is that the doctor had told me to make the appointment before I left the last time.  I had not called them out of the blue and set up the appointment.  The nurse was just getting ready to send me home, when the doctor breezed in and cleared everything up, saving me from bursting into embarrassed tears.

Right now, I am banking on grace, because without grace I am lost, a cooked goose, dead in the water.   I require forgiveness, forbearance, patience and help.

I am thankful for every person who has treated me kindly, despite my shortcomings.  Most of all, I am thankful for God.  I know that grace comes at a cost to others, and I am sorry that I am such a taker.

It is a paradox, isn't it?  How God's grace is as costly as the completely unique blood of His perfect Son, but at the same time it is infinitely available, and free of charge.  Can you wrap your mind around that?

Grace is when you get better than what you deserve.  It's important to be mindful of grace, because if you aren't, you quickly develop an entitlement mentality.

As I look back on my track record over the past few days, it is abundantly clear that I deserve much, much worse than what I have received.

This is why I am so incredibly thankful for grace.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thankful that this is my Father's world.

Due to unfortunate circumstances, our pastor and his wife have had to be away.  Our hearts helplessly ache for them in their grief.  His father had an accident, a fall, a blow to the head, and then came the end, swiftly and unexpectedly.  Of course, death never arrives conveniently, either.

The man was a devout believer, a pastor who surely affected his son's choice of vocation.  There is joy in heaven, and joy in the Lord, and peace in knowing that earthly good-byes between believers are never forever.  Still, shocks hurt and separation brings sadness.

As our pastor's family has traveled to the deathbed, and then to the funeral, and now to yet another state to be with a son who had surgery, we pray and hope.

We have had substitute preachers at church, and a substitute piano player.  The substitute piano player plays hymns, only hymns, and we sing out of the hymnal.

Can I just say that I love hymns, and hymnals, and being able to read and sing the alto line?  Because I do.  I like some more modern songs, too, and songs from every age have spoken to me and comforted me in times of need.  Today, in the absence of other things that are "normal," hymns were a very real comfort.  The sturdy hymnal in my hands, the music staff surrounding the words, a line of music I could sing without straining, all this was a comfort.

This morning we sang, "This is my Father's World," one of my favorites.  The last verse is so full of hope, yet it tends to make my eyes sting.

This is my Father's world, 
     O let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
     God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father's world;
     The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
     And earth and heaven be one.

To clarify: the battle is not quite finished, but the victory is sure.

But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory 
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV)

...creation itself will be liberated 
from its bondage to decay 
and brought into the freedom and glory 
of the children of God.
from Romans 8:21 (NIV)

I am thankful that this is my Father's world.  The victory is sure.  He will redeem heaven and earth, and in that day we will reign with Him in glory.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thankful for Vitamin D3.

I let them give me the flu shot twice, and both those years, I contracted terrible cases of the flu.

Apart from those two years, I have only had the flu one other time in my life.  That makes a total of three years when I got the flu, out of 48 years of life.  I have contracted the flu in 100% of the years when I received the flu shot, and I have contracted it in 2.2% of the years when I declined the flu shot.

Based on this math, I no longer get the flu shot.

(Doctors sometimes tell me, "That's ridiculous.  You can't get the flu from a flu shot." I keep my mouth shut then, although I would like to retort, "I did not say that I got the flu from the flu shot.  I said that I got the flu in the years when I got the flu shot, which I most certainly did."  But often it is best not to argue.)

After deciding that the flu shot was not for me, I read somewhere that taking Vitamin D3 is very effective in boosting the immune system, and very effective at preventing colds and flu.  Since then, I have been a devoted taker of Vitamin D3.

All I know is my own experience.  In my own experience, I'd say that Vitamin D3 has had a nearly miraculous effect on my immune system.  Since I started taking D3 regularly, I have not had the flu, and I have had very minor experiences with colds.  A cold will sort of try to start up now and then, but with extra vitamins and fluids, I've been able to stave it off without going full blown, every time.

In my own experience, when I was teaching school, surrounded by sick students coughing and blowing their noses, even though I was weakened by other symptoms from another illness, I still never contracted a cold or the flu during that time.  I attribute this to Vitamin D3, although perhaps it wasn't D3 at all, but purely the grace of God.  I guess I'll never know.

Vitamin D3.  I take one a day.  I sometimes take an extra one on days when it is particularly cloudy, or if I feel achy, or if I have a scratchy throat starting up.

This is only my personal experience.  I am not a doctor or any sort of trained medical person.  I am not telling you what to do.  I am only saying that I am thankful for Vitamin D3.

I am thankful for Vitamin D3.

(don't take three, though!)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thankful for trees.

I used to know a lady who liked to look at water.  She always said that as long as she could see some water--the ocean, a lake, a pond, even a swimming pool--she could get grounded and settle her spirit.

I feel the same way about trees, leaves, foliage.  Walking along a wooded trail gives me a sense of well being and connectedness to God.

When we bought our previous house, it was a brand new builder's spec home, and it was in the middle of a cleared block.  Not a single tree stood in the yard.

Shawn and I went immediately to Hafner's Garden Center and purchased a birch tree, a red maple and a silver maple.  Shawn took the trees into the yard, while I stood inside looking out the windows.  From there, I told him where I'd like them planted, based on my views.

We placed the birch tree where it would be seen from the front living room windows, providing a leafy view for us, and privacy from the street.  The red maple stood out closer to the street; our fanciest tree, we shared it with the neighbors.  The silver maple cost only $33.  I guess it was what people call a "junk" tree.  They told us it would grow fast, and it did.  We planted it in the back yard so it could grow and shade the kitchen window, which faced west.  During our earliest years at Sugar Pine, the setting sun was blinding while I made dinner, and hot as well.  But as time passed, that tree grew big and effective, eventually keeping the whole house cool on hot afternoons.

 my old view from my old kitchen sink, of the maple tree and my perennial bed beyond

After we moved into the house we live in now, imagine my delight when I drove home one day and discovered that this beauty was, in fact, our tree.  Admiring it, I suddenly realized that it was actually on our property, ours, not the neighbor's (whose house is the main background of this picture).

I am so thankful that God took my love of trees into account when he provided this house for us.

 If you can see past the reflections, this is the view of a maple tree to the west of our sun porch here!

Same sun porch, but looking north: more trees!  (and more reflections; sorry)

My view from the new kitchen sink involves a literal grove of trees.
And this is November.  Imagine July!

Trees give us buds and blossoms in the spring, the first misty green signs that life is coming back after winter.  During summer, trees provide shade from the heat, as well as fruit and nuts to eat.  Autumn leaves are one of the most glorious events in the cycle of a tree.

Even bare trees are beautiful.  I am so glad that God made trees.

at Robert Treman State Park in NY

the boxelder tree I grew up with, at my parents' house

trees at Allerton Park in Monticello, IL

I am thankful for trees.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”
                                       Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV) 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thankful for my bed.

Thankfulness can be for big things and for little things, for special things and for mundane things.

I am thankful for my bed.

It's not too soft, and not too hard.
A place to rest, dream, heal, pray.

Once, some people I know went to Guatamala
where they built a small house
for a homeless family.
At the end of construction,
they put a set of bunk beds into the house
for the children
who had always, before, slept on the ground.
The children were so happy!
Naked blue and white striped mattresses, and you would have thought they'd been handed all the riches in the world; their joy was that exuberant.

My bed is covered with linens and pillows.

I have smooth cotton sheets,
a blue cotton blanket for warm weather,
and a tan woolen blanket for cold weather.

My bed holds me when I am sick, and when I am tired,
and even sometimes on a lovely Saturday morning when I have the joy of "lying in."

Above my bed, we replaced the wedding photo (it was getting sun faded)
with theses words: "The Lord bless you, keep you, and give you peace."

That's loosely from Numbers 6.

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26, NIV)

I am thankful for my bed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thankful for God.

One of our best friends is prone to wonder about things, mentally meandering through great topics like a kitten in Buckingham Palace.  "Suppose," he once mused, "God took a day off?  What would happen?"

Being thankful for God is an oversimplification. Without God there would be nothing: no time, no space, no matter, no life.  Nothing.  Am I thankful for something--Someone--on whom I am wholly dependent for everything?  Is that thankfulness, or is it something else?

For by Him all things were created, 
things in heaven and on earth, 
visible and invisible, 
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, 
all things were created by Him and for Him.  
He is before all things 
and in Him
all things hold together.
Colossians 1:16-17 (NIV)

Speaking of rulers and authorities, there was an election last night.

Citizens of the USA turned out in great force to vote for new leaders.  Hope for change swelled in the breast of the nation.  Republicans did well, overall, and people are eager to see if a different approach will increase their personal prosperity and--particularly--improve their health insurance situations.  Bills, referendums, increases in minimum wages, additional education taxes on millionaires, all these prospects hold out the suggestion of great promise for the common man.

I am tired and discouraged.  The country is broken.  A feeble lilt to the right is not going to fix it, especially when there is no willingness on the part of anyone to soldier through some personal setbacks today, in order to arrive at a better place in the long run.

I can get completely morose, thinking about these things, looking at the state of the world, the state of the Union, the state of situations right on my doorstep which still, close as they are, I cannot control or even influence.

But then I remember that my hope is in God.

My hope is not in Washington or Wall Street.  My hope is not in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.  My hope is not in Obamacare, or the "Affordable" Care Act, or Blue Cross Blue Shield (thank goodness!), or healthcare professionals.  My hope is not in education or investing, research or diets or networking.  My hope is not even in logic or reason.

My hope is in the Lord.

God is the only one who will not fail us, the only one with perfect wisdom, knowledge and power.  He is the only one able to watch over us and care for us night and day.

He will not let your foot slip--
He who watches over you will not slumber.
Psalm 121:3 (NIV)

He tells us,

I make known the end from the beginning, 
from ancient times, what is still to come,
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.
Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

He is the only one who can do this, the only Sovereign God, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and Lover of my soul.

My hope is in God.

We wait in hope for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
even as we put our hope in You.
Psalm 33:20-22 (NIV)

I am thankful for God.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thankful for hot showers.

Once we had a neighbor who said that air-conditioning was one of the greatest achievements of modern man.

Air-conditioning is very nice; if I had to give up air-conditioning, there are days when I would be quite uncomfortable.

However, the luxury I love,
the luxury I revel in,
the luxury I would never want to give up

is the hot shower.

I do enjoy my hot showers.
Not too hot, that they scald me,
but just perfectly hot, with a slight bite,
thrumming pressure,
and steam rising to clear my head.

I like how the falling water
drowns out sounds beyond the bathroom.
Nothing exists except me,
a bar of cocoa butter soap,
and warm water cascading
through my hair and down my back.

Sweet smelling shampoo
lathers atop my head,
thick and foamy.

Slippery soap,
a washcloth,
and (as the commercial used to say)
a thousand body parts.

Clean.  Warm.  Fresh.  Wet.

A doctor once told me,
"One shower is worth
more than eight hours of sleep."

And when it's time to stop,
it requires a profusion of willpower
to break the regaling flow,
to turn the water off,

One more rinse,
then ease the temperature up a notch,
and do yet one more rinse,
until maturity demands cessation.

But even that isn't so bad,
if enfolding, absorbent towels await.

I am thankful for hot showers.

(continuing to keep it real with more spontaneous cell phone photography)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thankful for memories.

Today I am thankful for memories, and for pictures that jog me to remember them.

Our kids in Texas with Great Grandma and G.D. while they were still alive.

Memorial Day parades in Liverpool, and the way we always (always) 
just missed being able to get a shot of our kids.

Sunset walks on the beach in North Carolina.

Apple picking (and juggling) in NY.

Jazz band concerts with Mr. Spadafore.

Good family time at the beach.

My parents, Dad looking really good after his heart attack.

Second to last Christmas at Sugar Pine.

Senior saxophone recital.

The end of Laura's wedding.

So many beautiful memories, so much to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Thankful for time. And sleep.

Today, again, there were so many things to be thankful for:  deep conversations, crispy autumn leaves, good food, a furnace that works . . .

Despite all the possibilities, I'm going to focus in on something I was thankful for today, specifically; something that I am not usually thankful for.

Today I was thankful for an extra hour of rest.

Most years, I dread time shifts on to and off of Daylight Savings Time.  Maybe tomorrow and through the week I will get lagged-tired and have a worse attitude (as per normal).

But today, it was a glorious thing.  When my alarm clock rang this morning at 6:45, it felt like 7:45.  The angle of the sun in the sky looked like 7:45.  The air even smelled like 7:45.

On top of that, I didn't need to get up until 8:00, which by the time it arrived almost felt like noon.

I am thankful for an extra hour, a good sleep, and a relaxing morning.

Ha ha ha.

I'm ready for bed now, though!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A month of thankfulness: today I am thankful for soup.

In an effort to meet my goal of publishing 100 posts in the year 2014, I decided that I'd write every day this month, about something I'm thankful for.

I was thankful for so many things today, it was hard to decide.  The sun rose bright in the clear blue sky, it was Saturday (joy of joys!) and my husband was in town.  We spent a good part of the day planting something like 110 bulbs in our yard, in anticipation of a glorious spring. My heart, she is a-dancing in my ribs.

It was bitter cold, planting.  Only 46 degrees, and a driving wind that stiffened our aging fingers and iced our ears, but we stuck to it until the last bulb was buried.  Admittedly, the final twenty or so went in with more speed than plan, but I'm still imagining happy daffodil faces rising to greet me in April or May.

Shawn did most of the work, as in 90% or more.  But I was there!  I was out in the cold!  I needed to warm up as badly as he did when we went inside.

So, when we went in, I made soup!

I was so cold I wore my hat and scarf to cook in, 
and Shawn told me I looked like Duck Dynasty.

Although I am thankful for many, many things. . . today, I am going to write about the soup.  This way, I can try to record the recipe, because it was the Best Soup in the World.  It was delicious, nutritious, gluten-free and very warming to the bones, perfect to make a person feel thankful from head to toe.

 (Just keeping it real with rough phone photos today, 
and that was my second bowl of soup, 
because it was the kind of soup that just seems 
to spoon its delicious self right down your throat 
before you know what happened.)

"Recipe" is a very loose term, where I am concerned.

But, here is is:

Gluten-free Cream of Broccoli, Spinach and Cheddar Cheese Soup

Start with a large pot.  Turn the heat on medium low and throw in some:

*Butter (real butter; start with about 1/4 cup, add more as needed)

While the butter is melting, chop vegetables and throw them in:

(I didn't put in much; for a normal family without onion sensitivities, use a whole one)
*Garlic (one clove)
*Broccoli crowns (2 large)
*Potatoes (2 medium, diced fine, no need to peel -- do not skip; this is your thickener)
*Fresh Spinach (a couple of cups, or more, whatever you have)

When the vegetables are getting tender and fragrant (stir 'em with a spatula), sprinkle with:

*1 tsp. salt
*a dash of nutmeg

Then add:

*4 cups of chicken stock or chicken broth

(Note: at this point I also added part of a can of pumpkin that was left over from pumpkin muffins I'd made for breakfast.  If you have a partial can of pumpkin left over from another cooking project, this is a good place to use it up.  If you aren't in possession of random pumpkin leftovers, I don't think you'd need to open a can especially for this soup, although, it was super good soup.  If you decide to open a can, use about 2/3 cup, but it's not fussy.)

Turn up the heat to medium high.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes,
until the vegetables are very tender.
Blend in blender until smooth, in batches if necessary.
Return to pot over low heat.

*8-12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (shredded, cubed or thinly sliced)

Stir until cheese is melted.

*approximately 1 and 1/3 cups milk or cream or a mixture of the two
(however much and however rich you like it)

Continue to warm over low heat until soup is the temperature you want for eating.
If you don't like your soup too hot, you might like it quite soon. 
Do not boil. 

Taste and see how good it is.  It's so encouraging when you can find delicious things to eat that aren't bad for what ails you, so gratifying, so heart-lightening.

I am thankful for soup.

Shawn, who did like the soup quite a lot, 
is also thankful for my roast chicken thighs, 
which we ate on the side with the soup.