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Tag: thanksgiving

a centenary of thank you…

november sky

as i type, a boy i love, one just home from college, is lumpily sleeping on the yonder side of my typing room’s ceiling. that’s a blessing come true, a thank you of the very first order. while he warms the sheets, i’m down below, pounding away on a litany of 100 thank you’s. enchanted by celtic and jewish and ignatian understanding that we are called to anoint the holy hours of our every day with blessing — 100 blessings precisely, in the case of the jews — i decided to unspool my own centenary of thanks across the arc of a day.

this counting of blessings was sparked because i was asked to bring a sheaf of prayer to a thanksgiving vigil, and this seemed an apt response. in this season of bountiful thanks, as we gather roots from the ground, and fowl from the field, i march through time, sewing blessing into the whole cloth of my day. (it’s a might bit long, so you might want to take this in doses, a swallow here, another there. forgive me for counting clear to 100…)

a centenary of blessing, of deep and undying Thank You…

In the liminal landscape between asleep and awake, thank you, Holy One, for heart still beating, for breath, for first thought, the one that tickles us into consciousness. Thank you for darkness before dawn, morning after morning a reawakening to the metaphor, the truth, that in our darkest hour we might hold on just one more minute, for surely the stars will dim, and horizon’s edge will be doused in tourmaline and tangerine, and finally radiant gold. (4)

Thank you, by the way, for celestial paint set.

Thank you for bed, and blanket. Thank you for the one I love who lies beside me, whose breathing I know by heart. Thank you for the lump that’s warm, that’s there when I reach across sheets in the night, in the morning. Thank you for deepening love and the long winding road that brought him to me, to my heart.

Thank you for the dawn itself, that sacred cloak of in-between, when crescent moon dangles just above, but night gives way to morning’s light, and heaven’s dome, at the seam of earth and sky, soaks up scant threads of all-absorbent amber rose. Thank you for the stillest hour when all that moves is barest breeze that rustles leaves, and far off, the stirrings of the lake that never cease. (13)

Thank you for this old house, with arthritic floor boards, ones that creak at just the same juncture, with just the same footfall. Thank you for kitchen, and heat that is cranked. Thank you for whiny old cat there at the door. Thank you for coffee beans and hissing pot, and the old chipped mug that fits snug in my palms. (20)

Dear Maker of All That’s Blessed, thank you for the sound of those footsteps clomping onto the floorboards above, and the certitude that — so far this day — all is well. Thank you for shower, hot and pulsing and shaking off sleepy-eyed resistance to standing upright.

Thank you for porridge I stir at the cookstove. Thank you for the sustenance I dollop in spoonfuls, the alchemy of cooking for those we fuel for the day. Thank you for faith in the vespers unfurled, in between handfuls of raisins and walnuts and jewel-toned dried fruits, the ones we toss with abandon into the bubbling pot.

Thank you for clementines, and sugary cinnamon. Thank you for butter, slathered and melted. Thank you for school bus drivers who wait. Thank you for the click of the door when at last the morning rush is over, is ended, and no one is reaching for car keys, muttering under her breath.

Thank you, Blanketer of Wonder, for the quiet stitched into the morning’s hours, the quiet so thick I can drink in the tick and the tock of a grandfather’s clock. And the squawk of the bluejay, and the chatter of sparrows. (35)

Thank you for work to be done. Thank you for dishes piled in the sink, whose scrubbing and rinsing gives me a moment to think, to ponder the day. Thank you for typewriter keys who call me, and fingers that play on the alphabet rows. Thank you for sentences that write themselves, and words that are birthed from deep down inside.

Thank you for wisdom, the sort that comes in unexpected flashes, when you only know you’ve found it as you feel your heart go thumpety-thump, and you sit bolt upright, or feel the goosebumps sprout up and down unsuspecting flesh. That wisdom might come reading along the pages of news, or in a poem slipped under your transom, or from a stranger passing by. Plenty often, it comes through the holy gospel of a wonder child, as you catch one last phrase tossed over a shoulder at the schoolhouse door.

Thank you for all that’s poetry — wisdom-steeped or just plain beautiful, breath-taking. And thank you for Gospel of any brand — be it birthed from holy child, everyday saint, or even the so-called kook who stands on the street corner, proclaiming through a megaphone.

Thank you, yes, for telephones, for that rare sound of a voice that nestles against the tenderest heart. That, within the first breath of the very first syllable, brings comfort, collapses miles and aloneness, amplifies the hours absorbed in coming to this holy bond of deep knowing each other, inside and through.

Thank you even for the bits of news — of whatever ilk, good or bad or nasty — that percolate the hours of each day, make one slice of time so vastly different from the next, stitch drama to the script of life, offer us the chance to absorb each and every frame from an angle never before perceived. (45)

Thank you, most of all, for the deep down knowing that you, Holy Depth and Gentleness, never leave me adrift. Never let my quakings take me down. Ever bring me light, and tender touches. Ever hold me up, against the chilling winds. And bring me to communion with all that’s glorious and bountiful in this rugged, rugged landscape.

I might be among the few who salute the cloudy skies of November on my long list of thanks. Ah, but those angora gray skies, they comfort me, harbor me. I’ll take the somnolence, the introspection of a gray day any day. So thank you for cloudy and gray.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how thankful I am for hearts that continue to tick, day in and day out, despite the trials we toss their way, as we worry and fret, then, without notice, shriek in deep joy and excitement. Poor ol’ heart, the one that landed in me anyway, it might not have realized it was signed on for a roller-coaster ride of such seismic proportion.

Speaking of ticking, thank you for the schoolhouse clock that does just that, minute by minute, hour upon hour, heartbeat against the wall.

Thank you, too, for windows. And for the flutterings and flashes just beyond the glass, as clouds of gentle creatures take off and land, from sky to limb and back again — each time, lifting just a little bit of my soul.

Thank you for doors, the ones that let in unexpected someones, someones we love. And keep out the wind and the cold.

Thank you for fires that roar and logs that crackle. Thank you for the one that’s turning the so-called sleeping room, across from the kitchen, into a chamber of flickering gold. Thank you for the two lumps under blankets, snoozing by the fire as I sit here, now typing. (59)

Thank you, Lighter of Night, for the cloak of darkness that comes early now, velvety backdrop for twinkling of stars, and moon that holds me, most every eve, in its trance.

Thank you for dusk, dear Lighter of Light, the far edge of the day, beginning of nightfall, when the last seeds of illumination are scattered, are rosy.

Thank you for dinner hour, and the blessing of slow simmering stew. Thank you for the bounty of greens from your earth, and spices from pods and seeds and stamens.

Thank you, God, for the trees and the gnarly limbs, and the hummingbird now buried deep in my garden.

Thank you for candlelight. And the lights of Your making: moonlight and sunlight and dappled radiance scattered like seed across the landscape. Thank you for twinkling stars and streaking ones, too — chalk marks etched across the slate of the night sky. (76)

Thank you for drifting off to sleep, and dreams that color our imagination. Thank you even for revelations that come to us in the awful interludes of tossing and turning. Thank you for wanting to wake up again, to climb from the bed. Thank you for the blankets we tuck under the chin of our sleeping child.

Thank you, dear God, for the child. For the breathtaking chance to infuse all that’s good in this world. Thank you for lessons taught while holding a hand, or wiping a tear. Thank you for band-aids that quell the hurt, and words that do the same. Thank you for everyone who lifts up our child, the teachers who inspire, the coaches who are kind. And the lady down the block who never fails to plant a fat wet kiss on that child’s pink cheek. (90)

Thank you for the year drawing to a close, and this pause to nod our heads and whisper gratitude. Thank you for the kaleidoscope of turning season, the ever-shifting call to attention. Thank you for crunching leaves, and tumbling snow flake.

Thank you for love in all its iterations. For birth, and death, and all that animates the interstitial hours. Thank you for those who walk beside us, who put a hand to the small of our back, or reach out to carry us across the bottomless abyss. (100)

Thank you, God, for all of this. And more. So, so much more.

in this octave of blessing, i have a most special request: a dear and old friend of mine suffered unthinkable heart-shattering this week. she is a seeker of joy, and she finds it. but this week, she was tested beyond measure. i have faith that she will gather up the shards of joy all around. but i ask you to hold her in your prayers — and, too, her beloved, now gone from this earth.

what do you count in your centenary of thanksgiving?

one + one + (a step-stone arithmetic to joy…)

one + one sunrise

i’m not one for self-help. (actually, i tend to seem to excel at self-demise, throwing myself down the proverbial dark stairwell before i’ve given myself a chance to trod two steps up, or sweet-talking myself out of risk-taking for 1,001 safe, solid reasons before i’ve so much as squirmed from my cozy armchair.)

so wasn’t i surprised — flabbergasted, flummoxed, fill in the exclamatory modifier — when this week i found myself reading along in a book i’d long been meaning to peek inside.

the book is lovely, is this:

one thousand giftsthat’s ann voskamp’s poetic, riveting, often soaring flight to ecstasy, bound under the bird’s nest cover and quietly titled, “one thousand gifts: a dare to live fully right where you are,” (zondervan, $16.99). while the writing alone is worth the ride, it’s the simple profound premise at its core that just might launch a revolution of the soul. (my soul, anyway.)

voskamp dares you — dares me, dares herself — to train a scrutinizing eye on the everyday, and begin to count to 1,000. that’s one thousand blessings — points of joy, moments of grace — in the course of one holier-than-you’d-imagined year.

she begins:

1. Morning shadows across the old floors

2. Jam piled high on the toast

3. Cry of blue jay from high in the spruce

she doesn’t even bother with periods at the end of her 1, 2, 3s (though she does employ upper-case starts to her each and every blessing). and she sits easy with the notion that her jottings are rooted in the quotidian, the messy, the right-before-her-blurry-eyes. this is not some celestial divination going on. just sponge-mopping up the poetry that spills and splatters and muddies up the daily works. and counts for joy.

she explains that what she’s doing is “eucharisteo,” giving thanks, the word in ancient greek, a word whose very root is charis, meaning grace. she writes that eucharisteo also holds the derivative, the greek word chara, meaning joy.

grace, thanksgiving, joy, “a triplet of stars, a constellation in the black,” she writes. “a greek word that might make meaning of everything?”

it’s a sacred calibration: the height of joy, she calculates, dependent on the depths of eucharisteo, thanks.

she stumbles on what turns out to be this holiest of paths because she’s found herself plopped, of all places, in a chair at the beauty salon, and the woman next to her is reading the best-seller, “1000 places to see before you die.” that gets voskamp — voskamp, a canadian farmer’s wife, mother of six, woman who witnessed her baby sister get crushed under the wheel of a delivery truck back when she, voskamp, was a mere child of four, and who felt her heart and soul slam shut in that very bloody instant — it gets her to thinking about why it is we think we need to travel far and wide to gather up armloads of wonder.

she writes: “isn’t it here? the wonder? why do i spend so much of my living hours struggling to see it? do we truly stumble so blind that we must be affronted with blinding magnificence for our blurry soul-sight to recognize grandeur? the very same surging magnificence that cascades over our every day here. who has time or eyes to notice?”

and you know it wouldn’t be a book, bound between those lovely covers, if she hadn’t found the answer to that rhetorical question. so what she does, on a blithely-flung dare from a friend, is she begins to track her grace notes. and in time, in not so much time, she realizes “this daily practice of the discipline of gratitude is the way to daily practice the delight of God.”

once she’d counted past the halfway mark, had teetered past 513. Boys jiggling blue Jell-O, she realized she couldn’t stop. she was “always looking for just one more in this unfolding of a chronicle of grace, our life story in freeze frames of joy.”

maybe it had a sudden and deep resonance with me because i’ve been a list maker my whole life long. i’ve called them wonderlists, and they’ve served as blueprints and launching pads for a life i dreamed of, and they’ve been the inventory of a day i’d hoped would come. i tick through lists of of blessings all around. but i’d never set out, as if a lepidopterist equipped with long-poled net, to catch myself a year’s — let alone a day’s — flock of godly wonders.

i’d made the mistake of list-making as wishful thinking, failed to exercise the possibility of list-making as blessing counting.

but i’ve started to think that voskamp — a writer whose sentences often make me stop, stare, hit re-wind and read again, for the sheer joy of discovering such wonder packed in words — has hit on something at once profoundly simple and simply breathtaking. something that just might fill the glass with wonder. even when it’s half empty by worldly measure.

if we can count our joys, pick up pen, jot words to paper, consecutively, one + one + one, we’ll soon arrive at a notepad account of accumulated and undeniable graces. we’ll hold it in our tight-clenched fists. we’ll read it, black-etched words on unbleached paper.

you might see fit to snatch up a moleskin pad or two. or perhaps at the grocery store, you’ll scoop up nothing fancier than a spiral-bound lined-rule pocket notebook.

the point is, you’ll be engaged in the exercise of combing your every day for the poetry of grace, as it falls across your old pine floors, your whisker-worn bedclothes, or even the orange-juice-splotted kitchen counter.

i’ve a hunch you too will be caught up in the counting. in the accumulated wonder that won’t escape your gaze.

once we teach ourselves to pay attention, the 1s and 2s and 3s come tumbling swiftly.

next thing we know, we are deep in the 300s, 500s, 800s, counting our way to seeing what’s always been there: heaven’s grace seeped into the cracks and crevices of a life we might have mistaken for humdrum and rather parched.

when really, all along, it was spilling over with joy upon joy upon a thousand joys. God’s way of whispering, “you are so abundantly awash in love.”

start counting…

anyone inclined to begin the 1, 2, 3s? and if so, the space below is a fine place to jot whatever snippets of the divine you’ve captured in your counting net….

p.s. ann voskamp is a blogger, too; in fact, that’s how i first heard about her, when a friend sent the link to ann’s blog, a holy experience, and said she thought i’d love the writing and the gorgeous photography. that friend was right. and though i’d known she had a book, i’d not found it in the library till last week, when i had reason to scan the daily-blessing bookshelves. 

the tangerine sky, above, is one recent morning’s first tabulation of the brush stroke of wonder, just beyond my windowpanes….

 

a kettle full of thank you

if i were to pick just one day of the year, one day that has my head swirling to faraway places and faraway times, this would be the one.

it is a day stuffed like a fat november bird, with pure anticipation.

when i was little, it was the day we hopped in the station wagon and drove straight through to ohio, to the ivy-covered house on the hill, the one with the yellow-spackled kitchen floors that gave just a bit under your shoes, the one with the aluminum tin on the counter, stuffed with layer upon layer of cut-out turkey cookies, my grandma’s first nod to the weekend of feasting, each brown-edged beauty nestled on a bed of wax paper, stacked clear to the rim. so quickly, we got to the crumbs on the bottom.

in college, it was the day i got to go home, leave behind the loneliness that seeped in somehow by end of semester. back to my growing-up room with the windows up in the trees. back to the sounds of my papa typing, and my mama making a fuss in the kitchen.

it’s the day you don’t want to find yourself in the grocery store. it’s the day you want to be nestled in the kitchen, or at least thinking about kitchens. it’s the day i yearn to be settling in, not far from the stove, making a clatter with pots and pans and mixing bowls. even a roaster, with lid, the sort that could shatter your foot if it dropped there.

one of these years that fat bird will be in my oven, but not yet. i am still waiting. my mama’s not ready to give up the bird.

so this year, i got up early to stir pumpkin into the sifted mound of flour and sugar and cinnamon. to crack eggs, dollop oil, fold in cranberries. one lonely loaf is all i am making this year. we’re flying tomorrow. to new york city, as apt a place to spend thanksgiving as just about any. save for the woods of vermont, maybe, where i wouldn’t mind tromping through crunching trails of leaves fallen, up to an old creaking house where windows glow from the inside, where cider and bird await, where i could make like a pilgrim and feast.

new york, the antithesis of the woods, calls me too, though. the shop windows frosted with november’s chill breath. the hustling and bustling. the armloads of boxes, loaves wrapped in red bows.

oh, i’ll take a new york thanksgiving.

but before i throw a few things in the one bag we’re allowed, i thought i’d pull up a chair and tick off the things for which i am sooo deeply grateful, so thankful. the things that fill me with grace, that offer promise and hope, the things that each and every day make me thank God i’m alive.

in no particular order, other than the way they hum from my head:

thank you, Maker of All, for the winged blessings that hop on my sill, that tuck their shivering selves into the branches that brush up against my windows. thank you for catching my breath, stopping me, carrying a wisp of my heart off on the wings that lift up each flight.

thank you, Mother of Mothers, for making me one–a woman who knows what it is to carry within the whole story of two children who, over the years, have bored deep and through my heart, have stretched me and filled me in ways i never ever could have imagined, have prayed for. thank you for catching my breath, for filling my arms, for the tousled heads that are mine to kiss as long and as often as i wish (long as no one’s around to witness said kisses, to make the still-round cheeks of those boys blush deep rose to red).

thank you for fires that roar and logs that crackle. thank you for the one that’s turning the so-called sleeping room, across from the kitchen, into a chamber of flickering gold.

thank you for the two lumps under blankets, snoozing by the fire as i sit here, now typing.

thank you for the gray-striped cat that’s delighted and charmed us all these many years. the one that now meows by the door, not yet figuring out that it’s 40-some degrees outside. and drizzly with rain. hardly weather for cats with finicky paws.

thank you for the great good souls i discovered this year, the ones i fell in love with, the ones whose stories i now know, whose burdens i wear like a heavy thick coat.

thank you, Lighter of Night, for the cloak of darkness that comes early now, velvety backdrop for twinkling of stars, and moon that holds me, most every eve, in its trance.

thank you for the gorgeous women who type beside me each and every day i troop into the office, those great good souls whose laughter is balm for all that stings and threatens to strangle, whose wide-eyed indignation at all the right twists in the story is sure cure for temptation to leap.

thank you for sister-in-laws, closest thing i know to a blood sister. thank you for the one who cooks today so we can feast tomorrow. thank you for the ones faraway who i will miss tomorrow.

thank you for 9-year-old boys and 17-year-old ones, and the eight-year gap in between that allows me this most spicy soup that is my two-track life–on one hand teaching the little one how to tie laces on basketball shoes, on the other listening deep into the night to whatever fills a thinking teenager’s heart.

thank you for brothers, ones who fill in my gaps, and share the same flashlight into the past. ones who grew up in the same house as me, heard the same sounds, knew of the rooster next door, and the bend in the road that hid the way to the pond.

thank you for a mother who turned 80 last week and still cooks for us two nights a week.

thank you for jim, the builder, who just today was here digging holes in the garden, putting in posts for my old gothic birdhouse, the one right beyond the kitchen door, and the old country mailbox, the one that holds my garden gloves and clippers so i needn’t shuffle too far when the urge strikes to get muddy.

thank you for hands that never mind mud, hands for which gloves are a farce, a thin-skinned charade, and so rarely worn. even if they are housed in an old country mailbox. good excuse for the box.

thank you for cranberries and brussels sprouts (yes) and white meat of turkey. thank you for wine by the splash, and the way it makes the room go just a wee bit more glow-y, and the laughter and stories unspool not just a wee bit more heartily. thank you too for corn bread stuffing. and friends who make it the way their mamas did, and grandmamas before that.

thank you for that grandma of mine, the one who made turkey cut-outs, and the other one, i never met, but who i’m told, proudly, “could wring a chicken’s neck.”

thank you for dawn, and dusk, dear Lighter of Light, those edges of the night and the day, when the first and the last seeds of illumination are scattered, are rosy.

thank you God for the trees and the gnarly limbs, and the hummingbird now buried deep in my garden.

thank you for candlelight.

thank you for words.

thank you, God, for all of this. and more. so, so much more.

to be continued…..by all of those who wander by, who pull up a chair, and leave just a swatch of their heart….

for each of whom i am so deeply thankful….

a prayer for the grownups of children who struggle

prayer for grownups children struggle

this is communal. there is, far as i can tell, not a soul who doesn’t at one time or another come into the ranks. there is no corner, sadly, on this market. no me-me-me thinking you are the only one who knows what it is to lie deeply awake–and not that you’re counting the holes in the ceiling.

hardly.

you’re racking your heart and your soul and your brain, even your belly, trying to figure out, devise some plot, to push back the struggles that threaten to swallow your little one. or maybe your big one.

you are no less than moses at the red sea, i tell you. you and your rod, standing there, palms raised, as if.

as if you, who does not possess any magical powers, can reach into the brain of a very young person, reach in and straighten some wires. get synapses connected. make them see. make them hear. make them not be afraid. make the letters that spill on the page line up in some sort of sense. instead of backwards and jumbled and utterly, thoroughly awful. so misbehaved, that alphabet.

as if–oh, God, please–you could stand in the halls or the lunchroom, or off to the edge of the playground. make the mean kids go away. stop the big ones from picking on little ones. or the other way around. splinter the words being hurled, the ones that are ugly and poison and might sting forever.

it is hell and it’s lonely besides.

barely a soul is willing to advertise the truth of the matter: not a one of us is merrily sitting back, watching little people skitter through life. as if it’s a pond and they were on skates and they’re gliding. making true loopdy-loops.

nope, i am no researcher, or taker of census. i have not knocked on doors asked, excuse me, is there suffering here?

but chances are good to better than good, the answer is yes. very much so. why, thank you for asking.

in my own little world, in just the last week, for instance, i’ve heard all of this: a child who tried to jump out a window. twice. one who died. one who can’t hear very well and it’s making her mad. you would be too. if all day you struggled to make out the words on everyone’s lips. and the lips didn’t move very slowly. not at all.

i’m not done: a boy afraid to turn out the light. another who won’t. a child who cannot see the big picture and hold onto a small fragile thread. it’s one or the other. and sometimes you really need both.

there’s a girl who keeps having seizures; no one knows why. but do you think, for a minute, her mother rests easy, whenever she’s not in her sight, whenever the phone rings? there are two boys who are watching their lives rip in half, as their parents divorce and it’s not always pretty. and two girls i know who won’t eat. no more than an apple cut in very thin slices. and she’s the one making progress.

my point here is not to make you feel drowning. my point here is just to take a deep breath. whisper a prayer. maybe think twice when you next feel alone. when you happen to think you can’t bear it. when the waves of your worry, and your lack of solutions, pull you down under.

i got to this notion the way i usually do. i thought and i thought. i listened and looked and tucked away stories. i jimmied my heart to the wide-open valve.

and all week i rode the waves of a sea that’s not far from despair. there is a boy who i love who is utterly stumped by parts of the school day. the parts where the words and the pencils are. in first grade, as you might imagine, that is a fairly good chunk of the day.

it is, at this point, still a mystery. as if there’s a fog that isn’t yet lifted. we can’t quite make out the landscape. i asked him last night, when word after word was coming out backwards, what it felt like inside. he took his hands and scrambled them all through the air. i heard my heart crack then.

and i know that that crack is not only mine. i know it rises up from the houses, all over the towns, all over the hillsides and valleys below. all over the world.

it would be headlines, i suppose, if there were a house where never a worry there was. or maybe the grownups in charge are made of something other than my flimsy cloth.

i am not, however, one to cave in to worry. no, i find it a friend. an ally, in fact. it stirs me, propels me, gives me whatever it takes, to take on the very steep climb up the waters that will not be stilled.

the prayer that i pray then is this: that even in the depths of our darkest night shadows, when all that we fear comes out of the closets, leaps ‘round the bed, bangs on the pillows, we might picture each other. know the communion of trembling hands. hearts that will not surrender.

that whatever it is that haunts and plagues all of our children be kneaded away. by heads that are wise. and hearts that are deep and filled with infinite chambers.

that we don’t wrestle alone. that the great and tender hand of our God settles quite firmly at the small of our backs. fills our lungs, too, with the breath that it takes to blow back the winds that are chilling. settles the waters. gives us a chance, and a hope, of making the climb, to the crest of the wave.

where, if we’re so blessed, we can look out at a sea of children who have managed to swim. and are stroking and breathing. and making a magnificent splash.

that’s what i pray.

how about you?