Gratitude

gratitude

This morning I am sitting outside in my backyard sipping organic Chocolate Roobus tea, with 3 drops of caramel stevia and a splash of almond-coconut milk.  The blue sky is waking up, birds are singing and I can hear my neighbors pool pump humming.  The greens that clothe the plants and trees around the perimeter of our yard are vibrant.  I notice the details.   It is easy in these quiet moments to find gratitude.  These are moments I practice to build into my life for this is where life becomes manageable and I can find perspective.  Truly I don’t know where this blog post is going but I feel a need to write about quiet, not missing the sweet details in life, and about growing a heart of gratitude and kindness.

 A month or so ago I was sitting outside on a deck in 63 degree weather.  Living in Phoenix, AZ, 63 degrees is a gift on an early October day but I wasn’t in Phoenix.   I was in Show Low, AZ., a three hour drive from home.  This is my writing from that day:

 I will do my best to describe the moment.  There are birds chirping, the sound of a distant road with occasional cars, the trees near me are fluttering from an unseen breath.  A wind chime dances and sings reminding me of whispering church bells.  The blue sky with fluffy marshmallow cream clouds peek through the trees.  There is something up here that can be hard to find in the valley – a quiet that invites me to be still, reflect  and enjoy the quiet.

Funny how only a few days before the opportunity came to come up to the mountains, I was reluctant – it seemed too much work to pack, so many things on my to do list and I was engaged in an internal wrestling match.  One of the nice things of being 58 is I have enough past experience to question these struggles to rest and I’ve learned to fight those thoughts.  How easily I can miss out on the gift God is trying to give me….rest, peace, time to slow down from all the chores at home, tasks at work, etc.

I recently finished a book about a king that was imprisioned in a dark cell for almost a year.  He went in prideful and came out seeing the free things we have been given in this world in a new and appreciative way.  Imagine seeing nothing but darkness day after day and then coming out and seeing the sky with clouds in varying colored of white, grays and lavenders, of all shapes that continually move and transform.  It’s better than any movie we could watch.  The greens of the trees, each leaf different, the shadows of birds flying in and out of the branches.  The sounds of quaking aspens that gently sing in the breeze.  Go outside, close your eyes – study the darkness before your eyes.  Then open your eyes as if for the first time – it’s pretty amazing and can easily drive a heart to thankfulness.

This will be one of the last times I sit on this deck and it is with gratitude I say goodbye.  We didn’t do anything to deserve having time here during the past decade.  The property isn’t ours but is owned by a friend of my husband’s, who had graciously extended hospitality to us but recently decided to sell.  This beautiful home has been a retreat to us, providing a quick getaway when we walked through challenging times (financial, health, losing loved ones).  It has been an unexpected act of kindness towards our family.

Some moments mold you into something better than you were.   Sometimes people come into your life that help you take the next step in your journey.  These people are going about their day and have no idea they are going to step into someone else’s lives and make a difference.  

When my daughter, Tamara, was in high school she was challenged with throwing up month after month – we would watch her crawl to the bathroom and most times her body would need an iv to replenish her fluids.  Back and forth we went to the dr but answers were slow in coming. Then one time her doctor was out and we saw someone who was filling in.  For some reason this dr couldn’t let go of what was happening to Tamara.  He called us at home asking for more information.  The next day he asked for her to be brought back into the office and soon we had an appointment for a CAT Scan at 11 a.m. in an area of town I wasn’t familiar with.  I was out of my comfort zone:   I wanted to fix this for my daughter, I wanted to remain calm – I wanted to know this would all be ok – I prayed.  On the outside, I was keeping it together.  But I don’t like not knowing where I’m going and when we finally found the imaging area, I pulled into a parking spot with 5 minutes to spare.  I noticed I parked crooked and backed up to straighten up only to bump into a car that was also backing up.  I got out of the car and noticed the woman was not happy.  What happened next is a memory I have held dear and still clouds my eyes with tears.  I began to explain I was sorry and that my daughter was ill and we had an 11 am appointment for a test.  My rambling sounded incoherent to my own ears.  But I watched a face that had been angry start to melt.  She then opened her arms to me (the mom who is supposed to be brave) and I didn’t hesitate to walk into this stranger’s embrace and cry.  She whispered in my ear “The car doesn’t matter.  It is only a bump to a fender.  Your job is to get to that appointment and take care of your child.  Be brave.  You can do this.”  She released me and I said thank you as I got my daughter out of the car and checked into the appointment.  After the test, we were asked to stay in the waiting room.  Ten minutes later, I was handed a large envelope with the test film and told to get Tamara to Banner where a bed was waiting and surgery was being scheduled for an appendectomy.  This doctor, that woman were a big part of journey.  

 What does God say about kindness?  

Proverbs 3:3 – Do not let kindness and truth leave you.  Bind them around your neck and write them on tablet of your heart.

Acts 14:17 (NIV):  He (God) has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your heart with joy.” 

Romans 11:22 (NIV):  “Consider therefore the kindness and sternest of God:  sternest to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.”

Galatians 5:22 (NIV):  “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Ephesians 2:7 (NIV):  “..in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

2 Peter 1:7 – 1:3-8 (NIV)”  His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to go godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Fighting Fear with Blueberry French Toast

My heart goes out to the people of Newtown, the sorrow of families and friends of those affected is really too much to take in.  In times like this we are uncertain what to do?  It is easy to allow fear to swallow up the good, to become stagnant.  Fear can do that – cause us to get caught up in the bad.  But stagnant doesn’t change the things that cause this type of sorrow.  Those of you who have school age children or work in schools – I know these are tough times.  Let me thank you for getting your children ready for school this week.  Let me say thank you to those that work at schools and are there this week doing your job.  I know you may have thought twice about that decision.  You may even feel a bit numb right now.  That’s okay.  I believe God gives us strength to accomplish what we are called to do.  He gives us the strength to fight back one deliberate act at a time – with a hug, a kind word, making out a grocery list, making a meal, etc.  Each tangible action is a fight against fear.

I remember when 9-11 happened.  My children were young and in school and my husband was traveling for business.  After the children were in bed that night I felt so hopeless – so emotionally exhausted yet I knew I was not ready for sleep.  I knew that to turn on the TV would just be listening to words – seeing images I had repeatedly absorbed throughout the day.  I knew I wanted to protect my children from a world that these unspeakable things could happen knowing deep in my heart there are only so many things a mother has control of.  So the question came to my mind – “What do you have control over?”  “How can you love your children in this time of uncertainty?”  For me – it was giving them something they enjoyed – something that had a proven track record of happiness.  For me – this would be accomplished in my kitchen.  And so I set about pulling the ingredients out on my counter for Blueberry French Toast – a lovely recipe that sits in refrigerator overnight and is baked in the oven.  In the past the smell of this baking would bring huge smiles to little faces.  I was just hoping that it would remind me them that there have been good times and in faith and hope we look forward to good times in the future.  So I cut the french bread, mixed up the eggs and milk.  Each task was a balm to my soul. I took each piece of bread and dipped it into the wet mixture and placed it in the greased pan and I knew this is how we would heal – one deliberate task of love at a time.  That recipe got me to move – it would be so easy to get lost – sit frozen in front of our tvs, computers, newspapers for the next new tidbit of a horrific event but our country doesn’t need people who sit – no our country needs people who will reach out and start moving with loving actions one person at a time.

Blueberry French Toast
A wonderful breakfast that can be prepped the night before and popped into the oven the next morning.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 Loaf of french bread, sliced in 1/2 inch sliced
  2. 2 Eggs
  3. 1 3/4 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk or Milk of your Choice
  4. 2 Tbsp Sugar or sweetener of choice
  5. 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  6. 1 1/2 cup Frozen Blueberries
  7. Crumb Mixture
  8. White Spelt Flour or Flour of your Choice
  9. Brown Sugar
  10. Earth Balance or Butter, chilled
Instructions
  1. Prepare a 8 X 8 square pan by spraying lighting with PAM
  2. If using flax "egg" see * and mix accordingly
  3. In medium bowl mix milk, sugar, vanilla, egg, and fruit spread until combined
  4. Take each slice of bread and dip both sides into milk mixture. Place in pan until the bottom is covered with a layer of bread.
  5. Spoon 3 Tbsp of milk mixture over bread
  6. Place sliced apples on top
  7. Repeat with another layer of dipped bread
  8. Using a spatual press down on top to pack down
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 6-8 hours in fridge.
  10. Mix ingredients for crumb mixture in a small blender or food processor.
  11. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  12. Remove from refrigerator
  13. Spread blueberries on top
  14. Spread crumb mixture of top
  15. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
  16. Can be eaten out of the oven but it let cool for 15 minutes before trying to cut. It's amazing how much better this cuts if it can cool, sit in refrigerator for several hours and then reheated or served cold as a bread pudding.
  17. May be topped with powdered sugar, whipped soy or dairy cream.
Deliciously Inspired http://www.deliciouslyinspired.com/
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