God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. A-a-a-men.

I have been thinking about the message from Sunday. About bringing back the table. About how the table has been a huge part of my life. About how the table really was a focal point at home growing up. About how I am responsible for letting it get covered up with mail and a centerpiece and stuff when I was raising the girls. About how I let it become a shelf for things I wasn’t sure where to put or things I didn’t bother to put. About how I wish I could have a do-over and re-train myself and my girls and insist on making the table a big deal in the life of our family.

Growing up, we never ate meals away from the table. Unless it was a rare picnic or a neighborhood weeny roast, all meals were shared as a family, at the table. It was where “The Daily Bread” was read each morning. It was where Mom or Dad began the day and ended the day in prayer. It was where we discussed the days’ events. There were no cell phones to invade space and distract. There wasn’t a TV in the kitchen to steal our attention.

  • High chairs were a part of the setting when babies were hungry
  • Hands were occasionally held when guests were asked to lead prayer and prompted this gesture
  • Scraps were quietly dropped onto the floor for Fifi or Tuffy or Sneakers or Squatsy (don’t judge – they were beloved pets with silly names, and I don’t claim responsibility of any of the naming)
  • Tears were shed when plates were not cleaned up and we were made to sit until we decided to finish our dinner
  • Cereal boxes were read, top to bottom
  • Lectures were given
  • Ideas were shared
  • Crafts were made
  • Homework was completed and books and papers were strewn about
  • Fabric was cut out according to patterns laid out smooth
  • Games were played with much laughter, or much concentration
  • The tradition of the autographed tablecloth began
  • Playdough and fingerpaints were allowed to be messy
  • Mom’s china was displayed for her invited guests on special occasions
  • Card tables were added to the ends along with any and every chair available when company arrived for the meal, because we all sat together, even if it meant having a table leg in between your knees, or sitting at the empty space/crack between tables right at your place setting

We were taught how to set a table. We were taught how to actually have conversation with others. We were taught to answer in sentences longer than one word. We were taught to pray and value this time together as a family. We were expected to help clean up afterwards. And when Daddy had to work late, occasionally I was allowed to stay up late and sit at the table with him while we both ate macaroni and cheese in the quiet of the evening.

I am grateful for these memories, although I am also sad that they are just memories.

I am grateful for pretty little salt and pepper shakers that sat in the middle of the table.

I’m not so grateful for leftovers.

I am grateful for a napkin holder that sat on the table that also held the little devotional and a tiny ceramic container of toothpicks.

I am grateful for relish plates, for cheese trays, for bread baskets, for deviled egg plates, for cake stands, for divided dishes so that the black olives didn’t touch the green olives.

I am grateful for plastic placemats and pastel Tupperware cups and melamine plates and mismatched silverware and serving straight from the pots and pans.

I am grateful for tablecloths that Mom insisted on having for each table when guests were coming to join us for a meal. It was her way of making the table pretty and special.

I am grateful for late nights around the table playing Monopoly or Rook or Risk or Yahtzee or Dominoes.

I am grateful for more recent times around the table – when I was at my lowest point and sat at the table with my parents, spilling my anguish and pain while receiving their love, attention and support.

I am grateful for tears shed, for the giggles and laughter, for prayers prayed, for deep discussion, all around the table.

And finally, I am grateful that of all of the hours spent at the table with Mom and Dad, and my brothers and sister, the world’s problems were not solved, but we became closer as a family, we learned to speak and we learned to listen, and we (mostly) learned to love and respect each other and the various opinions and passions that made us unique and similar.

I am grateful for a dead raccoon.

 

 

I am grateful for the many “coincidences” that keep happening that involve telling my story. Everything I read, I hear, I watch, seems to be pointing to the nudge that I need to write it all down.

I am grateful for cinnamon melts, cinnamon bears, cinnamon smells, cinnamon and sugar on toast, cinnamon gum, cinnamon in tea, cinnamon just about anything.

I am grateful for funny little boy stories that I never really knew about, because I never had little boys. And I am grateful that my daughter calls me on Sunday afternoons to tell me funny little boy stories that make me laugh down deep.

I am grateful for an introduction to quite the speaker/teacher yesterday at church. His name is Dr. Leonard Sweet. He spoke about the importance and significance of having a meal and conversation around the table, how prominent this practice was in the Bible, how prominent this practice was in Jesus’ life, and how this practice has become endangered in the life of family in the 21st century. His message is worth watching, again and again and again…

Bring Back the Table

 

I am also grateful to have heard the choir sing again.

I am grateful that the damage to the car on Saturday night, on our way back home in the foggy night outside of Strong City, was caused by a raccoon, or two of them, and not a deer, or a black Angus.

I am grateful for sore muscles and a little bruising, evidence of hard work. I am also grateful for Sam, because he loves some hard work and a monster project, and his heart for others is super-human huge.

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I am also very grateful for Sam, because in the midst of this monster project, this is what he chose to save:

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He rescued a little liriope plant in the 52 tons of dirt. How incredible is that…

I am grateful for a yardstick that WOULD have come in handy, had there BEEN one to use. Everyone needs a yardstick.

I am grateful that a Huffy bike will be delivered tonight and is another step in the healing and progress.

I am grateful for “redneck” accents and silly stories about ‘coon huntin’ with Buddy and Melissa, those good huntin’ dawgs…on a random roadtrip. Laughter makes the miles shorter.

I am grateful for time spent with my Ferguson family on Saturday.  For the time spent remembering my Aunt Ardeth and her quiet life. For the memories shared during her service. For the silliness of Aunt Doris commenting on the quiet nature of the Fergusons and how the “outlaws” are left to do the talking. For time to visit with Mike and Randy, my cousins I never really knew all that well. For another opportunity to see Aunt Drula, Aunt Ivol, Aunt Bulah and Uncle Francis, Uncle Willard and Aunt Doris, Uncle Floyd, my Dad…I love seeing my Dad. I love seeing them all. I love seeing my aunts and how they remind me so much of Grandmommy. Never take for granted time spent with family, because those times become fewer and farther between, until one day, they are just memories.

I am grateful for the sparkle of the paved street in the streetlight. It was beautiful in the pre-dawn darkness this morning.

I am grateful for Julie’s email that made me tear up. Her words about the simplicity of Quakers and her sincerity in learning just make me want to hug her and spend more time with her. I feel like I’ve found a life-long friend.

I am grateful for a sister who eats junk food with me on road trips.

I am grateful for time spent sitting in Michelle’s chair on Saturday, because she made me less frightening to look at, and because I got all caught up, mostly caught up, on life in the Johnson house.  I love that girl.

I am grateful for the sound of a young owl at 4:30 this morning, and I am grateful that the window was open so that I could hear him hooting.

 

 

 

But it’s almost over, and my hair looked good all day, thanks to my hair magician, Michelle! And for that, I am also grateful.

I need a haircut. I need my hair magician for a hair transformation. Almost ready to go Adam-ized.

I am grateful that reunion decisions have been finalized and I will be able to get a letter out this weekend.

I am grateful for good spatulas.

I am grateful for envelopes with those strips that you pull off for the adhesive instead of using your tongue.

I am grateful for the smell of new money, gasoline, rubber cement, Joyce’s tomato soup, Lisa’s lotion, and my Vintage Patchouli Pickwick candle.

Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is. ― C.S. Lewis

I am grateful that I am not an EMT, paramedic, nurse, physician, or any other kind of health care provider. I read this quote from C.S. Lewis and loved it, but it immediately took me back to 1990 when I was waiting under the portico for the kindergarten classes to be dismissed for carpool. Mrs. Gant’s class was very late, so I went around the corner to see what the hold-up was all about and usher them out to get in line. I looked through the window of her classroom, and she was sprawled on the floor with children looking confused and noisy and not under her usual control. I PANICKED and ran into the teacher workroom to call the office on the intercom. Why in the world I didn’t pick up the phone directly under the intercom and call 9-1-1, I’ll never know. What I DO know is this: I am not good in emergencies. I also learned quickly that I better know CPR from now on.  Fortunately, Mrs. Gant recovered from her heart attack and came back to teach again. Rescue hero FAILURE on my part. I was taken off my guard and the evidence proved me to be a big huge FLOP.

I am grateful for my book! Can’t wait to read this weekend.

I am grateful for Chip the Monk, my little buddy who hides in the flower beds outside the building. He makes me smile in the mornings, and “he” is probably a “she” or could be a dozen different ones, but I prefer to think that Chip the Monk is the one and only and appears just for me, saying, “Good morning and here’s your reason to smile as you walk in the door today.”

I am grateful for the opportunity to volunteer last night at our church bookstore for the Leadership Institute. I feel like we didn’t do much but it was fun to see how it all works and meet several people from as far away as New Jersey and Wisconsin.

I am grateful for laughter in the midst of pain.

I am grateful that I am not an IT person. As in I.T. I do not understand cords and plugs and towers and boxes and boards and gigabytes and I now have a headache.

I am grateful to have spent my afternoon yesterday with a new friend. I love when one of those encounters happens – you just know it when you know it, and I know that Julie is a long lost friend, or at least it sure felt like it. She is someone I could spend hours upon hours with and always wish for more time. She’s fun, and she’s so real. Thanks for a beautiful afternoon of sharing and listening, Julie.

I am grateful that my CASA girl will get her bike soon.

I am grateful for another new book, this time from Karissa! She sent me Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind, and I’m anxious to get to chapter 10 that she keeps referencing. But I have to finish Speak first. I’m not a multi-reader.

I am grateful for several text messages from Katrina this week, and for a few pictures of Parker in her new clothes.

I am grateful for pretty colors of mums this time of the year.

I am grateful for a very encouraging CASA supervisor who makes me feel that I am not a total disappointment.

I am grateful for Valerie’s story about Brandon and the dandelions out in the yard…

I want to always see a wish.

And finally, I am grateful for Michelle and somehow miss her all the more when my hair looks like it does right now.

I’m sorry you’re having a bad hair day. Oh. You’re not? Oops.

Life is like an ice cream cone. You have to lick it one day at a time. – Charles Shulz

I’ve begun my new book, Speak, by Nish Weiseth, and all I had read was the 1-1/2 page forward and my response was WOW. WOW. WOW. I am giddy excited, to say the least. Here’s a taste:

In the fall of 2010, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet and hear Ann Voskamp, author of the New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts. In her message, Ann made one remark that got under my skin. She was speaking about using writing as a way to glorify God when she instructed the audience, “Give me your story, not your sermon.”

It was my “lightbulb” moment.

For some time now, I have had this tiny voice inside my rambling head – okay, and Sam, too,  convicting me to write my story. I remember when I first read my Mom’s essays about incidents in her life, and how enlightening her stories were to me. I never knew…

This book is going to propel me forward, I do believe. Even if no one ever reads my story other than my husband, or my counselor, or my sister, I need to tell my story. I need to write. It’s healing. And I think it’s the next thing I am supposed to do on my journey. So, I am grateful for my new book, again. I am grateful for this blogger-turned-author named Nish who is going to have an impact on me. But, back to reality for now, and what has been swimming in my head this morning:

I am grateful for my favorite cartoon characters. I resemble them in so many ways…

Snoopy – I love to eat. I love to eat the same thing, pretty much day in and day out. Not dog food. Chips… I love to play. I love to stare up at the sky and just relax. I love to explore. I love to snoop. It’s what I do every day at work. I snoop. I’m snoopy.

Woodstock – Many times, I feel so small and insignificant, and I’m fairly certain no one understands a word I am saying.

Charlie Brown – I get depressed. I think the world hates me. I wanna spill all of my problems.

Lucy – I think I know it all. I think I’m all that. I think I can counsel others.

Pig Pen – Sometimes the dirt and sin I think is so well-hidden is actually so blatantly obvious to everyone else. If I don’t take a bath, my dirt affects everyone.

Schroeder – I like to put my head down and just play my piano. It’s great therapy.

Linus – I like a good blanket, and I believe with my whole heart, I have faith in what I cannot see, just not so much in the Great Pumpkin.

Teacher – Thank you, Captain Obvious. (see my Chatterbox post from earlier this week…)

And finally, Charles Schulz – I need to write. Drawing, not so much. Writing, I could do all the day long.

I am grateful for Charles Shulz and his brilliance that makes me smile almost daily. Grateful to be licking it one day at a time.

No amount of regret changes the past, no amount of anxiety changes the future,…

 

…ANY amount of grateful joy changes the present. – Ann Voskamp, in One Thousand Gifts

 

I am grateful for my brand new membership with AAA, thanks to Dad who just wanted a map.

I am grateful for an additional simple map from the Chamber of Commerce.

I am grateful for very nice customer service agents and sales people.

I am grateful for silly granddaughters who sing at the top of their lungs to the cows in the back yard, who dress themselves in turquoise and purple with red boots for picture day at school, who wear a tutu in all seriousness, who have crazy curls and frizzy hair, who scream and squeal in sheer delight, and I am grateful for a happy grandson who just opened his box with brand new cowboy boots from Ama this afternoon.

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I am grateful for a wonderful time with Bingo friends last night.

I am grateful for a new book to begin reading. Speak, by Nish Weiseth. Yay for me.

I am grateful for Salvi, Lorenzo, Billy, Jarrod, Wade, Alcides, Moose, Hoz, Gordon, and Aoki Dokey.

 

 

I am grateful for strawberry greek yogurt.

I am grateful that I like having fresh breath, which makes me grateful for a tube of toothpaste.

And finally, I am grateful for a blog post that was shared by my friend, Lacey, about the phrase, “What if?” that can paralyze us with fear. Been there, done that, still there, still do that…  The key phrase was this:  Even if the worst happens, God’s grace is sufficient.  So, instead of asking, “What if?” I need to say, “Even if.”  If you’re interested in reading the wonderful post, here it is:

What if the worst happens

Blabbermouth. Chatterbox. Windbag.

I am.

On three different occasions last night, I found myself unable to shut up. My intentions were genuine. I so wanted to get my point across. I so wanted my passion and enthusiasm to catch on. I so wanted my intended listener to respond with, “Ohhhhhh! I have now seen the light thanks to you! It all makes sense now! You are so wise, oh mighty Rhonda!”

Mmmm…not so much.

What I did receive was 1) that glazed look; you know, that smile that hides the “Wow, she is talking but I have a thousand things to do tonight and I wonder if she realizes there is something stuck in her teeth – should I tell her or let her figure it out when she looks in the mirror tonight – I wonder if she looks in the mirror?” type of glazed expression, 2) another response that indicated they had not listened whatsoever to my self-righteous wisdom-giving and went on to continue their lengthy criticism, and 3) a defensive, but kind “You have no idea what you’re talking about so you better stop digging that hole before I make you crawl in it” response.

So, as an added bonus to my gift/curse of gab, I am now sitting on the couch at 3 am, not able to sleep. Now, my mouth is quiet, but my mind won’t shut up.

The power of words. They lose their power when used too freely. Just like gifts that are given in abundance, pictures that are taken incessantly, posts that are published too frequently, inspirational or political forwards that begin to annoy the email recipient, sweets that are not savored on occasion but become a daily addiction…

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. – James 1:19

I am grateful for object lessons that are personal and painful. I am grateful for the “Hey gasbag, I’m talkin’ to YOU” revelations. I am grateful for sleepless nights when lessons are learned and insides are twisted with conviction and the Holy Spirit is working overtime to plug a leaky “pipe” and restore me to humility. I am grateful for those recipients of my excessive yapperness who offer me grace and understanding in spite of my inability to close my pie hole.

I am grateful that my God forgives me with a never-ending amount of grace and allows me to try, try again. I am grateful that I received my mom’s gift of soliloquy…if only I could learn to harness it and realize the power of words. Fewer words. Not that my words are negative or without merit. It’s just that I have trouble knowing when to shut my trap. Ramble. Digress. Blather. Go off on a tangent. And the longer I rattle on, the less powerful my point becomes. See? Like I’m doing right now.

His mercies are new every morning. As it is now almost 5 am and the only sounds my ear hears are the constant chirp of a thousand crickets delighting my senses through the open windows in the house, the hum of the refrigerator refreshing its cold, and the soft jazz through the speakers in the ceiling, I am anticipating a gorgeous sunrise, new every morning. A brisk walk with my best friend, new every morning. Another day to try again. To begin again. Because His mercies are new every morning, His faithfulness is great. May my motormouth have engine trouble today, so that I can be still and know that He is God, be still and enjoy this first day of a new autumn, be still and allow others to use their words, be still and drink in His grace, be still

Once upon a time is now.

It’s hard to start the week on a Monday morning when the air is cool, the sun is saying “Good morning!,” the weekend was filled with grace and much joy, and peace has settled and made its home in my heart.

It’s hard to start the week on a Monday morning when all I really want to do is sit out on the patio with a new book wearing comfortable, soft clothing and enjoy the company of singing birds.

It’s hard to start the week on a Monday morning when my head is full of lists to accomplish, of wishes that would love to be fulfilled, of parties to plan, of chapters to write.

It’s hard to start the week on a Monday morning when reminiscing is higher on my priorities than research.

Once upon a time, beginning a new week and Mondays were hard for different reasons.

God is never less than generous, even when we are less than grateful. – John Blanchard

But it’s easy to begin my week with gratitude for the autumn air that is cool, the sun saying “Good morning!,” the weekend that was filled with grace and much joy, and for the peace that has settled and made its home in my heart.

It’s easy to begin my week with gratitude for the beauty of an inviting patio and the rejoicing and praise of the birds singing.

It’s easy to begin my week with gratitude for lists to accomplish, wishes that are waiting to be fulfilled, parties to plan, and chapters to write.

It’s easy to begin my week with gratitude of the wonderful memories of which to reminisce and current research to fill my days.

My heart is swelling full with gratitude with the experience of having breakfast yesterday with a Nonny and her granddaughter – at first strangers outside of a restaurant, but soon breakfast friends, better known as Liz and Jaelyn.

My heart is swelling full with gratitude because of the teaching we received yesterday morning about the early days of Paul’s ministry. It is a blessing to have a pastor who takes such care to make sure the congregation hears the teaching and can begin a new week with a challenge from the message.  My challenges for the week:

  1. Realize that even as Paul spent 14 years in the wilderness, pondering and reflecting and learning in silence, GOD STILL WORKS IN THE WILDERNESS TIMES OF OUR LIVES.
  2. Barnabas was an encourager and I need to be an encourager to others, and even as Barnabas took a backseat to Paul, I can do the same.
  3. This little light of mine is gonna shine, even if it is in my little tiny corner of this world.

My heart is swelling full with gratitude from the experience of dinner with new friends on Saturday evening, lots of laughter and fun, and the best barbecue in the world.

My heart is swelling full with gratitude because of a conversation with Rick, the Home Depot guy, who shared a slice of his life with us in the aisle and didn’t hide his tears.

My heart is swelling full with gratitude because my best friend takes the time to walk with me to Einstein’s for a bagel on a Saturday morning. MAKES the time. Swelling, it is.

My heart is swelling full with gratitude from an evening spent with new friends on a Friday evening at the dinner table, sharing our life stories, our families, our love of church, and our love of books.

My heart is swelling full with gratitude for progress usually taken for granted, for time to accomplish the mundane things now crossed off my list: laundry and ironing done, picture frame fixed, cookies baked, garage organized and looking awesome thanks to Sam, thank you notes written, summer reunion email sent and hotels contacted, piano lesson recorded and sent, and more.

Once upon a time is now. Now is when my heart swells with gratitude. Now is when I fill and feel my week with praise. Now is when I appreciate and look for all that I should be grateful. Now is when I let my light shine, even in my tiny little corner.