No tricks, just lots and lots of treats, thank you.

First full day in Madras and I am relaxing on a hotel bed while my daughter and youngest granddaughter sleep on the bed next to me. After about an hour of giggling and silliness in the next room for the other three who were refusing to nap, Ama took charge and “napped” with them until they all fell asleep. We must nap. Tonight is going to be crazy chaos, I do believe.

i am grateful for the opportunity to visit Parker at her school this morning and have lunch and recess with her. I am grateful for the opportunity to return to the same school shortly after and share lunch with my daughter and see where she works. I am grateful to be so privileged to watch these two families of little ones squealing and giggling and loving each other. It was so touching to stand on the playground and watch Parker and Anissa playing together and see Parker “show” her friends her little sister, Reilly,  Anissa, and her Ama.

I am grateful for time this morning to take three littles downstairs for breakfast and enjoy being an Ama while they ate waffles, eggs, cereal, and fruit and gave high fives to the breakfast guy.

i am grateful that this bed was big enough last night for two little girls and an Ama, since they just couldn’t sleep in their own room. I am grateful for the clarity to lie in silence and listen to my family breathing in their sleep in the middle of the night. I may not have such a clear head tonight when all six share this room with my daughter and I after trick-or-treating and candy and silliness.

And I am grateful for two of them who just woke up from their Ama-forced nap and are eating a snack of chips beside me while we watch Spider-Man and wait for the other three to wake up for costume time. Life is short. Enjoy every single moment. Okay, I will.

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I can sleep when I’m dead.

I am grateful for exhaustion. It means a full day of missing a morning flight, waiting for God to provide a way to make the trip happen, four little grandchildren on an airplane full of travelers, a friendly seat mate who made the flight very enjoyable and an extra blessing, a daughter and granddaughter who are pros at handling luggage through an airport and onto shuttle buses and into the rental car line, spilled drinks at Subway and many “I need to go potty’s,” a beautiful 2 1/2 hour drive through the mountains, the joy at seeing my other daughter and her two little girls at the hotel, an evening in Katrina’s home, and quiet time tonight to write this while three exhausted kids are giggling in the other room. The day began at 5 am, and it is now 10:40 and we are just settling in the room for the night. So tired, so blessed.

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T minus 24 hours and counting…

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“These are the faces I get when I tell them you are coming tomorrow! It’s true. This was their real-time reaction!” – Karissa

I am grateful for butterflies, the kind that are fluttering internally as I anticipate the sights, the sounds, the memories to be made in the next six days.

I am grateful for this quiet night of solitude and rest. It may be the last full night of sleep until Monday.

I am grateful for this gift of a trip to see my daughters and grandchildren. Priceless. Thank you, Sam, for the suggestion, and for the help in making it happen. One giant step at a time…or should I say, one ROYAL step at a time. Yes, I should.

What a child doesn’t receive, he can seldom later give. – P.D. James

Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to witness beauty unfolding.

Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a CASA and watch it happen from the sidelines.

Today, I am grateful for a reminder of what happened almost exactly 30 years ago.

Today, I am grateful for the gift of my parents.

Last week, I read an article posted by my friend Jeanine, about the parents of a young man who had died of a drug overdose, the result of so much pain and anguish in his life. The parents raised their son in the church, to love God and follow Christ. And he did. But, he confessed to them one day, at the young age of 12, that he was gay. And the years that followed were devastating, culminating in his death. They did everything “right.” They had all the “right answers.” Heartbreaking story – I’ll send it to you if you’d like. The thing that stuck with me was this: The mom said that she would just about do anything to have her son back. Her GAY son back. Because at this point, having her GAY son was better than having no son at all. Or something like that.

And since then, I have been reminded time and again how very fortunate I am to have the parents God gave to me…

I sat down on the bed, after Mom and I had just put clean sheets on it. The weight on my shoulders too much, I could no longer stand.

It was a fall weekend my freshman year, and I had driven home from college – not because I wanted, but because I had to talk to my parents and confess what had been hidden.

In my mind, I had envisioned the worst. I had faced Mom’s wrath many times before, and it wasn’t pleasant. It was an experience to be avoided at almost all costs. But not this time. This wasn’t a time that could be avoided. I was at my lowest point in my young life of 18 years. And I feared that by the end of the hour, I would be kicked out, forever abandoned, on my own to face the future alone.

“Mom, I’m pregnant.”

Words that were meant to be followed by rejoicing and squeals of delight from a Mom, but not on this day. These words, on the contrary, were followed with silence, followed by quiet sobs as I sat hunched over on the bed that Saturday morning. It was more than I could bear alone. And my Mom knew. She just knew…how to be a parent. Her instincts kicked in, and she walked around the bed and sat beside me, her arms holding on to me all tight. There was no yelling. There was no slamming of doors. There was no abandonment. When I was at my lowest, when I was hurting and afraid and desperate for acceptance and redemption, my Mom was there. She didn’t rail against my sin. She didn’t put conditions on her love for me. She didn’t begin a tirade of all that I had done wrong and how I needed to repent.

She loved me more fiercely than ever before.

The crying continued as she called my Dad to come home from work. And he did. He dropped everything and was there in minutes.

I wasn’t excused from the tough, but I was held responsible to tell my news. Dad is a man of few words. His quiet strength had always been intimidating as a child. But now, as I shared again this uninvited sentence that fell heavy like iron in the bedroom, I saw no condemnation in his eyes. I saw no contempt or disgrace. I saw my Dad’s eyes filled with tears, sorrow and pain…and love all gentle. And he wrapped his arms around me and as he hugged me, he patted my back, over and over and over again.

I will never ever forget that day. That day when I felt, for the first time in my life, that there was nothing I could ever do to make them love me less. That day, when I discovered in true life form, what unconditional love really meant. That day, when I saw God’s example of undeserved, unrestricted love, lived out in my parents’ reactions.

And they have shown it to me over and over again, because my life has been a mess of sorts through the years. Because of wasted potential. Because of poor decisions. Because of human nature. Because I am who I am.

I am witnessing another example of this kind of unconditional love in this season of life, and it is a beautiful thing to watch it happen. A young girl who was left alone in this world found two parents who have opened their hearts, their home, their lives, and they love her with an intense, powerful love and prove it to her every minute of the day. To hear this amazing young girl say last night that her dream is to become permanent in this home, because she found a family who loves her no matter what, broke my heart but at the same time, made it swell with so much hope for her future and faith in the way God is at work in the lives of these parents and their foster daughter.

My daughter was born a few short months later, and from the moment she entered the world, she had two grandparents who could not be more proud of her. She and her little sister were surrounded with unconditional love and her Mama has been living in her grandparents’ forgiveness and acceptance, remembering that pat on the back from Dad all of these years later, while Grandma and Grandpa proudly displayed pictures and told stories and encouraged those little girls to sing loud and be proud of who God made them.

We all have an opportunity to love, to accept without exception.  We all have an opportunity to be “that kind of parent.”

Today, do love. Today, show grace.

I feel like I’m waiting for the ketchup to plop onto the hamburger.

Today, I am grateful for Roxanne. She sent this article to me this morning, and I was going to share something else, but this is PERFECT to start this particular week:

Gratitude is more than pausing once a year to offer up thanks. It’s more than a snappy word that rhymes with “attitude.” I am told that of all the human emotions, gratitude is the most powerful.

So powerful is gratitude, it can obliterate fear, hopelessness and doubt. Gratitude can heal a broken heart, slow the aging process and restore broken relationships. Gratitude creates hope and hope brings joy. It is in joy, not fear, that we can find strength.

Greed is the enemy. Never in this history of our country has so much meant so little to so many. The easy availability of credit has allowed us to live beyond our means. It has encouraged greed to creep into every area of our lives. Some call this affliction Affluenza—an unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

The more we have, the more we want. The more we want, the more it takes to feel satisfied. The more credit we accept the farther we slide into debt.

The more we have the greedier we become and the more we suffer from possession overload. We let what we lack prevent gratitude for what we already have.

Affluenza in its advanced stages leads to stress. And stress leads to the breakdown of mental and physical health.

Gratitude is the antidote. Gratitude, the conscious and heartfelt expression of appreciation and thankfulness, is the number-one best antidote for dissatisfaction.

Greed says I must have more; gratitude counters with I have more than enough. Greed says my life is pathetic; gratitude says I am so blessed. Greed steals joy; gratitude restores joy.

To develop gratitude you need to talk to yourself and regularly write your thoughts. The idea is to begin to see all of life including the difficult times, as challenges, opportunities and blessings. You may also find it helpful to “reframe” a situation—to choose to see it from a new perspective.

Reframing can be difficult but is especially important when misfortune strikes. If you wreck your car, that is unfortunate. Still, it means you’re alive and that is something for which to be grateful. And you get bonus reasons for gratitude if no one was hurt, you have a good insurance policy or the car wasn’t totaled.

Authentic and heartfelt gratitude can hush up insatiable desires and negative attitudes.

For instance, you can hate your job, hate the boss, hate the people, hate the commute and hate the work. Or, you can be genuinely grateful that you have a job.

You can learn to appreciate everything about that job, even the distasteful aspects because they build your character, tolerance and compassion.

No matter what the situation, you choose your focus. If you choose fear and anger, expect depression and misery. If you choose to respond with a grateful heart, expect hope, satisfaction and joy. Yes joy, even in the midst of adversity.

Giving is the action. Want to really pull the plug on your greed? Become a giver. Giving away some of what is most precious to you—your money—is the ultimate thank-you note.

Giving allows us to take our eyes off our own situations to view the world through new eyes of compassion.

Giving is an outward expression of a personal affirmation that no matter how bleak your situation may appear, you really do have enough.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home; a stranger into a friend.

Gratitude makes sense of the past. It brings strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow!
– from Mary Hunt’s Everyday Cheapskate

I am grateful that almost everything is done except for the packing, and I will see my daughters and grandchildren in just a few days.

I am grateful for productivity, which makes me very grateful for Sam. He is not one to sit on the couch and watch TV. He likes projects and he is wonderful to include me. My tendency would be to sit on the couch and watch TV on a day off, but it really does feel good at the end of the day to look back and see what all was accomplished.

I am grateful for my Dad’s advice…”It’s just a ballgame.” It’s really funny to hear him say that tongue-in-cheek when our Royals are winning, but it’s excellent to remember after the last two nights of this World Series.

I am grateful for three little guys who came to our house to watch the World Series on Saturday night. I am grateful for the silliness from a little boy named Harvest. If you ask him what his name is, he’ll tell you, “Hawvest.” And what a delight to have him visit. We were watching the game, and Hawvest wanted another cookie. Instructions from Mom were to eat one fruit or vegetable before he could have another cookie. So, he circled ’round and ’round the table, saying, “I’m playing Wing Awound the Wosy, and I like bwoccoli, and I like cauliflowuh, and I like cawwots…”  In the meantime, his brothers and Dad were sitting on the couch and leaping in the air when our Royals did something awesome and there were shouts and yells and high-fives and much rejoicing. What an all-around beautiful sound in our home.

And finally, I am grateful for happy anticipation. The kind that makes you not sleep at night because all you can think about is seeing your little ones all together for the first time and hearing your girls’ laughter again.

…but it’s so worth the wait.

It’s about time for David to meet Goliath. I’m rooting for David.

I am grateful for this devotion this morning. I highlighted the sentences that were accompanied by an invisible nudge and a silent “Hey, YOU.”

Lie down in green pastures of Peace. Learn to unwind whenever possible, resting in the Presence of your Shepherd. This electronic age keeps My children “wired” much of the time, too tense to find Me in the midst of their moments. I built into your very being the need for rest. How twisted the world has become when people feel guilty about meeting this basic need! How much time and energy they waste by being always on the go, rather than taking time to seek My direction for their lives.

I have called you to walk with Me down paths of Peace. I want you to blaze a trail for others who desire to live in My Peaceful Presence. I have chosen you less for your strengths than for your weaknesses, which amplify your need for Me. Depend on Me more and more, and I will shower Peace on all your paths.

I am grateful for the beauty of this autumn afternoon! The parking lot is a blanket of yellow and orange

I am grateful for a group of ten guys whose singing brought tears to my eyes with almost every song.

I am grateful for Sam, because he loves and appreciates good music as much as I do.

I am grateful that my job is not a clerk at Toys R Us. I would be in so much debt and my grandchildren would never appreciate gifts because Ama would never know how to stop.

I am grateful for toilet paper and indoor plumbing so that I don’t have to do that corn cob thing. So I am grateful that I was born post-outhouse days and to non-farming parents.

I am grateful for shopping carts so that I don’t drop everything as I walk down the aisles.

I am grateful for another gift of an evening at home watching the World Series! Go David, slay that Giant.

I am grateful for a van rented, car seats rented, hotel room booked, and a much smaller list of tasks to cross off before next week. 5 ½ more days!

I am grateful for Sam’s Royals t-shirt to wear today.

I am grateful for something Geri said to me on the phone the other night about being content where God has placed her. It has stuck with me and I hope that I can have that same beautiful attitude one of these days.

And I am grateful for a long phone call with Karissa last night and grateful for the sounds in the backseat of the van created by these:

The older I get, the less I care about what people think of me. Therefore, the older I get…

You have an instrument and a song, and you owe it to God to play them both sublimely. – Max Lucado

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous.
– Psalm 139:14

So random and with absolutely no flow, my gratefuls are today:

  • Memories of little white paper sacks and the sounds they made when the clerk opened them up to put candy in from the Haven Drug Store glass case
  • Memories of summer nights at the Broncs games in Hutchinson
  • The sound of an ice cold can of Dr. Pepper being popped open
  • Seven more days until my trip begins and I see my grandchildren!
  • A 95 minute phone call with Geri last night
  • The way this expression “rougher ‘n a corn cob” sounded so funny until I learned the meaning behind it

  • Watermelon in October
  • A clean load of dishes in the dishwasher
  • Anticipation for a great evening tonight, seeing “Straight No Chaser” in concert
  • Watching the crowd at the K erupt in cheers and high fives as the boys in blue dominated last night
  • Chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips
  • This song:

    Happy!

  • The sound of tap shoes
  • Hardware store employees who know everything there is to know about gadgets
  • And finally, getting off work early to go to a concert, an incredible way to spend a World Series Travel Day evening!

Photo: Nothing better than Baseball in October. #WorldSeries

There’s no crying in baseball! – Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own

It was a gray morning in Kansas City. Clouds had decided to take a break right over the top of us and dampen the spirits of those who claim the Royals their own. But, as I drove to work, God reminded me that the sun is still shining up above those clouds, and it was imperative that I find beauty in the grayness, the same way I began this grateful journey, in finding the everyday blessings in the middle of life’s trauma and chaos. And then I turned the corner. I work in the woods. Pretty literally. It’s like being in the woods in the middle of the city. There are trees and wildlife everywhere. As I turned the corner onto my work street, I looked up at the towering trees that are entering their winter season, and my breath paused. Oh, the beauty of these oranges and yellows and reds and greens and browns against a beautiful gray sky. It was…breathtaking.

A gentleman who seems to have the same schedule as me opened the door for me as I entered the building.

My egg didn’t explode in the microwave.

I was able to listen to two sides of an argument and offer words of encouragement to both rather than take a side, thanks to my reminder taped to my monitor: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

It’s candy corn time.

Tonight is another night of Royals baseball, and it’s late October.

If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there is a man on base. — Dave Barry

I haven’t stepped in dog poop in a very long time.

My desk is full of pictures of my grandchildren. A year ago, that was not the case.

My sweet, wonderful friend, Deb, sent me an email and shared some of her memories with me – an email to save.

Progress is visible and I am in awe of how quickly the bedroom project is coming along.

We have plenty of leftovers so that I don’t spend extra money at lunchtime.

We know we’re better than this, but we can’t prove it. — Tony Gwynn

I have a new bottle of Pine Sol.

A friend posted a comment about my piano student this morning and I found out he was the subject of a great article in today’s edition of the Kansas City Star!

Fabien!! 

And I finally read this incredible article that I’m pretty sure was written just for me as I am stepping back and reflecting on where I’ve been and where I am now. My favorite quote in the article:

Before we can embrace grace, we have to embrace sin. Not celebrate it or wallow in it, just own up to it — so we can accept the forgiveness we desperately need.”

Ann Voskamp’s blog post:
What happens when our goodness isn’t good enough for God? 

YES. YES.  Yes.

So, in the midst of the gray morning, His gifts continued to be given, and I continue to be grateful for each one I notice and accept. And now, as I look out the door down the long hallway, I see sunbeams lighting the autumn, inviting me to enjoy the afternoon. Three more hours, and I think I will do just that. It’s time to be Royal, Kansas City. Be Royal.

I ain’t lyin! I was jus’ a’wonderin’ if it’s time to PLAY BALL!!!

I am grateful for this spot I sit in every day with a glass front to see everyone walk by in the hallway. I love to see who the Royals fans are with their blue shirts and jackets and ball caps. I love to see the funny men rushing to make it to the restroom just outside the office door. I love to see the unique personalities of each person that comes through in the way they walk, the way they hold their head high or look down at their shoes as they walk, the way they express themselves through their shoes and their lunch bags and their briefcases/duffels/purses/fanny packs/rolling briefs, the way they choose to style their hair, the way they are helpful by holding a door or completely in their own world and ignore those who could use a hand. It’s funny. Every once in a while, I notice that someone looks like a particular animal. Today, I am fairly certain I saw a human Pinky Poo. Or she could have been a very active sloth. No, I’m pretty sure she was Pinky Poo. And then a flood of memories came washing in. Linus the Lion and Lamkins and Wonder “I was jus’ a’wonderin'” Dog and Grandpa who sang “Grace Loved to Tell the Story” at Mom’s service… Ahhhhh, Ginger Ingram Brown, I am so grateful for you. And for the tears you cause. Anyway, back to human Pinky Poo who reminded me of all of this:  As soon as I saw her, I began playing Lamkin’s, “His little lamb I am” on my internal jukebox. Now it’s stuck. And I don’t mind.

 Lamkins and Linus the “I Ain’t Lyin!” Lion“Me too Tired” Pinky Poo

Ginger and her Little Folks team

If you EVER get a chance to see this wonderful lady do her thing, DON’T MISS IT. If you EVER need someone to come to your church to do special services, LOOK HER UP. She has puppets who love to serve God. And you won’t be sorry.

I am grateful for the feelings of thrilling anticipation. It’s game day, 1st game of the World Series, the game I have never in my life cared about until now. And I’m internally giddy excited to sit on the couch tonight and watch the boys play ball! We agreed last night – watching in a restaurant, a sports bar, with a crowd of people…no thanks. We like hearing the commentators talk about the players and the strategy, and there’s almost nothing better than being at home in our own peace and quiet with our Royals. I said, ALMOST nothing better. I’d pretty much love it if my Dad and a brother or two or three and my sister were watching with us.

I am grateful for a second chance to learn to love this baseball team.

I am grateful for these silly inconsequential experiences in life that don’t matter when it comes to eternity, but I love how God allows us these happy times, just because.

I am grateful for the darlings of baseball, the Cinderella team, this David squad in the world of Goliath gangs, this club that could, my favorite players Cain and Davis, and my new favorite players Gordon and Dyson and Infante and Escobar and Butler and Mooooooooose and Hoz and Salvi and Aoki and Shields and Gore and Herrera and Willingham and Finnegan and Holland!! I’m even grateful for the old guys who look ridiculous in baseball uniforms and hard hats!

Goooooooooo, ROYALS!

Yes, it looks this beautiful outside today.

I am grateful for the Mi Ranchito delivery girl who made my heart skip a beat with sacks of Mexican lunches…and then we both realized I was not the intended recipient.

I am grateful for the best kind of apple in the entire world. Honey crisp. Tartness perfection, just the right sweet, and crisp it is.

And I am grateful that I will get to spend the hour before the game with my fellow Royals fans who love to play Bingo. Can’t wait to see them all decked out in their blue.

Boom De Ah Da, Boom De Ah Da, Boom De Ah Da, Boom De Ah Da…

I am grateful for Delores today. She must have known that I have become a little discouraged, feeling very much like my Mom used to feel – slightly worthless and in my little world, like being grateful doesn’t really matter. More often than not, the only responses I receive go something like this: “I don’t always have time to read your gratefuls.” “Oh, you still write those?” or “I just scan them every once-in-a-while.” So, when we got home last night and I read the mail, there was a little card with my name on it, and I always know who it’s from, because I know that handwriting…Time stands still when there is a card from Delores. Sam could be proposing that we move to Texas or Oregon, and I’d never hear it. I have a letter from Delores and nothing else matters at the moment.

And her words were just what I needed to hear. Someone DOES still read my gratefuls. As if it mattered at all – I really do try to be grateful to the only audience that matters, my Audience of One. But, I am human after all. And I am my Mother’s daughter. We are a needy pair. We need to be needed.

I am grateful for Delores. I am grateful that she lets me know she reads my thoughts put into words in a blog. I am grateful that she is in my life. I am grateful that God placed it on her heart to write a note to me this last week, just when it was most effective.

Yes, I am grateful for K-State football, especially when it means a Sooner loss, and yes, I am grateful that today is World Series Eve and the city is buzzing. More on that in another post sometime. Not today. Today is for reflection.

I am grateful for my hearing and my eyesight and a broken-down combine.

This past weekend, I spent my time at the farm. While the majority of the time there was to be spent in the semi, keeping Sam company while his job was to haul corn and soybeans into town, it ended up that the majority of my time was spent in the pickup, parked in the drive and waiting for the guys to repair a broken auger, or something like that, in the combine. A little while became a long while, and my weekend became quite a treat.

Do you know how peaceful it can be to end up stuck at a farm all by yourself with nothing but a book?

The weather was perfection, so I rolled the windows down and was serenaded to sleep a few times by the sound of insects and an occasional buzz-by from a fly. And then, when I woke up, I got the crazy idea to use my time wisely and take a long walk down the dirt road.

As I walked, I thought of these beautiful things for which to be grateful:

  •  The one-of-a-kind artistry of the hard, cracked dirt road designs
  • The rustling of the grasses in the ditch
  • The happy chirps and shrill music of crickets and grasshoppers and birds
  • Turtledoves in a line, on a line
  • The sound of crunch underfoot on the gravel road, and how the timbre of the sound changed as soon as I turned the corner onto a dirt road
  • A single golden leaf fluttering along, keeping me company
  • The beauty of a hedgerow, so unique and unlike any others
  • Songs that play in my head: “I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills, I love the flowers, I love the daffodils…”
  • The ability to hear when a new pickup was coming down the road behind me, its quiet engine barely noticeable, but at least barely
  • Little grasshopper friends who held out until I was just about to step on them before they jumped – it became quite the game
  • The quiet of a Sunday afternoon on a dirt road in north central Kansas
  • The miracle of little centipedes crawling across the road with all of those tiny legs moving in sync
  • The distant sound of a combine cutting the dried up corn stalks
  • The colors of autumn leaves and green wheat fields set against the backdrop of a clear blue October sky dotted with white puffy clouds
  • Time to think, time to mentally list, time to say thank you over and over again, with each step I took

And about five miles and a few hours later, I was grateful for a driver and his repaired combine, because he asked if I wanted a ride, and I had the privilege of sitting with him as he cut a field and we had time to visit about the family and his trips and the ins and outs of Harvest 2014.

So, I am grateful for this season of my life. I do not wish to go back. I love where I am and where I am headed. I am grateful for this season to be able to stop and appreciate the seemingly unimportant things, the beauty of clods of dried mud intermingled among tire tracks that lead me down a quiet road and allow me to deep breathe and enjoy those things that I once took for granted. I am grateful for the ability to smell those smells, hear the music of nature, and see the miracles that are all around us. What amazing gifts He has given…

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.