Friday, December 25, 2015

Starting Small

Christmases when I was young were a build up of tradition upon tradition to Christmas morning glory underneath the Christmas tree.  It doesn't escape me that the older I get, the merrier and brighter they seem to have been :)  As an adult, I've sought that blissful feeling of anticipation sometimes fondly, sometimes desperately, sometimes despondently.

I've been looking for the big and grand Christmas spirit, exasperated that I haven't felt it, and for having reduced everything down to the mundane.  In my contemplation of Jesus being the reason for the season, it occurs to me that it's a small start.  Not Jesus and God's gift of unbelieveable-but-believe-it grace for us all, but in the sense that a baby is a small start for a very big life.

If the small start of a baby in a manger is good enough for God, savoring what is and a heart-season of quiet contentment is good enough for me.

Wishing you halls decked with merry and jolly, moments of holy, calm and bright, and if your heart has wearied, that the trill of hope awakens you to rejoicing in a brand new year.

Merry Christmas to you, let's be joyful!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Spirit of Christmas Mom Present

It's December, and the height of the Christmas season.  I decorated, and drank hot chocolate, and pretended it's cold outside, but my Christmas Spirit is flagging and I don't feel very merry - I feel exasperated.  Write what you need to hear, they say. I need to give myself a good talking to and write myself to right.  Am I the only mother of young people who's missing her compliant little ones and searching for her missing in action Christmas Spirit?  How can I write a blog about joyful seasons in a state of un-joy?

"We're attracted to scars," he says, "they're the only thing we have in common."  If you'll pardon my sarcasm and my terrible attitude, here is my scar on this gray December morning - no, not really a scar; it's an open wound:  I want this Christmas season to be the kind that requires two syllables to name it.  Bless-sed.  That means I want my people to join in the celebration, partake in the joy, participate in the traditions.  That means I want my people to do Christmas right.

I want pockets of sacred connection, moments that twinkle, and unbroken circles.  I know it's the birthday of Jesus, and I'm a terrible person to focus on the season and not the reason.  I know that we're supposed to be working toward a holy crescendo by Christmas Eve ... but can a mom get her people to participate in the seasonal pleasures without an alignment of the planets, and can a mom lead the way to merry and bright and get people to just SHOW UP?

Schedules conspire to cancel out ever being all together as a family. People are tired of being busy and they just want plain old ordinary days.  Tossing a wink and a nod to family traditions and activities seems to be all anyone but me wants to do this Christmas.

So what I want to say right now is forget Christmas.  It's a culmination of all things holy and love and family and joy-filled favorite traditions, and what I feel right now is that I've invited my people to the feast and they're not even willing to stop by 7-11 and pick up some ice.

I pull out my soapbox, stand tall upon it, flip on the bullhorn.  PEOPLE!  If you don't put effort into making the season SPECIAL, it's just like any other season!  Christmas will just be another DAY!  It'll be just one day in a parade of 365!  You have to work to make it SPECIAL!

I told you I had a terrible attitude.

Logically, I know they aren't intentionally distracted or disinterested.  My people are involved in their own lives, and in the pursuit of my own vision of holiday perfection, maybe I've made Christmas a spectator sport.  With my ever sharpening parental hindsight, I'm beginning to see that over the years I've focused too much on making Christmas my vision of perfection.  I've done most of the work so my people can RSVP Christmas and not even put on a Christmas sweater.  In attempting to craft perfect Christmases, I neglected to teach them that the most valuable thing they contribute to the party, the season, the day - is their participation.

I know the temper tantrum raging in my emotions is overblown and immature.  The behavior change that I want is in someone else, not me; I can't control it.  My people are no longer pliable, directable toddlers - they're young people with their own lives, their own thoughts, their own desires, their own schedules, none of which I can control.  I know the only thing I can control is my own attitude, which happens to stink right now.   There's no grace and there's no graciousness emitting from this heart of mine, and I know well that there is nothing in it that compels anyone to gather round the yule-tide fire.

Even so, I want my people to be the perfect Victorian characters I envision.  And aha, there is the problem ... I want everyone's participation on my own terms.  Anything less than my definition of perfection doesn't count.  But who am I to say their efforts don't count?  Who am I to judge that?  Maybe they're doing the best they can.  Maybe in their world, this kind of Christmas is just fine.  And maybe they could turn around and judge me, with my demanding, it's-not-good-enough, pinched countenance as I adjust the twinkle lights and amp up the Christmas Carols.

Maybe I'm not the embodiment of the "Christmas Spirit" that I'd like to think I am.

I contemplate my eternal Parent/Child relationship, God and me.  What is Christmas like at God's house?  I consider Christmas in the church of my childhood, wherein it was disappointingly nothing at all - there was no mention nor celebration in that particular congregation of that particular religion in that particular era.  I suspect if I examined it deeply, my conclusion would be as with other things I've concluded about this religion:  at its root, the desire to keep the focus simple was genuinely pure, and at the branch tips, the fruit became judgment and rules.

Like my Christmas expectations for my people.

I consider how God conducted the first Christmas: quiet, at a donkey's pace, and the rejoicing was wonderment, not frenzied.  I consider God's gracious invitation to Christmas.  "See, I'm doing this new thing, in a manger.  I'll provide the Savior.  I'll wrap up the gift in my grace.  You don't have to do anything at all - just come as you are, and take in as much glory as you can manage.  I'll be so glad you're there."  That ... is compelling.

So I see.  I see I can try to create perfection, where everything is in its place, all the ornaments glitter just so, the presents sit just right.  I can expect the guests to come dressed in their holiday best, bringing holiday cheer, caroling as they brush the snow from their shoulders, relinquishing gifts and pumpkin pies.  I can expect the Christmas meal to be a slow and leisurely affair, with profound and loving conversation around the table

... or ...

I can just let it be enough that they're here.  I can let it be enough that I have a chance to love them through a hamstring of mistakes, even though there is no fitting Christmas Carol about wise men who get stuck in a cycle of one rotten thing after another.  I can let it be enough that I can love them in and out the door as they dash through on the way to do things that are young and exciting, wild and free.  I can let it be enough that they greet me cordially and are genuinely happy to tell me what they did today.  I can let it be enough that they express interest in family traditions.  I can let it be enough that they remember fondly the time when.  I can let it be enough that they did, actually, show up.

What's the spirit of this Christmas Present?  Grace.  Grace to all who don't care about the red and green, the glitter, or Dickens' Christmas Carol.  Grace to all who are busy and frazzled and preoccupied.  Grace to all who aren't living up to my expectations of perfection.  Grace to all who enter here, because these are my people, and I love them.  Grace to all who enter here because God sees my heart, and He knows I don't deserve His gift, either, but He gives it anyway.

In the early morning light, I pound out frustration and impatience and grumbling all over the keyboard, and I resolve to do the Christmas-y things for my own enjoyment, without expectation on anyone else, and not for the perfection of it, but just for the joy.  Because my need to watch A Christmas Carol and see Scrooge transform into the man who keeps Christmas in his heart all the year through runs deep.  Later, long after dark, I invite without expectation and without pressure.

"Um, hey - you don't have to ... it's not an event or anything, but ... I'm just going to watch A Christmas Carol?  The one with Patrick Stewart?  Anybody else want to watch it?"  And glory be ... their eyes light up like they've been waiting days and days for this.  Yes!  they say, and they pause their games and stop the movies and trip down the stairs ... dare I say merrily ... and I realize that in the act of giving grace, the Christmas Spirit arrived in my heart.

God bless us, every one.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Magic

Every year around Christmastime, the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, presents LoneStar Christmas, and ICE!  If you've ever heard that things are bigger in Texas, the Gaylord Texan will confirm the legend ... inside this resort is a replica of the Alamo and a riverwalk on over four acres, always beautiful, but especially so when gloriously decorated for the holidays.

We took a field trip to enjoy the ICE! this week to get into the Christmas spirit.  ICE! is a display of over 2 million pounds of carved ice.  This year's theme was Christmas Around the World, with  vibrant happy colors and delightful greater than life-size sculptures.  

Of course keeping 2 million pounds of ice solid is a commitment, and it is COLD ... like 9 degrees cold!  The first thing you do is get a parka, and as soon as you don your fashionable winter gear, you're ready for an ice adventure.  The parkas are plenty warm, but if you go, you'll definitely want gloves; a hat and maybe even a muffler might also be good things.  I enjoyed feeling the cold, but even with gloves on, my hands were numb when we were done!

There were all kinds of fun photo opportunities with the sculptures.  It reminded me a little of Disney's 'It's a Small World' without the boats and the song :o)  There's also a two story ice-slide, and of course you wouldn't want to miss Santa or his sleigh.

The last display is a beautiful, glittering nativity scene.  

 Once outside the ICE! there's a huge "snow" slide, where you can tube down to the bottom.  There's also a pair of giant Santa boots, and a store filled with fun Christmas decor.  

Seeing the ICE! was plenty to get us holiday-happy, but walking through the Gaylord is also quite the Christmas experience.  Everything is decorated with a tasteful LoneStar twist.  There were lots of families with little children, and many were decked out in Christmas attire - completely adorable.  We also spotted a couple Elves of Elf on the Shelf fame ... and Santa himself!


You can get pricing information for tickets to ICE! }here{, but if you're looking for fun free things to do around the holidays, just walking through the Gaylord is an event in itself (you do have to pay for parking).  We were there during the day, but it's extra special at night, with all the lights.  Here are a couple night-time photos from the Gaylord website:

See what I mean?  Total magic!

Friday, December 4, 2015

'Tis the Season

This will be the Christmas wherein I discovered I don't like approximately 80% of my Christmas decorations.  Admittedly, the Christmas and wintertime decor has big shoes to fill, coming on the heels of autumn and a happily cultivated collection of orange and leaves and pumpkins. Even in a big pile on the dining table, the fall colors make my knees weak, and I want to just climb into the box of leaf garlands and wait until they come back out next September.  

When I pulled all the winter decor boxes out of the garage and unpacked them, I found disappointingly little that I liked and with honest evaluation, very few things fit in naturally with my decor.  It was the KonMari method applied to Christmas decorations and not very many of them gave me joy.  I inherited a lot of things from my Mom, and although they render fond memories, things from 1977 just don't fit in my 2015 home :o)

So, I put out what I love, packed away things I just can't part with, and filled a big bag for the donation center with the rest of it.  Then I noted where the holes were and went shopping, wherein I decided that the majority of Christmas decorations to be bought are cheap, plastic, and junky.  Most people are so ready to put their Christmas stuff away as soon as the holidays are over, because there's something about Christmas decor after a frenzied month of celebrating that makes the house feel cluttered and stuffy.  Since I decorate for the seasons, I weed out the obviously Christmas things at the end of December and everything winter stays until spring, so I suppose there's a little more pressure to find things that I love that won't make me itch to put it all away before spring arrives, which would leave the house spartan and cold.

As I wandered the aisles looking for items to add to my winter decor, I decided it was time to define my Christmas and winter decor style.  Goodness knows, there's every possible color scheme and theme, whether it has to do with the meaning of Christmas or not.  I ruled out country, I ruled out North Pole and Santa Claus.  I ruled out crafty, I ruled out cute, I ruled out overly ornate, I ruled out candyland colors.  All have their charms, but they don't fit me and my house.

Finally I came down to keeping it simple with a few basic colors and what I gravitate to for the seasons anyway: reflections of natural seasonal elements.  I'm going with red and gold and black and white with lots of berries and twigs and grapvine-ish things, and using favorite books to remind us Christmas is about the birth of the Savior.

Our wish-lists are hung in the kitchen with care, and we've discussed our favorite traditions and ways to celebrate.  We'll watch a Christmas movie together (my fingers are crossed for A Christmas Carol), play with the Elf on the Shelf (Click }here{ to read more about getting your older kids involved with this ... in our family everyone gets to do something with the Elf four times before Christmas - it's so much fun!), fill stockings with surprise gifts from Secret Santas, and take in a live Christmas production before hosting family and friends for dinner on Christmas day.  All this lined out and decided, and I'm ready to settle in to the season and take in as much joy as I can.  

For years I've collected fall decor, filled it out, and fluffed it up.  The other three seasons are really just waiting periods until golden autumn can glow in my house again.  I wish it could be fall all the time ... but then how would I know just how lovely it is without anything to compare it to?  Maybe its a metaphor for life, this practice of decorating for three seasons that don't fill my heart with their splendor.  Maybe I need to be better present to all the seasons - and oh yes! to the ordinary days, the nondescript day in and day out - to fully experience and celebrate joy.  I want to feel as resonant and alive in every season as I do in the fall.  It's joy in every season, not just autumn, after all :o)  I don't revel and resonate in the Christmas and winter decor like I do fall, but it will do.  The twinkly lights help pull me into the joyous sparkle of right now.  I aspire to make my home a place that fills my soul and makes my heat sing in all four seasons - autumn is the gold standard, but I want a house that glows with contentment 365 days a year.  I'll start with Christmas.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Fusion of Gratitude

There is a tree on the way to somewhere ... I never quite remember where until Oh!  There it is! It stands tall and majestic in the middle of a vast and wide field.  It is magnificent and tall, branches reaching symmetrically from the trunk, up and out and all around, perfectly spread out like feathers in a tom-turkey's tail.  It stands alone in the field, so stately and beautiful.  It's the kind of tree that the cowboy takes his sweetheart to as he rolls along singing songs of surries.  It's the kind of tree the happy family lays claim to for idyllic family picnics.  I ache to know that everyone else passing by appreciates the solitary beauty of its symmetry.  Is it lonely for people spreading picnic blankets in its shade?  Does it pine for a happy little tire swing and laughing children scrambling up its branches?  Who will love this moment, this tree, this lovely ... if not for me?

I struggle with my Daily Gratitude practice.  It feels cumbersome. I'm thankful for all the good things in my life ... but I stress about doing the list right and saying the right things first.  If I don't put the big things first, does that mean I'm not grateful for those things?  Mightn't getting the order wrong convey I'm not thankful for those blessings?  Also I stress about the "rule" that you can't repeat things.  So I list my family members one by one, sorrowful that I can only list them once.

I get tripped up on the order.  Because that's how you should do it, right?  The most important things first.  So.  Like the child in Sunday School who answers every question with a whispered and reverent "Jesus" no matter how relevant it is, I'm for days feeling like I'm getting it wrong if I don't first state that I'm thankful to be a child of God, and for all the blessings that line up behind that one thing that makes all the difference.

And I struggle with getting the list right.

I know I am numbed to all the every day goodness.  I wade through, intent on listing the next big thing, never minding the small mercies, the singular moments that break your heart with their beauty, that exist seemingly just to be beauty.  Time goes by so fast, my heart longs to recount the days and to hold them close to my heart, to remember them well.  Not the big and significant events ... I'll probably - hopefully? - remember those ... but what about that moment when I was standing in the checkout line at Target on a nondescript Friday afternoon, and the sunsetting light streaming through the windows was so golden and full and bountiful that it burgeoned on the painful side of beauty?  Those are the moments that I want to remember ... those orphaned moments, that don't carry a profound meaning except singular lovely, solitary beauty, pure joy.

I consider this from Geneen Roth:

Sometimes when I look at the flowers in my garden I think: “Wow, if I really let myself take in how gorgeous one of them is, I’m not sure I could even get up off the ground.”
I’m not sure I could move. I’d be so speechless, knocked over by the beauty.
Most of us don’t take it in. And therefore we never feel like we have enough. Because we’re not taking in what we have.
So, taking it in means taking a moment to look and to see. And to actually take it in with your hands. To take it in and let yourself have it.
So take in an orchid for a moment, because it’s a thing of beauty. Do you let yourself have the gorgeousness already in your life? Can you try that for a second? Use your hands. Take it in, and let yourself have it. Just let yourself have beauty because it’s gorgeous.
Let your heart break. You don’t need to be ashamed of it: it’s beauty and it’s gorgeous and you deserve it. And why not?

I go back to her book ... the Ann with no "e" - Ann Voskamp, who spoke out loud the dare to count 1000 things to thank for.  And I'm astounded at the beginning of her list.  Her number one wasn't Jesus.  It was light across old floors.  Ah!  So counting the 1000 things, crafting a gratitude journal isn't listing the things I'm thankful for the in the literal sense.  Always, I am literal ... it trips me up ... it keeps me from flowing.  This gratitude journal can be a marking of the beautiful moments, naming the things I notice that take my breath away.  This is giving meaning and life to the glory streaming in the window of Target.  This is embracing and holding close the beauty of the solitary tree in the field.  This is collecting the beauty of my life and the beautiful moments that crowd around me and are like love notes from a God who provides abundantly, every day anew.

With this dawning, I understand what I knew with my heart but not my head all along ... it isn't the list of obvious things counted and listed in order of importance ... it's a place for the small and seemingly inconsequential things ... the poetic and lyrical moments.  Morning light streaming into the quiet room, streaking gold across the silence ... the quiet, dutiful, comforting tick of the clock ... the sharp hard cold sparkling of the frost on the grass.  I want to recount the inconsequential things that take my breath away in the fast forward motion of my life.  Unremembered, uncelebrated, unmarked moments slide my life right by so very very fast, and the memories and the days and the events flatten out into nothingness.  But deliberately pinned in the tapestry of time, remembered, named, stop-motioned, reviewed ... and life stretches out, wide and vast and resonant.  I remember.

Now I'm counting moments, snapshots of beauty that make me ache and I see what my heart intuitively has known all along - that this counting practice is the answer to what I've always ached for ... a way to capture the beauty of life, to mark the moments and so remember them, encase them in amber glow, to make everyday life gloam and resonate with marked beauties ... they help me remember, they remind me to savor, they call me to thankfulness and fill me with gratitude.

Wishing you the most joyous and thankful of holiday seasons!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Fork in the Road

Over the past few weeks, our 21 year old son has contemplated the most significant decisions of his life thus far.  LtDan and I would like to think we've helped, but in truth we haven't, much - our boy has done it all himself and we stand by, like spotters at a gymnastic tournament.  After years of providing guidance on things like the red shirt or the blue shirt? which book to read next? which summer job might make the most money? ... it's surreal to be in proximity to monumental life decisions.  Wasn't this "boy" just experiencing waves of joy over his new game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, battling King K. Rool in Donkey Kong Country, and belaboring which pack of Pokemon cards to purchase? 

The exceptional young man grappling with significant life choices is the main plot, and there is the subplot, where his mother takes hold, albeit with weak hands, of a new perspective on predestination and human will.  As I considered what counsel to give him, my greatest and most obvious word was first to pray, but what came next surprised me: not to ask God to help him pick the "best" path, but to pay closest attention if he felt God saying, "Not this path."

I remember one golden fall Friday afternoon heading out from my college town to spend the night with my aunt and uncle.  I was pampered and indulged, wrapped up in their warm  hospitality with congenial conversation, a savory homecooked meal, and a fire in the fireplace.  When Saturday afternoon came, I couldn't decide whether to go back to my dorm, new and exciting and full of possibilities, or stay one more night in a familiar and beloved home.  The decision was supremely difficult - I wanted to do both, and both were equally enticing options.  While I struggled with the decision, the seed was planted that sometimes - maybe all the times? - what matters isn't so much choosing one good choice over another good choice, but simply making a choice and going with it wholeheartedly.

It's exciting to stand with your child at a crossroad.  And it's scary.  And it's hard.  Having been this far down my own road, I have perspective enough to see all the choices before him are good choices.  But it's different, this standing at the fork of someone else's road - you can't make the choice for them.  I've been at my own forks in the road.  I know the inertia that swirls inside the fear of making the wrong choice.  I understand the paralysis of not being fully in control of the outcome.   My son walks through his days preoccupied, the weight of the decision evident in his bearing.  Always, I've believed God leads us to make THE right choice.  But as I watch my son consider the possibilities and the vastly different paths before him, I begin to sense that maybe God doesn't position an angel with a flashing arrow beside the "right" or "best" path because maybe there isn't one best and right-est path. 

While the mother in me wants to guide, influence, and direct, the fellow-traveler on the road of life is intrigued to see which way he'll go, knowing how abundantly well equipped he is.  As a parent, I want to say,  "I know you can do any one of these things well.  Tell me which one you want to do, I'm 100% behind you."  From beside this fork in his road, I think maybe all the paths are good, and God says, "This is the path you want to take?  Good!  Move! Let's do this!" 

I begin to see maybe that it isn't so much   t h e   path that's the important thing.  No matter which path I choose, God will mold me into who He wants me to be.  He promises to do that.  Each road might bring me down the home stretch with different bumps and bruises, and different sets of victories, but the ultimate purpose is that life refine me into God's intended best version of me, wholly dependent on Him.  His plan for me, and for all of us, is that we become as much like His Son as possible in our individual and unique version of humanity.  Obsessing about choosing the "rightest" path - and it's terrifying opposite, chosing the "wrong" path - isn't necessary.  It's really about evaluating which sights you want to see along the way, because God promises He'll finish the good work He began in each of us, whether we chose the road that goes over the mountain or the one that skirts around it.  His promise remains constant, that He'll never leave me, nor forsake me; He'll always be with me whichever the path.  He's going with me, and He'll use whatever path I take to get me to who He wants me to be. 

There's a kind of fearless freedom in that … delightful room for creativity, for collaboration, and for adventure.  And it makes watching your first-born consider those first few steps past the fork in the road not nearly so scary.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thought Whisperer

The dogs stand on the back porch, and they bark.  
They bark.
And they bark.
And they bark.

I know that if I shush them, shout their names angrily, and demand that they be quiet, they will advance upon whatever lurks there in the gloom beyond the trees, barking all the more, louder and louder in response to my hushing, adamant about a confrontation, intent on making sure everyone within 25 miles knows: something is there.

I also know that if I go out on the porch to them and stand in the chill of the morning and peer into the misty air, the dogs will come to me.  If I go out to them and acknowledge something is there, perhaps even something nefarious, something that doesn't belong - if I just acknowledge it, the dogs will come stand quietly beside me.  If I acknowledge their agitation, and praise them for doing their job and assure them everything is all right, be it a deer, or a coyote, or a wild hog out there in the dark, they will snort indignantly, bristle their hair and emit a quiet "woof" now and again ... but they will quiet.

This is like my mind with the frustrations, the limitations, the injustices, the worries. If I hush and shush my thoughts, they clamor all the more loudly.  But ... if I stand quietly with them, and acknowledge they are there, they will settle.  If I acknowledge the parts of me that are frazzled, overwhelmed, indignant and hurting - and maybe offer a little compassion and care - they quiet.  The frenzied thoughts no longer clamor for my attention.  They've done their job to alert me of a tender place in my heart that needs some gentle care, and they stand quietly with me ready to be directed toward more beneficial paths.

It's taken me a lifetime to learn ... I have to be the thought-whisperer to my own thoughts.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Why I Keep a November Gratitude Journal

When I flip the calendar over to November and Thanksgiving hovers just a few weeks away, it's always a reminder to focus on gratitude.  I've tried a few times to keep a daily year-round gratitude journal, but I loose steam after a discouragingly few days ... not that I lack blessings to be counted, that's for sure.  But November rolls around, and I find committing to keep a gratitude journal for a month as part of the Thanksgiving holiday feels doable - it's only 30 days. I know from years past that my experience of Thanksgiving becomes more deeply meaningful and the Christmas season more joyfully content after spending a month feasting on daily gratitude.  So I begin.

Modern life is so abundantly bursting with blessing, and honestly - please don't judge - I find my heart a little bit hardened to gratitude in the day to day.  Blessings are so prevalent; I'm so accustomed to them.  I'm the child overindulged with gifts on Christmas morning, and the focus swings away from the gifts and becomes an obsession with keeping the river flowing.  I remember the parable of the rich man, who threw himself into building bigger and bigger barns to hold all his blessings.  He didn't get to take anything with him when his life was over.  That's right, I remind myself, the tangible things won't go with me.  The ones that so easily rise to the top when I count my blessings will still be here on earth when I'm gone.

The first few days of a gratitude exercise are always easy - maybe a little superficial.  The obvious things (though not less deserving of gratitude) clamor to be counted:  employment, plenty of food, a home we love, automobiles ....  When mid-month rolls around though, and all the easy things have been inventoried and tagged, I'm forced to get still and focus on what lies beneath.  The "what am I thankful for today" contemplation  moves me past the temporal and toward the eternal, and helps me see just how deeply the layers of blessing in this life really go.

Here's what I love about a November gratitude journal:  sitting with gratitude for a month boils off the easy things, the obvious and maybe even superficial things that can be counted off in rapid succession.  I become focused not so much on the blessings, and I dwell on being blessed.  What rises to the top is a deep savoring of my one and only life, and I'm left - not with the barns full of inventoried blessings that I expected when I began, but a shimmering, resonant knowing that if it were all stripped away, I would still rise up blessed.  For this, I'm immeasurably grateful.

Are you counting blessings this November?  What are you grateful for today?