For the Bitter and the Sweet

Coffee on the veranda

I pick up my scorched oven mitts off the damp, October ground, leaving flakes of charred material and black soot on the earth to mark the spot. There since midnight, they are a testament to the previous night’s disaster. Bright red cloth contrasting with charcoal black. Stationary, since I threw them out the door, onto the step and then again onto the grass where I proceeded to hose them down until the flames subsided—all after they had caught on fire from the heat emitted from my oven burner. And this: because I had brushed the knob of the burner (ever so gently) as I reached into the cupboard for a bowl. Having sat back down at my computer to type, I was oblivious to the smolder, until smoke began to curl around the cupboard, up toward the ceiling: alerting me to the calamity.

If I had only:
Not wanted a cookie.
Not reached for the bowl.
Not brushed the knob.
Not left the oven mitts on the burner.

If I had only.

Life is wrought with “if onlys”.

This week has been a series of unfortunate events, a series of “if onlys”…or so it seems. There is always something to complicate the day. Be that arriving late for appointments, forgetting appointments, or scheduling too many appointments. Be that day-to-day complications like not enough sleep, sickness and low energy. Be that bigger-than-everyday complications like additional work meetings, late night projects, lost luggage, health concerns, and worries that go deeper than surface level. Add to the list, if you will: parenting issues, relationship issues, marriage issues. Life.

There is just always something.

How can we say thanks when life is just not what we want it to be? How can we say thanks when things are just not how we wish they were? How can we say thanks when we don’t FEEL particularly thankful for everything we’ve been given? Giving thanks for both the little things on our ever filling plate…along with the bigger things that make our lives chaotic and stressful?

Is it even possible?

I wake up in the morning to the smell of the charred remains of the previous day. Add to this, the cheesecake boiled over in the oven last night so I now realize that I have the pleasure of a pre-breakfast, ‘make-work’ project. I can now officially confirm that I will be late for church. And on the very day that I have to lead the singing.

I can feel the resentment rising within. Give thanks for this?

How easily I forget that gratitude is a state of the heart. A choice of the soul embracing life in its fullness, both the bitter and the sweet. Joel Osteen: “One of the main reasons that we lose our enthusiasm in life is because we become ungrateful..we let what was once a miracle become common to us. We get so accustomed to his goodness it becomes a routine..”

Life is hard. Of a truth: it is not easy. But it is always a miracle, a gift to have the opportunity to live.

The air in our lungs.
The roof over our head.
The clothes that cover.
The shoes that fit.
The water we drink.
The food we intake.
For the everyday, commonplace miracles of life.  For both the bitter and the sweet.
We are eternally grateful.

This thanksgiving I offer gratitude for the miracles. Everyday and otherwise. They are what cause me to remember how much I have.

And impress on me how much I must be grateful.

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I am so very grateful…

Gratitude: it’s a matter of the heart.

I could speak of the day.  Gorgeous, crisp autumn chill.  Leaves pattern the dying grass.  Down a heritage road, I can see for a mile a canopy of tree branches laden down with hues of gold, crimson, burnt orange: deep and rich.  Air pungent with earthy undertones.  The smell of wood freshly sawed.  The fragrant scent of evergreen.  The splendid aromas of the great outdoors.

I could speak of the day.  Family gathered round an aging table- passed down from those who broke bread in bygone years.  The heady mix of turkey dinner with all the fixins’: whipped potatoes, cinnamon-infused carrot coins, sweet potato smothered in maple syrup and pecans, green bean casserole topped with crunchy, fried onions.  Devilled eggs as light as a feather.  Rolls and beets and pickles and pistachio salad.  Ruby red cranberry sauce.  Gravy, still simmering in the saucepan on the stove.  I could speak of this.

I could speak of the day.  A walk through the woods.  Gentle winding paths leading to steeper terrain.  Still, silent groves of trees that could tell a story or two.  A lush patch of ivy wound tightly in amongst a hardwood stand.  A huge tree bent over in growth to give the shape of a rainbow. I could speak of all this.

I could speak of the road, hidden away off the beaten track.  Trees bent as if to conceal a secret.  I could speak of the grey chipmunk that scurried across the way, unnoticed by the others.  Of the laughter that silly poses can bring when the camera is still and waiting.  I could speak of giggles and squeals and happy voices. I could speak yet again of all this and more.

We have so much of which to speak.

And yet, it’s those little moments of frustration that cause our vision to become unfocused.  That cause us to lose perspective.  And we forget how much we have.  In a moment of worry or fear or anger or frustration or annoyance or despair or sorrow: we forget.  We forget how much we really have.

I speak tonight of that which I am so very grateful: for those moments in my day wherein I can stop and listen to the heart.  For moments when I can see the mistakes I have made and still find the clarity and wherewithal to mend my wrongs.  I am thankful for the circumstances in my life which have smoothed out rough edges in my soul, like sand polishing a piece of sea glass. I am thankful that life is not perfect.  That happiness is not the goal. And that contentment is not dependent on what I have or don’t have.  I am grateful for the things in my life that make me stronger, wiser, and more intuitive to matters of the heart and soul.

I am thankful for all those event and happenings and defining moments of my life that have shaped me to become the person I am today.  I am grateful that my life is a story and that the Author of this story is not finished with it yet.  I am beyond grateful that he is the Author of all stories told about grace and mercy and joy and compassion.  All stories told about hope and love and renewal and contentment.  I am grateful that He weaves in themes of beauty even in the presence of  themes on pain and struggle and anguish and sorrow.  He writes in joy, for joy always follows sorrow.  Always follows darkness and night.  Joy comes in the morning.

I am so very grateful for Hands that hold.  I am grateful that I am not alone in the journey.  I am grateful, so very grateful.

I could speak tonight of all that I’ve been given, for I have been given much.  But instead I will offer just one word: thanks.

Thanks for giving me a story.  I am so very grateful.