Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My script of joy, immortal diet,
y bottle of salvation.
My gown of glory, hopes true gauge,
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

~Sir Walter Raleigh

A hiker, walking for pleasure, likes to choose between several alluring trails.
The pilgrim desires only the road that leads home.

~Frank W. Boreham

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blessing Drops

O Thou, whose bounty fills my cup
With every blessing meet!
I give Thee thanks for every drop-
The bitter and the sweet.
~Jane Crewdson

These are Thanksgiving dinner 'leftovers' - the snippets of new memories added to my personal blessing cup. They each are just droplets, yet added together with others hidden deep in the heart, add up to a cup quite overflowing.

I'm ever aware of the fact that as a family we are exceedingly blessed. As we anticipate a family gathering, there is no dread, no fears regarding tensions or unpleasantness that may arise. Fact is, we enjoy each other. There is always much noise but it is the sound of laughter and delight. Sometimes there are the quieter notes of talk on serious subjects. Even there, where there might be disagreement there is no fear of anger or reprisal.

This year there was some doubt as to our even having a family gathering. Yet, in Mercy, the weather changed enough to clear the roads for safe travel. We all were most grateful for this.

Now for some personal, specific drops of joy:

  • a table set in readiness with candles aglow
  • daughters that busied themselves in the kitchen with food fixing
  • a grand son who ably and without a word took on the carving of Big Bird
  • the family anthem of the Doxology sounding full of harmony and glorious.
  • [here there is one of those bitter-ish drops - there have been occasions of grief where Doxology singing was a part. These will forever come to mind when we gather and lift our voices]
  • happy, noisy chatter/clatter of cutlery and conversation
  • and baby noises. What a glorious dimension these add to our gathering, any gathering.
  • the hilarious tradition of individual introductions of pseudonyms and professions for the day
  • at meal's end, three generations of menfolk - to a man - standing without a word and clearing and washing up.
  • delightful guests joining our ranks this year. Lovely indeed
  • home for dessert and much conversation -some collective, much choice and individual
  • and baby-passing, snuggling, enjoying
  • Wee Lad playing happily with what he knows are the allowed things - sitting reading his books, playing with Noah's Ark, enjoying his basket of rocks, drawing with Grand-Nan's colored pencils.
  • enjoying the after glow when all had returned to their homes.
  • finding remnants of the day - a partial banana on the piano top, two wooden sheep in the Cloister chair, rocks in the corners of the sofa.
  • [another taste of the bitter: those who were absent from our table..because of geography, because of work demands, because of Translation to a more glorious place.

This list may now seem that grand and great, but you see, Dear Reader, for me, each entry has a face attached, the sound of a beloved voice and a radiance inexplicable. With all those family members dear, and with our four littlest ones, our day was spent in the presence of angels. Angels always hover where babies dwell.

The tummies were filled. And so was and is the heart. Such blessings are mine. I take none for granted.

Whether bitter or sweet, all have come from my loving Heavenly Father's hand. Of this I am certain. In this I rejoice.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Prayer

Without going back into the archives to make certain, I'm quite sure that last year I posted the following prayer by George Herbert. Yet, for many Thanksgivings of my life it has been a prayer of mine. It is the cry of my heart. So here it is once again, the fragment of a larger poem.

This year we as a family have so much to be thankful for. We are so abundantly blessed. These blessings none of us take for granted I know. There are challenges ahead - and these are those that are known. What we also know and are continually renewing is the fact of the faithfulness of our God, the additional fact that He meets us -always- at our point of need, and that His mercies continue to be new, fresh, surprisingly precious each new day. We can only fall before Him in adoration.

Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart...
Not thankful, when it pleaseth me
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be Thy praise.

Are there ever 'spare days' where His blessings are concerned? Never.
So then, the prayer is for a heart whose very pulse praises. Always.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Best Laid Plans...

Hmmm. What about this snow? As many years as I can remember (with the exception of the years spent in Skykomish) flooding has been the situation at Thanksgiving. Not so this year.

When serious snow comes to our part of the Northwest, the world pretty much stops. Roads that need to be traveled by family are either back country sorts or killer freeways. Most towns and cities are under equipped to enable life to go on smoothly. So adjustment is required and this year that means dinner plans.

Of course we are all proceeding as though our family gathering will take place. Big Bird will be picked up today. Baking is going on in the different homes. The forecast predicts warming, rains and such. But forecasts have been known to be wrong. Often.

For today, there is a bright sky overhead, the world's activities quieted to a whisper and the garden is blanketed. And for today there is a recipe and a prayer.

Recipe first - for a cranberry chutney. The original recipe appears in the holiday Taste of Home magazine. But as is my habit, I tinkered a bit with this and that. What turned out is yumalicious if I do say so myself. My thought was to have it for the cheese and bread board on Thanksgiving day. However, I've been eating in on my yogurt, and even just with a spoon from a bowl. It is that tasty.

This is the tinkered version:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup water

In saucepan, bring these to a boil and then simmer for about three minutes to dissolve sugars.

Remove from heat and stir in the following:

12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
2 large tart apples, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 smallish onion chopped
1/2 cup raisins
another 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 teas ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt

Return to heat, simmer uncovered 20 or so minutes or until desired thickness. Remembering that cranberries continue to thicken as they cool. Yield: 4 cups

Now from food for the body, food for the soul.

"...We thank Thee for a faith with wings
to lift us above evil and wrong
and to seek the truth.
We thank Thee for the prayer
that builds bridges over the impossible
and gives us visions that all things work together for good
for those who love Thy name.
At this Thanksgiving season we stand in awe
of Thy majesty and whisper,
How great Thou art!"
Prayer written by Thyra Ferre Bjorn in her book The Home Has A Heart,
Holt Rinehart Winston pub.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Most Essential Preparation

The family is soon to be gathering.
And my heart sings.

Lists are everywhere; mustn't over look a thing.
The food must be the best, the tastiest.
The house must be shining and spit-spot.
It must be warm and inviting.

But today, this day especially set apart as the Lord's other thoughts come to mind.

Today's desire ~
To tidy up the worldly trinkets and comforts
that clutter the soul's living room floor.

More than anything, when the clan gathers,
I want a quiet heart, an uncluttered heart,
a heart that sees and savors,
a heart whose joy and love is understood and known,
even without words.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Days of Thanksgiving Continue

His name means "man of peace". And so he has always been.

Growing up a lone lad with three sisters was not an easy journey. There were times, in the early years they would vex his soul beyond endurance. In the worst of times, he would stand, fists doubled, shaking them and muttering through
teeth clenched: "Oh I wish I could hit them!". He never did, though at times they were not doubt deserving.

He was from early days a creative thinker, a serious thinker. He was gifted in many ways, not the least of which was that of a keen wit. This alone perhaps saved him from the maddening ways of the sisters three.

As a boy he put his faith in Christ and as an early teen, vowed to spend time daily in God's Word. So he has done. So he became a man. And such a man.

A Renaissance Man of sorts really, husband, father, teacher, builder, craftsman, gardener, writer, singer, poet, composer. He continues to be an attentive reader, lover and doer of the Word. He is a seeker, a learner, an overcomer and the best example of worthy pilgrim I know.

In truth, I would wish for every woman such a son. Through the years he has been my friend, my mentor, my constant joy and delight.

Happy Birthday This Day, Son of my heart.

How very thankful I am for the man you have become "through many dangers, toil and snares".

Mark the blameless man
and behold the upright,
for there is a happy end for the man of peace.
Psalm 37.37

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This Day

For all who have served, do serve, will serve "for God and Country", heartfelt thanks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

William Morris* vs. Dorcas Lane* and Thanksgiving

There is a conflict that rages within especially this time of year. The problem is things, their purpose, their value, their presence in my life.

We live simply. We really do. We are not acquisitive on the grand scale. We can drive by yard sales. In fact, this very day the library book sale in the neighboring town - always on a grand scale - is being ignored.

There is little in our home that is of great value on the open market. Yet there are many items that are treasured - family pieces with history, gifts added through the years, memories of travels and such.

An effort is made to apply Mr. Morris' directive to have only those things which are thought beautiful or are useful. And even the Shaker sensibility appeals to me. But this becomes complicated because there is also a cheery Dorcas "this is my one weakness" reality in my soul.

The problem develops from this: each November the members of our church fellowship are given little booklets, "Thankfulness in November". These simply offer something in our lives - one for each day of the month - for which we are to be thankful. It is a calling to attention, really, of the common place things that make up our lives. It is giving opportunity to notice and give thanks. This thanksgiving is in the form of designated coin value to be offered. This offering then, becomes collectively, a seasonal gift for the missionaries our church supports.

Day 1: "How many dinner plates do you have? One cent for each." Right off, you see, the compiler is getting nosy. China is my "one weakness". Besides, with a growing family unit, additional plates are always needed when the clan gathers. And you should have different patterns, or at least colors for the different seasons and occasions. Shouldn't you?

Day 2: "Thank the bank for each of your siblings. 5 cents for each". Well of course. This is well and good. And the following page 5 cents for each grandchild? Easy. These are treasures indeed. I shall even be generous and contributed for each grand-in-law . In these we are truly blessed. Oh, and the Great-grands too? Most certainly.

We are reminded that trips during the year are blessings as are, shoes, vehicles, even clocks, Bibles and phone calls. Lovely.

There is one day coming to 'give thanks' for the number of books owned, ("my one weakness"), another for DVDs, (O dear). Yet another for photos and/or art on the walls. (Oh my, all weaknesses). This year it is obvious: I'm so blessed in life's abundant riches that I need a job in order to pay up!

I gladly give. I do appreciate my many 'treasures'.

I only hope next year the compiler doesn't add things outside, like the number of old bricks that edge the garden plots. Or rose bushes!

*William Morris, 19th century artist, leader of the English Arts and Crafts movement
*Dorcas Lane, heroine of Lark Rise to Candleford