Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day 2008

I could not have asked for a better day. The family was together, the food delicious, and the atmosphere joyful. We enjoyed all the things we love: Macy's parade on television, ambrosia, pecan pie, taking a plateful to our friend, Frank (who works two security jobs and always works holidays), and ending the day with The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

These are the days that make for long term memories, and I am grateful for each one of them. God is good!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude Day Ten

Today we began what we hope will become a tradition for our family. We went to Stone Mountain, GA as a family and just had fun. We hiked to the top of the rock and back down, watched a 4-D version of The Polar Express, took a train ride around the rock, saw a gospel presentation by "Aunt Grace," laughed at a comedic retelling of A Christmas Carol, viewed a holiday laser light show, and ended the evening with a Snow Angel's magic and fireworks.

Altogether, it was a wonderful day. Today, then I am grateful for family. My husband and my girls are God's gift to me, and I cherish the days we have together. We are so blessed to be healthy and happy and together this year. I am grateful for these happy times because I truly understand how precious they are. Memories like the ones we made today will be with me forever.

Attitude of Gratitude Day Nine

Tuesday nights are rehearsals with the Cobb Symphony Chorus, so it is only fitting that today I choose to be grateful for MUSIC.

I can't remember a time in my life when music didn't move me. I love to sing it. I love to hear it. I love to be challenged by it and soothed by it. Music communicates at the soul level. Lyrics and melody and chord structure and rhythm and instrumentation all must be in perfect synchronicity for the musician's message to be fully understood. In some pieces, the connections are obvious: Handel's Hallelujah Chorus is unmistakably a song of rejoicing to all of the western world. Country songs are almost notorious for matching tune to lyric in the simplest way. Even some of the rock music of the 1970s and early 80s match so well that both the lyric and the instrumentation stand alone to communicate a message.

Other times that connection is so subtle that is may be missed in the first several hearings. Poulenc's Gloria at first gives new meaning to "make a joyful NOISE," but after rehearsing it for several weeks, I am learning to see the connections between the unusual rhythms and chord structures to the familiar Latin words. Laudamus Te is so joyful that it may appear irreverant at first. Domine Deus has so many awkward transitions, key changes, and chromaticisms that it is uncomfortable to sing. Yet, considering the meaning of the words (You who bears the sin of mankind, be merciful to us. Hear our prayer), the composition makes perfect sense. Sin is supposed to be uncomfortable. The Savior was born to die for our sins. Somehow a lyrical melody just isn't right for that message. This movement mimics the tears and brokenness of the truly repentant before resolving in the next movement: Qui Sedes Ad Dexteram Patris (Jesus enthroned at the right hand of God.) Worship meets mercy. Amen.

One of my favorite sayings is this:
"Bach gave us God's Word.
Mozart gave us God's laughter.
Beethoven gave us God's fire.
God gave us music that we might pray without words."
(source unknown)
Today, and every day, I am grateful for music.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude Day Eight

Today's gratitude theme is an easy one: family dinners! With Carrie off at college and the rest of us running hither and yon most days, sit down family dinners are a treat. We are a pretty goofy family, so there's no predicting where the conversation will go. One thing is certain: there will be laughter.

I am so glad that God has protected our family through all the highs and lows of the last 10 years. We are blessed to be able to come together with laughter.

Attitude of Gratitude Day Seven

It's late, but that's okay, because I was celebrating the holiday season with my girlfriends from the scrapbook store where I worked for the last year or so. The store closed three weeks ago, but we have become friends and wanted to celebrate together.

So, with that in mind, today I am grateful for Girlfriends! I have been blessed with girlfriends in a multitude of places, and each set is unique:

There are my neighborhood girlfriends whom I play tennis with (okay, mostly I cheer them on) and celebrate birthdays with. (And with our group, there is usually at least one birthday to celebrate with lunch each month.)

Then there are my scrapbook/stamping girlfriends. We all share a passion for preserving memories and creating beautiful things for the benefit of others. We laugh an awful lot, too!

There are my online girlfriends. I may never meet some of them in person, but those relationships build and grow and sometimes are a support group when one member goes through trials. Online friends can be an objective sounding board or just a safe place to vent frustrations and share joys. Some of my online girlfriends are prayer warriors, and it is wonderful to know that we can pray for one another across miles, across continents, and across oceans.

Church girlfriends are always special. We may only see them once a week, but at least we know we share a faith and an eternity. These are the girlfriends I work with and serve with and minister with.

And finally there are the "BFFs." In the contemporary vernacular, "best friend forever" is almost flippant and cliche. But once or twice in a lifetime, there are girlfriends who see beyond the surface to the marrow of the bones. These are the girlfriends who are there through thick and thin. Distance doesn't matter. Time doesn't matter. These girlfriends are the special gift from God to keep us grounded and real and authentic. There is a unique bond in this friendship, and I am so grateful that God has given me just that kind of friend. We may be 2600 miles apart and we may be impossibly busy, but we are connected by heartstrings and will truly be "best friends forever."

Isn't it wonderful how God meets all our relational needs--even the ones for birthday lunches and tennis matches? Friendship is a gift...and I am grateful for my girlfriends!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude Day Six

Another day to be grateful. Today I choose to be extra thankful for my dear husband. I am always in awe that God brought us together and has worked in us and through us to make a successful marriage and a secure home for our children.

Tonight Brian and I got to go to a nice restaurant--just the two of us--as a gift from his boss for work well done. It was quite a treat to sit without any agenda except to enjoy each other's company. (Thank you, Althea!) We have been together now for more than 23 years, and we are still both friends and partners. It always comes as a shock when we hear about divorces among our friends who married the same time we did. Each time we hear of another marriage in crisis, we resolve all the more to make sure that our relationship is stable and secure.

I am so blessed to have a husband who loves me beyond any shadow of doubt. God is good and I am grateful.

Attitude of Gratitude Day Five

Today's theme is little blessings. It's easy to remember to be thankful for the big things, and I love watching God's hand move in major ways. What is sometimes hard to remember is to be thankful for the little blessings God scatters in our paths along the way.

For example, my birthday was months ago and a dear friend from forever ago sent me a gift card to a store that I never frequent because it seems an extravagance. Somehow in all the craziness that is my life, I misplaced it. I then forgot about it. Then last week I was doing some purging of my dear husband's office area (do we really need the notes from a business meeting in 2006?) In one of the piles I spied that little pink card. Woohooo! An extra little blessing during a pretty lean time.

So, after school I decided to go and redeem my birthday gift. I just enjoyed meandering around the store and not feeling rushed. Another little blessing: a time to just meander! I found just the thing, on sale, even. I left the store with my little bag feeling calm and relaxed and just happy.

In that same shopping center there is a store that sells the yummiest fragraced lotions and such. I found two coupons in my wallet and allowed myself to indulge in another little luxury--for half price. God is so good. His little unexpected blessings encourage me and lift my spirits.

Today I am grateful for the little things.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude Day Four

Gratitude is a funny thing. The more I remember to be grateful for the little things, the better I respond to situations that might otherwise end poorly. It's a good habit to be in.

So, for today, I choose to be grateful for forgiveness. Small wrongs, big wrongs--they're all the same when it comes to a need to ask forgiveness. How much easier is it to to ask forgiveness than to live with guilt or fractured relationships. Granting forgiveness is equally beneficial. Bitterness is an ugly thing, especially for the Believer.

Of course, the Source of all forgiveness, that we give or need, is Christ. How much more have I been forgiven by God than any wrongs done to me by others? Paul wrote to the Colossians: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:13)

Wow...that's a tall order. Today, then, I am grateful for forgiveness, especially forgiveness made possible by the Resurrection. God is good!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude Day Three

Day three...Today I am thankful for a body that functions. Sure, I have asthma and I deal with pain and muscle spasms on a pretty regular basis, but I can walk and communicate and use my hands to create. I can hear and see and taste and smell and touch.

I use all five senses in everything I do. Vision, of course, is the one I use the most--and usually without considering just how amazing the mechanism is. Music is such a part of my life that my sense of hearing is priceless to me. I love the sounds of my girls laughing together. I miss the sound of the Pacific Ocean waves crashing on the shore. The wind through the trees in my Georgia backyard reminds me of the ocean, and I find it relaxing.

To smell and to taste--I love good food. The smell of bread baking is the sweetest fragrance I know. When Brian cooks (which is most of the time) I know that not only will his creations fill the hole in my belly, but my soul as well. Of course there are other scents that I love: orange blossoms, star jasmine, honey suckle, salty ocean air...the list goes on and on.

And then there is touch. I am a kinesthetic learner; I learn by touching, manipulating, and doing. I love using textures in my art. Fabrics with interesting weaves or embellishments make me feel creative and unique.

God said that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). I need to remember that more often and give thanks that God put me together just the way I am for His purposes and His ultimate glory. Today, then, I am thankful for my body.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Attitude of Gratitude day two

Well, today was one of those things where I noticed a ton of things to be grateful for, but I'll just choose one (but the others will show up I am certain!)

Today I am grateful for my students. I never in a MILLION years thought I would be a teacher, but God knew better. I have the most fun in class (most of the time) and I just love watching them grow in confidence and in writing skills. I push them pretty hard, but they always rise to the challenges, and in the end we all learn from each other and have some laughs along the way.

Is it easy? No way. There are plenty of frustrations along the way either in my preparation/communication or in assignments that don't get done by students. However, those pale in comparison to the delight when I see "eureka" in the eyes of a student who had struggled to understand a concept or technique or rationale that I had tried to explain in a hundred ways!

The best part, though, is the relationships outside of the classrom that develop. I have the best time watching my students at non-school activities...and love it when they call my name and wave madly. God knew, even when I said "NEVER" to the idea of teaching, that I would find richness in teaching the next generation.

Never say never---and be grateful always that God's plan is better than anything you can ask or imagine!

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Attitude of Gratitude

With Thanksgiving just 10 days away, I think it's about time to count my blessings. So, hopefully I will make some time everyday until Thanksgiving to be grateful about something specific.

Today I will begin with how much I appreciate the internet. I know it sounds funny, but truly, having the world at my fingertips amazes me. How many people would I never have met if not for my art and craft groups? How many things would I have never learned if it wasn't so easy to look things up to satisfy my curiosity?

The internet brings me world cultures and perspectives that I may never have considered without it. I can chat with people all over the world and I can re-connect with friends from long ago.

The internet allows my extended family to keep in touch even though we live all over the US. We can share the little events of life along with pictures and we can even play games together from a thousand miles away.

So, yes, I am grateful for the internet!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Fall Colors in Studio

Nature is inspiring and art is therapy, so it should be no surprise that my sojourn into the hills found its way into my studio. I had scraps of delicious color left over from another project, so I used that as my primary paper source.

It felt good to create something just because I wanted to. No deadline, no direction...just me, paper, stamps, ink, and adhesive. Ahhhhhhh....

Thursday, November 06, 2008

November Meanderings

The crisp November air called me to the North Georgia mountains last Monday. Now, "mountain" is a stretch of the definition since the highest peak in the state is Brasstown Bald (4,784 feet doesn't qualify as a mountain for anyone native to anywhere west of the Rockies), but the fall colors still manifest in brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds.
Even though the colors were past peak at the top of Brasstown Bald (it's a short, but steep hike to the top), it couldn't have been a more beautiful day. Colors at lower elevations were still vivid, although I couldn't capture the intensity even shooting in RAW format. Some of the yellows were nearly painful to look at because they were so bright.

Spending a day alone enjoying God's creation was just what I needed to refresh my spirit.