Oh Thanksgiving 2020 ~ a year we didn’t see coming and that no one predicted. Just like so many others I lost a job I loved during this pandemic and with it so many unintended consequences. Although it’s been a struggle I find myself truly thankful for so many unanticipated things that have resulted. My faith, family, and friends, the roof over my head and good health; these are the things that matter today, even more than they did before.
Thousands of folks wait in food lines out of desperate necessity while I make up a batch of cornbread dressing and prepare to roast a Thanksgiving turkey, almost as normal as “before.” Something is off about that and it’s not possible to comprehend the how or the why of any of it. It’s inconceivable that so many lives have been altered, been lost, and so many hopes and dreams have been shuttered and shattered.
Yet . . . there’s a growing increase of ingenuity and resourcefulness being born in spite of it all. A resilience despite the crushing. Pandemic gratefulness is a powerful emotion, nudging us back to a place of appreciation for things that were considered just everyday common at this time last year.
Wishing you a day of reflection on what matters most.
There was a small and hungry group of us at a restaurant one pre-pandemic night asking the usual menu questions of a good natured young waitress. I don’t recall what I’d ordered or much else about the evening for that matter but I remember the impression made on me by our server. She had perfected a blend of friendly attitude, lighthearted sense of humor, and attentive service. Her responses to our party never betrayed an ounce of impatience with our copious and likely annoying requests.
We were from out of town and in need of a meal at a decent restaurant, simple as that. But our server’s mere presence set a pleasant tone, thankfully offsetting the usual complaints of one of our foursome. She took it in stride as she managed our needs along with those of the other diners seated in her station.
At the end of the night when our check arrived I thanked her for her attentive service—even going so far as to tell her that she was the best server I’d ever encountered—at any restaurant I had ever been to (true to this day). With a hand to her heart and eyes welling up with tears she said, “Thank you so much, this was my first day.“
Her first day?
Its not often that our one-time encounters become game changers let alone any kind of memorable occurrence for others. And yet our tone, our attitude, our demeanor has the potential to leave a lingering impression. The potential is there to create a “moment.”
So I ask you, who will you brush past in the next day or so that might be lifted by your well timed smile, your silent but knowing acknowledgement, your respectfully maintaining a good social distance or other thoughtful gesture?
Even our smallest considerate actions may leave a pleasantly positive impression on someone we meet. We may lift someone’s spirit for a moment or a lifetime. For some it may come as second nature. For some it may need to be cultivated from mindful intent. Sometimes it will come from being honed over time and then sometimes it will come on our first day.
A professor at work had given me a cutting from his well established guava tree in exchange for my scrawny dwarf orange that was overdue to be planted in the ground. It had produced only a single edible orange for two years in a row despite a plethora of fragrant blossoms. Clearly to bear more than a singular fruit this budding citrus needed more space than a container on my patio. It was time to transplant it into a sunny plot of earth if it was ever to put down roots and properly mature. It was long past time.
The exchange of orange for guava was happily made. I had the comforting assurance that my little orange tree was going to a good home and would have a bright future in the capable hands of its new, academically graced and agriculturally minded owner. And I had high hopes for the fledgling guava plant as well. Having previously tasted the fruits of this professor’s labor in the form of a perfect guava pie he himself had baked I dreamily envisioned little glass jars of delicious guava preserves and the dainty guava tarts that I would share with others some day in the future. As the juvenile cutting took root and matured it would surely do well in that empty garden corner currently occupied by the wildly overgrown asparagus fern.
Problem is I gave so little thought to any sort of process needed to bring dear baby guava from mere infancy to a full blown fruit laden specimen. Sunshine and adequate watering should do the trick, I said to myself. After transplanting out of a confining, repurposed yogurt container and into a planter of decent size, my new acquisition began to grow, forming larger leaves while its delicate stems became sturdy. I was ecstatic!
And then one fine day a pestilence struck. The tender new growth proved to be quite a scrumptious snack to an unidentified parasitic organism with a serious case of the munchies. There weren’t supposed to be microscopic invaders preying on my young guava!
“Pick up some neem oil,” my professor friend suggested, and so I did. Yay for me. Unfortunately the treatment remained on the garage shelf in its shamefully unused condition. I confess that I did nothing more than purchase the prescribed remedy for no particular reason other than perhaps fading interest in the process. Instead of applying the proven cure I pressure hosed the tiny pests once or twice. I plucked off the affected leaves. But I never actually did what the professor had advised.
The guava plant continued to survive but did not thrive. Any new growth continued to serve as an all-you-can-eat buffet. The experience confirmed the awful truth—I’m an undisciplined gardener.
• • • • •
We’re encouraged in scripture to count the cost before launching into a project. There’s an act of discipleship in considering what it takes to get any sort of undertaking from point A to point B. That includes the growth and productivity we’d like to see in our own lives. Any venture or change of course takes care, commitment, and application of the right methods in order to succeed.
Luke 14:28 speaks about counting the cost of true discipleship and Jesus’ words here are strong for good reason; “which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost . . . ?”
Human nature is such that we easily envision the end result—the benefit we may personally gain while giving much less attention to the process needed to get us there and what cost and level of commitment will be required.
As for me, I imagined the fruit (and beyond) without enough consistent thought or action to ensure a proper harvest. Yes, this was but an eight inch cutting with a bit of future culinary potential—not a permanent structure or anything truly important. Yet there was a simple lesson about failing to follow through with actionable steps when a specific end result was expected. About how putting our focus on the end results without taking the necessary measures can be a set-up for a mild disappointment. Sometimes an even greater one.
Moral of my story? Count the cost. Consistently take the appropriate measures. Listen to the wise who have successfully conquered the pestilences that come with the territory. Continue to take the steps of due diligence and, over time, our more rooted and fruit-bearing selves just might be positioned to offer, “Would you care for a homemade guava tart?”
A twenty-five year old water fountain sits in an area of my small garden that now well past its prime has subtlety transformed into something just a bit different than what it used to be. It was once a fully operational, eye catching, ever flowing ornamental water feature. Over the last several years it’s become a popular neighborhood gathering place, attracting many varieties of local birds who don’t mind at all that the gushing, gurgling, ornamental aspect of it is no longer functional. To them it’s a place of refreshment—a community pool to splash and bathe in. It’s a well shared hangout for sure where the doves and others don’t mind that the water pump gave out years ago. They have no idea that its broken.
Whoa! This quote from Levi Lusko stopped me in my tracks.
Seriously NO PUN INTENDED.
After a full year of writing and posting nearly every day I’ve been thinking about dialing back in the new year. Putting a pause button on my daily desire to share a bit of what’s on my mind with anyone interested, like-minded or otherwise following my blog, Facebook page or IG account.
Now back to the raceway. I have been known to drive over the speed limit on long stretches of roadway on trips to see those I love. Unlike some I know who carefully calculate every approaching turn, traveling along at a markedly slower pace as to have additional time to cautiously navigate each turn in the road. They could travel faster but instead prefer to level each path before encountering it. Perhaps their unspoken credo might be “No bumpy roads.” I tend to travel a bit faster than that. And hit a few bumps, maybe take a few curves faster than is prudent. That’s all part of the journey.
Though I’ll occasionally break the speed limit, make no mistake, I am no speed junkie. I do prefer to smell the roses along the way rather than to screech past them. Does that place me at the middle of the road? Maybe. But to further use the raceway metaphor of this quote, I am about to apply the brakes to my fairly frequent posting so I can then accelerate coming out of the turn a little further up the road.
I’ll still be on social media unlike a few others I follow here who have taken an entire month or so off. And after putting my focus in a few other places for awhile I hope to come out of this turn with some awesome acceleration! Here’s to a little judicious braking.
I can give a smile to a stranger—it is free. Add some genuine human warmth to that smile (aka empathy) and the single scoop cone has just been upgraded to a sundae.
What can I give? Though there are days and times that giving monetarily to some cause or some one in need is appropriate, and though it can be hard in certain seasons, it can also be the easiest, most effortless, sometimes mindless, way to give. Sometimes with a sense of obligation attached, sometimes not.
What can I give without spending a dime? My specific knowledge of a thing that is unclear or unknown to someone else’s mind? A slight amount of my time giving an ear to a sad story or upset heart or confused friend? Or the same amount of time to one who is bursting with good news and dying to tell someone who will listen?
Has a child ever handed you the precious gift of a flower? And perhaps, though picked from a neighbor’s garden, it was presented with so much overflow of spontaneous love in their young and tender heart that they saw no wrong-doing, only a desire to give.
Much of the time I find myself wanting something now though it’s time and place in my life is still yet to come. It’s ahead of me. There it is in my future but not yet in my current reality.
I can see it. It isn’t that far away actually. But though I can see it just ahead and almost reach out and touch it, it’s as if I’m at the longest ever stoplight just waiting, waiting, waiting to move forward. Well, isn’t that just the way of things sometimes?
Once a close-by neighbor asked if I’d like to have her outdoor barbecue when she replaced it with a newer, fancier model. I happily agreed and awaited the day that it would be mine. I thought about grilling steaks and veggies and using it to make a rustic pizza. And I waited.
The new barbecue arrived in a few weeks but the neighbor didn’t mention her previous offer. I waited patiently because surely the delay must be that she wanted to clean the thing up before passing it on to me.
It was right there in her back patio where I could see it but not enjoy it. I was dying to use it, it had been promised but I had to wait for the gift-giver’s timing.
It e v e n t u a l l y did come in to my possession and the steaks and veggies I grilled were delish. But the waiting.
Its so hard to wait for a good thing to come, a promised thing that we can already see with our eyes of faith. Its so hard and yet. The gift-giver’s timing is best.
O, maidenhair fern, won’t you live a little longer this time?
With such a name and with such delicate lacy leaflets (or are they fronds) what’s not to love about a maidenhair fern? The thing is, for a non-plant care specialist such as myself, they have been difficult to keep alive. When purchasing this one the garden center lady announced just how difficult they were to grow (without offering a single tip).
“Oh, I know, I know,” I told her. I’ve enjoyed and lost plenty of them. She looked shocked when I said that. Perhaps I actually said “killed” instead of “lost” and that must have seemed purposefully cruel to her. Not that I’ve ever intentionally assisted in their demise. And not that their care is entirely complicated though it’s assumed that they’re finicky and temperamental.
Each time the previous one had been replaced I’d been sure that the new one, THIS one, would live. The others were probably of lesser quality, of poorer stock, I’d said to myself. But THIS one is going to make it. This time it will live . . . though each time I’ve done nothing different to ensure that. What’s that quote about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
The more fragile a thing has become, whether a fern or a friendship, living growing things need a measure of sunlight and water, oxygen and nutrients. Both will decline in varying degrees unless these are given. Both will grow and thrive when the ingredients of time, care and thoughtfulness are consistently and judiciously given.
An old window in a shuttered church located in Shelby County, Texas.
Our “Day” family forbear’s name was the first listed among the other founders who established this congregation in 1856. To walk the grounds and see it with my own eyes created such an unusual sense of familial connection to the past. One that I hadn’t conceived of experiencing when we set out to locate this old building. It wasn’t quite a feeling of nostalgia as this was a place I’d never heard of before and family I didn’t know existed. But . . .
There was something about connecting to the past that triggered a very subtle wave of nostalgia for another bygone season in my life—one I had personally lived only a couple of years ago. Finding the definition of this feeling of nostalgia lit a candle—shone a light on something I’d been feeling but couldn’t quite grasp. Ah, there it is. “A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place of happy personal associations.” That explains it.
It’s a sweet and tender thing when we gently recall a pleasant day gone by. But it can also hold us back or deny us from experiencing new life if our heart decides to set up shop back there. The good old days, the best of times, the glory days, might even clash with our current state of being if we continue to wish for things to be the way they used to be. That is not future. That is nostalgia for the past.
Sunday reflections through a cloudy stained glass window can bring needed clarity to the day.
A shell of their former self. That’s what we might think or even say about someone who has been devastated by a life experience beyond their capacity to contain it or deal with it.
There is inestimable value in sustaining our friendships with those who have journeyed through life’s highs and lows—those who have navigated all manner of stormy weather and have survived. Those who have endured losses, humiliations, significant life changes and though knocked down have gotten back on their feet, learning how to walk once more or even to speak again. Redefining themselves as needed. Living again with joy.
If we’re lucky we may have one or two such examples in our lives, oftentimes more. We do well to listen and also to learn from others who’ve made it through so when (not IF) our own storms crash upon us we will have some navigational skills to draw upon. Good people in our circle will lend the support of empathy, practicality, prayer, wisdom and presence that we can’t provide for ourselves.