We see them everywhere. Every day. But so many times we don’t realize it.
We keep looking for our own miracles. And most of the time we don’t notice them.
Why? Because we expect miracles to be big. Really big events that stop us in our tracks. That cause us to say “WOW”! And “I never expected THAT!” Or “That was truly a miracle because it just couldn’t have happened otherwise.”
But consider all the little things that we experience on a daily basis that just seem to happen naturally, and we never stop to think about all the parts that had to come together to make that one thing happen.
They can be in the form of unexpected encounters. Meeting someone who told you something that resonated deep within you, an answer to something that you’d been searching for, and didn’t even realize it.
Or maybe you were the one who made a comment to someone strictly by chance, and that comment was something they really needed to hear at just that time.
How about the time you were cleaning out a drawer or a closet, perhaps in a loved one’s home, or even a box you’d packed up long ago, and discovered something so precious to you that you sat down and cried over it. Maybe a letter or a journal you’d never seen before, telling you something you’d always wondered about, and never knew; or something you’d long forgotten but really needed to be reminded of.
These are not necessarily what we traditionally think of as miracles, but they are that, nonetheless.
We associate the Christmas season with miracles, because Christmas began with the miracle of the birth in the stable. But miracles happen daily and all around us. We just tend to notice them more because Christmas is such a special and almost magical time of year.
This is the first of several writings on this subject for this holiday season. How many there will be I cannot say, because I never know what I’m actually going to write until I start writing. Yes, I have ideas, but many times those ideas take me in directions I didn’t expect.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I’d like to share my list of “thankfuls,” because I don’t think we’re doing that nearly enough these days.
These days too many of us tend to be negative, concentrating on all the things in our lives and our country and the world around us that aren’t going the way that we think they should.
Yes, there are a lot of those right now, but there are a lot more things that are good in our lives, if we only stop to think about them; concentrate on them, at least today, on this Thanksgiving day.
So here’s my list:
I am thankful for the chance to still gather some of our loved ones together. I am thankful for my family, and the love we share, even though sometimes we don’t act like it (just like everyone else I know…let’s be real) or feel like it. But the point is we do love each other. And I’m thankful for that love.
I am thankful for my husband and the life we have made together these past 38 years. We’ve been through a lot: family issues and loss; infertility; successions of career moves; and some serious health issues. We have stood by each other through it all, and we have prevailed against a lot of odds. And we will continue to do so. Marriage is a commitment “for better or worse”. No one ever said it would be easy, but it’s certainly worth it.
I am thankful for our daughter and son-in-law and our two beautiful granddaughters. And also for our new grandson who will be making his appearance in January, or maybe before. As sick as our daughter has been during this pregnancy, I am thankful that our little one continues to grow in health, and that he will be a special blessing to complete their family.
I am thankful for true friends who love us and stick with us, even though we don’t always agree on certain things. True friends remain friends and don’t drop us because of being on opposite sides of issues. We can still be friends without arguing over ideas that we’ll never agree on. If we can’t, we were never true friends. And unfortunately we’ve found that out over the past several years, but I am grateful for the years we did have together.
I am thankful for my health. As I grow older every year, that is one blessing I continue to be ever so thankful for. Because so many others my age are not as fortunate. And I am thankful that despite all the medical issues my husband has been through since our marriage, he continues to maintain a positive attitude and also continues to come through each medical challenge with flying colors!
Along with that, I am thankful for the availability of excellent doctors and medical care, especially as it pertains to my husband. We are blessed with some of the brightest and the best in their fields, and as we age, and new diseases come against us, that’s extremely important. Some may not necessarily agree with our medical choices, but we are thankful we have those choices and are able to utilize them.
I am thankful for the home we have lived in for almost 30 years now. Yes it’s showing it’s age, with some wear and tear, but it’s our home, and it holds an abundance of family memories that we hold dear. We don’t know how long we will continue to live in it before we decide to downsize, but for now we’re still here, and making more memories every day.
I am thankful for a job that I really enjoy; one in which I am respected and able to use all of my past experiences in real estate to improve the performance of my department. Although I’m at retirement age, and actually past it, I’m not ready to stop working yet, and I have the opportunity to continue to do what I enjoy and get paid for it, and work for a wonderful company with lots of great people.
In a similar situation, I’m also thankful that although he’s technically semi retired, my husband is still working a 30+ hour week, enjoying what he does as well, and like me, working for a great company who appreciates him.
I am thankful we live in a country in which we are still free to express our opinions and maintain our right to free speech. Although we have a politically divided country right now, I still have hope that we can overcome our differences and once again become a country united for the good of all of us. Because if we continue on the divided path we are currently on, what kind of country will we be leaving our children and grandchildren?
And above all, I am thankful for all the blessings the Lord has bestowed on us; the things He has walked us through, and the things He has protected us from. It’s been a challenging year, but we continue to remain strong and positive that our family will continue to also retain our strong love for each other no matter what challenges we may face.
May God continue to bless us all, both on this Thanksgiving Day and in the coming months and years.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. A day that families have traditionally gotten together to enjoy a huge meal and each other’s company. But over the last two-three years it’s not been the same, has it. We haven’t been able to get together as we’ve wanted because of a silent and unseen virus. It’s been really rough. It seems we take so long to prepare all the food, put out our best dishes and silverware, and then in just a quick 20-30 minutes, it’s all over with, the table is cleared, food put away, and then everyone goes their separate ways until the next time. Is that your day?
But what if you don’t have family nearby? What if you can’t get home to be with them? Do you have friends to visit and enjoy the traditional meal with?
For many people, Thanksgiving is a stressful holiday. I said that just the other day. We’re bombarded with ads about family meals, showing families getting together for joyous times and fellowship, everyone laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
Is that how it is at your Thanksgiving?
Many people at this time of year don’t have the luxury of these traditional family meals anymore, because their families are too spread out, or no longer with them. Or restrictions on travel are still in effect, or there are just no available flights. Many people don’t even have good friends they can go and eat their Thanksgiving meal with. It becomes not only stressful, but lonesome, and a very sad and depressing time.
So tomorrow, take the time to remember your friends and neighbors who may not have somewhere to go and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. If you’re having a big dinner, set the table for one or two more people and invite them over. And do it now. If you’re going somewhere, and you know someone who has no place to go, call your host and ask if you could bring that someone with you. Most likely they’ll say yes. After all, this holiday is about being thankful and grateful for what you have. And one of the best ways to do that is to think of others who may be less fortunate than you.
Yes, it’s something we’ve heard a lot, but this year, why not stop and do more than think about it. Do something about it. The year my mother passed away (a month before Thanksgiving) was particularly hard for my remaining small family. I didn’t know what we were going to do and how I was going to get through the holiday. All the memories of those past Thanksgivings were filling my mind, and making me so nostalgic and sad I didn’t even want to have a holiday! Then some very good friends asked us to come share their Thanksgiving meal with them, and it was a gesture I’ll never forget. It meant so much to us at a very difficult time. Good deeds are always rewarded, and this is the time to step out. Especially in these times we find ourselves in.
I always tend to get a bit nostalgic at this time of year because there’s so much emphasis on family and the things that tradition tells us we need to emphasize during the Thanksgiving season.
How about those of us who don’t have the “traditional” family unit? Whatever that is any more.
In our case, that’s sort of, kind of, true. Our family has shifted quite a bit, and the closeness of years long ago is no longer there. It doesn’t mean we love them any less, but we love in a different way.
Family dynamics have changed, and we no longer have actual physical gatherings with all of those who are still in our hearts. It’s a way of life, whether we like it or not.
Our traditions have changed. Around our table will be our daughter and son in law and our two granddaughters. Maybe others. Who knows? And we’re all anxiously awaiting next year for the addition of a new grandson who will have joined us after this year’s holiday season.
Our meal will still be the traditional turkey and trimmings, but our daughter won’t be able to enjoy her favorite dishes because she’s been so sick during this pregnancy. Snickerdoodle hummus with crackers appears to be her current menu favorite, with fresh strawberries and fruit dip. Whatever works for her. That’s all that counts.
But I can’t help but look back on Thanksgivings some 20 or so years ago before things started to change, and yes, I still long for those days again.
But then I stop to think about all that’s happened in the intervening years, and I realize I really wouldn’t want to change much of it. Certainly I’d still want my mother with us, but I wouldn’t want the friends we’ve met along the way to no longer be with us. I’d not want to give up my daughter and her husband and our grandchildren for anything in this world.
Unfortunately change happens. Change is inevitable. Families evolve and change as family members move away or sadly, pass away. And our holiday traditions evolve as well. Friends who can’t spend holidays with their families join with us at our Thanksgiving meal, traditional or not.
Friends become the family we choose for ourselves. And that’s ok. Because we no longer live in the world as it was 20 or 30 years ago.
Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for what we have. For those we love. A time to fellowship and share with others and allow them to share with us.
And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Sharing and giving thanks for the blessings we have.
And we have many. Sometimes we forget just how many because we’re all too often complaining that things aren’t the way we think they should be. And we almost overlook the things we should be most grateful for.
And if we stop and think about it, we can list a lot more things to be thankful for than things that we think are wrong in our life.
A book I read recently by Sarah Morgan had this quote which I absolutely love: “A relationship is like a jigsaw. Made up of tiny pieces. Whether it’s with a partner, with friends, with children…it’s made up of hundreds of tiny pieces. Some perfect, some imperfect. Those characteristics unique to each of us, the genes we inherit, our life experiences, the way we behave. Tiny misshapen little pieces that make us who we are….”
Personally, I really enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles. Actually I do them on my iPad. No lost pieces to contend with. And once you complete it, you don’t have to try to figure what to do with it, because who really wants to take it all apart after you’ve spent all that time working on it?
If you look at the pieces, they’re all slightly different. They may be a similar shape, but there’s only one piece that will fit exactly where it’s supposed to go. And unlike a conventional puzzle, on an iPad you sure can’t force that piece to fit where it’s not supposed to go.
But this piece isn’t about actually putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
Unless you stop to consider all the tiny pieces of your life that go into what makes you unique. Like a completed jigsaw made up of thousands and thousands of pieces that are put together to form who we are.
But there’s a difference between the pieces of our lives and a jigsaw puzzle.
Because a jigsaw puzzle has a finite number of pieces that can only go together one way to make one particular picture. Now the puzzle program on my iPad allows me to change the number of pieces I can use, from a mere 16 which is way too easy, to 1400 which I can’t even imagine trying.
So just imagine a jigsaw puzzle with thousands and thousands of pieces which can be rearranged at any time as new pieces are added. All of our experiences, good or bad, become part of that jigsaw puzzle that is us.
Like the jigsaws on my iPad, we can view the pieces as a combination of major events in our lives (the bigger pieces) or the minor events that become parts of the larger pieces of the puzzle that makes up our lives.
How we view our circumstances, how we make our life decisions, is determined by the way those jigsaw pieces are put together. But unlike the puzzles on my iPad we can add pieces, and rearrange those pieces we already have to make room for the new ones.
Our lives are a complicated puzzle, which is why no two of us are alike. Nor will we ever be. No one else has exactly the same circumstances in their life that anyone else does. And everyone’s puzzle pieces are put together in different patterns.
And our puzzles are 3-D rather than the flat puzzles we normally associate with jigsaw puzzles. Can you imagine the work that goes into the puzzle that is our life?
We must also remember we are all a continual work in progress. On a daily basis. And our puzzle pieces continue to change and rearrange themselves until there are finally no more pieces to be added.
I picture my personal Jigsaw puzzle as a collage of bright colors, with lots of flamingos, Yorkies, books, and of course an abundance of family. Being 3-D it also shifts its shape, constantly moving as pieces are added and rearranged.
Think about it. What does YOUR personal jigsaw puzzle look like? What pieces will you add today?
This post was originally published six years ago today, and updated last year as well. But it’s still very relevant today. So once again I’ve updated it to reflect Veterans Day, 2022.
The price of freedom cannot be measured monetarily. It is measured by the sacrifice of the lives of the men and women who defend it.
Today is Veterans Day. The day we thank all of those who have served and are currently serving in our military. Their bravery and dedication to duty is not appreciated nearly enough. They have a unique understanding of the ways of the world that we who have not served cannot begin to understand. And so do their families, who go for long stretches of time without seeing their loved ones.
To all of those who have served or are still serving, we owe you a huge THANK YOU for the time and sacrifice you, and your families, have given, and are still giving, to this great nation. You leave home and family behind far too often to serve your country because that’s your duty and your chosen profession. You and your families are invaluable to this country, although sometimes we do not show it enough.
Those of us who only read about our service men and women who are in-country, with “boots on the ground” honestly do not comprehend what these brave men and women face on a daily basis. We cannot begin to understand with they go through, how they feel, how lonesome it can be for them being away from everything that is “home” for them. We cannot understand what it is like for the wives, husbands, children, and other family member who are apart from them so long, only being able to share events through email, text messaging, and hopefully FaceTime or Zoom calls.
My father served in the Army during World War II, however, because of a bad knee that he had originally injured playing football in college, he was sent home with an honorable discharge and a knee brace.
My uncle also served, however, he did not get home until the war ended. He was quite fortunate. Although I do not know his entire story, I will relate what I know of it, because in my eyes, he was one of the heroes.
My uncle also served in the Army as a young man barely 18 years old. He was trained as a crewman on the fighter planes, and consequently sent to Germany, where he flew in several successful missions with his crew.
The morning of the day he flew his final mission was most likely just another day. Clear skies; light wind; a perfect day for flying. I can imagine the crew loading the plane, going through their pre-flight checklist, making sure their parachutes were ready, and most likely cracking jokes and talking about what they’d do when they came back from their mission.
Flying over enemy territory was never safe. Most of us have probably seen movies of the allied war planes heading out for missions over Germany. What the movies don’t adequately show is the danger our men faced during each of these missions.
They didn’t have all of the sophisticated equipment in 1945 that our armed forces have now. There were no computers, no GPS; only a navigator with paper maps showing where they were supposed to be flying. There were gunners who fired their weapons without fancy electronics to assist them. They had to judge where to aim, and when to pull the trigger, based on what knowledge the officers and ground troops had been able to discern. It was much different than today. But they had courage, and a sense of duty. They had volunteered to serve, and knew the risks involved.
I’m not sure exactly what happened, but my uncle’s plane took a hit from a German warplane. Fortunately they were all able to parachute out, and landed in a wooded area somewhere behind enemy lines. They had only a few supplies, and had no idea where they were. And no idea whether anyone else had any idea where they were, or even if they were alive.
Shortly afterwards they were captured by German soldiers and marched to one of the POW concentration camps. Capture was certainly better than being shot, which I’m sure they were all afraid, would happen. As brave as these men were, just remember, they were all in their early 20’s, the beginning of their lives. They all wondered if they’d ever see home and family again. Over 93,000 men were held as prisoners in the German POW camps in World War II. They were held in drafty wooden buildings, with uncomfortable cots, and only a thin blanket for warmth. They were fed one or two meals a day, usually some type of thin soup and stale bread. Their only utensils were a tin spoon, and a tin cup for water. One day they were given a treat…candy bars which they quickly bit into. And then saw the worms inside.
My Uncle Fowler and his crew spent six months in that camp, guarded by armed soldiers and German shepherds. They never knew when or if the guards would come for some of them to question them, torture them, or kill them.
There are some experiences that are just too terrible to discuss because they bring back too many nightmares. My uncle would never discuss any of what happened, other than what I have written here; not with his parents, his wife, or his two sons. After his return, and until the day he died, he was scared of German shepherds because he had seen them tear hands and arms off of prisoners who were trying to escape.
Conditions were bad back then. Conditions in foreign countries today can be bad as well. Our servicemen and women go on patrol, not knowing if there are IED’s, car bombs, or snipers waiting to take them out. Seemingly safe and quiet areas can suddenly become battlegrounds and killing fields. Many of these brave men and women come back seriously wounded, disfigured, or with severe cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which can require years of therapy to overcome. And there are still too many times when these brave men and women come back home in a flag-draped casket that arrives at Dover Air Force Base.
Recently a football player compared his being away from his family for games that were out of town, away from their home stadium. The comment drew many, many cries of outrage, and rightly so, and he later had to apologize. He spoke without thinking. Because he has no clue about what our military families go through, or what their loved ones go through who are away from them in foreign lands. And that’s a sad commentary on our thought processes today.
So today, let’s stop and thank a veteran for all of our freedoms that we hold so dear (or that we don’t even stop and think about at all because they’ve always been there). They give up a lot on a daily basis, and so do their families. Without them, our lives would not be what they are today.
To all veterans and to those who are still serving, and their families, Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you for your service. May God bless you all, and keep you safe.
Today is Election Day. Mid term elections as they’re called, since the presidency isn’t at stake this time.
What is at stake, however is the future of how this nation will look in the years to come.
We are voting for each and every member of the House of Representatives. And there are 34 Senate seats to be decided; that’s 1/3 of that side of Congress.
Why should we vote? And why should we care?
Because if we don’t make our voices heard, others will. And those others can decide how the next two or more years of our nation will be run. You think it isn’t important?
It is, because our freedoms are at stake more than any time in recent years. There are people running who are promising to try and dismantle some of those freedoms because they don’t agree with them. But if you disagree with those running and don’t make your voice heard, or those who are already in office and trying to get re-elected, then don’t complain about how things happen.
Because if you don’t make your voice heard, your apathy doesn’t give you the right to complain. Yes, it’s only one vote, but if thousands thought like that and decided their vote didn’t count, think about the difference that makes. Apathy elects candidates as well.
Elections have consequences, and it’s more important than ever to go out and vote today and make your voice heard. I may not vote for the same candidate you do, but you have just as much right to vote for your candidate of choice as I do. And you need to do that.
You wouldn’t want to let someone else decide where you’re going to live, or where you’re going to work, or where you’re allowed to go?
Then why would you let someone else decide how your country is run, and who makes the laws that affect your everyday life and the lives of your children and grandchildren?
Our forefathers fought and gave their lives to give us the right to exercise our rights to have a say in our government by voting. In many other countries there is no such right, or if there is, it’s a sham, controlled by the government so that the people have no choice of candidates. Some countries have even killed those who had the nerve to go vote.
I remember the first time I voted, and how excited I was to finally be able to actually have a say in our nation’s government. And I have missed very few elections in those 50+ years. I believe it’s a right and a privilege too important to miss.
So please, sometime today, go cast your vote. No matter what the election deniers would have you believe, your vote does count. It’s valuable. And it’s important.
In our household, fall usually means along with football, the baking season is about ready to begin. I’ll start with blueberry muffins and definitely cornbread to go with chili on a fall Sunday afternoon. But then pie and cookie baking season starts.
The flamingos never really showed a lot of interest in baking, except to eat as many cookies as they could, sometimes taking entire batches away as fast as I’d make them. Which didn’t make me happy, but how can you stay mad at a flamingo?
However, one day recently they strolled in the kitchen and announced they wanted to learn how to bake and decorate cakes and cookies! Their reasoning…they enjoyed the beautiful and tasty desserts at their recent bridal and baby showers so much, they decided it was time to learn how to make their own! “Think of the money we can save for our parties,” they said! And it’ll be so much fun!
Fun for who? I wondered, knowing they’d use my kitchen as usual, turning it pink while they were in there, and making a mess. But they always cleaned up afterwards, so how could I really refuse? So I told them they could, as long as they shared some of their creations with us!
They readily agreed, and told me they’d already picked out several cookbooks from Amazon that they were planning to buy…with my credit card! Uh, that was a no! They looked at me with their big flamingo eyes and blinked their huge flamingo eyelashes, and I agreed to buy one, with them getting the rest. What’s a flamingo mom to do?
When the cookbooks arrived, the flamingos spent hours going through them, picking out favorite cake and cookie recipes to try. I suggested they try just one of each at first, but each bird wanted to try their wings on their own creation. I knew we were in trouble.
The following Saturday they strolled into the kitchen, wings full of shopping bags filled with baking ingredients, cookbooks, baking pans and cookie sheets, and of course a supply of wine and champagne. (Remember, they ARE flamingos!
Of course I left them to their fun as they started setting everything out, turning my kitchen pink, putting on their flamingo aprons, and spreading out their cookbooks! I must admit, I was a bit worried about what the house would look like when they were done!
When I came back I did find a bit of a mess, which I expected. The flamingos’ feathers were full of flour and cake frosting, not to mention my kitchen floor and countertops. And they were all a little tipsy. But surprisingly, there were a number of flamingo cakes and cookies set out on the counters.
“So explain what happened here,” I asked. The flamingos looked at me, obviously a bit embarrassed that I’d caught them in that shape. They looked around to see who was going to speak up, and Flossie, who looked the least inebriated, put down her wine glass and tried to explain.
“Actually,” she began, “mixing the dough and baking everything wasn’t hard. But then we had to decorate them, and well, it was a lot harder than we thought. So we decided we’d just have a bit more wine to see if it helped…and it sort of did. I mean, look at these creations!”
They were quite good. I was impressed. But I still had to wonder…then the doorbell rang. With a delivery of another beautifully decorated flamingo cake and 2-3 boxes of decorated flamingo cookies!
I looked at the flamingos, and they looked incredibly embarrassed. “Well,” Flossie began, taking a big sip of wine,“ we’d promised the rest of the flock to bring home our goodies got a party, and none of them really turned out that well, so we had to order some from that bake shop you told us about, so the rest of the group wouldn’t know how bad we did! Please don’t tell on us.”
I promised them their secret was safe with me. They looked so relieved.
So they cleaned up their mess, turned my kitchen back to normal, and promised from now on they wouldn’t try their wings at baking. And they’d be sure to continue to buy their cakes and cookies, rather than try to make them.
“Good idea,” I replied. And before they left I even had a glass of wine with them along with a couple of cookies!
And I got to keep one of the cakes and all of the cookbooks!
Now, I wonder, what are they going to think of next?