Day 6: Dear wonderful life

*I’m excited to post the second entry by a child this month written by Alexander Tenace. It warms my heart to read words of gratitude written by someone so young. Thanks to his mom and dad, Isabelle and Edward, for allowing him to participate in the Dear Gratitude project!*

TenaceI’m thankful for everything like my dad and my mom. Because without a mom or dad I would be poor and sad. I am thankful because my parents love me.

I am thankful for my camera because I can take photos. I am thankful for my spy phone because it can record people’s voices and I’m also thankful for my leap pad because I can play games on it.

I’m also thankful for a team! The team is the Baltimore Ravens. I like them because they have Joe Flacco. I am thankful for school because I can learn stuff like math and reading.

I am thankful for friends because they are nice to me.

Day 4: Dear friends

*I’m especially excited about today’s post in the “Dear Gratitude” series; it’s written by an awesome person who happens to be my first guest writer under the age of 18! There’s something sweet and real about asking a young person what she’s thankful for. Thanks for sharing, Arden!*

Arden with her friends at a ninja-themed birthday party

Arden with her friends at a ninja-themed birthday party

If I had to say what I was thankful for, it would probably be that I have my friends to also watch my back!

I have so many friends that are make-up crazy, loyal and creative, and animal/nature loving friends!

I think that I’m lucky and thankful to have friends in Conway, and in different places too!  I’m also always open to making new friends too!  I can’t imagine a world without my friends.

Arden Booy from Conway, AR
11/3/13

 

Adventure bandana

*Special thanks to my nephew, Walter Pitts, for serving as today’s guest contributor. He recently returned from a whirlwind tour of Europe with friends, and following his journey via Facebook was entertaining and inspiring. I’m thankful he’s willing to share some of his adventure with you.*

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Our recent adventure crew

Freshman year I applied for my passport at the Fayetteville post office for my trip to Belize with Engineers Without Borders. Today, I trudged down Dickson Street headed to the same post office with the cold burning my cheeks, a bit jet-lagged and more than a bit in culture shock.  The most welcoming words I had heard all day were words like enthalpy, control volume, combined cycle, and a string of words about the accumulation rate’s relation to the conservation of mass. Sitting through the thermo review in power gen, it struck me how odd it was that I could not only completely understand the teacher’s words, but also that it would be possible to have a full conversation with any person I met that would last more than 30 seconds before my vocabulary became a limiting factor. I could make it last longer than a few phrases, than saying ‘good afternoon’, ‘thank you’, ‘I don’t speak Polish’, ‘you’re beautiful’, ‘how much?’  (Don’t worry, not in that order). Shaking some cold off, I grabbed a flat rate envelope and placed a dirty scrap of cloth into it.

Some of you will smile here with recognition; most will probably be a bit confused. This off-white scrap of cloth is a little something that has become endearingly known to me as the Adventure Bandana. A cheesy name given to a dollar bandana purchased at a Wal-Mart on the outskirts of the Smoky Mountains many years ago on a family vacation. I wore that bandana lashed between my bicep and tricep for the entirety of the trip, obviously looking very adventuresome, outdoorsy, and cool. There is a picture somewhere of me, in my long hair stage on this trip, flexing muscles with a man I met with a tattoo that he and a buddy had done themselves with some India ink and a needle. ‘Love Mom’ never looked so cool.

Since that trip the bandana has been with me through storms, up creeks, to the back of many caves, on death defying whippers, in death defying bike wrecks, sailing, floating, fishing, and a myriad of other adventures. It has been covered in blood and snot and more sweat than the great Bambino could shake a stick at. A book could be written on where all this bandana has been with me, but one day, a long time ago, I figured that maybe, seeing as how the bandana had served me so well, it could be something a bit more. 

This is where the story and the essence of the Adventure Bandana really came to fruition.  I started sending my bandana with my favorite people on their travels as a way to say that I was excited for their adventures and that someone back home had them on his mind. Heck, if I was going to let them get lost and take my bandana with them…  The bandana definitely isn’t a good luck charm; if anything it’s the opposite. I’d say the bandana stands for just about everything Superman stands for and maybe a bit more. As I filled out my address label, an old man recommended a different envelope. I could sense immediately that he didn’t really care about what envelope I used but that he needed someone to discuss the merits of various envelopes with. How these people find me, I never know. I think it’s genetic. I think I got it from my mom. 

With the long line I knew I was in for a long conversation. After he learned from me the vast amount of knowledge entailing only my major in school, he told me of his time in the Navy, his time at the Architecture school under Fay Jones and how he lost his job in Oklahoma City and ended up in Fayetteville doing odd jobs in drafting and Civil Engineering. I drifted off thinking of when, in Poland, we were asked by our Chilean friend, Maria, what the difference was in the word ‘trip’, and the word ‘journey.’  We concluded that a journey had something to do with discovering something new and that trip was generally a safer phrase to use in casual conversation to describe traveling. I sealed the package containing the bandana which had only recently been returned to me in Prague via Mr. Joshua Windsor, a friend of mine who lived just down the hall in Pomfret my freshman year. Josh had been studying in Cambridge and had
 graciously agreed to let it see some prestigious education.  Caleb Posey wore it in Indonesia, and Zach has some great stories with the Bandana in Egypt. It has been all over Western Europe and still has green oil paint on it from my first trip to Belize and sweat from my second one.

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Olympic torch from 1936, one of the many interesting finds on our European adventure

I drifted back into the conversation as the man told me that the word ‘job security’ was being taken out of the dictionary. The fact that this was actually two words didn’t strike me at the time, but it did strike me again that I could talk to a complete stranger without a phrase book. And then it struck me too how silly this whole adventure bandana thing was. I bought the darn thing at Wal-Mart; all that made it special was its stories, the blood and sweat, the places it had been. 

Hmmm. I looked at the man again, nodding for the 50th time, and thought about a hospital, and a baby being born. Blood and sweat, the places that baby would go, its story. Then it really blew my mind that I was talking to another human being. I walked to the counter where the exact same snarky Asian-American woman who had taken my passport paperwork over two years ago was standing. This is where my international travel had started. It suddenly seemed very fitting to be sending off the bandana here.

The bandana had only been in my hands for two weeks, through Prague, Berlin, Istanbul, and Budapest, and it felt very satisfying to have it for such a short time. Now the silly scrap of cloth is headed across America to Andy, my roommate and best friend who will be leaving for Rwanda in a couple of weeks. Five something dollars lighter, I wished the lady a good day and told the lonely old gentleman that it was nice talking to him. To me this moment in the post office is the literal end of my latest journey, passing the cloth baton once more on to a friend and fellow traveler. 

What I discovered that is new is up for debate, although I care very little what the consensus is.  I may be jet-lagged and in intense culture shock, but in all honesty, this is the best I have felt in a long time. My belt is tight, clamping my loose pants to my waist, but I am full for now with memories, raising laughter in my stomach that moves down to my gut.

Blood and sweat indeed.

A cup of water

007Today, one of my best friends drove two hours to visit me for the second time since my baby was born. I consider her to be my “soul sister” because of the parallel spiritual paths we trod. As the mother of four children, taking an entire day to visit me, including the driving time, is no easy task. It takes planning, cooperation and assistance from helpful friends and family members, gas money, and time away from other responsibilities.

But I’m so grateful when she is able to visit.

Yesterday, I had a pretty awful morning, to be honest. My daughter was not interested in eating for a span of several hours, much longer than what is normal or healthy for her. She didn’t seem to feel well, but I couldn’t figure out the source of her discomfort. As I attempted to nurse her for the fourth time that morning, tears began to drip down onto her pudgy belly. I prayed and asked for God’s help in determining how to make her feel better and/or how to motivate her to eat. But mostly I let Him know, as if He didn’t know already, that I really, really needed His help, a break, and some sleep.

I let my daughter go back to sleep and put myself back to bed, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to nap because of my endless insomnia. As I lay there awake, I prayed some more. I didn’t sleep, but I rested, and I felt a little less like a lunatic after an hour had gone by.

003Then the phone rang. It was my mom, asking if she could stop by to visit for a bit.

Yes!

Please!

God knew I needed someone to come along to encourage me, complement my baby on how much she has grown and how healthy and beautiful she is, and to remind me that I’m doing a very good job raising her. My mom only stayed a few hours, but it completely changed my emotional course for the day.

My friend’s visit did the same for me today.

As I relaxed this afternoon after she left, with my baby peacefully napping in the next room, a song by Chuck Brodsky performed by David LaMotte came to mind. “We Are Each Other’s Angels” has always been one of my favorite songs, and it’s never sounded sweeter than when I listened to it today.

When God sends me people to minister to me in moments when I need it most, it makes me feel like a marathon runner at the 25th mile marker–exhausted, legs aching, barely able to catch my breath, and ready to just give up.

And then an angel reaches out her arm, holding a paper cup of cool water, just enough to get me through one more mile.

 

Choosing to smile

Regular readers of this blog have enjoyed reading Henry Petty’s guest blog posts. Henry hosts his own YouTube vlog as well as a WordPress blog. I’ve known Henry since college and have watched him grow spiritually, professionally, and personally. He’s a loyal friend and generous person, but I believe his best quality is his ability to see the bright side of grim situations. To the casual observer, he may seem like the most carefree person on the planet who must have had an easy life–how else could he laugh, smile, and share so freely?

Henry and the love of his life

Henry and the love of his life

Let me assure you that it’s not because he’s had an easy life. He chooses to laugh, smile, and share in spite of the obstacles that he’s overcome, and his faith and hope fuel him to inspire other people to do the same. And that is what I am most grateful for about my friend Henry.

Take three minutes away from your strict schedule, stressful shopping excursions, and obnoxious out-of-town guests to enjoy this vlog from Henry :). I’m sure the fun will be contagious.

 

 

Bearable

34 weeks and counting…

Some of you may remember reading my blog post about my personal experience with pregnancy. I caught a lot of flack for that post from people who seemed to misunderstand me. These are typically the same people who encourage every woman, regardless of her personal experience with pregnancy, to just be happy, never mention the misery that ensues with carrying another human being in one’s body, and feel ashamed for even thinking of anything remotely negative related to pregnancy. Many of these people have lost children–and my heart goes out to them. I cannot relate to that experience, but I can certainly imagine that if I were in their shoes, I’d find it a bit easier to focus on the positives during subsequent pregnancies and to be even more grateful for the miracle of it all. Other people simply have wonderful pregnancies–their bodies respond well to the changes, and they don’t recall a single day of feeling miserable. I also cannot relate to these experiences, but I certainly wish I could.

For me, pregnancy has been a trying time in every way. I won’t begin to list the odd physical issues I’ve faced or other symptoms that have plagued me while pregnant. Suffice it to say that one night when I could not sleep–which is every night, but this particular night I decided to write–I compiled a list of reasons to have only one child and to avoid getting pregnant in the future.

Without taking a moment to pause and reflect, I typed out 35 reasons, or “cons.”

Since making that list, I’ve tried to counter it with positives or pros. So far, there are three.

However, even though the pro list is quite short, I can find many things to be grateful for in the midst of the 35 cons. This is a list of what I call “bearables,” which are not the same as pros. These things have made pregnancy more tolerable, even if just for a moment, and for that I am truly grateful.

  1. My true friends have been nothing but empathetic and prayerful. They know me well enough to avoid clichés and empty phrases like “Oh, but just wait until you hold that little baby” or “When you have her, you will forget all about the bad stuff, trust me.” Instead, they pray for me, send me messages inquiring about my health to let me know they’re mindful of what I’m experiencing, and send me gifts and cards to brighten my days.
  2. Humor. Friends have also sent me hilarious links and quotes and books to pass the time and to remind me that the best way to get through something miserable is to find the funny in it.
  3. Science. I may be strange, but I’m strangely comforted by scientific information regarding my baby’s growth and development. Having read upwards of 1,000 pages of scientific goodness–not just books containing suggestions and common sense advice, which I have not found as helpful–has really reminded me of the absolute miracle of my child growing inside me. So thank You, God, for the Mayo Clinic :).
  4. My husband is a lifesaver. Really. I could not have made it through many of the physically trying times–or emotional ones, for that matter–without his support, practical help, and constancy. He has already proven his worth as a father to our baby by performing countless acts of service in love.
  5. Children’s responses to my pregnancy. There is something charming and humorous about seeing each child’s reaction to the burgeoning belly. One of my nieces was completely spooked by the notion of her cousin floating around in utero. The others were fascinated and still cannot seem to stop poking and rubbing my belly and talking to Baby Maggie when I’m around.
  6. Great food. I feel fat all the time now. Since I feel fat, I might as well just give in and eat ice cream if I really feel like it. Not the whole carton . . .
  7. Baby gifts. Opening and touching countless incredibly soft, pink items has been a total pleasure for me. I look forward to using all the gifts we’ve received, but for now, it’s plenty enjoyable to be surrounded by piles of plushness.
  8. Two great doctors. I’ve been blessed with truly caring medical staff who continue to try to help me and never make me feel ridiculous despite how many questions I ask or what sort of odd symptoms I mention.

Diaper cake from my excellent sister-in-law

I’m grateful for the bearables–with them, it’s a little easier to find reasons to smile and items to add to my gratitude lists.

Life review of gratitude

*Special thanks to guest writer Debra Dickey-Liang for sharing with us!*

A person that you are extremely grateful for . . . .

As I read that sentence, my initial reaction was:  “How in the world could you pick just one person?!?”, because immediately, a score of people, and the reasons that I am grateful for them, just overflowed into my consciousness. Thus, this lengthy narrative became an expression of enormous personal gratitude and acknowledgement of the personification of God’s perfect love through His chosen people, revealing a whole litany of worthy recipients of great honor and acclaim.

First and foremost, I am grateful for my parents.  My mom and dad were always the most grounded, genuine people that I have ever known; honest, upstanding, hard-working individuals who taught me well — full of integrity.  A close second are my siblings.  Each of my brothers and my sister have added their own unique layers of individualism and goodness to my life, and I cannot imagine how I would have grown into the person that I am without all of them.

Then there’s my Grandpa Short.  I was the first grandchild, and boy was I spoiled!!  He loved me without reservation, and I loved him back just the same!  He treated me like gold, and let me have the run of his house — no child could have asked for a better grandpa .  . .  Hey, I said I was spoiled!

I am grateful for teachers who saw more in me than I saw in myself.  I am grateful for aunts who extended generous invitations into their homes and day-to-day worlds, not only looking out for me, but granting me new situations and interesting places.

I am grateful for people who have treated me kindly.  Kindly, while I was learning, and who exercised patience and understanding to help me navigate new systems, processes, and protocols in order to perform at the highest level of efficiency in whatever I do; for people who have gone out of their way, above and beyond normal expectations, to show me kindness, lend extra assistance, or, unannounced, to drive back to Little Rock to quietly check on me as I slept in Mom’s waiting room, concerned because I was by myself.

Photo by Jessie Covington of Say Cheese Photography

I am grateful for special friends.  People who have come into my life for a time, a reason, or a season.  Each specially given just at the right time  . . . . when I needed them most!  Friends who gave me a purpose, but who gave back much more than they received; friends who saw my need and surreptitiously took me under their wings and cared about me and watched over me without expecting anything in return; friends whom I have always known that just continue to become more important in the niche that they fill;  friends who remain friends even if I don’t get to see them as often as I would like; friends who are just nice people to exchange a laugh and joke with; friends from a lifetime ago that still break into a smile and give me a huge hug when we meet; friends who have opened their homes, shared their resources, and invited me to engage in their cultures and customs with amenity; people whose lives I entered by way of marriage, embraced me without hesitation, then loved and cared for me as if I had always belonged there; friends who are my children; friends who I know because of my children — some who have it rough, yet never complain.  So many, many people to be grateful for!  Each and all, supplying their own unique and wonderful blend of character and spice of diversity that so richly enhance my life.  A veritable bevy of mortal souls sent with Divine Purpose, that infuse every chapter of my being with an essence of grace and love unequaled, by whom I have been extremely privileged to be touched along this road that is mine to walk.

I am grateful for people who are good to my children; I am grateful for generous and caring neighbors; I’m grateful for people who began as mentors, and quickly earned my admiration and respect because of their authentic spirit, attitude, and strength of character; I am grateful for the person who generously shares her ‘blog’ space, graciously allowing me a writing opportunity that only now do I realize I had been longing for;  I am grateful for ‘little’ people  who come my way, in the form of nieces and nephews, who are way cool, fun, and all without an ounce of insincerity,  each and every one making a contribution of value that adds great dimension to my existence, a variegated and multicolored tapestry of extraordinary facets that glimmer and sparkle in everything that I do.

And a bit surprisingly, this ‘life review’ turned into a tearful and emotional journey of commemoration and remembrance . . . .  \

As I thought back over a lifetime of people, I was deeply and profoundly humbled to recount the indescribable number of wondrous and diverse ministering spirits that God, through His Bountiful Grace and Omnipotence, has placed upon my path, to know, love, and be loved by, throughout the years  –  rare and priceless jewels of great and lasting beauty; innumerable and immeasurable, with blessings beyond compare.

And so any endeavor on my part to denote the gift of one Divinely inspired ‘pearl of great value’ as more cherished than another ‘precious gem’ perfectly given, would nowhere begin to Glorify the Giver of All Gifts, from Whom all Blessings flow, and in Which we Believe, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.(James1:17)   Amen and Praise God, I am extremely grateful for them ALL.

 

 *And I am grateful for my friend Debra who shared her life review of gratitude with all of us. Who makes it into your life review of gratitude?*