Dear Daniel

*Today’s letter is written by fellow blogger and writer Mary Agrusa. Thank you, Mary, for your willingness to share your gifts with the world!*

Dear Daniel,

blog mary agrusa nov 14From the first time Mikael demurely admitted she was seeing someone, her tone of voice told me you were special. For the longest time she tantalized me with this well kept mystery – like a decorated gift under the Christmas tree. The suspense exhilarated me.

Every now and then she’d let something slip, “Daniel’s soooo.” My gift appeared to be exquisitely wrapped…but what was inside? Hmm. She’d drop clues, share tidbits. I’d pick up the box, feel its weight and shake it for any revealing noises. Still the contents eluded me. Who was this person who’d captivated my little girl’s heart?

Finally the trip to Boston came. In addition to time spent with Mikael the opportunity to begin to unwrap my gift arrived. What would I find? I rooted for fireworks and shooting stars, and I wasn’t disappointed. When you casually mentioned that the two of you had discussed marriage, my heart soared. “He’s a keeper!” it proclaimed.

That afternoon in March I was only privy to half of the phone conversation between you and Joe. I could read between the remarks on our end that a wedding was in the works. I spent the next six weeks with my head in the clouds. Mikael had found her Prince Charming and I couldn’t be happier.

On that Friday in May at the Marriage Bureau in New York City, the gift was totally revealed – a son, and what a son he is! It was an honor to stand as a witness to your commitment to Mikael, complete with a non-return clause LOL. Blessed with a kind, compassionate heart, a great sense of humor, a profound love of God, coffee, all things Irish and Boston sports teams, you are Mikael’s perfect counter-balance. I marvel daily at God’s gracious addition to our family. He thought of everything.

Daniel, thank you for being “the one.” You took Mikael into your heart and made her (and Joe and I by default) an integral part of your life. In you I’ve received a gift of immeasurable worth and one I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Love,

Mary

Change gonna come

*Thanks to Mary Agrusa, today’s guest contributor, for sharing this beautiful piece with everyone.*

summer_haze_by_purpledino92-d5b2qf6

Summer Haze by Purple Ino 92

This weekend I saw it. Looking out my living room window I got the distinct impression that fall had arrived. Perhaps the approaching storm played tricks with the refractions of the sun’s rays, but the world outside was glazed in a more muted, mellow glow.

Mid-July in the Deep South is vaporous, a steam bath. Humidity spikes and the air is thick and muggy. Clothes stick like second skin as I stop glistening and start sweating. The autumn hue was deceptive. One step outside and reality hit like a warm, damp wash cloth. Still – the hint was there. Fall’s on the way.

I’m cognizant of the subtle, seasonal changes in the sun’s light long before the calendar or temperature confirms my observation. In the depth of winter I’m encouraged that warmer days are in my future. When everything wilts under summer’s sweltering haze, I take heart. It won’t be long before the trees adorn themselves in shades of vibrant color, citron to deep burgundy, and stand out in brilliant contrast to the cloudless, cobalt blue sky. I enjoy spring and fall the most. I prefer their moderate climes to the penetrating cold of winter or summer’s stifling heat.

Life appears to emulate the cyclical rhythm of nature. We have new beginnings and periods of growth (spring); the out-growing and passing of the familiar and established (fall). Like winter, the cold, hard grip of loss: loved ones, jobs, health, finances and the like leave us buried. Entombed under an avalanche of adversity we wonder, “Will I ever see the light of day again?” Like the onslaught of a long, hot summer we find ourselves under intense, relentless pressure and cry, “Will someone PLEASE, turn off the heat!” Depending which season life finds me in determines how tightly I cling to it. At times I want to move in, unpack and stay forever; other times I’m running hard for the nearest exit – if I can find one.

I’m thankful that in life, just as in nature, God sends hints that change gonna come. I praise Him for those snippets of hope that remind me that this too will pass. Reinforced with fresh, clearer vision, I’m rejuvenated to continue my walk of faith, confident that He knows exactly where I’m at and He’s in control.

Outside my window the sun now blazes and the temperature matches its intensity. I’m not concerned – I’ve seen what’s coming and I’m prepared for change.

Angels unawares

My car angel reminds me of all the people God has used to help me in the past.

My car angel reminds me of all the people God has used to help me in the past.

My whole life, God has used people to help me, serve me, minister to me, and reach out to me without my knowledge and without my permission. These people, whether they intended to be or not, were used by God in my life. Some of them might not have wanted to be used by God, but God didn’t give them a choice, thankfully. He uses whomever, whenever, however He wants. He is God, you know.

If I’m looking for these moments–little miracles when God transforms ordinary people into angels for my benefit–I find that there are too many to count and certainly too many to write about.

When I was five years old, I stayed after school for Brownies–not the fudgy kind. The kind who wear brown uniforms and aspire to grow into Girl Scouts someday. My mom was at home, sick with a cold, and I knew it. Even at five, I felt the need to take care of others. So I abandoned the meeting and raced outside to try to catch the bus. I was too late. The bus was leaving the parking lot, and as I ran after it, I tripped and fell and skinned the palms of my hands on the rough surface of the asphalt. I cried, knowing I’d waited too long to catch the bus and that my indecision about whether to stay after school would mean that my mom would have to drive to school to pick me up in her ill condition.

Thankfully, one of the “big kids,” a high school boy with a rockin’ mullet, saw my plight and asked the bus driver to stop. He opened the back door of the bus (probably without the driver’s permission) and beckoned me to the bus. I was relieved and thankful when he lifted me off the pavement into the bus and wiped the snot from my face. I’m sure he didn’t know that he was helping me help my mom, a single mother of four daughters.

When I was in high school, I worked as a carhop at Sonic. Granted, I quit in December when the temperatures plummeted, and I realized that I could make almost the same amount of money per hour while contained in a heated, dry building serving up hot fries and Big Macs. But prior to quitting, I sucked it up and carried trays of fast food out to patrons while freezing my tail off. One school night, right before closing as the wind wailed and the rain pelted my classy black Sonic jacket, I delivered two Brown Bag Specials to a minivan. A pretty Asian woman was behind the wheel, and she handed me a $5 bill as a tip and thanked me for facing the elements so that her family could have supper without getting out in the storm.

I’m not sure if she was always a kind, generous customer, but God used her that night to remind me that even seemingly insignificant tasks can serve a greater purpose and that there are still good people with compassionate hearts in the world. I still see that lady around town once in a while. I’ve never told her thank you, but maybe I will next time I am in line behind her at our local coffeehouse.

My sophomore year of college with my little sister, Jessie

My sophomore year of college with my little sister, Jessie

As a college student, I blazed a trail between my hometown and Bartlesville, Oklahoma, more times than necessary to visit the man my heart beat for. I’d traveled those highways so many times that it had become second nature. In true irresponsible college student fashion, I often drove on too little sleep, too late at night, with too many things on my mind. One day after leaving Bartlesville, one of my tires blew out just as I pulled away from the tollbooth. I panicked. I called the boyfriend, but he was two hours away. I told him I’d figure something out and would call back if I couldn’t. My version of “figuring something out” was to roll up my windows, lock my doors, and pray for God to miraculously inflate my tire.

He didn’t. But a kind, middle-aged man in a pick-up truck pulled up behind my little Honda Civic. He approached my window slowly, and I cracked it just a tad so I could hear his words.

“Ma’am, I can change your tire for you. You don’t have to get out of the car.”

I hesitated. My mom had warned me about creepy perverts on the interstate and had told me about her near-death experience when one of them tried to attack her after pretending to know who she was and getting her to pull over onto the shoulder. Two truckers used their CB radios that day and helped her escape, blocking the man in and helping police officers identify his vehicle. I didn’t want to go through that kind of ordeal.

“No thanks.”

He had a pained look on his face, a look that told me that he understood exactly why I was declining his offer to help and a look that told me that he felt sorry that he couldn’t help because of all the jerks in the world who’d given men like him a bad name. He walked away.

Then I remembered that I’d seen a sign along the highway in Oklahoma with a number to dial for emergency assistance. I dialed it.

A grumpy state trooper approached my window 20 minutes later. I then learned that the emergency number was for real emergencies, not flat tires.

The state trooper told me that he normally would never change a tire for someone, but since I was a single, white, tiny female so far from home, he would do it just this once. He made me watch him change the tire and explained what he was doing. I told him that my stepdad had taught me the same thing, but that I had barely paid attention. He told me to buy a better car jack and used the one in his squad car instead of mine. After putting the spare on my car, he instructed me to turn around in the median and follow him back through the tollbooth and five miles into Muskogee to buy a new tire. I did exactly as he instructed, and when we got to Wal-Mart, he waved and drove away.

I never thanked him, and I never thanked the man whose help I refused. But God used those men to remind me that not everyone has bad intentions and that He loves me enough to take care of me, even when I have been too irresponsible to take care of myself.

As a young director of career development, 2006

As a young director of career development, 2006

A few years later, as a young professional woman on a business flight to Michigan one cold November, I sat next to a man who, if my memory serves me well, was named Steve Price. He worked for Steelcase, a corporation responsible for designing and selling state-of-the-art office furniture. He showed me pictures of some of the chairs he was designing and told me about his home, his children, and his job. After circling over Grand Rapids a few times, our plane headed to Detroit. The pilot informed us that we were unable to land in Grand Rapids due to rough weather conditions but that we’d  be landing in Detroit and could catch a flight to Grand Rapids the next morning.

This put quite a damper on my business trip, which was a two-day, full-to-the-brim excursion in an effort to better understand the inner workings of the world of career development in higher education. I felt the same panicky feeling I’d felt when my tire exploded in Oklahoma. I was alone, inexperienced, and afraid.

Steve calmly led me through the airport. He negotiated hotel stays for both of us, and he hailed a taxi cab. He paid for the taxi and told me to meet him in the lobby the next morning at 6:30 a.m. He treated me the same way I imagine he would have treated his own daughter if she’d been sitting next to him on that  plane.

God showed me His love and care through the kindness of that man, and He reminded me that He would always provide for me, sometimes without me lifting a finger.

He always has.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels unawares.” –Hebrews 13:2

 

Day 27: Dear heaven-sent lady

*Thank you, Cecilia Baker, for sharing your love story with us on Day 27 of the Dear Gratitude project.*

Cecilia Baker weddingI wish I could thank the lady who decided to do her laundry one Friday night.  She was my fairy godmother.  She appeared one night, and I guess I will never know her until I get to heaven.

The thing is she was not too busy to speak to a young man who had recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to take a new job after having been in the Army for two years. He was doing his laundry as well in the apartment laundromat. She struck up a conversation and said, “What is a young man like you doing his laundry on a Friday night?  You should be out with your friends having a good time.”

He must have told her that he was new in town and didn’t know anyone yet. She just “happened” to go to Belmont Heights Baptist Church and decided to tell him they had a Single Young Adult department that had around 50 young professionals his age and that he might like to visit the class. Being shy, he probably wouldn’t have gone to the class without more encouragement.

It didn’t end there because she remembered his name, John Baker, and told the director of the Singles class and must have also told him the apartment number. A few weeks later John had a knock on his door, and the director, Joe Haynes, and a young man from the class were paying him a visit.

Maybe you have participated in an outreach from your church before and visited newcomers to your town or visitors to your church.  Don’t ever think it’s just a minor thing to do. It can change someone’s life.  These two fellows introduced themselves and told him about the class and gave him directions and the times of services, and one Sunday when he was not going back to his home in Memphis, he decided to visit.

He walked in the door of our class which was in a house adjacent to the church. I saw him right away and really didn’t get to meet him personally that day.  I was disappointed when they put him in a different small group from mine.

He started coming when he was in town, and I did meet him later. The whole Singles department was planning a weekend retreat, and the week before the retreat, I summoned up my courage and asked him if he wanted to sign up to go on the retreat.  He said he was thinking about it.  I told him it was the last chance to sign up today, and he said he would like to go if I would ride with him!  Of course I said yes.  Cecilia Baker's wedding

He and I began dating after that, and the rest is history!  I am so thankful for the mystery lady who I now think was heaven-sent to encourage a young man to go to church, my husband, Johnny Baker.

Day 13: Dear Donit

*Today’s post for Day 13 of the Dear Gratitude project is by another child, my best friend’s son, Dailen. Dailen reminds me that it’s right and good to be excited about and grateful for the small blessings that often get overlooked. I think I’ll get a doughnut for myself today :).*

Dailen and his "turkey in disguise"

Dailen and his “turkey in disguise”

Der Amandu,

Thank you for the ovr-stufted morshmellow crème filld donit!  I love it!  Its my favorit!

Thanks, Dailen James Horseman

DailenThankUletter scanned

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.

Gratitude–the little things DO count!

*Today’s post was written by someone I love dearly who prefers to remain anonymous. She is the person who helped me kick the habit of an ungrateful attitude and instilled in me the importance of choosing gratitude daily.*

The first flower I saw this spring. Just one little thing to give thanks for!

The first flower I saw this spring. Just one little thing to give thanks for!

By focusing on and compiling a list of the things that you are grateful for in your life, you actually accomplish a few extremely effective things at the same time.

1. It allows you to bring into your awareness the good things that are happening in your life on a day-to-day basis. With repetition, this will take your focus off of what you perceive as the negative aspects of any situation. It will help develop the habit of always looking for the positives amidst the negatives that happen in your life.

2. By shifting the focus off of only the negative aspects of a situation, you are able to see more clearly the positive things that can come out of the situation. In turn, this puts you into more of a vibrational state that attracts the things you desire.

3. While you are doing this procedure, it is automatically rewriting the negative script you have allowed to be placed in your subconscious and replacing it with positive and productive scripting that delivers more positive and productive outcomes.

Gratitude opens the heart, and that’s why it provides a fine orientation to the inanimate, human, and divine dimensions of the world.

A simple and effective way to practice gratitude is by making giving thanks part of your everyday life. It’s like reciting blessings daily.

The original term for blessing is the word “knee.” When you say a blessing, it’s as if you have bent your knee in an act of gratitude. The habit of saying blessings can remind you to be thankful when you hit a green light, or the salad is fresh, or the garden is getting the rain it needs, or your child came home safely from school as usual.

The practice of gratitude might slowly but insistently change your orientation to the world and your life. Why not try it and see?