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.

Sisterhood award nomination

sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-awaI’m honored to have been nominated by fellow blogger, Toi Thomas, for the Sisterhood of the World of Bloggers award.

In keeping with the award nomination, I’ll share seven things about myself and share my nominations with all of you.

  1. The best advice I ever received about blogging was from my friend Samantha Hartley, owner of Enlightened Marketing. Samantha told me to start writing and that a theme would emerge. I started my personal blog, and a few years later, I noticed that I continually wrote about gratitude, so I started this blog.
  2. The first real writing I did was as a little girl, writing stories fashioned after Anne of Green Gables, Sweet Valley High, and The Babysitters Club books. The stories included page after page of concrete images but lacked real plots for the most part.
  3. I always said I’d NEVER stay in Arkansas. I still live in Arkansas and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
  4. With nine siblings, I’ve got endless material for blog posts.
  5. I have always wanted to work at the Waffle House for a day.
  6. I’m a huge advocate of 12-step recovery programs because of the miracles in my own life and the lives of people I love.
  7. I’m thankful for every single day of life and view them all as gifts from God.

My nominations:

Living on PBJ

Bucket List Publications

Simple Living ABC’s

The Making of Mom

Mary Agrusa

Toi Thomas

Samantha Hartley

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9: Dear Pate

*Thanks to Mary Agrusa, a fellow blogger, for writing the entry for Day 9 of the Dear Gratitude project!*

I’m honored to contribute to Bethany’s blog this month. I dedicate this post to my sister.

Dear Pate,

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography at www.phoopla.com

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography at http://www.phoopla.com

As one of the two remaining members of our immediate family, I’m happy to spend these final chapters of my life with you. You’re amazing.

Opposites can attract; however, as kids we often withdrew to our respective corners to avoid the weird one. You’re probably right on this point. Today, our differences add depth and dimension to our relationship. I love you exactly the way you are.

Despite personal experiences to the contrary, you remain unswervingly devoted to your family. You’ve never been afraid to enter the arena and take the bull by the horns. I’m more apt to stay safely behind the wall to venture out only if and when the dust settles. You are one brave woman.

A true champion of the underdog, you’re willing to spend yourself and your resources to help others despite your own needs. You have the heart of a giver.

Circumstances beyond our control kept us apart for too many years. Mom’s death brought us back together. Although we can no longer traverse the Metro D.C. area as before, any time we spend together is priceless. You are a treasure.

I thank God for giving me a person of excellence, courage, determination, generosity and love for a sister. I am truly blessed.

I Love You,

Mary

 

 

Seeds of life

*Thanks to Mary Agrusa for sharing her thoughts on Mother’s Day with us.*

Sometimes it’s the simple things we share with our children that have the most dramatic impact on their lives. Prior to and for a few years after the birth of our daughter, my husband and I were avid gardeners. Back in the early 70’s we faithfully read Rodale’s Organic Gardening and applied the lessons learned. We planted a wide variety of vegetables in the garden at our home and maintained an additional plot at a community site, specifically for growing corn. A move overseas followed by years of Florida living ended our gardening adventures.

Mikael's garden

Mikael’s garden

Our daughter grew up to be a confirmed urban dweller. She prefers the city to a more laid back country atmosphere. She surprised us two years ago when she shared that, along with a few friends, she had ventured into canning. Last summer she and her husband took the next step and secured a plot in one of Boston’s communal garden sites. Next, a request came for any canning supplies still in storage. We packed up our thirty-something year-old Victorio Strainer and sent it off to serve the next generation of family gardeners. She was ecstatic, and our old friend got a new lease on life.

Patriot’s Day is a state holiday in Massachusetts. It also marks the running of the Boston Marathon and the unofficial beginning of the gardening season. My daughter’s usual routine was to grab breakfast and head to the finish line to cheer the wheelchair and elite racers. Last year she called us all excited. “Turn on the TV and find the race coverage. I’m on the Jumbotron at the finish line.” We scrambled and searched sports channels and internet feeds, but alas, we missed her debut on the big screen.

This year, instead of being at “their spot” at the finish line, my daughter was at the garden. When I called to check on her, I was unprepared for the sound of her tearful, frightened voice. She couldn’t reach her husband. Her calls to his phone went to voicemail. She didn’t know if he had gone to the race, but if he had, he would have been at “their spot,” the scene of the first bomb explosion.

My heart sank. Thoughts of “what if” bombarded my mind. Fear attempted to grip my soul. Suddenly her voice changed. A text from her husband confirmed he was at home safe and sound. For our family, the day had a happier ending.

As a mother I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child. Our son-in-love is the son we never had. To lose him would’ve devastated all of us. Daily we pray angelic protection around them both, and the angels did their jobs that day. I wouldn’t have guessed that the seeds of gardening planted in our daughter’s life so long ago would bloom and not only produce a second generation of gardeners, but also one day save her life.

Day 11–Five thankful people

*Special thanks to Mary Agrusa for writing today’s post for our “28 days of love” project. Be sure to check out her blog as well.*

 

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 107:1

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography & Design

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography & Design

Five categories of people who should give thanks to God are listed in Psalm 107. Which one(s) are you?

Verses 1-3 state that anyone who is redeemed should thank God because He is good and His love never ceases.

Verses 4-9 describe those who were lost, wandered aimlessly and had no hope. Hungry and thirsty, they cried out to God for help. He heard them, led them to safety and cared for them. They’re to thank God not only for His unfailing love, but also for supplying their needs.

Verses 10-15 refer to those in prison literally or figuratively of their own making. Their bad choices produced severe consequences. They’re instructed to give thanks because God set them free from their incarceration.

Verses 17-22 cover those who as a result of their rebellious actions suffer serious physical and psychological illness. Their lives spiraled downhill toward the grave. They cried out to God, He heard them and sent His word that healed and rescued them. They’re to give thanks to God publicly and sing songs of their deliverance.

Verses 23-32 tell of those caught in a ferocious storm. Violent winds and crashing waves tossed them about mercilessly. They cried out to God, Who with a whisper, stilled the storm and guided them to safety. They’re to thank God for His love and praise Him in the assembly of people.

Where ever you find yourself in these groups the end result is the same. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His love never fails.

 

Eating an elephant

Procrastination_by_diablo2097I’m not sure if I agree with Tom Petty’s claim that waiting is the hardest part. Sometimes getting started is more difficult.

Recently, my friend and recent guest contributor to this blog, Mary Agrusa, posted a writing prompt on her LinkedIn group, Christian Bloggers – Cross Currents, related to the word “initiate.” I didn’t have time to write at the moment, but my mind began ruminating on the word as I nursed my baby and stoked the fire in our wood stove.

11 years after graduating from college, I was able to begin pursuing my Master’s degree. It took me 11 years to get started for many reasons; primarily, I procrastinated going to graduate school because I couldn’t make fiscal sense out of the decision to take out more loans in order to pursue a degree which would most likely provide me with opportunities to earn approximately the same income (or possibly less). However, when my husband suggested that I consider going back to school after hearing me daydream aloud about how much I would enjoy spending more time reading, writing, and studying literature, I began praying about it and asked God to open the right doors and close the wrong ones. He did, and I’m grateful. I started school last January at full steam ahead.

I’m now preparing to graduate after completing two more courses this spring and (hopefully, fingers crossed) passing the required comprehensive exam for earning my degree. It took me 11 years to get started, but at least I’m almost finished. The part I’ve been dreading is the only part left–passing the big test and preparing for it. This fall, in addition to my coursework, I read 11 novels in preparation for the exam. My to-read list now contains only short stories, essays, and poems.

Even though I’m down to the home stretch, I dread finishing reading all those works of literature, attempting to commit the styles of writing and gist of the pieces to memory, and perusing practice tests and essay options. Lack of sleep and something new parents refer to as “baby brain” have sucked my scholastic motivation dry.

Photo by Tim Laman, National Geographic

Photo by Tim Laman, National Geographic

But two days ago, I recalled a phrase my wise mentor often repeats: “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”

So I printed out the list of the works of literature the test will cover and charted out a plan for completion. I read one essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the following day, I read two more. And honestly, they were somewhat interesting and thought-provoking. I even found a few quotable lines here and there for my Facebook status updates.

Thankfully, I finally got started.

Eating an entire elephant seems daunting and pretty disgusting. But taking one bite at a time isn’t so bad.