Category Archives: Musings on Life and Beauty

Thanksgiving: Hungry, Full + FREE Gratitude Quotes to Download

Today as I left the grocery store I saw a man standing at the stop sign with a very simple cardboard sign in his hands.  It read, “hungry.”

The sign, the man, his situation – it always tugs at my heart, but “hungry” really got to me today, leaving me with tears running down my cheeks when I drove away.  “Hungry.”  Aren’t we all?  And for so much more than food?

My pie-making tools are on the counter awaiting the first pie of the season, my refrigerator stocked with everything for the big meal.  Yet in the hustle of it all, I’m both “full” and “hungry.”  Full, because I see the hand of God in my life and know that even in scarcity and adversity He is trustworthy, and that the darkest of days only make His light brighter when it appears.  Thanksgiving has become for me a time to take a step back emotionally and mentally and look hard to “see what God hath done.”  He does it masterfully, so my heart is full.  And I’m hungry.  Not just for the mouthwatering food that will grace the table, but more so for my family.  I’m hungry for them to feel it.  I want nothing more than for my children to have eyes to see, and for them to hunger for the feeling of “full” that can only come from recognizing our blessings AND their source.

Don’t you love having a holiday that reminds us to count our blessings?!  We should obviously live in thanks all year, but it’s wonderful to have a time of year that helps us focus on gratitude.  I have great confidence in what gratitude does for us when we practice it.  Early in the month our family started a gratitude jar with the invitation to write down what you’re thankful for and add it to the jar.  But the month always flies by with school and athletics — suddenly the holiday is tomorrow and I look around at my children and want so much for them to get it.  Are we truly grateful?

This year I went looking for some gratitude quotes that capture my feelings on this subject.  Tonight each of my children will find a different quote waiting for them at their place setting and we will discuss them together over a simple meal.  I’m really interested to hear what they think.

I’m hoping everyone enjoys it.  I printed them on parchment paper and decided it might be fun to start a little collection of gratitude quotes and do this more often!

I compiled eight of them in a PDF to share with you.  CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD GRATITUDE QUOTES

I will also be sharing my all-time favorite Thanksgiving quote with my extended family at our Thanksgiving dinner.  It’s by William Bradford, taken from his history of Plymouth Plantation, and I re-read it every year.  I love the way he testifies that God can work in our lives without all the luxuries we sometimes think are necessary.

I’ve shared this quote before, but decided it was time to type it up.  It is also available to download.  CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BRADFORD QUOTE

I had a local copy shop print mine in color on their nicest, smooth cardstock for a few cents and I love how it looks.

I really hope these things help prepare my children’s hearts to want to live gratefully.  Quotes such as these are a blessing to my soul – they center me, offer perspective, and give me confidence in Christ and hope for the future.  The best kind of “full.”

Wishing you happy – and grateful – Thanksgiving.
With all my heart,
Jennifer

Appreciating Little Dreams

I have some big dreams.  We all do.  Some of them, I believe, will come true along the way, some will never happen, some will evolve into different pictures and weave their way into my life at least partially.  Every once in a while the world feels scary and fear grips my heart as I wonder how we’ll make our dreams come true for our children, especially.  Of course, all we can do is our best, leaving the future to the Lord.  But with so many big things out of our control, I’m learning that I am happier if I notice the little dreams that come true in my life.

Last weekend I made my family our favorite fall dessert:  my rustic pear tart.   I pulled up my post to make sure I remembered the measurements correctly and a sentence in that post caught my attention.  “Pears at the end of the summer, fresh from a local orchard.”

My heart stopped for a minute.  That’s not the story of this pear tart.  This pear tart carries the tag, “Pears at the end of the summer, fresh from my backyard tree.”  A feeling of warm happiness washed over me as I realized with total clarity that the fulfillment of a dream is embodied in that statement.  It’s not a huge, grand dream, and it certainly isn’t a dream that most people have.  It won’t pay for college or be the defining characteristic of my children’s upbringing.  A lot of people I know grew up with it like I grew up with a lawn in my yard.  They would never label it a dream; it was just part of life, something they didn’t have to think about, always there.   But I had it, the happy picture in my heart of my home with fruit trees in back.  The happy picture of our family carrying baskets of fruit inside together.  This is why I love my cherry tree so much.  It’s part of the picture I treasure.  But pears?  Pears are something special.  A little dream, come blissfully true.

When we sliced that tart into ten pieces and ate it together, what I felt was reverence.

Another little dream:

Saturday afternoon my daughter and I began harvesting my lavender for the last time this season.  I let it go too long, but I was enjoying the sight of the bees so much, and leaving the color in the yard made me smile.   The plants have done well this summer, growing large and beautiful, covered with more lavender than I anticipated.  Harvesting lavender is a happy activity.  There you are, arms, hands and face surrounded by the heavenly scent of fresh lavender, enjoying the silvery green color of the stems against the rich purple blooms while the bees work around you in happy companionship.

Saturday night I popped into a local shop for a minute.  The owner came up behind me to say hello as I placed an order for a favorite drink to take home and share with my husband.  We talked about some tempting lemon cookies on the counter and then her face grew serious as she put her arm around me and told her girls behind the counter about my lavender shortbread cookies.  I smiled and promised to bring her some, then said, “Just this afternoon I was outside cutting my lavender for the last time this year.”  I watched the look on her face and realized, “I’m living a dream.  It’s a small dream, on a small scale.  It’s not a lavender farm, but it’s my lavender.  It doesn’t help with the laundry or the cleaning, but it’s a dream and I’m lucky enough to live it.”

I walked to my car feeling terribly blessed.

Those two realizations opened my eyes to so many more little dreams come true.  The joy of a three year old curled up in my lap reading Goodnight Moon with me.  The discovery of a book that moved me to tears.  The happy closeness of my husband who is my life’s greatest dream come true.  The dream of motherhood come true all around me, growing and bulging until it’s so huge I sometimes forget it’s a dream.  A stack of freshly washed and folded white towels.  Having a guest room to share with family.  Pumpkins on the front porch.  Driving down a tree-lined street in the fall.  Prayed for growth and development happening in a child’s life.  A quiet evening at home laughing and playing UNO with my family.  When I really look for them, I realize there are little dreams come true all around me and it fills my heart with gratitude.

Gratitude is a nice feeling to live with.

 

Extraordinary Ordinary

A pile of ordinary seashells.  I’ve been collecting them for almost 40 years.  Southern California beaches aren’t known for beautiful seashells, but as a young girl it didn’t matter how ordinary they were – to a child from Colorado they were treasures, beautiful little miracles totally unlike anything I’d seen at home.

Extraordinary ordinary shells.  The experience of walking, looking, bending, holding, examining, wondering about these shells became my greatest pleasure on our annual trips to the ocean, and it never lost its charm.  I still find myself examining these ordinary shells with a wonder that makes them extraordinary to me.

Yes, they are similar and there may be hundreds of them strewn across the sand.  But if you really look closely no two are the same.  Each has slightly different markings, color, chips, scuffs, symmetry and irregularity.  The more you look the more you find as each shell becomes something to marvel at.

People are like this.  We come in different shapes, sizes and colors, yet we are so like one another.  Most of us are simply ordinary people living ordinary lives, spending much of our time doing ordinary things.  And yet we’re not.  If time is taken to examine any one of us we will find an extraordinary story just waiting to be heard, an extraordinary person hoping to be loved.  We find that we are unique and of infinite worth.   We are extraordinary ordinary people.

My shell collection over the years has expanded to include larger, more exotic shells I purchased and enjoy displaying during summer months.  They are beautiful and unique as well, but somehow it’s the common shells that really capture my heart.

I’ve kept them on my kitchen table all summer, a reminder that people matter, that everyday moments matter, that the ordinary is extraordinary, that I’ve got to keep my eyes open so I don’t miss the simple beauties of family life, so I can see people for who they really are.

Our world feels so torn up right now:  natural disasters, sickening reports in the news, so much suffering and death and loneliness, disagreement among decent people about how to fix it all.  I worry that in the tension and stress of everything we may forget that the ordinary person on the other end of the interaction is more like us than different, someone worth getting to know, someone whose story and perspective matters.  My shells are all just that:  simple shells, but each made their own journey to the beach.  We are simple people, each on our own journey through life.  The journey matters.  We matter.

My family and I received a gift of mercy recently at the hands of two ordinary people who began as strangers, but a few hours later were people I’ll never forget.  The string of very simple things they did, motivated by a sincere desire to understand and do the right thing – to be good – became a powerful act of kindness and mercy.  I’ll never forget it.  We all have power to do this in our individual sphere of influence.

We are extraordinary ordinary people.

Today I re-dedicate myself to living in a way that honors this truth.  I commit to love my family, to love and serve my neighbor, to see the good in others, to be kind to a stranger.  My prayer is that my simple efforts can help infuse the world with a little more goodness and love.  Will you join me?

Jennifer

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