I shot this photo earlier this summer. I love its simplicity, its aliveness. It appears to me that this simple little wildflower is open wide to the sun as if to shout for joy for a new day. This morning as I crawled out of bed and started puttering about our apartment that is beginning to fill with boxes in preparation for our eminent move a few days hence, I uttered a prayer of thanks for this, a new dawn, new possibilities, new surprises. Every morning that we awake to a new day is a morning to celebrate life. I know that life is oftentimes difficult, and that many of us face enormous challenges. I am aware that suffering visits all of us, some much more than others. Yet, with each awakening comes the humble recognition that we are more than our pain, more than our suffering. With each loss, each ending, each tragedy, a new beginning springs forth. We are beings created in the image of the Divine, placed in a world created in beauty from chaos. Each day holds new possibilities. Each dawn signifies that I have another chance to not only rectify the wrongs I have caused, but to celebrate the fullness of life and the One who made it so. I am humbly grateful for the dawn of a new day!
Today I woke up feeling anxious. Coursework from last week (the week I was in residence) has to be completed and an assignment written. This week’s coursework, too, must be done. I am not as far along as I expected with the packing but this week is it! I must pack everything that is not nailed in place. Richard is far away and I miss him. The list goes on and on. Yet, as I look at my “chaotic” list, I think of how fortunate that this is my chaos. Richard has been gone for a matter of weeks. I have friends whose husbands, wives, and significant others are gone for months or years, to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. I have to pack up all my things to move to another place where there will be space for us with a roof over our heads. I know folks who worked hard, paid their bills, but because of shady banking practices they lost their home and their possessions and must now rely on friends and family to sustain them as they try to get back on their feet. I complain of the aches and pains of aging, but I’ve lost friends and family to cancer, heart disease, and AIDS. All of them would have welcomed the signs of aging and growing older. Instead their lives were cut short. Even though I have friends who have endured the worst kinds of chaos and loss, each seemed to find a place of quiet calm in the midst of their storms. I learn from my friends. I’ve learned that regardless of the “mess” we are in, there are places of retreat that calm our nerves, sustain our spirits, and rejuvenate our bodies and souls. This is a spiritual thing. This is a place where we connect with the Divine and all that is holy. This is a place deep within us where we discover our true priorities. This is a place of peace and assurance that regardless of what is happening around us or what is happening to us, all is ultimately for the good. We must trust that, put one foot in front of the other, and choose life and holiness as best we know it. My chaos at the moment is not as drastic as all that, but it is chaos none-the-less. And when I pause for a few minutes to center myself, I realize that I am grateful for the calm amidst the storm.
- Gratitude 54: Our last visit to Burke Lake (perpetualgratitude.wordpress.com)
- Gratitude (olmwsimpletruths.wordpress.com)
- With My Deepest Gratitude and Thanks (terri0729.wordpress.com)
- Gratitude 62: Fellow Learners (perpetualgratitude.wordpress.com)
- Such gratitude! (charioteers.org)
- Gratitude 61: Those Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice (perpetualgratitude.wordpress.com)
- Day 37: The Calm Before the Storm (aroundthecountryin40days.wordpress.com)
This week I had the privilege of learning with a group of fellow students, all of us preparing to become mental health counselors. I don’t know about you, but most groups I have worked with in the past usually have one or two people who are hard to get along with, or the group break into small cliques. I have been in groups where group members bicker with each other, or tensions are evident just “beneath the surface.” This week however, I must say that our “cohort” had none of that. I found mutual support and honest sharing, giving and receiving feedback, and an overall camaraderie. We came together as strangers and left as colleagues and friends. This cohort will continue learning together through our Facebook group, online course room discussions, and in the near future we’ll be adding Skype (or Adobe something). It is such a pleasure to work with the people pictured above. I am grateful for the Arlington Colloquia Fairfax Cohort (a.k.a. fellow learners!)
Today was the last day of Colloquia, a required residential learning experience for my graduate program. It was held in Arlington, VA, home of Arlington National Cemetery. I love sight-seeing in the metro~Washington, DC, area, but I’ve never been to Arlington. For those of you who follow my other blog, Inspired Vision, you probably know that we are moving next week to Ohio. Since the national cometery was on my route home from my last meeting today, I decided to stop and spend some time there. I don’t know when I’ll get the chance again. I don’t understand war, or why we have to have wars, or why we glorify combat. But I do know that there is evil in this world, and that it is perpetuated on all sides. I think of despots throughout history who seek to destroy other cultures, religions, people. I think about fanatics who feel that anyone who does not agree with their world-view should die. I could go on and on. And then I think about those who commit to a cause higher than themselves, those who sacrifice their lives in an effort to prevent domination by the evil that would destroy indiscriminately. Does that mean that we are “righteous” and do no evil ourselves? No. But I do believe that on the whole, most of our men and women fight for our country with pure motives and the belief that evil can be stopped. I walked among the graves today and looked at the dates of the many battles of the many wars that have been fought by our country throughout the years, and I am grateful for those who answered the call to protect. Our system is flawed, and wars are senseless for sure. But there are too many people and places who have no qualms about wreaking havoc and destruction on those whom they perceive to be weaker, or different. I wonder where this country would be if not for the people of our armed services who are committed to duty and honor for this country and the freedoms we too often take for granted. Yes, I am grateful and humbled for those who have sacrificed their lives through the years for this country and for liberty.
Torch bearers are the ones who lead the way through the darkness. One definition is that torch bearers are the ones who impart knowledge, truth, or inspiration to others. Torch bearers inspire others to take up the cause for justice, for creating a better world whether it be for better living conditions, fairer treatment, equitable pay, etc. The job of a torch bearer is oftentimes dangerous because as leaders, they are the ones most in harm’s way as they seek to change unjust systems or aid the cast outs of society. When they are bearing the torches and leading the way through uncharted territories, they are the ones who are often most feared and reviled by those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Even so, torch bearers forge ahead despite the risks because their sense of humanity and charity, and their outrage over injustices meted out by an unscrupulous few, is greater than fear for their own well-being. Torch bearers are the catalysts to change unjust systems. Torch bearers are the bearers of love and hope amidst pain and oppression. We do not thank them enough, and most often we vilify them until years later when we decide to make them heroes: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, all suffragettes who suffered beatings and abuses so women could receive the right to vote, whistle blowers who lose their livelihood and their friends to expose wrongs, artists who dare to create beauty in the midst of ugliness, writers who tell the stories that need to be told, religious leaders who stand up to the status quo and seek to live by principle rather than by popularity. The list goes on and on. What we hear in the news has very little to do with torch bearers and a whole lot to do with sensation seekers. Wouldn’t it be nice if our elected officials chose to become torch bearers for a better, more humane, compassionate world as opposed to perpetual campaigners who will tell their constituents what they want to hear all so they~the politicians~are assured of continued tenure as an elected representative with all its attending perks (perks they vote for themselves I might add) and the power that goes with the office. As you can see, I am not too keen on politicians at the moment, but I am extremely grateful for torch bearers who are the true change agents of society. Who are our torch bearers today? Who are the ones leading the way against the injustices, those seeking to model kindness, caring, empathy and concern for a hurting world. Where are our torch bearers?
After the unbelievable sweltering heat that was with us for the entire month of July, I appreciate more reasonable temperatures. The temp on our balcony at 10:20am (the clock is still on regular time) is a mere 87.6! Any other time that may seem hot, but after 100 degrees day after day after day, 87 feels like we’re having a cold spell! 🙂 I’ll enjoy it while I have it. I am truly grateful for moderate temperatures!
This was a green tomato in Mom and Dad’s yard. I shot it earlier this summer when we were in Kentucky. I am sure that it is long gone by now, hopefully having graced a plate of salad or some delicious meal that Mom cooked up. There is nothing like fresh food out one’s own garden. The flavor and texture far surpasses veggies in supermarkets which were force-ripened in order to get it to our market shelves. The stuff that we get right out of our gardens, produce that grew and ripened in its proper time is full of flavor. Yes, rabbit and deer and birds and bugs of all sorts enjoy the veggies, too. Even so, that which is harvested from our gardens and served in our homes, is by far the best of all! I am grateful for home grown vegetables!
I know that this is a photographic diary about gratitude, but today there is no photograph. I am exhausted and have neither the energy nor the inclination to peruse my thousands of photos (yes, thousands) to find a suitable photograph for this post. My sweet apartment is full of boxes waiting to be filled as we prepare to move far away from this place. I am up to my eyeballs in studies for my courses (Marriage and Family Counseling Theories, colloquia/Residency). And worst of all, I am alone. Richard has already started his new job, so he is in Ohio while I continue to pack and study. The cat is going nuts. She has been through this before so even though she is blind, she knows something is up and a change is coming. Did I mention that I’m tired? I’m lonely, too. I miss my husband. . .and Mom and Dad, and the kids and grandkids. . . But, despite the “blues” which seem to have gotten a toehold on me, I am grateful. In these days, having a job is good thing. Due to the fact that Richard works even though he would love to retire, I am able to continue my studies in preparation for hanging out my own shingle (Counselor) so that when he does retire, and I am my own boss, we will have the flexibility to travel some, to establish our own schedules and do those things that bring us so much joy. I don’t know how to photograph that–gratitude that Richard has a job so I can go to school. I wanted to publicize how grateful I am for the sacrifices that Richard is making now so that I can pursue my dream, so at this late hour when I am exhausted and lonely, missing him and my family, I pause to be grateful for his love and dedication to help us reach our dreams together. Thank you Richard, I am truly grateful for what you do for our future.