Every morning the first words out of my mouth are a blessing offering thanks for having lived through another night and awaking to a new day. Each day, whether I’m “feeling it” or not, offers possibilities for growth, understanding, forgiveness, creating, working, building, and on and on. I am grateful for that prayer of thanks, and its reminder that daily possibilities for healing, hope, abundance and love abound. I am grateful for possibilities!
On the last night of Chanukah I ventured out into the cold to snap a few photos. As I gazed up at our window, I was struck by the contrast between the snowy landscape in which I stood and the warmth and light coming from within. What a striking metaphor! Yet, that is the metaphor offered by Chanukah and the lights we kindle. When all is darkness and cold outside, the light of the spirit within each of us offers respite from the dark coldness that too often appears to envelop us. It only takes one light to illuminate that darkness, one light to illuminate the path we must follow or the place in which we dwell. But once that light is kindled, another light, and then another and another begins to ignite. May your home, your heart, your spirit be aglow with the light of Chanukah throughout the coming year. I am most grateful for light and warmth Chanukah candles emit on a cold winter night.
Today I am going from the lofty to the lowly, from the holy to the mundane. Yet, as I’ve aged (and matured, I hope) I discover that the lowly, insignificant things in life, those things we overlook or take for granted, are worthy of gratitude, too. In fact, the lowly stuff is the mortar that holds up the lofty stuff. As I write this post, Shabbat is almost upon us. I busily prepare the house and the food before lighting the Shabbat candles because once Shabbat arrives I will not cook or clean or engage in any activity that involves creating something new or different. Shabbat is the day we rest from the busyness that fills our lives with creative endeavors. At the same time however, the rabbis tell us we are to partake of hot meals and extend hospitality to friend and stranger alike. The conversation and hospitality piece is enjoyable and doable, but how does one offer a hot meal when forbidden to ignite a flame or flip a switch on the Sabbath? Ahhh, that is where our ingenuity comes in. Throughout history we read of the many creative ways Jewish home-makers concocted to keep food hot on Shabbat. Today we use crockpots. I have several because keeping kosher requires separate cookware for meat and milk. Besides cleaning the apartment, Fridays are also spent preparing Saturdays meals. The wonderful thing about crock pots is that I can prepare a dish in the pot, put it on to cook before Shabbat, then turn the temperature to low and leave all Shabbat so that we have a hot dish to serve with our meals. Voila! There you have it. 🙂 I am grateful for crockpots!
****Just so you know, this post was written before Shabbat and scheduled to post on Shabbat. I’m experimenting to see if this is something I will want to continue doing. We’ll see.
The Sabbath peace. Shabbat Shalom. In the upheaval of relocating and trying to find things in the mess that begs for order, I am a frazzled, short-tempered mess myself. At sunset today however, a peace will descend on us as I light the candles and usher in the Sabbath. One of the first things I do with every move is dig out our Shabbat candelabra and get the buffet set up so that when Shabbat arrives, we have at least one place in our big mess that is what we call “Shabbasdic,” a place that when the candles are lit, there is beauty and peace. I will not lie; there are times when it is difficult to shut off all the voices and perceived demands that must be met. I squirm when I feel that I “must” busily unpack more boxes or finish a paper to meet a deadline. In all honesty, Shabbat is not for the faint of heart. Having made Shabbat a regular part of my life for the past 13 or 14 years however, I would not give it up. It is that time of the week when we retreat from this world to a place that is holy, a place where we relax, reflect, and recoup. Shabbat energizes our spirits and feeds our souls. We sleep. We pray. We eat. We visit with friends. We learn Torah. Someone described Shabbat as an island in time, an appropriate analogy if ever there was one. This week I need for Shabbat to arrive. As much as there is to do to prepare for Shabbat, and as much as I have to do for my class before sunset, I admittedly feel some angst. But whatever happens, where ever I am in my “planned agenda,” when Shabbat arrives, I stop what I’m doing and light the candles. When that happens, peace and calm descends on our home. Every time. So today I am extremely grateful for the Sabbath and for Shabbat Shalom that will soon arrive.
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)
I can’t remember if I have written of my early morning rituals or not, but this morning as I sit here nursing my first cup of coffee of the day, I am struck with the beautiful quiet that envelops me. In the distance I hear birds chirping (beautiful sound), and my cat, Pele, is curled up on the couch beside me. Richard is still asleep and I watch the sun rise. In this quiet place, I spend time in morning prayers and self-reflection. This is a sacred time for me as I prepare for the day ahead. I am not pleasant when this first hour of the day is interrupted. Ask Richard. I am grateful for my early morning quiet.
As I get older, I am coming to appreciate light more and more. One of my biggest complaints when I am studying is that there simply is not enough light. Strong light directed on the point of my interest is just as bad. I need surrounding light, too. In order to read, sew, work on the computer, whatever else I use my eyes for, I need light directly on the subject and light to illuminate the entire room. It’s an age thing, I’m sure. But this age thing is giving me a new appreciation for the importance of light. I could write a whole sermon on the light in both literal and allegorical senses. Another time. For today, I look out my window and notice the interesting shadow that the rising sun creates on our balcony and think of what a wonderful thing light is. I shot this photo during the Cherry Blossom Festival last year (2010). I am truly grateful for light.