I’d like to welcome you into my home – my kitchen specifically. It’s warm, equipped with a nice stove (for which I am grateful) and filled with the fragrance of home-made food.
As sharing a meal is a very special occasion, I’ve invited a few dear friends – and my amazing sister Sanya – to share a song with you (as is our Croatian tradition.) Skip to minute 8:52 to hear the song.
Gratefulness is a virtue that has the power to transform our lives and our world.
Take the popular gratefulness challenges for example.
They are cropping up everywhere, creating beautiful ripples in our world.
It’s good. No… It’s great!
I love reading other people’s beautiful testimonies of how gratitude made a huge shift in their lives. I love reading the ‘gratitude lists’ – many move me to tears.
Most of my prayers these days are simply giving thanks. And I love my daily practice of being mindful of all the good things in my life and feeling grateful for them.
Except when I don’t.
I have a hard time connecting with gratitude when I’m down – tired, exhausted, irritated and anxious about the piles of work ahead, discouraged by the poor results of all the hard work that made me this exhausted in the first place.
And when the exhaustion and the anxiousness make me feel nauseated, achy, dizzy and yucky all-over, I feel sick and just want to give up and all I want to do is cry.
Sure I try to will myself to pause, breathe and recognize the gifts in the hardships…
But sometimes I throw a fit of ungrateful resentment and blame instead. I scream, yell, punch a pillow, stay in bed all day, whatever… take a black marker and scratch my gratitude list – and I wish I could scratch someone else’s pretty list too – especially the parts about being grateful for the little things like smiles from the strangers and bugs in the grass…
Sometimes I just can’t ‘keep it up.’
GRATEFUL FOR ALL THAT WE ARE… NOT JUST THE PRETTY PARTS
I learned that ‘keeping it up’ can actually be bad…
Not just for me, but also for those around me.
Without ever falling apart, admitting and accepting the dark and hard moments, we create this ‘picture perfect’ unrealistic life that no one can really keep up with all the time. We are not built that way – unless we take drugs to numb out the parts we feel ‘don’t fit’ the picture we wish to portray. Which is not an option for me. I want to live my life unaltered, whether pleasant or unpleasant.
So… what’s on my gratefulness list these days?
I’m grateful for all the parts of me. Not just the pretty ones. The ‘bright, blessed days and the dark, sacred nights’ (as Louis Armstrong sang.)
For the courage I’m gaining to show up ‘as is’ and not just when I’m all put together and filtered up.
For learning that when we don’t look so perfect all the time, we become a lot more accessible to those who are struggling with negative self-image, guilt and shame.
For experiencing that by showing our brokenness, we break the silence for those broken by abuse, neglect and judgment.
For believing with my whole heart, that it’s our vulnerability that brings grace into our lives – the amazing and humbling grace through which we become more compassionate and caring people.
I’m grateful for my sons who teach me lessons not found in any books. (Like my Blais who so honestly and openly addressed what the rest of us are thinking when he wrote: “It must be scary” he wrote on his Merry Christmas card to deployed troops.)
I’m grateful that, today I feel calm, peaceful and healthy. Optimistic and focused on love, despite all the sadness and hurt in the world.
Most of all, I’m grateful to be able to send out a wish and a prayer to you – for a blessed Thanksgiving!
P.S. And in the light of showing up ‘as is’ – when I was writing this post, I forgot about the eggs boiling on the stove… Now my kitchen doesn’t smell so beautiful any more….Perhaps instead of throwing a fit I’ll take a breath and be grateful that I have more eggs in the fridge and can start over at any time.
APPLE-ORANGE CRANBERRY SAUCE
(from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library, Thanksgiving 1999)
2 cups water
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, pippin or McIntosh
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Squeeze the juice from the orange and set the juice aside. Remove and discard the membrane from inside the orange rind, and cut the rind into small dice. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the diced orange rind and the water; bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Peel, quarter and core the apple; then chop into 1/2-inch diced cubes and place in a saucepan. Sort the cranberries, discarding all soft ones. Add to the apples along with the reserved orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and cover pan partially. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer sauce to a heat-proof bowl and let cool. Or cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving.
Makes 3 to 4 cups.
MASHED SWEET POTATOES WITH PECANS
(from D. Claude’s Personal Cookbook)
2 eggs, beaten to blend
1 3/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350F. Place yams on baking sheet. Pierce with fork, Roast until tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Peel yams. Transfer to bowl and mash. Stir in butter, sugar, lemon and orange peel. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix eggs into yam mixture. Transfer to 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle pecans over. Bake until heated through, about 1 hour.
Makes about 9 cups.