GRATITUDE

A THANKSGIVING REFLECTION

Dear Grandpa Bob has always said, “If you are thankful every day, you will have a happy life.” As the years pass, I have found his words to be true and beneficial. Even on my difficult days, if I can seek the hidden gifts, appreciate the deeper gifts, or anticipate the future gifts, I am uplifted and peaceful. We may intend our prayers of thanksgiving to honor and praise God, but when we genuinely thank God for all of life, we are blessing ourselves, too.

Thank you, God…
for every gift
that comes to mind today.
Accept our heartfelt gratitude
in the humble words we say.

Thank you, God…
for all the joys
you’ve given us this year,
for every celebration,
every moment of good cheer.

Thank you, God…
for keeping us
within your tender care,
for closely holding onto us
and the burdens that we bear.

Thank you, God…
for each success
in goals we have pursued,
and that even in our failure
we remain secure in you.

Thank you, God…
for every journey
in which we found a smile
and for your steadfast presence
as we walk each future mile.

Thank you, God…
that through our grief
your tender love is known,
that in those times when we must cry
we do not cry alone.

Thank you, God…
for each new day
and for the gift of living,
for we can see that life itself
comes from your joy in giving.



(Photo by Karen)

ADVENT: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN…

INTRODUCTION

Advent, my favorite season, begins next Sunday, November 27th!

Advent is our time to anticipate the birth of Jesus – and to invite his rebirth within us. In these weeks of waiting, reflecting, and preparing for Christ’s birth, we will look to four gifts that his presence among us has brought: the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love. How will these gifts make a difference in us this season?   

I will be offering daily reflections under the theme, Advent: The Difference Between…

Each day, we will consider the difference in meaning of two similar sounding words, and how the gifts of Advent can bring about the better difference in our lives. How might Advent Hope turn our dreading into dreaming? How will Advent Joy move us from finishing to fulfilling? If you love words – and “the Word (who) became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14) – I hope you will join me for this time of contemplation.

May these four gifts of Advent touch our lives with grace, make a holy difference within us, and most of all, transform us into genuine examples of God’s hope, peace, joy, and love for others.

I wish you every blessing of the season.
~ Karen 🙂


(Our Sunday reflection will be an overview of the gift of each week – Hope, Peace, Joy, or Love – followed by our daily weekday words. Saturday will be a day of rest.)

http://Photo by Max Beck on Unsplash

CHRISTMAS TIMING

I was waiting for my booster vaccine at the pharmacy last week when I heard Christmas music playing throughout the store. My initial go-to reaction was to question, “Already?” But soon a delightful joy came over me. I sat quietly, absorbing the festive music, feeling the joy of the season, and dreaming of the preparations I love to do. When I later went on my way, I thought, “I needed this today.”

Oh, I know that there is a time and a season for everything. I am one who appreciates the quiet reflection, the Advent preparation, the patient restraint before the actual celebration of the Christmas season. I am comforted and steadied by my liturgical tradition of Advent waiting and then Christmas celebrating. For my own soul, the waiting is a treasured practice.

But since my experience at the pharmacy, I am questioning the protests against rushing the season, the assertions about waiting until the proper time to celebrate. I wonder if the focus on rules or reasons or rituals might distract us from the deeper, truer gifts that Christmas brings.

How much joy are we missing – or even rejecting – while we are waiting for the “proper” season?

Perhaps those of us who celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus can keep in mind that Christ is with us for all time (not just from December 25th to January 6th)… that Jesus came so we might experience his peace, hope, joy, and love in every day… that when people are living in the joy of celebration – even in November – the “reason for the season” is there, too… that the early seasonal displays also foster the spirit of giving, the desire to bring joy to others…

and that when we insist everyone should follow our tradition, use our holiday greeting, or adhere to our liturgical timing, we are imposing customs – not exhibiting Christ.

Wouldn’t we best exemplify God’s gracious love if we could honor and uphold all people, respect all diverse celebrations and premature festivities, and humbly keep our own practices and schedules? Wouldn’t our hearts expand if we could release our tendency toward criticism or correction, and instead, emulate the ever-present, welcoming love of Christ? Wouldn’t our world become softer and kinder if we could hold the spirit of the holiday all year long?

And wouldn’t our souls brighten if we could pause from defending our own faith practices or cultural traditions – and freely delight in the joy, hope, peace, and love that we encounter in a variety of beautiful ways?

Love has come for all of us.
Love has come unexpectedly, undeservedly.
Love has come for all time.

We can celebrate that every day!



(Photo by Erica Marsland Huynh on Unsplash Thank you!)

WHY WOULD I DO THAT?

At the start of the new year, I made a resolution to hike the 15.3-mile Hiking Trail at Oak Openings Metropark near Toledo. Jim and I began working toward that goal, increasing our miles and trying more difficult terrains throughout the summer. But as the months passed, I realized that coordinating the logistics of good weather, available weekends, and travel time might not be easy. Still determined to hike the fifteen miles, I mapped out a local route that I could do on any day with good weather, an open schedule, and a ready spirit.

Last week, that day came! I hiked the fifteen miles in about six hours. I circled our neighborhood, ventured down the city streets to the park, hiked the park trail, and returned home, weary but so very happy!

The next day I shared the story of my accomplishment with my mom. She responded with all the wisdom of her 97 years: “Why would you do that?”

Her question inspired additional reflections on the purpose for my journey…

My hike was part of a spiritual pilgrimage. For several months, I have been walking more prayerfully and attentively to discern how and where my spiritual community is to be found (I may write about my pilgrimage in future posts). On this recent hike, I prayed for our community and for friends who came to mind; I walked a mile for a dear one who recently passed from cancer; I watched and listened for insights from God about how to live a life of faith in these days without a church home.

But I also pursued my resolution simply for the joy of the challenge.

During an interview in the podcast, Sinner Saint Sister (JOY, episode 74), Kathryn Whitaker recalled a memorable message she had heard in a recent mass. Father Greg had said, “Great stories are not written about easy things.” Kathryn added, “Some of the best stories in the Bible, in our lives, are written about challenges. We are a people who yearn to be challenged.”

Life seems to “oblige” this yearning by giving us challenges we never expected or wanted, doesn’t it? We often do not get to choose our challenges.

But in the times when life is going fairly smoothly, when I feel myself becoming stagnant or complacent, my spirit is uplifted when I set new goals that will motivate and challenge me. My purpose is clarified, my determination is renewed. There is joy in the anticipation. And there is such a sense of gratitude, relief, and accomplishment when those goals are reached!

But there’s more.

I hope…

…that the practice of setting new and challenging goals will prepare me for other greater, perhaps holier challenges that come from beyond myself
…that I recognize how much I need God in every challenge – those I set for myself and those I do not choose
…that every challenge increases my faith and trust as God continues to lead, guide, and uphold me all the way
…that every experience brings a tangible awareness of the nearness of God
…that I find more of God revealed within me each time I answer the question, “Why would I do that?”

And I hope the same for you.


(Photos by Karen on her pilgrimage hike)

I WANT TO AGE LIKE AUTUMN

The trees have transformed
from their shimmering radiance of yellows and reds
into deep, mellow shades of gold, copper, burgundy, and brown.

Their subtle hues convey a rich, sage wisdom
found in the liminal space
between a glorious, colorful celebration
and a quiet, dignified surrender.

The trees, each with a bold and dramatic beauty
that once captured our attention,
now unite and blend together
to offer a lovely backdrop for the day.

I want to age like autumn.

The season beckons us
to exchange sparkling, refreshing glasses
of icy drinks and bubbly beverages
for comforting, soothing mugs
of hot chocolate, sweet cider, spiced tea.

The season relieves us
from the need to cool ourselves in the heat of the day
and invites us
to warm ourselves in the living of these days,
to slow our pace in the ritual of the drinking.

The season compels us
to bundle up and snuggle more;
storing tanks and tees, shorts and sandals,
donning sweaters and socks, caps and coats,
wrapping ourselves in the warmth of love,
the companionship of others.

I want to age like autumn.

As the dawns and the dusks draw closer together
the daylight hours become more precious, significant.
The days of my life seem to do the same
and I want to savor, treasure, cherish… remember.

Oh yes, I can sense the approaching winter
but for today, I simply hope
to linger in the golden light,
to breathe in the crisp, cool air,
to delight in the abundant harvest,
and to welcome the insight of the season.

I want to age like autumn.



(Photos by Karen, late October 2022)

AUTUMN REFLECTIONS: GLORIES

GLORIES

Thank you for the glories…
the brilliant, bright array
of golden autumn color
on this October day.

Thank you for the glories…
found in this wondrous view
but all of autumn at its peak
gives just a glimpse of you.

Thank you for the glories…
in the tiny blessings, too –
those simple, sacred moments
when surprising joy breaks through.

Thank you for the glories…
let your presence guide our gaze
that we may find the extra
in our ordinary days.


This is the last picture and poem of the Autumn Reflections series. Thank you for visiting!

(Photo by Karen)

AUTUMN REFLECTIONS: GATHERINGS


GATHERINGS

Thank you for the gatherings…
such as the leaves that fall
to join the brave but lonely one
who was the first to fall.

Thank you for the gatherings…
of leaves raked into piles
for children to fall into
with their delightful smiles.

Thank you for the gatherings…
for, like leaves of every kind
we too, can join together –
true humanity to find.

Thank you for the gatherings…
leaves surrender from above,
inviting us to trust, release,
and cover the world in love.

Thank you for the gatherings…
may we expand community
’til we unite in grateful joy
for all eternity.



(This is the fifth of my series, Autumn Reflections, using pictures and poems. Photos by Karen)

AUTUMN REFLECTIONS: GREENINGS

GREENINGS

Thank you for the greenings…
for as leaves begin to fall
there is new life still appearing
to inspire and to call.

Thank you for the greenings…
the invitations to believe
that in every season of the year
new life can be received.

Thank you for the greenings…
they promise us that you
will give us opportunities
to always start anew.

Thank you for the greenings…
you delight and still surprise;
just when our dreams are fading
new sprouts begin to rise.



(This is the fourth of a series of Autumn Reflections using pictures and poems. Photo by Karen.)

AUTUMN REFLECTIONS: GLEANINGS

GLEANINGS

Thank you for the gleanings…
such as bounties that are found
by the deer who’s eating apples
which were left upon the ground.

Thank you for the gleanings…
guide my heart and soul and mind
to clear away the obvious –
your greater gifts to find.

Thank you for the gleanings…
those lessons that remain
when the fruit has all been gathered.
What wisdom might I gain?

Thank you for the gleanings…
show me what to leave behind
as a legacy for others
in my final harvest time.



(This is the third of a series of autumn reflections. Photo by Karen)

AUTUMN REFLECTIONS: GRACES

GRACES

Thank you for the graces…
as I walk my daily mile,
your wildflowers blooming
make the journey quite worthwhile.

Thank you for the graces…
I tend to look up to the trees
while other autumn splendor
is here right next to me.

Thank you for the graces…
in this beauty all around,
for if I pay attention
you also will be found.

Thank you for the graces…
your gifts are showing me
that I need not look to heaven
to find eternity.

Thank you for the graces…
guide me in every way
so I can bring a blessing
and your kingdom here today.



(Photos by Karen)