Archives for posts with tag: gratitude

file781261141191So, you’re interested in sending a little joy and encouragement through the mail, but you aren’t sure who to write to?

Maybe these questions will help:

  • Is there someone you should thank — someone who sent a gift or an invitation? Someone who gave you a great piece of advice or a kind word?
  • Do you have a relative who has been on your mind? Maybe someone older or someone who doesn’t get out as much as he or she would like?
  • Did you read a great article or see a cartoon that made you think of someone? Could you go through your craft or hobby supplies and send a few extras to someone who would enjoy it?
  • Who have you been praying for? Is there someone you know who is ill or struggling in any way?
  • Are you friends with children? (I’ve never met a child who didn’t love to get mail with his or her own name on it!)
  • Have any of your friends moved to a new city? How about writing to a friend whose family lives far away?
  • Is there anyone whose work you admire? A mother who is doing a fantastic job? A teen who volunteers and makes a difference in the community? A neighbor whose garden brightens the whole block?

If you’d like ideas for what to write in your letters, click here. Need some inexpensive supplies to get started? Click here. Or, if you’re wondering why writing letters is holy work, read this.

Tomorrow, I’ll share tips on how to find time to write letters, so check back — or make it easier on yourself and add your email to the box on the lower left, and I’ll send articles directly to you. Until then, happy writing!

For a while now, my life has felt like this — like a toddler got into my carefully crafted bouquet.

My plans just haven’t been working out the way I imagined them, and when I do get things the way I want them… well, someone else seems to redecorate. It’s not that things are bad, just different than I pictured. And I have a tendency to hold on to my mental picture until it crinkles under the pressure of my grip. I forget to open my hands to the gift of something else. I forget to be thankful.

But what helps me, ironically, is taking pictures with my camera. When I’m  looking through the camera’s lens, I’m purposefully seeking beauty. I’m trying to capture poetry before it slips away. I’m documenting the everyday moments, savoring them now and saving them for later. If I look through my camera lens often enough, it changes how I see.

I notice the light making Colt’s curls glow.

The tiny flowers at the base of the grape vine.

The bright red against the cool blue of the strainer.

And, on really good days, I can watch the broken flowers from the bouquet become something else beautiful.


Tina wanted to wait until her new home was unpacked to send pictures, but who can wait to tell the good news?

Tina has everything she needs.

“I have an entire bedroom set — even a washer and dryer,” she told me as she unpacked and settled in to a borrowed home. “We still need a couch and a love seat but those are coming in another week. We may have to buy a hot water tank, we’re not sure… oh, wait, no we won’t. Dad just said he’d buy one for us if we need it.”

In the week since the wildfire, her voice has grown stronger and our conversation has gone from worry and uncertainty to celebration and gratitude.

“People have responded like crazy,” she said, still in awe of how folks opened their hearts and their homes to help her. Now, when she and Lee return from their honeymoon they’ll have a two-bedroom house waiting for them. “God is great,” Tina said.

And they’ll know that they aren’t starting their new lives alone.

We’re all standing with them.


“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. 

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” — Matthew 25: 35-40 (NIV)



On the day our two oldest sons were being dedicated, a wind storm knocked out power at our church. Suddenly, instead of electric guitars and drums, there was almost silence in a room of about 400 people.

Someone thought to bring out a couple of camping lanterns and put them near the pulpit while our pastor stalled for a few minutes, waiting for the power to come back on and our service to return to normal.

Still, nothing. So, he did something a little unusual for a Sunday morning: He asked if people would like to stand and share how God had blessed them.

There, in the darkness, they began to rise from their pews. One was thankful for help with finances. One was glad that God is helping her family make tough decisions. And several told how God had helped them through illnesses.

As each one of them spoke, it felt like the room got smaller, more intimate. By the time my little family went to the front, it seemed the world had stopped and given me a moment dipped in gratitude and grace.

By flashlight, the pastor read the words of the dedication ceremony. And it was perfect, especially for someone like me — someone who too often allows the noise of everyday life to drown out the whispers of God.

Apparently I’m not alone, though. Many of the people who come to see Sue Staropoli are looking for ways to lead a quieter, more prayerful and balanced life.

“We’re so activity focused,” said Staropoli, a spiritual advisor in Penfield, NY, who teaches classes on contentment and taking better care of ourselves.  “We under value the little things.”

Like an act of kindness. Like a crimson leaf falling. Like the sound of a sleeping baby breathing in and breathing out.

We can take note of those things, she said. We can train ourselves to slow down. We can change our lives a moment at a time.

I’m ready.

When my mama talks about her third pregnancy, she always says that she knew something wasn’t quite right. “It’s nothing,” my daddy would say — right up until the doctor saw that I was blue and fading fast.

Mama had been right. The umbilical chord was wrapped around my neck and arm, and I was choking.

As my parents tell it, the doctor never said a word or asked their opinions, he just reacted as a man sworn to save lives. He got me out as fast as he could, knowing that he might be causing nerve damage in my neck and arm.

Later, he would tell my parents that my arm might not ever grow or move on its own. “But, I figured you wanted her alive,” he told them.

So, my parents took me home to my two older sisters and they waited and watched. Two months and three weeks later, I moved my right arm. I could move my wrist and wiggle my fingers, according to my baby book. By six months, I was crawling — not on all fours like most kids, but I could sit and scoot with my left arm. It was progress.

Eventually my arm did grow, although it’s still a little shorter than the left. I can lift my right arm almost to my chin but my wrist seems to always be bent under a bit, something that has forever bothered me in photos.

One of my earliest memories is of having my picture taken in front of a wagon wheel that was almost as big as I was. The photographer had me rest my right arm on top of the wheel and then tried to flatten out my wrist. Within a second, it had bounced back into its U shape. She tried again. It bounced back.

The older I got, the more sensitive I became to being different — and the more determined I became to fit in. Of course, that’s hard to do when you play trombone and have to use your foot to reach seventh position or when you have to swallow your pride and ask a classmate to sharpen your pencil because the sharpener is mounted too high on the wall. Still, I managed, and I even learned a little in the process.

Ironically though, I never knew what my birth injury was called until my late 20s, when pain in my arm made me seek out a specialist in Erb’s palsy. While I was waiting for that appointment I wrestled with my arm in a new way. What if there was something that could be done now to help my arm?

Would I change it if I could? At almost 30, would I re-teach myself to tie my shoes? Would I discover that I’m not left-handed after all?

No, I decided.

I wouldn’t.

I had my arm to thank for my entire world view — a set of values that helps me empathize with others; a set of values that says there are many ways other than the “normal” way.

Like Icy Sparks, a character in a novel by Gwyn Hyman Rubio, my difference has allowed me to flourish. Icy struggles with what she comes to learn is Tourette Syndrome, and in the epilogue she says that life would have been easier without it, “but I would not be me.”

Years later, that book still sits upstairs in my office along with pictures I had taken of my wrist and arm — no longer in hiding, but out front in their rightful place. No portrait of me is complete without them.


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