Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gratitude: The Forgotten Key

There is something lovely about autumn. The days are crisper and there is a sense of purpose in the air. I enjoy the fall color and the gently falling leaves. I breathe deeply. I smell change.

As I watch the leaves fall, I ponder change. I wonder about the future. I look inside myself and enjoy the stillness. I step softly into my heart and take inventory. I embrace my gifts and examine my baggage. It is a good time for letting go.

What will I let go of this autumn? Some of my baggage is old and familiar. Shall I be done with it, at last? Is it time to move on? Can I let it go, like softly falling leaves, and allow it to gather at my feet, where I can sweep it up and carry it out?

Can I let go of judgement? Deceit? Bitterness? Self-Pity? Resentment? Anger? Can I let go of pain? Some thoughts have lodged in my heart for so long, they seem like family. Who would I be without these guests? Guests are they, or perhaps intruders?

I examine each piece of baggage, each intruder, and wonder why I have kept it close for so long. In the corners of my heart I find hidden containers. Secrets. Do I know them?

Inferiority. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. No one likes me. It’s too late. I never… I always… How long have those bags been hidden in my heart? Who put them there?

Not I. Surely not I. Have I just been storing them, then, til someone claims them? Let them fall. I shake my inner tree and let them go.

I sweep the corners and gather the dust of loneliness, the cobwebs of despair, the skeletons of self-judgement, the bones of isolation.

Autumn feels good. With joy, I release things that no longer serve me. I let them go. I sweep up the leaves of yesterday and carry them out.

So much garbage. Did I get it all? Maybe not, but there is more room in my heart now. Room for shiny new gifts. Room for a jar of love, a box of forgiveness, a sack of friendship. Room for a cup of kindness, a tin of tolerance, and a can of cooperation.

With the baggage gone, I see a door that I didn’t noticed before. It was hidden behind the intruders. The word PEACE is painted on the door in pretty script. What lies behind that door ? A closet? A hallway? An adventure? The door is locked. I search for a key. There it is hanging from a ribbon on a nail. The key is ornate, the ribbon delicate, and it is labeled gratitude.

Gratitude is the key.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

I turn the key and enter. It’s not a hallway or a closet. It’s a beautiful room. Silently, it speaks the word on the door. It whispers peace.

The room is lovely. Fresh flowers grace the table. A fire crackles in the fireplace. The walls are decorated with things I love, meaningful art and pictures of things I am grateful for. I see faces of family and friends. I see happy memories frozen in time. These are precious gifts.

I explore this comfortable room. I sit at the piano and caress the keys lovingly. A tender melody flows from my grateful fingers. The music of my heart fills the stillness with gratitude. The gift of music sweetens my life.

I am drawn to the bookshelf where I notice my favorite books are mingled with some I have never read. I touch each one, feeling gratitude for the power of words. I am delighted that there are always new words to read. My fingers rest lovingly on the scriptures. I am grateful for the words of life.

Light filters in through a single window. I stand at the window and gaze at a charming garden alive with gracious plants. I throw open the window to breathe in the colors of life--the colors of gratitude. I find joy in this garden.

Inside this cozy room I become aware of my gifts, which are many. They bring meaning and enjoyment into my life. They bring me peace. I gather these gifts in my arms and carry them close to me, as I move toward the fire.

There is a mirror above the fireplace. As I look into the mirror, I am surprised to see not one, but two faces reflected there. I see my own face, and also the face of my Savior. I see that His life is woven together with mine. I see that His love and support makes my life meaningful. Gratitude swells within my heart.

A comfortable chair waits for me in front of the fire of love. It is inviting and has embroidery on the back. I trace the stiches with my fingers. At first the words are difficult to read, but as the fire tosses light onto the chair and fills the room with love, the words become clearer.

I can read the words now. Remember Who You Are. What a gift.

It’s a beautiful chair. I think I’ll sit a while.

Linda Garner

Friday, November 18, 2011

We Can Be More Gentle With Ourselves

I love the holidays, but there is so much to do. It can be hectic. High expectations. High stress. It's hard to measure up. Take time to do something nice for yourself, and please while you're dishing up kindness to everyone else, take a nice portion for yourself. If everything's not perfect, relax and look for the humor in the situation. Reduce stress by choosing gratitude. When things go wrong remember how awesome you are and always be gentle with yourself.

I love these healing words by Michael McLean. You may want to post them somewhere in your home to help you find peace when you are doing the Holiday Dance of Stress.


Words and Music by Michael McLean

Like a gentle wind can blow the clouds from the sky,
Like a gentle touch can ease the pain of goodbye,
Like a gentle smile embraces empty souls in lonely places,
We should be more gentle with ourselves.

Like the friend who gently builds us up when we're down,
Like a gentle kiss can turn our world all around,
We've been hurt by others often,
We've forgiven and forgotten,
We should be more gentle with ourselves.

Life can be hard but
we need not be so hard
on ourselves,
If we will see...

Like the Shepherd leads his flock with gentle commands.
With his gentle voice that only hearts understand.
One thing we can know for certain, He has borne the awful burdens
so we can be more gentle with ourselves.

One thing that I know for certain:
He will bear my every burden,
So I can be gentle with myself.

Thanks, Mike. I love those words.

Linda Garner

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Putting My Body First

The older I get, the more I appreciate my body. My body is my most valuable resource. I have sometimes taken her for granted. My friends and I are noticing changes. Some of us are slowing down. Tiredness, aches,and pains are common concerns. I’m not ready for this.

I expect to live a long time, and I’m not ready for the rocking chair. There are things I want to do. I need to feel good. Now, more than ever before I need to take care of my body.

My body is my first stewardship, my first priority. If I don’t take care of her, my body will have a hard time supporting me. This is the only body I am ever going to get, at least in this life. What could be more important than nourishing and strengthening my body?

Health is a controversial subject, but most experts agree that our bodies need exercise. Staying active is important. I have health issues that respond to exercise, so it is a high priority for me. Still, it is easy to let other activities take priority. If I do not exercise early in the day, chances are good that it won’t happen. I have good intentions, but am easily distracted.

I don’t mind exercise, but I don’t love it. There are lots of things I’d rather do. However, I love what exercise does for me. The health benefits are huge, and my body gives me immediate feedback. Exercise is a mood enhancer, and makes me feel amazing.

For years a daily walk was my favorite exercise. It’s free and I can do it any time, any place. Fresh air and sunshine have extra benefits. Most of us don’t get enough vitamin D. Sunshine helps our vitamin D levels. If you can find someone to walk with you, it gets better. Walking is more fun with a friend, and a daily commitment to meet at a certain time and place will develop consistency.

I find it much more difficult to maintain consistency when I don’t have a walking partner. Other exercise routines that have worked for me have been a daily bike ride, bouncing to music on our trampoline, working out with a yoga video, and dancing to music in my living room. (No spectators allowed.)

Our bodies are meant to move and the type of exercise we choose probably doesn’t matter as much as daily consistency. I found some helpful websites: and A few weeks ago, I couldn’t imagine doing ten pushups, let alone one hundred. I didn’t do pushups as a teenager, so how could I do them now? Despite my insecurity, I wanted to strengthen my core which has grown rather weak and flabby.

The hundred pushups site gave me a plan that was totally doable, and I can do more pushups than I ever thought possible. I do pushups three days a week, and decided to add a sit up routine to the other three days. I do pushups Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and sit ups Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. I am getting stronger.

In addition to this, I walk, bike, jump, dance, or do yoga every day. I aim for an hour of exercise each day. That’s a big time drain, but I view it as an investment in my health. I could use a walking partner, though. Any takers?

I gave up walking for a while because of Plantar Fasciitis. That’s when we bought our bikes and it was a great help. I stayed off my feet as much as possible and got one of those little foot rollers that my chiropractor sells. It was heaven.

I didn’t see any significant improvement in my feet until I started taking magnesium. I had read about magnesium’s benefits and decided I needed some. What a difference it made in my feet. I had to take a lot at first, but now I just need a little. I thought I’d share this information in case any of my readers have Plantar Fasciitis. If you don’t have it be grateful. It’s no fun.

Putting my body first is not always easy, but I am really trying. My body has been good to me and I owe her something in return. If I am good to her, I think she’ll make it worth my time.

Come back next week for some tips on healthy eating.

Linda Garner