How does one say thank you?

gratitude2 (Medium)

gratitude2 (Medium)I’m in a reflective space, retreating as I hear the news of late. I am reminded that life can be full of loss.  Yet, even when it is, it is important to swim in gratitude.

I think about the silliness of the consumerism of the upcoming holidays.   We are so tempted to purchase, pay, buy, spend on “things” that don’t really matter when we reflect back on our lives.

I fall back to memories of my childhood, waiting to see what was under the Christmas tree.  So often, I was overjoyed by the abundance (my parents were not wealthy, but they did splurge at Christmas), yet when I think back to those years there are perhaps five “gifts” that stand out in my mind that were purchased. That’s a lot of gift giving gone to the land of the forgotten.  What is remembered is the lazy mornings preparing breakfast as a family, the playing of the Johnny Mathis Christmas album on the record player,  sledding in the freezing cold, playing with our two beagles in the deep snow.  Experiences.  Those are memorable.

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Our baby boy was not yet 3 weeks old for his first Christmas! He was t-i-n-y!

Having our own precious son this year, I realize at his tender age of nearly one, he will be more interested in shredding the wrap that his gifts come in than anything inside the box.  Yet, it is hard to imagine shopping for him when I think about the Syrian children who are following their desperate families out of horror, only to be denied compassion by so many in our fearful country and world.

I am conflicted by the fear and pain (environmental, terrorism, and the like) butted up against the tremendous blessings of the joy of the season, the gift of family, our safe home, a community we adore, and more than anything – our precious little boy. I want to preserve that bubble of grace that is our existence, yet cannot deny the horrors in our world.

For the moment, I’ll take my own advice: Swim in Gratitude.

Let me begin by thanking so many people who have made 2015 a true joy, a year beyond my wildest expectations:

  • Our son’s birthmother and her beautiful family. They have gifted us with parenthood.  How does one say thank you for that? I’m also grateful for the women in our community who took it upon themselves to have a baby shower for our precious son.  He is blessed with a few “adopted” great grandmas, grandmas, and aunties –  right in our backyard.
  • Katy and Lisa, two people on our team that keep me laughing!
    Katy and Lisa, two people on our team that keep me laughing!

    The Melibees who volunteer their time, energy, feedback, humor, writing, ideas, and so much more to keep our hive creative and joyful.

  • The organizations and individual who generously donated to ensure that others who could not have attended the Swarm would be able to via a scholarship. In no particular order, I want to thank the kind people at AIFS,  GoOverseas.com,  Athena AbroadCAPA, VIF (3 scholarships), CIS Abroad, Study Abroad101.com (2 scholarships) and our very own Kory Saunders for donating also!  I cannot imagine having Swarmed without the scholarship recipients – they added to the magic of the gathering.  I’m also most grateful for the people who attended the Swarm this year. They came with open hearts and a willingness to learn alongside of me.
  • My blood and extended families – who has bent over backwards this year to make their way to the hills of Western North Carolina to visit. The rock of my family is my precious husband.  He is my love, the best daddy on the planet to our son, and also Melibee’s techie behind the scenes –  a trifecta of fabulous.
  • When you live far away from home, friends take on new meaning. I am so very grateful for friends, old and new, who have embraced us as family this year in Asheville.
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    Keynon Lake (green shirt) with some of the magical people behind My Daddy Taught Me That, a not for profit that serves boys in Asheville who need male role models in their lives.

    Keynon Lake, Founder of the My Daddy Taught Me That organization. Your work humbles me and I’m truly honored to know you all and to participate in the work that you do to change the lives of our community’s sacred boys.

Patti Digh and me at the Swarm in Asheville this year.
With author Patti Digh (left) at the Swarm in Asheville this year.
  • My countless teachers this past year, with special thanks to Patti Digh for reminding me to write my story.
  • The educators, students, cultural career cohort participants, speakers, and so many others who I have had the complete joy of working with this past year. I learn from each and every one of you  and you make me a better person through your thoughtful questions, gratitude, and desire to “bee” the change you want to see in this world.
  • “Pachamama” (Mother Earth in Quechua). She is a wonder, gifting us with the most breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains to peek at daily.

There are many more people and experiences that I could list, but I will pause here. Instead, I’ll remind us all to explore how we can offer the gift of love and compassion to those in our communities and beyond. This year, consider donating your time to a cause that is in need – whether it be homelessness, mental or physical health organizations, veterans, peace facilitating causes…whatever sings to you.

Gratitude.  It is the best gift I can offer and can receive. Therefore, I ask you: who/what are YOU thankful for this holiday season?  (Feel free to comment below.)

Wishing you all a peaceful, grateful season filled with love and light –

and one that has you drowning in gratitude.