Gratitude is a Verb…

grat·i·tude
grat-i-tood, -tyood]

NOUN
   1. the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful

Okay, so Merriam-Webster, Oxford and Dictionary.com all say that gratitude is a noun.  Of course, they also say that about love and we all have heard the argument that love is really a verb.  I feel the same way about gratitude and although the grammar police might come after me for that, it’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Today, February 23rd, is Gratitude Day in my corner of the world.  No, it’s not a National Holiday, in fact there’s a day in September that is officially celebrated as World Gratitude Day, but, because of some really courageous people this day in February is a day set aside to remember that to be grateful is not a feeling but a choice.

You see, almost 10 years ago some friends lost their precious daughter Amelia and her grandmother in a tragic auto accident.  It was the kind of devastation that easily could have torn a family apart but instead, they chose gratitude; they chose it even when they didn’t feel it, even when it was hard; even when it seemed to be nearly impossible.

In my friend’s words from two years ago:

Gratitude Day was born out of the desire and need to focus on the good. My family was devastated by the loss of our daughter (and sister), Amelia in a car accident. My husband also lost his mother in that accident. His mom was 69, and Amelia was seven. They both left this earth before we were ready.

It has almost been eight years, and I have become a willing counselor to other families who have lost their children. When something tragic like this happens, you think, “that happens on the news to other people”. Now I know, it happens to my friends, my neighbors, my community.

So Gratitude Day is for everyone, not just us. It is a day to be thankful we had our beautiful children in our lives. It is a day to also remember we have many blessings. Love, good health, friends, spiritual strength, the blessing of good memories, and the faith that there are many good days to come.”

Amelia would be 17 years old today.  I know that she is proud of the example that her family and those who love her have set.

I have so much to be grateful for.  I wouldn’t even know where to start.  Today I am grateful for these courageous people who have chosen gratitude and set an example that is an inspiration to so many.

Happy Gratitude Day!

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First Steps

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” — Martin Luther King

The past month has been a whirlwind.  On January 8th I flew to North Carolina to celebrate my mom’s 92nd birthday, see my family and to look at a piece of property in Roan Mountain, Tennessee that I hoped would become my new home.  The visit was a dream come true.

My sister Peggy and my mom picked me up at the airport in Asheville and we headed to my sister Nancy’s home in Plumtree, NC.  It was so wonderful to all be together.  I had missed Peggy’s visit in April of last year as I was still recovering from shoulder surgery and was unable to make the trip.

In the morning we all loaded up and headed into Roan Mountain, a beautiful 30 minute drive through Western North Carolina and just over the border into Tennessee.  We were early so we drove up into Roan Mountain State Park.  I had loved my previous visits to my sister’s and the drives and hikes through the Blue Ridge mountains, but it was Roan Mountain that called me home.  The wild, breathtaking beauty drew me in and I knew that this was where I belonged.

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Ice on the drive up Roan Mountain

On the way back down I remembered that I had seen a short cut from the house we were going to look at to the park; a short-cut that took us down Teaberry Road.  It seemed like a fun thing to do to explore the area so off we went.  It all started out well and was really a beautiful drive.  The sun had come out a bit and was filtering through the trees as we drove.  This was looking like a viable alternative route to the park for future reference until Teaberry Road turned into a dirt road and before we knew it became a one lane, somewhat bumpy drive that wound down the mountain.  To our left there was a pretty steep drop-off so we hugged the right side of the road as we crept along.  The next thing we knew we rounded a curve and here was a man coming the other direction.  Unlike us, he seemed completely unconcerned and didn’t even wait for us to get to a slightly wider part in the road before he whizzed by on our left.  Luckily, it all worked out well, although it would have been him that would have ended up off the side of the mountain had it turned out badly…it was, after all, his side of the road.  Note to self:  No trips to the park via Teaberry Road, at least not in a car.

The Perkins Hollow property, as we had begun to call it, was all that I had hoped for.  An adorable 1200 SF house on almost an acre of beautifully landscaped property with a little creek running through at the back.  I fell in love immediately.  I began to imagine my life there:  ideas for making the house a home for me, Pippin and Cowboy; turning the vegetable garden into a butterfly and bird garden; hiking trips to the state park, Smokey Mountain National Park and all of the other breathtaking destinations in the Appalachian Mountains; all of the photo ops.  The first step in seeing my dream come true.

Two days later I was headed back to Austin, ready to make an offer on the property and make the final push to get my home in Austin on the market.  Long hours were spent painting, cleaning; trips to Goodwill, and getting the yard in shape for the big day.  On Saturday, January 30th I took a break  to go with friends on a birding trip to Granger, TX.  On the way home I received the final counter offer from the sellers in Tennessee and the minute I walked in the house I printed, signed and scanned the documents to email back to my realtor.  By Sunday, I had a binding contract on the house.  Step two.

Wednesday was the big day that my little house on Campden Drive went on the market.  As my realtor, Kellye Hancock (Hindsite 20/20 Realty) put it, her phone exploded.  Texts were coming in every few minutes from realtors wanting to show the property.  By the end of the day we’d lost track of how many people had seen the house and we had three offers, two of which were well above the asking price.  Kellye put a deadline of 5:00 p.m. the next day for any other interested parties to submit an offer and Thursday started with another wave of prospective buyers.  By the end day there were three more solid offers.  Potential buyers were sending me letters along with their offers that included heartwarming stories and promises to take care of the native plants and the birds; one girl sent a picture of her dog.  I melted into tears of gratitude.  This was beyond my wildest imaginings.  By Friday morning, just 48 hours after the listing went live, I had a contract on the house.  Step three.

This has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, a magical journey; one that I never expected.  I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and doors keep opening.  I still need a job  and there are inspections and closings and moving to be done, but I have faith that all those doors will open as well.

I subscribe to this thing called “Notes from the Universe” (www.tut.com).  Each morning, Monday through Friday I get an email from “The Universe”.  This is what was in my inbox this morning:

“If you can see it in your mind, Judi, it’s real.

All that remains is merging the present you know and the world you’ve imagined, which is my part. And you can best help me align circumstances, coincidences, and chance encounters by getting busy, going out into the world, and moving in the general direction of your dreams, even if only to do what your peers might do, who know not of life’s magic.

But you know the truth, Judi.  You know how life works.  Do not waiver in your march.  No matter how humble your steps, this is how I will reach you.  And as you witness one dream come true after another – first the small ones, then the big ones, then the huge ones – you’ll remember why you were first drawn to the jungles of time and space, if you haven’t already figured it out.

Crazy kid,
   The Universe

P.S. — And when you know, Judi, would you please clue us in so that we can finish the documentary?”

Thanks Universe, I’m grateful.

 

On disorganized religion…

Journey IFC

Photo by Stephanie Sharif

Yesterday, we celebrated the nine-year birthday of my beautiful faith community here in Austin, Journey Imperfect Faith Community.   It would be hard for me to describe all that I have received from Journey and what this community means to me.  I mean, what can I say?  We’re a bunch of misfits who embrace imperfection and believe in radical inclusivity and are just trying to figure out how to love people and follow the teachings of Jesus.  No one will ever accuse us of being “organized” religion.   This community has been a place where I have been encouraged to ask questions, to stretch outside my comfort zone and have been challenged to grow spiritually.

flameandcupThere are so many wonderful memories from over the years.  We started in donated space at a YMCA and our standard joke was that we “came out of the closet every Sunday morning”–a pretty accurate description as we started setup about 6:30 on Sunday morning and had to have everything done and put away by 1:00 p.m.  Then came the warehouse where we were able to host concerts and share the space with groups from the community who needed a place to meet during the week.  The warehouse was our gift to 12 step groups, fledgling non-profits and many more.  Now there are new adventures in the space we share with the Rawson-Saunders School.  Through it all  there have been wonderful Sunday mornings that have been deep and meaningful with always something new to experience.  There have been Easter prayer vigils that have lasted from Good Friday through to Easter morning.  Service Sundays where, in lieu of a regular worship service we have gone out into the community to serve the homeless, people in nursing homes, the environment and other places where we were needed. 

There has been lots of laughter, our share of tears, but always love.  Always.  As I helped Renee lead the community in our theme song, “Let the Journey Unfold” yesterday I found myself getting choked up.  I love these people so very much.  Happy birthday Journey…I am so grateful that you are in my world. 

Namaste…