Gratitude and Grace | #ThursdayTreeLove | Thank You, Trees

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In our recent exchange about one thing in nature we’re grateful for, my bestie was surprised that I did not say sunflowers. We all know how much I love sunflowers [I am indeed grateful for them]. But trees? They save my life! In fact, none of us would be able to live without them…literally.

This fact was underscored in an exchange I had with Elaine V, one of my colleagues, a couple of weeks ago. I was feeling a little under the weather, so I mentioned that maybe some time outdoors in the sun would help. She responded that would be perfect because “trees give off natural negative ions that help boost immunity and kill pathogens.” [Did I mention Elaine is a biologist?] This made me love trees even more! Who knew that was even possible?

11-16-21 Tree Walk-9

I’m sure you learned about the benefits of trees in elementary school—how they pull the yucky stuff like carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with good stuff we need to survive, like oxygen. But there are many, many other things trees provide for human life and for our planet. You can read about the goodness of trees by clicking any (or all) of the links below.

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Thank you, trees.

Thank you for the air we breathe, the homes we live in, the fires that keep us warm.

Thank you for the endless creativity you offer in your diversity and thank you for the continuous inspiration.

Thank you for the homes you provide for the animals.

Thank you for teaching us how to reach for the stars while staying true to our roots.

Thank you for teaching us balance.

Thank you for teaching us how to climb, swing, and dangle; thank you for all the good times we’ve shared.  –Michael McMillan, “Giving Thanks to Trees”

It’s a special treat that #ThursdayTreeLove always falls on Thanksgiving. Thank God for trees!

Happy Thanksgiving!


About the Images: The iPhone photos in this post are from one of my mid-November “tree walks” on campus. I escaped my office for a quick break between meetings and to move my body. I was headed back when the bright yellow leaves tree beckoned. I walked past my office and spent about 10 minutes with the tree. Solid tree therapy.

I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Gratitude and Grace | Start Here

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I can’t help thinking no word will ever be as full of life as this world,   
I can’t help thinking of thanks. –Suji Kwock Kim, “Slant”

Since we are in the season of thanksgiving, my bestie enlisted a group of women in her circle to participate in a gratitude challenge this month. She shared a November calendar that offers daily prompts and invites participants to ponder on the things for which they are grateful. 

Indeed, it has been a challenge selecting just one thing daily, but that’s a good thing. It underscores a life overflowing with goodness, and I do not take that for granted.

What I really appreciate about the prompts is that they invite us to focus on experiences instead of material things. I am indeed grateful for the necessities and the creature comforts, but it is experiences, not things, that make a full life.

Thankfulness doesn’t have to begin or end in November, so if you’d like to start a gratitude practice, start with the simple prompts we used: Gratitude Journal Prompts.

Until next time…

November Chaos | But. I. Must.

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Hard times require poetry, so I’m throwing myself into the works of some of my favorite poets this evening. I’m laying down all the challenges of the week, the month, the year, all the disgust I feel over the Rittenhouse verdict, and all the pent up emotions over [it seems] a hundred other things.

If we are not careful, the bitter disappointments and horrors of this world can make us distant and cold, so let’s meditate on the wisdom of Maya Angelou and strive to show up in a way that will stand for eternity.

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“Continue” by Maya Angelou
(This is part of the poem written as a gift for Oprah Winfrey)

My wish for you
Is that you continue

Continue

To be who and how you are
To astonish a mean world
With your acts of kindness

Continue

To allow humor to lighten the burden
of your tender heart

Continue

In a society dark with cruelty
To let the people hear the grandeur
Of God in the peals of your laughter

Continue

To let your eloquence
Elevate the people to heights
They had only imagined

Continue

To remind the people that
Each is as good as the other
And that no one is beneath
Nor above you

Continue

To remember your own young years
And look with favor upon the lost
And the least and the lonely

Continue

To put the mantel of your protection
Around the bodies of
The young and defenseless

Continue

To take the hand of the despised
And diseased and walk proudly with them
In the high street
Some might see you and
Be encouraged to do likewise

Continue

To plant a public kiss of concern
On the cheek of the sick
And the aged and infirm
And count that as a
Natural action to be expected

Continue

To let gratitude be the pillow
Upon which you kneel to
Say your nightly prayer
And let faith be the bridge
You build to overcome evil
And welcome good

Continue

To ignore no vision
Which comes to enlarge your range
And increase your spirit

Continue

To dare to love deeply
And risk everything
For the good thing

Continue

To float
Happily in the sea of infinite substance
Which set aside riches for you
Before you had a name

Continue

And by doing so
You and your work
Will be able to continue
Eternally

I pray that you continue…

November Chaos | “Too Many Funerals”

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“Too many funerals.” That’s how one of my friends ended her reply to my “thinking of you” text message this morning. Moments later, I read a post by another friend in which she mentioned that she was gathering photos for the double funeral of her aunt and her cousin.

I’ve lost count of the number of “death” calls, text messages, emails, and conversations I’ve had over the last few months. Our unfortunate reality is that we have all suffered too much loss since March 2020, and we are in a constant state of grief and coping. On top of our collective sorrow, the losses are personal. Therefore, it is crucial that we not use the reasoning that “everyone is going through something” to downplay individual pain.

We must also be careful to not allow the steady repetition of this “news” to desensitize us to the significance of every single loss. Rather, we should tune in and allow ourselves the space and time to give into the sadness and accompanying feelings.

We ended my British Literature class yesterday with 16th/17th century poet John Donne’s “Sonnet X,” perhaps better known as “Death, Be Not Proud.” This is one of my favorites because Donne, in spite of his discomfort with and fear of death, pulled out of himself a direct address to death. He called it out for the powerless perpetrator it is and reminded it that–because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection– paradoxically, death’s own end is imminent.

I’m looking forward with hope to that moment when we will grieve no more.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
–John Donne, “Holy Sonnet X” or “Death, Be Not Proud”

November Chaos | A Moment with the Willow

Anxiety to Joy

We are halfway through November, and I’m finally making my first post of the month! Gasp!

I had this month’s posts planned since September, but after I realized how chaotic this month would be, I “aborted” the mission–to daily share a piece of art I created in September for Sheila’s Creative Gathering. I will share those pieces as the “Spirit moves” and let November be what it will be. [Many prayers, hugs, and hearts for Sheila who is seriously ill and in the hospital].

Today, I am moved to share one of the 10 “abstract” photo art pieces I created for the Gathering. It captures my time with one of the weeping willows at the Unity Pond on campus. However, it is the Bible verse I paired with the photo that compels me to share–a verse of scripture I meditate on frequently and one I often repeat to others as they grapple with anxiety and stress these days.

When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought me joy. —Psalm 94:19

We have been dealing with a bit “too much” over the last 19-20 months. In the early months, we realized and appreciated our need for the slowing down the pandemic required. Now, instead of seeing this time as an opportunity to do things differently and better, we are trying to force an old norm that no longer serves us. I’m convinced that besides the loss and trauma of this moment, much of our sense of overwhelm and anxiety comes from our rush to normal—exacerbated by our not taking time to sit with and process our grief.

It seems everyone I encounter these days is overwhelmed, exhausted, and anxious. I have this horrible sense that if we don’t pause or slow down, we’re headed for an even bigger crisis.

Perhaps, you’re feeling all those things too.

I hope a moment with the willow and these words remind you there is relief. Thankfully, in God’s presence we can find comfort, peace, and joy, even when life makes it difficult to pause or slow down.

May you carry that with you.