Sunday, November 20, 2011


In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I begin to consider when to start thawing the turkey, dredging up my recipe for dinner rolls, and whether to stuff the turkey or bake a healthier stuffing in a casserole dish. I also find myself pondering what I might say when we go around the table expressing what we are thankful for.

This year, especially, I would like my voice to be clear and sincere. Not too wordy, or too emotional, or too confusing, or too much information. On the other hand, I don’t want to just skip over all that my heart contains, nor awkwardly rush through to keep conversation moving. Being flanked at the table between the person on my right and left, my grateful voice can often get squelched between bookends of just enough and too much. Perhaps I need also to plan for more elbow room at the table this year

I am recalling this past year looking for inspirations of gratitude…through the challenges and losses. I have been doing a lot of sorting through and dusting off my bookshelves, and prying loose some resistant bookends. Paraphernalia wedged between bookends since my mother left needed to be evaluated. One shelf at a time…that was just enough. Cleaning out the clutter has gradually freed up space. Success with one shelf inspired work on another shelf, and eventually another room. Remember the recent blogs about new kitchen counters (In the details) and painting (It's not about the color)?

When I thought I had had just enough—instead of looking up with gratitude—I mistakenly looked down.

Hmmm, wouldn’t wood floors add some warmth to the house?

Back in October, I had been looking forward to a November of personal ‘restoration’ with space for gratitude. However, I approach the Thanksgiving season with my home in too much upheaval. Apparently some restoration wires got tangled up. Home and personal restoration have become completely interwoven.

Yes, we have begun another home project. And yes, what were we thinking?

My husband and I began by relocating sofa, chairs, tables, rugs, lamps, file cabinets, television, and closet content into other rooms. Handling each piece confirmed that we had accumulated stuff over our 36 years of marriage. I even moved residuals from our respective childhoods. “I need to get rid of some of this stuff that no longer serves me,” I muttered as I set down armfuls of junk that had latched on in childhood. By mid-afternoon, we had successfully stacked and wedged our comforts and histories into mostly one room. But I soon discovered that when too much stuff is crammed into too little space—and time—Thanksgiving gratitude gets misplaced as well. I think it is buried in our dining room beneath the office desk that is under the kitchen stools that are behind the ironing board, all blanketed by dust.

When demolition of our white tile floors began, I felt like I was being pounded as well. I lost control over the enveloping dust, the invasion of the demolition crew and the aftermath of pervasive devastation. I sensed the bookends pulling toward each other like powerful magnets, with me in the middle. Any wiggle room between just enough and too much had constrictively narrowed.

I plopped down onto the dirty, exposed under flooring. (because the furniture was all piled into the other room) And it was from this low perspective that I could see another option. This is the position where I have found power to move heavy pieces of furniture. While sitting, I use my back to brace against the wall and push with my feet. So with my back against one bookend and my feet pushing against the opposite bookend, I expand the self-imposed parameters between just enough and too much.

And I was grateful. Those were the words I saw in a book—Invitation to Solitude and Silence—the next day! And I allowed the rest of Ruth Hayley Barton’s words dribble all over me in my new spaciousness: It wasn’t the first time I had ever felt gratitude; but it was the first time I had ever given it that much space. Instead of rushing on to the next thing, I let thanksgiving fill every corner of my soul. I felt it and relished it down to the tips of my toes.

This Thanksgiving, perhaps my words may not fully express the breadth of my thankfulness to God, nor the depths of loss, but hopefully my expanded heart will fill the space at the table—and into the world—amongst family and friends.