“How Can I Help?”

He even poses for pictures without a fuss!

“How can I help?” Today I am thankful for these four simple words that mean so very much, and I’m even more thankful for the one who speaks them to me.  You see, these four words comprise a question my wonderful spouse asks at least once a day, and I have come to treasure them as a reflection of his love and care for me and our family.

He’ll walk in the kitchen door and see me preparing dinner, set down whatever he’s carrying, and immediately ask “How can I help?” No task is too great or menial. I’m a terrible chopper; my lefthandedness and clumsy fine motor skills never have been helpful when it comes to chopping vegetables. Mr. Husband can chop as well or better than any food channel chef. He’ll set the table if asked or make a salad. In fact, he’ll frequently make an entire meal; we are true partners in the kitchen just as in other aspects of our marriage.

Mr. Husband doesn’t limit this question to meal prep and clean-up either. He is incredibly handy and able to fix almost anything. Broken faucet? No problem. Leaky shower? No big deal. Need an oil change? Done! His acts of service know no limit, and I’m convinced he can make just about anything work again.

If I’ve had a bad day or am worried or dealing with excess stress he’ll simply ask “How can I help?” Help might be a back rub, a listening ear, or a cup of tea. He’s also really good at inciting some awesome belly laughs. He’s also patient, kind, and calm.

So today I am grateful for my spouse, and for his servant heart, gentle spirit, and true partnership. Thank you, Mr. Husband, for your love, your friendship, and your partnership. You’re the best!

How often do you ask “How can I help?” Who has been of great help to you? Who can you thank today?

Photo by Linda Fleagle. Thanks!

Not-So-Retail Therapy

Most folks who know me well are aware that I do not take much pleasure in shopping–especially the kind of retail shopping that involves plunking down major cash outlays for transitory and often cheaply made consumer goods. In short, I just about have to be dragged to a shopping mall.

That said, I can understand how shopping can be classed as “retail therapy.” There’s the thrill finding that seemingly perfect item to fill a need, or more likely, a want in a person’s life. I’ve been there and done that and have come to find the outcome severely lacking.

Now I practice “not-so-retail” therapy. Let me explain. As a member of The Compact, I avoid buying new items that contribute to an ever-growing waste stream and violate principles of justice and equity that I hold important.

My latest “not-so-retail” therapy sessions involved Goodwill, Staples, and Dollar Tree. Here’s the story.

I’ve been looking for a basic black wool winter coat since moving back north of the Mason/Dixon line (great match for clergy clothes), so I stopped in at my local Goodwill to check out what might be available. Sure enough I found a gorgeous classic style from a New York custom tailor for $12. Awesome! Then I found a pair of black Ann Taylor dress pants that fit perfectly for $4. Nice! Finally, I found a name brand long mock turtle sweater/dress that is perfect for tights or skinny jeans and boots for $3. Score! To make it even better, the nice lady at the cash register took an additional $2 off  the price of the pants because they were missing a button. Wow!

So for $17 I got three wonderful articles of clothing that are useful, in great condition, and didn’t put anything new into the consumer stream. Plus, these items helped me to get closer to my black/white and shots of bright color basic wardrobe that I’ve been aiming for as clothes wear out. My deal is that when three things come in three things go out, so three summer shirts went bye-bye.

A few days later, after considerable research (assisted by my more tech-savvy spouse), I headed over to Staples armed with a 20% off coupon to purchase a new projector for the congregation I serve. I came out with a fine model that has everything we need along with a set of nice speakers (40% off) for a total ticket of considerably under $500. Being a good steward of the congregation’s money is important. Could I have found one used? Possibly. In this case, I decided to make the purchase new to balance value, need, and time constraints.

Finally, the lure of The Dollar Tree next to Staples was too much to resist, and $13 and change later I emerged with 10 cans of Muir Glen organic diced tomatoes, two jars of an upstate New York regional pasta sauce (great ingredient list), and a box of organic peanut butter chip granola bars. I couldn’t have been happier had you set me loose in Macy’s the day after Thanksgiving with a $1000 gift card.

You probably understand the search for a good value on the projector, but you may be shaking your head and wondering how I can get so excited about dollar store diced tomatoes and secondhand clothing. It is, after all, counter to everything our culture tries to sell us about what it means to be a consumer. That’s the point. I no longer need to be told, sold, or “guilted” into consuming beyond my needs.

As part of a culture that takes way more than its share of the world’s resources, I feel a responsibility to weigh each purchase carefully. I prefer to buy local or regional brands (often dumped at dollar or outlet stores) to avoid supporting agri-giants. I buy used clothing whenever possible and try to avoid big box stores in favor of locally owned businesses.

It’s a constant effort to be an un-consumer in a consumer culture, and I fail miserably from time to time. But I believe it is the effort and thought that count. If all of us would simply begin to weigh our purchases more carefully in terms of justice, environmental impact, and impact on the local economy and our neighbors, I think we’d see a huge difference. At least that’s my hope, prayer, and dream. In the meantime, I’m content to engage in not-so-retail therapy whenever I must consume. Sure is a lot easier on the bank account, too!

How about you? What are your tips for being a more thoughtful consumer? Do you engage in no-so-retail therapy, too?

Photos by sylar_major,  informiorium, TAKA@P.P.R.S., and TownePost Network. Thanks!

Give Thanks for Hands

Tonight we celebrated Maundy Thursday with a reminder to give thanks for hands that serve and hands that love. Jesus’ act of washing his disciples feet prior to their final Passover meal together was a focal point of the gospel reading (John 13:1-17, 31b-35). Modeling servant leadership for those who would carry on, Jesus also issued a command that they love one another. In effect, God made flesh illustrated what it means to serve and love, and he did this by using his hands in service to others.

Before coming to the table for Eucharist, those present had the opportunity to stop and dip their hands in the waters of the baptismal font and dry them on a towel held by a servant leader. (You have to understand that most Lutherans are rather reticent about exposing their feet for a ritual washing, but since “cleanliness is next to Godliness” we have no problem washing our hands!)

Not only did this simple act serve as a reminder that we were washed clean in baptism, it also illustrated the value of hands that serve others. So we washed, we ate and were strengthened, and we were sent to serve in the world. We are to love one another actively, using our hands for the good of our community and world.

Whose hands do you need to give thanks for? Perhaps your mother’s or father’s hands or maybe those of a grandparent. What makes their hands so remarkable? How do (or did) they use them in service to others? Close your eyes and see their hands before you.

Remember the words of Isaiah 52:7: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns! (NLT) How beautiful, too, are the hands that serve others in love!

Whether it is preparing food for a family gathering, holding a hurting child, mending clothes, tending a garden, preparing the altar for worship, or repairing a window in the church building, the hands that serve are beautiful indeed. Don’t forget to give thanks for hands!

Lent 40/40/40 Challenge

Honoring Relationships

I was saving him for last, but thinking about hands that serve reminds me to honor my spouse. He has amazing hands! They knead bread to keep our family fed, they are handy with household repairs or changing oil, they are creative as they tap, tap, tap on his computer keyboard, and they offer amazing back and neck rubs. Thank you, dear wonderful life partner, for using your hands to serve others, to show your caring and love, and to lift the bread and wine as the officiant at Christ’s holy meal. You are a treasure!

Giving Possessions

Have you ever read Sandra Cisnero’s short story “Eleven”? If not, I highly recommend it to you. Click here to read it online. I have a red sweater that has always sort of reminded me of the sweater in Cisnero’s story–even though it isn’t ratty like the one in the story. Well, today I’m finally releasing it from my closet to find a new home. Bye, bye red sweater!

Giving Thanks

Tonight I give thanks for hands. I give thanks for my mother’s hands that have held me and stroked my hair when I’m sad. I’m thankful for my father’s hands that worked so hard to provide for us. I’m thankful for my spouse’s hands as he kneads bread dough each week. I’m thankful for the hands of those in our faith community who do so much and serve so well. I am thankful to have two hands to put to good use in the service of others. Blessings abound!

Photo by Nojhan used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

The Joy of Shedding “Stuff”

Give Way

Dependence on God may be what is lacking in a society where consumerism and accumulation have become the root deseases of a world in which everything is not enough and nothing satisfies.      — Joan Chittister from The Rule of Benedict: Insight for the Ages

Ever wonder why sometimes an item you purchase seems to lose its luster once you get it home? What looked so shiny, bright, and desirable on the shelf at your local big box now looks downright ordinary. The root desire that made you whip out your cash or credit card is still there — along with one more thing to clutter your closet or yet another knick-nack to dust.

Very few of us are immune to consumer cravings; in fact, I shudder to think of the amount of money, time, and energy I have wasted over the years on accumulation of really rather pointless “stuff.” Having pared down my possessions from a 2600 square foot parsonage to two carloads plus a few boxes in 2010, I also know the freedom that comes from unburdening oneself of excess accumulation. I learned a lot about needs and wants, about desires and whims. Unfortunately, I let the consumer creep poke its camel nose under my tent, and by the time we movedagain in 2011, it took a small U-Haul to transport our belongings. Granted, I purchased a couple of beds and some living room furniture that was too good to leave behind and that we could use in Pennsylvania, but a lot of what we transported was simply “stuff.”

“Stuff” can be a major distraction to living a life of thanks-living and purpose. When a person has to worry about his or her stuff instead of the people, relationships, and created order, one’s quality of life begins to be compromised. Focusing on and clinging to one’s “stuff” can also be a barrier to cultivating a strong relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Here’s the thing I have discovered and continue to discover afresh with each new day: shedding stuff contributes directly to joy in the present moment. Buddhists strive for “detachment,” believing that nothing lasts and therefore it is important to be attached to nothing. Christians believe that one should attach oneself to the only thing that matters. In the attachment to (and consequential dependence upon) Jesus, everything else then becomes detachable. Either way, shedding excess stuff becomes an opportunity rather than a burden, a joy rather than a pain.

Click here for a wonderful story about creative detachment posted on Francine Jay’s Miss Minimalist blog. It’s a story about honoring relationships, giving possessions, and being thankful. My appreciation to Heidi J for sharing her story.

Honoring Relationships

Today I want to honor three women who gathered with me around the kitchen table to pray the night before I underwent surgery for breast cancer. Adrienne, Aileen, and Mary Beth — each in her own unique way — made the cancer journey bearable and even humorous. Adrienne was my rock, Aileen was my spiritual mentor, and Mary Beth was the friend who had already walked many tough miles with me and who with humor, compassion, Irish wit, and a Springer Spaniel named Fred (littermate to my boy Pete) held my hand and lent me her strength. Without them, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. Thank you, lovely and wise ladies. You are amazing and wonderful.

Giving Possessions

Three more books will go to the Public Library for their book sale. I feel better knowing someone else will enjoy reading them, too. Hey, that’s three less books to collect dust!


I am particularly thankful today for my spouse. He is a partner in the truest and fullest sense of the word. With him each day is an adventure. He brings out the best in me, supports me when the going gets tough, never fails to make me laugh, and is just an all-around awesome person. Thanks, Rob, for being you.

And the Winner Is…

Congratulations to Gladys, whose name was drawn to receive my autographed copy of Lee Smith’s Fair and Tender Ladies.

Photos by Loopzilla and Maarten ter Keurs used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Day Seven: Thankful for Safe Travel

Dear daughter the younger and I are now safely ensconced in a motel near the university where she is auditioning tomorrow for the musical theatre program. It was quite a drive to get here; we encountered driving rain, thunder and lightning, standing water on the highway, and soupy, sloppy fog. Despite the weather and my overly-tight grip on the steering wheel, we arrived safely, and I am so thankful that we did!

Tomorrow will be a long, exciting, and potentially stressful day. Hopefully everything will work out for her the way she wants. We’re staying in the evening to see a college production and then driving back home (thankfully the prediction is for dry weather) with an estimated arrival time somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. I’ll be praying for a safe return trip and some strong coffee.

Still no news on the computer, but thankfully dear daughter’s old laptop is holding out. I only received one hard drive error message today. I can’t complain. Life is good.

Three things to remember in stressful times: breathe deeply, laugh often, and pray frequently. Oh, and be sure to eat your veggies and drink plenty of water. Let’s see if I can take my own advice to finish out this hectic, stressful week!

Here’s how the 40/40/40 project is going:

Honoring Relationships

Today I’m particularly grateful for my father’s two sisters. My Aunt Dot and Aunt Pat are a couple of cool women. For many years they played piano and organ for their home church, and they have shown wonderful hospitality and caring over the years. I am so lucky to have them for aunties. Thank you, lovely ladies, for all you are, all you do for so many people, and for your strong faith.

Giving Possessions

Today I put two more shirts in the bag to go to the Rescue Mission Store — two gap long sleeve waffle knit shirts. They’re really comfortable, but I have plenty of other shirts to wear.


First and foremost, I am thankful to have arrived safely at our destination! It was a harrowing drive in some of the worst conditions I have encountered in many years. I am grateful to have this time to spend with my daughter. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to sit and eat both breakfast and lunch with my spouse. Lingering over a cup of coffee and conversation is a great way to start the day.

What about  You?

What made you happy today? For what are you thankful? Who do you need to honor and tell how important that person is to you?

Photo by Yuya Tamai used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Day One: Bye, Bye Books & Thank You, Mom

My forehead smudged by a dusty cross and the words of the prophet Joel ringing in my ears, I completed day one of my Lenten journey and kick-started my 40/40/40  plan.

Honoring Relationships

I have a list of way more than 40 people I want to thank. I started with my mother; after all, she gave me life and taught me the majority of my life lessons. She’s also set a dandy example when it comes to faith, strength, giving, and compassion. I’m lucky she’s my mom!

Giving Possessions

I decided the first possessions I need to let go of are books. I found half a dozen books I can live without, and instead of offering them for trade on Paperbackswap.com, I am taking them to our local library for their used book sale. I kind of figured it would be cheating to put them up for trade and bring more books into the house when I’m trying to divest myself of stuff.


I am thankful for our Ash Wednesday service tonight. It is one of the most meaningful worship services of the year for me. I am quite partial to the lessons appointed for this day, and the liturgy is moving.

I also had a good time burning last years palms with my husband. He had the wonderful idea of using a propane torch and a tin can. It was efficient, quick, and didn’t smell anything up too badly (especially since we had a strong wind today).  I’m thankful we can share parts of our ministry with each other.

How about you? If you keep Lent, how did you start off the season?

Snow & the Friday Five

Yes, I’m thankful that it’s snowing outside. After all it is January in Pennsylvania, so we should be having a few snow showers. As long as it will be clear by Sunday morning, I’m tickled pink to enjoy watching its silent fall.

The dogs had a blast playing in it, Dexter rooting his snout into it and tossing the fluffy bits into the air and Pete looking like a giant snow bear. It is good to end a delightful Friday with a covering of clean, white beauty. All seasons have their delights, and winter is wonderful for its crisp, clear air, minimalism, and snowy artistry. Thank you, God, for snow and four distinct and lovely seasons.

What’s your favorite season? What joys do you find in winter?

The Friday Five

For my Friday Five I’m thankful for

  1. A date night with my spouse and the pretty pink roses he gave me yesterday,
  2. Yummy homemade tomato soup,
  3. A delightful discussion at our Coffee, Tea, & Theology Book Club meeting today AND two new participants,
  4. The promise of a lazy Saturday morning, and
  5. SNOW!!!

What five people, things, or events brought you delight this day? For what do you need to offer thanks?

Photo by lalofont used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!


Hallelujah! Friday Five for the 13th

Hallelujah, it’s the weekend!  I’m not a bit suspicious. Are you? It’s Friday the 13th, and I am simply thankful that it IS Friday. We’re planning to go see Joyful Noise tonight, starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. It should prove to be an uplifting and fun way to usher in the weekend. Check back tomorrow for a review.

But for now, here’s my list of the Friday Five Thanksgivings:

1) I’m thankful for a husband who loves, encourages and supports me.

2) I’m thankful for my children, for my parents and in-laws, and my extended family. Their love lifts me higher.

3) I’m thankful for a dedicated fun group of folks with whom to serve on our Church Council. We had a long meeting last night, but it was a good one. Thanks, ya’ll!

4) I’m thankful to be going to see a movie tonight. I enjoy film, and I’m especially excited to see Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah together. What a pair of amazing women!

5) I’m thankful to have enough good food to eat, water to drink, a roof over my head, and heat to cut this bitter wind that’s blowing across the state of Pennsylvania.

What are you thankful for on this freaky Friday?

Photo courtesy http://joyfulnoisemovie.warnerbros.com/index.html#/home. Thanks!

Thankful to Express Thanks

This has been an amazing year full of change, closure, beginnings, joy, and delight! In addition to moving, marrying my best friend and muse, beginning an exciting new call, and undertaking some meaty writing projects, I’ve also shifted my mental location to a place of living in a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness.

I’ve always been a pretty optimistic and grateful person, seeing life’s glass as being half full rather than half empty, but this mind shift has more to do with recognizing God’s abundance and how that is poured out in each and every day. It’s pretty cool stuff, and all one has to do is start to look for it. What happens is that you begin to see more and more for which to be thankful and grateful.

When I was living in upstate New York, our bishop, Marie Jerge, often reminded us of God’s goodness with this simple call and response statement:

“God is good all the time!”

“All the time, God is good!”

Say that a few times in a room full of teenagers at a Lutheran camp or LYO event, and see how much more positively disposed you are to experiencing God’s abundance!

So today I thank all of you for stopping by and sharing a little thanksliving with me. I hope you’ll continue the journey into the new year. I am simply thankful to be able to express thanks.

How about you? To whom do you want and/or need to say thank you? Isn’t is wonderful to have the freedom and capability to express thanks?


Looking for a good way to stay in touch with people in this season of light and love? Didn’t get all the Christmas cards sent out that you’d wanted to? Here’s a “thanks-doing” that only requires a note, stamp, and a little time. Click here to visit the Mother Nature Website for an explanation of “New Year’s Gratitude Cards by blogger Starre Vartan.

Photo by artgoeshere used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!


Thankful for a “Do-Almost-Nothing” Day

Today was a “do-almost-nothing” or “do-as-little-as-possible” day in the Blezard household. After the Christmas worship services, preparing the family meal, and enjoying good times opening presents and playing games, it was time to decompress. In fact, the only activities that caused us to leave the house were four trips up the street to the site of several “Spatchy” sightings (more on that in a minute) and a walk to the cemetery with the dogs. Other than that it was a lazy day of naps, conversation, and uninterrupted reading for the adults.

This Christmas, our first together as a blended family, was wonderful on most counts. It was a bit traumatic where the animals were concerned. Our way cool and much beloved cat somehow managed to sneak out on a rainy night which put a “damper” over the holiday. We posted flyers around town, and just this morning a young person called saying he had seen her getting into the dumpster near their apartment. Hence our trips up the street to look for her and leave food for her. Still no actual sighting for us, however.

The second animal event happened on Christmas afternoon with our Springer Spaniel. Pete has been having seizures of late, and the last one has definitely left him with some behavioral changes including enhanced counter surfing capabilities. Mr. Husband had left a pan of yeast rolls rising on the back of the stove. We went next door to the church to put our turkey in the refrigerator there until dinner time. While we were gone, Pete managed to finagle the pan onto the floor and had devoured all but one of the unbaked rolls. What happens when active yeasty dough meets warm belly? Yes, you guessed it; severe bloat and bellyache. Were it not for the real fear of a serious medical condition we would have enjoyed much laughter at poor Pete’s expense. Fortunately, he came through it alright, although he did barf most of the rolls onto the living room floor.

Aside from the animal trauma and the typical parish pastor post-Christmas fatigue, it was a glorious weekend. The worship in both parishes was wonderful, the generosity and love shared all around was something to behold, the food delicious, and the reason for the season–the gift of the Christ Child, the Word made flesh–was again humbling, amazing, and gratefully received. Yes, a “do-almost-nothing” day on December 26 is indeed something for which to be thankful.

For what are you grateful on this second day of Christmas?

NOTE: Congratulations to Natasha for winning last week’s contest. I know where to find you and will have your notes waiting. Thanks for sharing your experience!

REQUEST: Please include a prayer for our kitty if you’re so inclined. We hope to spot her and bring her home soon. It’s been a joy to know she’s still alive and close by; it would be so much more wonderful to have her back with us. Thank you!

REMINDER: Adventures in Thanksliving will return on a regular basis on January 1, 2012, with enhanced content and a focus on a year-long life of thanksliving. Hope to see you there!

Photo by GabriellaP93 used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!