November Thanks #4 | A Gift Gathered, Given, Good

A thirty-day exercise in pausing, reflecting, appreciating, and giving thanks for simple things.

What can possibly be gathered, given, and good? Is it a gift of food gathered from a field, given to someone, and it tastes good? That seems the most simple, but I already shared a story about making homemade limoncello. The process of making it is truly a labor of love.

So I had to think long and hard on this, and in the end I came up with thoughts of a gift given to me and a gift I gave someone. Which one to share? Well, I’ll share both and maybe someone will comment and let me know which is the better.

Many years ago, I was given a beautiful pine cone wreath handmade by one of my sisters-in-law. It was a very large wreath and it truly was a work of art. She had gathered pine cones from several different places so that she could have different sizes and shades of brown. Then using a special glue, she built the wreath in layers, allowing each layer to dry completely before adding another layer. It was gorgeous and I wanted to display it year-round, but it required a very large space and needed to be securely hung because it had some weight to it. In my house at that time, there was a lofted ceiling over the entryway and it seemed the perfect place, so the wreath stayed there for several years and many people commented on it.

Indeed it was an art piece, so I never thought about it falling apart or needing to be taken down. But the oddest thing happened. My (then) husband’s grandmother passed away, someone he had treasured for much of his life. On the day of her funeral, our morning was pretty hectic as we were trying to get our young daughters dressed and out the door, on time, without getting dirty or messing up their hair. Quickly I cleaned up the kitchen and turned on the dishwasher and we were about to leave the house when suddenly that pine cone wreath came crashing down on the floor of the entryway. It was an awesome mess, but we had to clean it up because it was right in front of the door and we couldn’t get out of the house. My husband wasn’t thrilled at all. This was going to make us late, the kids were already rambunctious, so just more stress to an already stressful morning. We both grabbed brooms and garbage bags and did our best to clean up the mess enough so that we could get out of the house. And just as we finished up, we realized there was smoke coming from the kitchen and an awful smell of something hot. The dishwasher was on fire! Had we not stopped to clean up that mess of pine cones, we would have been long down the road and not at home to disconnect the dishwasher. Our house likely would have burned down. That pine cone wreath was a gift in more than one way.

Handmade gifts are some of my favorite things. Over the years I have made a lot of gifts to give at Christmas to friends and family—angels, cookies, fudge, limoncello. But one of my favorite gifts to make is a book, made especially for one or more of my daughters, and I’ve made several. I used to make a scrapbook of sorts, writing a poem or a story and adding photos since I’m not an illustrator. In recent years the internet has made this process even easier. So now I gather photos, upload them to a website, and create a book. I’m biased, I know, but I think these books are special gifts—gathered, created, good.

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