When I got home from my volunteer job yesterday, I chatted with AdventureMan while I puttered in the kitchen, and asked where we were going for lunch – it was his turn to choose. It was hard to hear him, for some reason he was hanging out in the entry hall around the corner. He asked where I was and I told him I was in the kitchen.
“Let’s get going,” I said, as our grandson needs to be picked up when he gets out of school.
“Ahhhhhk! I can’t stand it! I can’t wait!” he said. “Please come here!”
He was still in the hallway, looking out the window, so I looked out the window and he told me I was cold, and getting colder.
I turned around, confused, and then I saw them – perfect, long stemmed white roses, surrounded only with white baby’s breath, oh, it’s a combination that always makes my heart flutter.
” . . . . ” (That’s me, not knowing what to say, stunned.
“But it’s not my birthday!”
He had a doctors appointment in the morning, and is doing well. So well, he had one of those epiphanies, when you are happy and you know it (LOL, clap your hands!) (It’s a children’s song “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap clap) . . . )
He’s happy. I’m happy. We had a sweet lunch together at one of our favorite eateries. Life is sweet.
We met President von Weizsaecker under unusual circumstances. He has asked to greet members of the US Forces living in Germany on Thanksgiving. A friend called us urgently two days before Thanksgiving, asking if we would join them; they had been selected for the President’s visit. Others had been invited, but their children had come down with chicken-pox. We had just moved, had no plans and were delighted for the offer.
President Richard von Weizsaecker arrived in a large motorcade, the streets lined with people. When he entered the military quarters, suddenly we all felt a bit shy, but he sat himself among all the children, who all happened to be boys and un-shy. He knew just how to get them talking, and us. He was a most gracious and elegant man, sure of who he was, and excelling in putting others at ease.
The next day our photo appeared on the front page of the Stars and Stripes with the President, and our friends from all over Germany were calling to ask if we’d gone undercover – we were identified with the names of the people who had originally been invited, whose children had chicken pox. Of course, the more we explained, the more nobody believed us. It was hilarious.
BERLIN (AP) – Former German President Richard von Weizsaecker, who urged his country to confront the Nazi past, promoted reconciliation and denounced far-right violence during a 10-year tenure that spanned the reunification of west and east, has died. He was 94.
President Joachim Gauck’s office announced Weizsaecker’s death on Saturday. Weizsaecker, a patrician and eloquent figure who was president from 1984 to 1994, raised the profile of the largely ceremonial presidency and established himself as a moral conscience for the nation.
Weizsaecker’s May 1985 speech marking the 40th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II cemented his reputation. It won widespread praise as an effort to bring fellow Germans to terms with the Holocaust.
“All of us, whether guilty or not, whether young or old, must accept the past. We are all affected by its consequences and liable for it,” said Weizsaecker, who served as a regular soldier in Adolf Hitler’s army. “Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present.”
“The 8th of May was a day of liberation,” he told the West German parliament. “It freed us all from the system of National Socialist tyranny.”
Later that month, the Netherlands’ German-born Prince Claus presented the president with a Dutch translation of the speech, telling him that it enabled him finally to acknowledge his roots in a country where resentment of the Nazi occupation remained widespread.
In October 1985, Weizsaecker made the first visit to Israel by a West German head of state. His Israeli counterpart, Chaim Herzog, said the comments had won Weizsaecker “a special place in the history of your people.”
“Richard von Weizsaecker stood worldwide for a Germany that had found its way to center of the democratic family of peoples,” current President Joachim Gauck said in a message of condolences to Weizsaecker’s widow. “He stood for a federal republic that faces up to its past.”
We lived so many years in Germany, and one of the phrases that would drive me crazy is people exclaiming about schnitzles that “were so BIG they were hanging off the plate!” (said with big googly eyes). Big and schnitzle do not necessarily go well together. Schnitzle can be tough, it can have too much fat, it can be gristly. Living there for so long, I’ve had some really bad schnitzles, big and small. During our later years in Germany, we avoided schnitzle altogether; there were so many other alternatives, more refined dishes – pumpkin raviolis, white asparagus soups, St. Martin’s goose, venison ragout, duck breasts . . . (drooling in a very un-refined way . . . )
But lately, I had tiny hankering for a plain old schnitzle, and here we were in Panama City Beach, where there is a HofBrau House.
When we lived in Heidelberg, there was a HofBrau House nearby. Growing up in Germany, it seemed to me HofBrau House was everywhere, sort of like a German version of McDonalds. Now, you don’t see them so often as you used to, except for the original one in Munich.
AdventureMan is a great sport; he likes schnitzle less than I do, but off we go to HofBrau House, and actually, we have a great time.
I order a pretzel, it is huge and it is very hot, and served with a mustard dipping sauce. (This is nothing like we ever had in Germany; pretzels were mostly street-food.) It was salty and the sauce was delicious. I loved it.
The pretzel went great with the beer – very good beer – and the accordion music. The atmosphere in the HofBrau house is festive. The beer is VERY good.
When my schnitzel came, it covered the plate. I was aghast, but . . . it was crisply fried, not any fat, not any gristle and lots and lots of lemon wedges to squeeze onto it. We cut it in half and took half home for a late Thanksgiving snack the next night. We cut the remainder in half and enjoyed every bite. It will be a long long time before I feel a need for a schnitzel again, but this one did the HofBrau Haus proud.
Service was the best. All the wait staff looked really happy to be there, even those who had to wear the serving wench costumes. It is located in Pier Park, a great place to go walking after a schnitzel dinner, great shopping and a kid’s park with rides and a huge slide.
Back in Panama City for our annual gathering with our sweet daughter-in-law’s family, we check in at the Sunset Inn on a glorious day in late November. The view that greets us thrills our hearts:
There aren’t too many people staying at the beach, go figure, it’s Thanksgiving and families are gathering, but this is a GREAT time to be here. We have a full kitchen, so I can still roast my garlic-broccoli, make my Mom’s Cranberry Salad and make the topping for the Soused Apple Cake all while having the door wide open and listening to the waves roaring to the shore. This is one of my happiest places on earth.
These small surf boards give a lot of pleasure on smaller waves:
I thought I was back in Kuwait, overlooking the family park in Fintas:
I can see things slipping a little at the Sunset Inn, carpets not being replaced, linens getting thinner from so many washings, small repairs not being made – and I know our days there are numbered. Sigh. What they can’t replace in the personal character of the management – I can run down and beg a couple pieces of tinfoil to cover my broccoli; it is their motel, they manage it personally. There are countless soulless condos and motel rooms in Panama City Beach, but only one Sunset Inn.
We are thankful for so much, for God’s great abundance in our lives, and when I read today’s message on Forward Day by Day, I felt even more thankful. Zero sum game is the way most of us see life. You win, I lose; I win, you lose. With an attitude of Thanksgiving, we all win.
THURSDAY, November 27 Thanksgiving Day
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
Wherever this day finds you, I suspect you are thinking about thankfulness. Maybe your cup is overflowing with blessings, and you can’t stop thanking God for your many blessings. Maybe you’ve been through a harrowing season, and you are just thankful for being alive. Or maybe life has not lived up to your expectations, and you are struggling to find something for which to be thankful. It seems to me that thankfulness is one of those things that doesn’t run out. It’s the opposite of a zero-sum game, where one person wins and the other loses.
God invites us into an ever-present abundance, where we don’t have to worry about running out. The same is true for our thankfulness of those blessings. The more thankfulness we share, the more we receive—and the more others have as well. The truth of God’s good world is that there is enough. There’s enough for us to have what we need, and there’s enough for us to share.
Pray for the Diocese of Kericho (Kenya)
Ps 65; Deuteronomy 8:7-18; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19
It’s funny, you think when you retire you will have a carefree life, but we human beings being who we are, it turns out retirement looks a whole lot like the life we had before. Or maybe it’s because we choose the lives we get?
We are busy. We have taken on obligations. We have deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, groceries to buy, church duties, volunteer jobs – people are counting on us. It’s very much what our working lives looked like, even then, we had jobs that weren’t always fun, but had a lot of moving parts that we thoroughly enjoyed. I mostly worked in libraries, fund raising and social services; AdventureMan worked managing people and resources. Not a whole lot has changed, except the hours are better.
But it is easier to take a day off. Today I am usually at my volunteer job, but when they called last night to ask if I would be coming in, I just laughed and said “No, see you next week.” They were probably as glad as I was; less prep for them.
No, I needed today to bake my Soused Apple Cake for the Thanksgiving gathering, chop the nuts for the Mom’s Cranberry Salad, pack up the Rosettes, and get the broccoli marinating. I know, I know, broccoli for Thanksgiving? Yes. We get older, we need broccoli. I soak it in good olive oil and garlic, with a little salt, then roast it on Thanksgiving at 400° for about 30 minutes and it is tasty and delicious and you hardly know you are eating broccoli.
Soused Apple Cake
From Quail Country: The Junior League of Albany, Georgia.
If you don’t have brandy, don’t bother with this one – the brandy give it the punch, even though all the alcohol cooks off during baking. Kids hate this cake, adults love it.
4 cups cooking apple
1 cup raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (grate it fresh, it matters!)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 teaspoon mace
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups flour
Peel, core and finely chop apples; put into a bowl with raisins and cover with brandy, and soak overnight. Drain apples and raisins, set aside.
Combine sugar, salad oil and eggs. Set aside. Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and mace. Add to oil mixture. Mix in apples, pecans and raisins. Mix well and pour into an oiled 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook in 325 degree oven for 1 hour.
Cut into squares, serve topped with sweetened whipped cream. Yield 15 – 20 servings.
** I use a tiny bit of ground cloves instead of mace. I also have used all sorts of whiskeys and brandies, but my favorite remains calvados or . . . rum! It is one of my favorite recipes.
I need to get in and out of the kitchen, finish my clean up so AdventureMan can make his famous Pecan Pie – he makes it with chocolate, it looks very fancy and tastes divine. Everyone oooooh! and aaaaaahs! when they see his pecan pie. 🙂
There is a great joy in this work, knowing we will be with people we enjoy, people who are full of thanks and interesting stories. We will do a lot of catching up and share a wonderful meal. Happy Thanksgiving!
It’s just the season, and it’s not so bad. It’s one of those days when I just have a lot to do, and after ‘working’ the Angel Tree, I hurry to the commissary. Just as I have checked out, we hear the thunder and lightning, and the rain comes down in sheets.
It shows no signs of stopping. When it lightens just a little, I rush to the car, which is not too far away, and by the time I get there, my dress is soaked. We stand under the car door, which, thank God, opens in the “up” direction, as the bagger unloads the groceries, and then I hurry home, and AdventureMan unloads while I, shivering in my wet dress, change clothes.
I don’t get to wear this dress often. It is a beautiful, thin, light wool challis, from Iran. Too warm for most of the year here, and not warm enough for our record cold days. It is a beautiful, subtle paisley with burgundy, cobalt and emerald paisleys intricately strewn on a khaki background. I love the pattern, and I am terrified the soaking will shrink the wool.
I had some studies to do for a class I am taking, I had some preparations to do for Thanksgiving, roaring upon us this week, and I needed to do laundry. After I had done all that, I was catching up with “Alaska, the Last Frontier” when AdventureMan came to me and said “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” I queried. “Why?”
“We wanted to go to the handbells concert today, and I forgot!”
I looked at the clock. The concert was half over. Even if I wanted to go, just getting ready and getting there would take up the time the concert had left.
I am great in the mornings. I get up, have my routine, get things done. I check the calendar, I am ORGANIZED. But something happens to me by late afternoon, things just slip my mind. I get involved with a quilting project or reading a book, or . . . . or whatever. By the time I remember a late afternoon activity, I’ve missed it. Oh aaarrgh.
I’m thinking when I look at my calendar in the morning, I should set my alarm for any activity I have scheduled in the afternoon, but I don’t always keep my phone nearby . . .
So begins my week.
Its been a sad couple of months, starting with our cat’s death, and a friend’s death. We grieve Pete, we miss him, and we ask ourselves if we made a big mistake thinking a knee operation would be the right thing, if he would have lived happily without it? Pete was in pain. There were days he couldn’t go up the stairs. There were days he spent almost the entire day in his heated bed. We didn’t see a lot of options. Other sad news has hit; it feels like a season of losses.
In the Lectionary readings, we are reading Job, Ayyoub, and I think if my friend who said “Al-hamdallah!” when I told her my father is dying. I learned so much from her. She made me understand I am to thank God even for the bad things, it is God’s will, and a part of a bigger picture I will never see. And then this morning, I saw a reference to an old post, a post from 2006, a post I don’t even remember writing.
Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door.
Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole that from her.
During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come for the holiday.
Then Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. She has no idea what I’m feeling, thought Sandra with a shudder.
Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?
“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The shop clerk’s approach startled her.
“I….I need an arrangement,” stammered Sandra.
“For Thanksgiving? Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving “Special?” asked the shop clerk. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories,” she continued. “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this thanksgiving?”
“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”
Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”
Just then the shop door’s small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, “Hi, Barbara…let me get your order.” She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.
“Want this in a box?” asked the clerk.
Sandra watched for the customer’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.
“Yes, please,” Barbara, replied with an appreciative smile. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn’t be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again,” she said as she gently tapped her chest. And she left with her order.
“Uh,” stammered Sandra, “that lady just left with, uh….she just left with no flowers!
“Right, said the clerk, “I cut off the flowers. That’s the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”
“Oh, come on, you can’t tell me someone is willing to pay for that!” exclaimed Sandra.
“Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling much like you feel today,” explained the clerk. “She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery.”
“That same year I had lost my husband,” continued the clerk, “and for the first time in my life, had just spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”
“So what did you do?” asked Sandra.
“I learned to be thankful for thorns,” answered the clerk quietly. “I’ve always thanked God for the good things in my life and never questioned the good things that happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask questions! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I have always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”
Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. “I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.”
Just then someone else walked in the shop. “Hey, Phil!” shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.
“My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving Special….12 thorny, long-stemmed stems!” laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.
“Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra incredulously. “Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?”
“No…I’m glad you asked,” Phil replied. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from “thorny” times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific “problem” and give thanks for what that problem taught us.”
As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”
“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life.” Sandra said. “It’s all too…fresh.”
“Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don’t resent the thorns.”
Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out.
“I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.”
“Thank you. What do I owe you?”
“Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first.”
It read: “My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant.”
Praise Him for your roses; thank him for your thorns!
I know God can bring great good out of all things. I have seen this in my own life, out of the worst circumstances can come good I could never have foreseen. I am praying this fervently; that he will bring great good out of all circumstances.
Oh, what fun!
Some photos from the gathering.
My daughter-in-law made these fabulous bacon-wrapped stuffed dates:
Uncle Woodrow introduces the cousins to farm-grown sugar cane:
We love this place, the Sunset Inn, a little Mom and Pop kind of motel, hard to find in over-developed Panama City Beach with its huge soulless condominiums towering over the white sands.
As we walk in the door, the view hits us and we breathe in the sea air and go “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.” The minute we walk in the door, we start to feel relaxed.
We both have cooking to do, so we get busy, but busy with glances at the view, and trips to our balcony to breathe. It is COLD, with a cold wind, but so gorgeous, so breath-takingly gorgeous, and we are happy.
Soon, there are cranberries cooking for Mom’s Cranberry Salad and hot juice brewing for the punch, redolent of cinnamon and cloves and orange peel, wonderful smells filling our room – and that view. Life is sweet.
And then, just when you think it can’t get any better, the sun starts to set, the light goes all golden and soft and oh, life is sweet.