As I write this, the late evening sunlight is shining through purple-gray clouds. It is the golden hour – that time before dark when everything is bathed in a soft yellow light. Autumn in Ohio is in full bloom – bright oranges and reds and yellows, and I can hear the sound of the wind blowing through trees.
For me, it is easy to be grateful in the fall. I love the cool air and crisp colors. I love cooking soups and stews and baking treats laced with cinnamon. I am a pastor, and when I step outside and see the canvas that for me is God’s creation, I thank God.
The first prayer my husband and I taught our sons was “Thank you, God.” When my boys were toddlers this was our prayer before meals – and still is. I will always remember their first prayers: “Thank you God for Daddy. Thank you, God, for the backhoe loader. Thank you, God, for grapes.” We thank God before meals and at the end of the day after we read our books and sing our songs and before I pray a blessing over each boy, we say thank you to God for the day.
I try to teach my children to live gratefully, but I’m not always good at saying thank you myself. While I was packing for my family’s move from Crestline to Mansfield last year I stumbled upon a box containing a few thank you notes I wrote after my wedding – 11 years ago. Somehow this stack had never been mailed, and I felt the guilt of the thing I should have done but never did. You know those thoughtful people who are always sending cards– thank yous and birthdays and thinking of you notes? I am not one of them.
I want to get better at thanking the people in my life. I want them to know I am thankful for them. I want to be more grateful. I have read about the research saying people who practice gratitude are happier. So I try to be thankful but it’s easy to forget. My spiritual director advised me to begin each day with a list of things I’m grateful for. Sometimes I remember, but most days the alarm clock goes off, and I immediately begin thinking of all that I need to do. Maybe my checklist could become a prayer of thanksgiving as I look ahead to the opportunities I will be given each and every day.
Practicing gratitude has helped me get through the most difficult seasons of my life. When I’m frustrated with my job, I think of the things I have because of it: clothing and food and a home. When I reach out to friends or colleagues, I feel grateful for the support they provide. When I face conflict I practice thanking God for the person with whom I’m in conflict. This helps me to see them as a human being – a person with unique strengths and weaknesses; a person who I believe is, like every person in the world, created in the image of God. Being grateful simply makes life better.
For me, gratitude is about saying thank you – and it’s also about seeing life as a gift. My grateful response is to offer myself in service to the one who I believe is the giver, and also to the people around me: my family, my colleagues, my parishioners, and the people I encounter wherever I go.
How does your perspective change when you begin to think of life as a gift? How does that sense of giftedness color the people and the world around you?
When I forget that my life is a gift, I am called back by the simplest things: a sunrise, a yoga class, the sound of my children’s giggles. So as autumn turns to winter and the colors change to brown and gray, I will remember the life that’s waiting beneath the frost. And I will keep saying thank you.
The Rev. Becky Weamer is the pastor of Mansfield First United Methodist Church. Before moving to Mansfield in July 2018 Becky pastored Crestline United Methodist Church, where she helped to launch the Crestline Farmers Market. Becky grew up near Flint, Michigan and is a graduate of the University of Michigan. She served two years as an AmeriCorps Volunteer In Service to America in rural West Virginia before attending Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. From 2008-2012 she was the youth & young adult pastor at Christ Crossman United Methodist Church in Falls Church, Virginia. Becky’s greatest joys in ministry are building community and helping people to grow in their spiritual lives. She enjoys playing violin and singing, cooking and baking, running, yoga, and spending time with her husband Joe Clark and their two sons, Charlie and Daniel.
It’s 4:30 am and I awake to the smell of apples cooking. I stretch and move Sam, our dog, off my feet so I can get up to stir the apples. I don’t think I imagined at the age of 13 or 14 that I would sleep all night on my couch and stir apples cooking in a roaster every two hours so my family could have Grandma’s apple butter for the holidays, but here I am, loving every minute of it.
As I add the cinnamon flavor, the aroma fills my kitchen and I can almost see my mom and grandma
sitting at my kitchen table, enjoying a cup of coffee and great conversation. Watching them together, it
was always obvious the love they shared for one another.
My Grandma’s apple butter was a staple at our house growing up and to be honest, I’ve never tasted store bought apple butter. I sometimes see it in the store and think maybe I should buy it. But I pass it up
knowing it won’t be as good. As is often the case, I took for granted that it would just be there, available anytime I wanted some. I also took for granted the work that went into those reddish-brown jars of caramelized apples. Although I had witnessed the process, it wasn’t until Grandma shared her recipe with me and I made it, that I realized, making apple butter is a labor of love.
Cooking with Love
Most of our family’s meals were raised in our gardens, harvested in the fall and canned or frozen to enjoy throughout the year. We spent many hours picking and cleaning green beans, shucking corn or enjoying fresh strawberries while growing up, always with mom and grandma by our side showing us how it was done.
I retrieved fresh eggs from Grandma’s chicken coop and watched my Grandfather collect honey from his
hives many times when I was younger. Although they told us often they loved us, their actions surrounded us and we never doubted their love.
Spending time with my grandparents happened weekly and almost always involved food. Whether it was Sunday dinners, Thanksgiving or Christmas, the air was filled with mouth-watering aromas from the kitchen, the deep baritone laughter of my grandfather and us impatiently waiting for the blessing over the meal to be done.
Passing it along
It’s been 30 years since my mom passed and 22 for my grandmother, so for me canning apple butter is so much more than simply filling jars. It’s sharing a part of my heritage with our children, our family and
friends. It’s remembering that I was completely loved as a daughter of Gatha and Doug and granddaughter of Sarah and Roland. It has taught me that sometimes loving is hard and time-consuming, but it’s worth it.
One of the ways I love my children and others is through my cooking just like Grandma. When my son
comes home from college or my daughter has had a bad day, my first thought is what can I cook for them
to make them feel better. When I hear someone is sick or struggling with life, I wonder what they would
like for dinner.
Loving someone takes action, whether it’s making them a meal, sending them a card or just spending time with them making apple butter. And the return is just as sweet. Watching my children as they sit down to a favorite meal that I prepared, is a great joy to me. It might be a simple act of love, but it is one I pass along to them and I hope someday they will pass along as well.
After graduating from Plymouth High School, Marilyn John attended North Central State College earning an Associate’s Degree in Business Management. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Marketing and a Masters of Business Administration from Ashland University. While working on her MBA, she worked as a Commercial Lines Underwriter at the Shelby Insurance Company, later becoming the Executive Director of the Shelby Senior Center. In 2009, Marilyn was elected Mayor of the City of Shelby serving until her election as a Richland County Commissioner in 2015. As an elected official, her main goals have been job creation through economic development, finding flood solutions for flood prone areas of the county, and working with junior high students to develop strong leadership skills through a program she founded, LeaderRichland. Marilyn and her husband Kevin have two children and attend Crossroads Community Church.
“I want to be a secretary like my mom.” As a child, that was my response every time someone had asked what I wanted my future career to be. Like many children, I aspired for my life to reflect those around me… after all, that was what I knew.
Whether I lacked creativity, bravery or just knowledge, I never imagined a career outside of the walls I had grown up with.
Even in high school, after a tragedy struck my family, I was surrounded by local advocates and I still had imagined myself growing up to be just like them.
Fast forward to today
Mom Betsy (L) and Dad Jim (R) with Traci Willis
I graduated from The University of Findlay in April of 2016. While enrolled I quickly changed my major to social work, I aligned myself with a diverse community of students and I learned to question the status quo.
At 21, Steve Jobs started Apple. What was once entirely Microsoft-driven was being questioned and replaced with newer, personalized machines. Jobs had realized that he was equally as smart as those before him and, over the span of about 40 years, he had led Apple to becoming 2016’s third-ranked Fortune 500 company.
A wise, innovative man once said,
“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is…
Your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.
That is a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you.
But you can change it.
You can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
My Intention: ACTION!
My adventure began simply with a phone call to State Representative Mark Romanchuk and an invitation to get coffee. While there, I told him that I could see potential for our city and I wanted to get further involved. He provided me with a list of about 20 local advocates and I began making phone calls that week.
By about my third phone call, I had already received a guided tour of downtown Mansfield (Jenni Paramore), an invitation to Mind Body Align Coffee Talks (Donna Payne), and a possible opportunity with Downtown Mansfield Inc. (Jamie Thompson).
My Intention: show up and lead
Since then, I led the movement to create an event in the Brickyard for International Overdose Awareness Day. I began participating in a variety of meetings and networking opportunities, and I accepted an AmeriCorps position serving with Downtown Mansfield Inc.
In addition, I was offered the opportunity to serve as a chair member of the Richland Young Professionals and was invited to participate on the board of the Starfish Project of Richland County.
Similar to when I was a child, I had taken everything I experienced as truth. A few years ago, I had never questioned a career outside of what I believed, as a woman, my life could be.
And last year, I began to question why Mansfield was never a consideration for where I could live after college. I had always been instructed to leave Mansfield and, unfortunately, the majority of my high school friends have moved or are intending to move away. But, since I have done the opposite, I am often confronted with the question:
Why are you still here?
So here is my answer: I am in Mansfield again because up until now, I knew nothing positive of my hometown.
I had once believed that Mansfield was a black hole and, once I settled, I could never leave. I had the perspective that I could never amount to anything here and I would have to move away to find opportunities or a successful career.
However, the sole reason I believed that is because I had grown up with it. I had heard someone say each of the statements above and, unfortunately, I took that to be true.
Mansfield is “The Field” of opportunity!
Until about seven months ago, when out of pure curiosity, I made a phone call and scheduled a coffee date. Since then, what I’ve realized is that Mansfield is great. It is full of opportunities, it is full of hard workers, and it is a community that, I believe, I could not find elsewhere. After three phone calls, I would have never been offered a personally guided tour of the city, nor would I have found the opportunities that Mind Body Align offers. And most importantly, I would not have had the opportunity to participate, hands-on, in the revitalization effort of my hometown.
While transitioning to where I am now, I kept saying that, eventually, if I remained active in the community, I would become a part of the circle of advocates. However, what I’ve learned, is that it isn’t a circle, or a clique or even a neighborhood. Rather, there is a community within Mansfield determined to maximize the city to its ultimate potential and they are always looking for more supporters to challenge, with them, the status quo.
Similar to the article posted two weeks ago by Jodie Perry, President of the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce and Guest Columnist for the News Journal. Jodie expressed that her hometown of Rochester, NY, experienced a similar period of struggle. However, with time and a change of perspective, they have revitalized. When she confronted her hometown for advice to help Mansfield, they responded with a “simple, yet groundbreaking response – they worked together, stopped accepting the status quo and took a few risks”.
A beginners mind
Great things are possible and, with a beginner’s mind, there are many solutions. Please don’t encourage the youth to leave our city, rather offer to take them on a tour.
Show them the history and the resiliency of those who reside here, as well as the determination of those who are investing and looking to recreate.
Talk about the opportunities that Mansfield has, the cheap living options and the convenient location between Cleveland and Columbus. And lastly, show them a community that has been hiding in plain sight for years.
As a New Year’s resolution, find someone who has been entrenched in the negativity of Mansfield and, please, invite them to participate in something meaningful. Prove to them that, despite negative reputation, Mansfield is somewhere worth considering.
I am here because I believe in our city’s potential, why are you?
Traci returned to Mansfield after graduating from The University of Findlay with her Bachelor’s degree in social work. Upon graduation, she was recognized as one of five “Outstanding Undergraduate Students of 2016”, and was one of thirty women across Ohio invited to participate in the NEW Leadership program, sponsored by The Ohio State University. To date, Traci is an AmeriCorps Representative serving with Downtown Mansfield Inc. (DMI). Traci’s role consists of online and personal outreach, volunteer management and learning/sharing information regarding historic buildings in the downtown districts.
Have you ever been at the healthiest place in your life—but slip away from your habits and routines—only to eventually get back to your healthy place again, thinking: “I’m so fulfilled and happy when I’m healthy, how do I allow myself to slip?”
Slowly, day by day, we get wrapped up in life’s demands until we just can’t operate on low-fuel anymore. Then we look back to our happy-healthy place and long to be in our centered place that feels like “home”.
We’ve all done it. Whether your healthy place is mental health, physical health, spiritual health or all of the above. We all get busy, overwhelmed, have unexpected or tragic life circumstances rip the carpet right out from beneath us.
Embrace – Grow – Honor
I want to invite you to embrace those cycles of life. Sure it would be fabulous to always be happy and healthy, but where would your growth come from? Where would your appreciation for the broken, the poor, your neighbors or elders come from?
Through life’s lessons we learn more clearly that everyone has a story. And, everyone’s story should be honored, no matter how different.
We recognize grace that was bestowed upon us in our time of challenge or troubles, is equally impacting when we also give that grace to others. We realize that a smile, a hug, an act of service, an unexpected note in the mail, a gift or a listening ear can change a person’s entire outlook. It doesn’t end there, though. Remember, the ripple effect? When you give of yourself to others, your simple gesture spreads positive energy throughout the community. It’s equivalent to “paying It forward.”
Mindfulness in action
Be mindful of your steps, the words you speak and the people who come across your path throughout the day. It’s no mistake they are there. My hope is that you’re inspired to reach out, give, support and love more in your daily walk.
I like to think I’ve always been someone with an extra smile to give away or an extra warm complement to share. My heart for others has always been open and without judgement. I learned in my early twenties about the abundance of grace, forgiveness and pure joy. My life was transformed and I was forever changed. Thank you, God!!
I also learned that none of us are perfect and everyone has a story. I learned that filling myself up with joy will naturally cause my cup to overflow and spill joy from within, onto others. Giving of myself, in whatever way I felt led, was actually fueling my own joy up, tremendously, day after day. I found true peace and life was darn good!!!
At the heart of giving is joy, peace and love. It’s not only what we’re extending to others, but it’s what we’re filling ourselves up with, at the same time. Arguably, greater is our reward when we give. As it’s been said…giving is living.
Bonnie Gross is formerly the General Manager of Mind Body Align. Her roles included overseeing operations, community collaborations, promotion and planning. Prior to this position, she was the Visitor Services Manager at Kingwood Center Gardens. Bonnie also has over eight years experience in the healthcare industry ranging from Director of Admissions to Community Liaison.
She is passionate about helping others, being a strong source of encouragement and always finding new ways to be the best person she can be. Her dedication, commitment and drive come from a strong hard-working family background.
Bonnie is an active member in the community and currently serves as an Ambassador for the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce. She enjoys cooking, reading motivational self-help books, the outdoors and spending time with her family of five.
Why do you give? What do you want the impact of your giving to be? What do you intend to create for yourself, your loved ones, and your community through the act of giving? When I ask myself these questions, the journey always leads me to a simple destination. I want to give love and happiness.
Simple, and not easy! Per the Webster’s Dictionary, to give means: “to freely transfer the possession of something to someone”. That seems straight forward if I’m giving someone an object like a piece of jewelry. Then I asked myself, when I give love, what is the thing I’m possessing that I’m transferring to someone? What is love?
So, I invite you to pause with me for a second to explore. You might want to remember a moment when you felt love or deeply loved.
What is happening in your memory? Who was with you? Where does the memory take place?
Take a deep breath and allow yourself to recall a special moment of feeling love. When you have the memory clearly in your mind and heart, and when you can see, hear and know you are feeling love, ask yourself, what is the feeling of love? Simply breathe, and notice.
What is the felt sensation of love?
The Five Love Languages
I have been doing a lot of Christmas shopping, and while shopping, I have been lamenting the fact that I feel I am not a great giver of gifts. I never know what to buy, I’m afraid that the receiver won’t like my gift, and It seems so wasteful to buy something that’s not needed or wanted. When I evaluate the impact of my gift buying, I realize that I’m just not feelin’ the love.
Many years ago I read a book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. In this book, the author describes five ways we communicate love, appreciation, and gratitude.
The Five Love Languages are:
Receiver of Gifts
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
My primary “love language” is Quality Time – I feel loved when someone spends “quality” time with me. My secondary love language is Acts of Service – I feel loved when someone does something for me; when someone serves my needs without being asked.
The love language that is at the bottom of my list is Receiver of Gifts. Sure, I like receiving gifts, but, I feel loved when I am invited to do something fun, or if someone does something that I need done without my having to ask.
When I remembered that giving gifts is not a way that I understand love or feel loved, I immediately relaxed into gift giving for the holidays. I began to inquire into my loved one’s love languages. For example, my husband and I have similar love languages. So as a gift for Carl, I will stop looking for “cool Carl stuff” to buy and I will find an experience or an event that we can do together. As for my Mom, she doesn’t feel loved when receiving gifts either. As I think back and remember her words and her behavior, I am guessing that her love languages are Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. I will find something she would enjoy that we can do together, and I will give it to her with a mushy card.
So, how do you know someone’s love language?
Here is my suggestion. Look at them, really look at them. Notice how they show you love. Do they buy you the best gifts? That would indicate someone who is a Receiver of Gifts. Do they invite you to go places and do things that are fun and unusual? That would indicate someone who will feel loved if you spend Quality Time with them. Do they send you heartfelt cards for every occasion or call you to tell you how much they love and miss you? This person will feel loved and appreciated if you shower them with Words of Affirmation. Possibly you know someone who is always doing little things for you without being asked. They will know you love them if you perform some Acts of Service. And finally, do you have someone special in your life who is always hugging, touching you on the shoulder or patting you on the head? This person will likely respond to physical touch. Put your arms around them and give them a 20 second hug. Even if they wiggle and move, they will know that you love them.
Now it’s Your Turn
What are your love languages? What are the love languages of your loved ones?
Mother Teresa wrote, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
I encourage you to take a moment (another deep breath) and notice what you’re really giving to the people you love this holiday season. Is it a card and a sweater in a beautifully wrapped box, or is it true love and a moment of happiness?[/themedy_alertbox]