Tis’ the Gift

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Simple Gifts. A simple song penned by Joseph Bracken 164 years ago. A message of grace and delight in the simple blessing of each day, it was written as a Shaker dance – a dance we can still chose to dance.

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.                             ~H.U. Westermayer

Wherever you are and however you’re spending your Thanksgiving: whether you’re working or vacationing, whether you’re alone or with family or friends, my hope is that this Thanksgiving will be a day when simple gifts encourage your heart.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.                       ~ G.K. Chesterton

This is the Simple Gifts segment of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring with photos from Ansel Adams.



There is no greater difference between men than between grateful and ungrateful people.  ~R.H. Blyth

A New Blog by Debbie

It’s June 1st! The beginning of a new month and the beginning of a new blog for me. I’ve decided my quandary about which direction to go with Fork is best answered by launching a second blog. Well  not launching really, more like quietly beginning a different type of journey.

I’ll continue to write  here at Fork. I’ve tried, sometimes harder than others, to keep Fork a pretty politically correct place. You’ve let me know when I’ve crossed that invisible line. I’m guessing from the comments, many of you who read regularly, read Fork because you’re interested in gate guarding or full-time RV Living.

After 5 months of writing about oil rigs, Texas and the weather, I find myself veering off in other directions. I’ve tried to keep Fork true to its roots, but there are things I’d love to write about that just don’t fit here. And I’ve noticed, there’s not a whole lot of me here.

Today, I’m adding yet another road less traveled. The new blog is called Grace in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1  If you like Fork, you may like this, too, but not necessarily. It’s entirely different as you can probably guess from the name.

And yes, I know, I should have called it Good Night Moon. Tomorrow or the next day, it will  be Fork as usual here. As always, thanks for reading! dlb

You can check out this link if you’re interested. Or you can come back here in a day or two and read about how the grass really is always greener…

Grace in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1

What Not to Say When Someone is Grieving

In the world of grief, I’m still an apprentice. I think most people sincerely want to bring comfort to the grieving but just don’t know how. I had a conversation after yesterday’s post with someone who thinks I was being a bit too critical. Their position is that it’s the intent, not the words, that matter.

That’s caused me to  rethink what I write tonight. Instead of being philosophical, I’m just going to list some things that were said to me that, however well intended, hurt more than helped. In italics, I’m including my reactions. I didn’t say any of these things. I didn’t say much at all. I’m not proud of everything I thought, but I wanted to honestly offer a glimpse of the inside of a hurting heart.

When I miscarried near the end of my second trimester:

At least you already have a girl and a boy   I love them more than life. How does that, or gender have anything to do with this baby
This is just God’s way of taking care of His mistake   God is taking care of HIS mistake, I don’t think so
God needed another angel   God doesn’t need anything and He certainly wouldn’t change His mind, halfway through
It wasn’t a real person anyway  Yes he was and I already was in love with him
Remember, God is in control  I never doubt that, although I have no idea what you mean when you say it
You should have taken better care of yourself   I didn’t even take an aspirin or drink a cup of coffee
It’s been a month, you need to get over it   Is there a secret grief time-table
I had a miscarriage 20 years ago and it ruined my life   Well, that was encouraging
It was your fault: you shouldn’t have gone on vacation, played tennis etc…  Believe me, I wonder every moment if I did something to cause this or could have done something to prevent it
I was 28, heart-broken and already an expert in guilt. I never brought the topic up, but I got to the point of cringing when someone new would approached me. Most people were very kind. There were many wonderful people who hugged me, or said how sorry they were or who reassured me of their love and prayers. But I’m highlighting these comments to try to illustrate that, yes, the words do matter.

Twenty years later, when my parents died 11 months a part, I was less vulnerable to the effects of other people’s opinions and remarks, but I was rather stunned by these comments; most said in the visitation line at the funeral home:

I’ve never watched anyone die. What was it like?  Are you really asking me to describe the 18 hr death rattle, or how it felt to watch them tie my father’s jaw shut? Or are you asking what it was like let go of my mother’s hand for the last time
You had her for 50 years. You shouldn’t be sad. My Mom died when I was 23   Imagine how huge a hole 50 years leaves
She’s an angel now   Actually, angels and humans are different creations, you don’t die and turn into an angel
Think of the example you’re setting for your children when you cry  My ‘children’ are in their 20’s, they’re all grown up,and I promise, they’ve seen me cry before
At least you won’t have to take care of them anymore  Taking care of them was an honor, not a burden
They’re looking down on you, watching everything you do  OK, that is just creepy
You need to… I quit listening as soon as you started giving me advice
• When my dog died, I didn’t think I would ever recover  I quit listening as soon as you said dog
I know just how you feel  You have no idea how I feel
Time is the great healer  Time isn’t some mystical, magical thing  Time alters grief, it doesn’t heal it
You’re Mom and Dad wouldn’t want you to be sad   My Mom and Dad would find my sorrow honoring, not embarrassing
Every cloud has a silver lining  In addition to being trite, I have no idea what that has to do with this moment
I know what you’re going through, I…  I quit listening when you started telling your story
Your Mom wouldn’t want you to cry  If you really believe that, you don’t know the first thing about my Mom
This isn’t about you, it’s about them You couldn’t be more wrong. They’re gone, I’m here. This is absolutely about me
They’re in a better place  Of course they are. I’m not grieving for them, I’m grieving for me, here, without them

I believe it does matter what you say if you don’t want to hurt the hurting.

Don’t say: I know how you feel; Don’t use clichés and platitudes; Don’t try to help the grieving person gain perspective; Don’t minimize the pain; Don’t speak for God (He can speak for Himself); Don’t speak for dead people; Don’t blame the grieving person; Don’t decide how long or in what fashion they can grieve; Don’t use this as a teaching/preaching moment; Don’t try to fix it

Do say: I’m so sorry; I love you; I miss them, too; I have such special memories of when we… Give a hug; Send a card that just says ‘I’m grieving with you’; Send a gift certificate for pizza or carry out; Say a prayer

Today would have been my Mom and Dad’s 67th anniversary. I’d like to leave this topic with a song by Andrew Peterson. It’s only 3 minutes long. There is More.

What Do You Say to a Heart That’s Breaking?

What do you say to a heart that’s breaking? Not a whole lot.

Yesterday I mentioned my qualms about saying: I’m sorry for your loss.  This reminds me of the e cards where they ask: Don’t know what to say? Pick one of our suggested messages. But the truth is, we often don’t know what to say when someone is grieving.

I think the first thing to let go of is the need to make things better.

1.There is nothing I can say that will change the circumstances of another’s suffering.

2.There is nothing I should say to try to change the perspective of the person in pain.

How often have people tried to help you by trying to talk you out of your pain? As I talk about grief, it’s without qualifying it or ranking it on my arbitrary scale. Grief is grief. It’s terribly unfair to say one person’s is worse than another’s. If someone is grieving, their pain is large. If you feel they brought in on themselves or that they’re over reacting, walk away. This is not a teaching moment.

I believe what helps a heart that’s breaking is patient, gentle, loving support, offered in the way the hurting person prefers to receive it, not necessarily in the way I prefer to give it. So I have to begin by asking myself, am I invited? Are we close enough that I’m a safe sanctuary for your broken heart, or do I just want you to know that I care?

If we’re not close, I’m not likely to be the person that can offer true comfort. I can bring a meal, wash the dishes, tell you how terribly sorry I am. I can pray and I can remain available. I may even be able to take your hand for a few moments or sit quietly in the same room. But sharing in the sorrow and anger and fear of your grief is something I earn through relationship, not something that I can force in the midst of crisis.

If we are close, and your heart is grieving, it’s my job to let you chose when and if you want to talk. Sometimes, you may say let’s talk about the weather or let’s just take a walk or you may want to hear some trivial tale, a temporary diversion, unrelated to your struggle. It’s a time to restrain the instinct to prod and probe. It’s your story so it’s up to you to decide how much, how often and how deeply to share it.

There have been times when my heart was breaking and I’ve said, I don’t want to talk about this anymore, it hurts too much. The topic is changed but my heart is so consumed that in a few moments, I’m the one, once again, bringing up bits and pieces of the pain. Sometimes I’ve wanted solitude. Solitude has been five minutes of wailing in the bathroom with the fan on and the water running. And solitude has been hours of staring off into a world of memories.

Which leads to the next suggestion: Don’t expect the hurting heart to know what it wants. Be steadfast, patient and freely extend grace. That may sound easy, but riding in the emotional surf of grief with someone can be bewildering. One moment you may be pulled in close and the next, pushed away. It feels personal. If you’re unacquainted with grief yourself, staying gentle and steady will be even more of a struggle.

Possibly the greatest mistake I can make is thinking that I know what you need by putting myself in your place. That would be figuring out what I imagine I would need. It wouldn’t be listening to your hurting heart and answering in the ways that are the most comforting for you. It isn’t something that has to be, or even can done perfectly. But I don’t believe that sincerity alone is enough.

So much damage is done when we grieve the grieving. If we’re invited into someone’s heart at such a fragile time, then I think we’re responsible to enter thoughtfully and with a willingness to step outside of our own experience. It’s a time for grace.

Tomorrow I’d like to look at what not to say to the heart that’s breaking. Once again, I value your perspective.

She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.  ~George Eliot

Butter Knife Security Works

January 3, 2011 by Debbie

I got up around 5 to find we’d made it through the night intruder free, butter knife latch in place. As the title indicates, we’ve been here for a week now. It  seems longer than I week ago when I think of getting the call while sitting in the out of commission Jeep, but the days never drag (calamities may contribute to the perceived speed of the passage of time).

This morning I began reading The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller in preparation for doing a book study with my daughter and was immediately challenged and encouraged. After a time of study and cinnamon rolls, Henry and I headed out on our morning jaunt.

Often when I’m especially discouraged or hurting, God reveals Himself in the most obvious ways to tenderly remind me that my heart matters to Him and that He is always present. Today wasn’t one of those days.

I headed out with Henry feeling happy and grateful. I chose the road less traveled (actually the side of the road less traveled by me since there’s less gravel on that side and I’m often rock-hounding while I walk). Sue, from Gold Beach, called last night and I was thinking about her and agates and the ocean as a giant white crane swooped overhead.

By the time I could unsheathe my camera, the crane was gone but at my feet, there were little white sea shells – in the middle of a dirt road on a ranch in southern Texas!

OK, I think they were actually snail shells that fell off the gravel truck. But I smiled at the Lord and thanked Him for such a sweet surprise on a day when I didn’t think I needed Him to do anything extra ordinary.

Funny part is that I felt apologetic at first and found myself saying, ‘I’m OK today, You really didn’t have to go to all that trouble’.That thought stopped me and made me question my theology and my philosophy. What is grace but a continual out pouring special treatment, unmerited and often unnoticed but never unavailable.