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An Attitude of Gratitude

Thoughts from the Porch: I wasn’t going to write today, my thoughts anyway. I have a ‘to-do’ list a mile long. It’s a blustery, chilly morning so ‘porch time’ was brief. The coming days bring more pressing matters to the ‘to-do’ list. It’s all good stuff, mind you, but suddenly there seems to be a shortage of hours in the day.

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Even though our time on the porch was brief, my wife made it a holy moment for us both. She recounted a phone call yesterday from a friend. The gist of the conversation was how much her friend appreciated my wife. Both of us were a bit teary-eyed by the gratitude we felt. Prayer came easier afterward, even if all we could muster  was “thank you God”.

I write of gratitude often. Probably more than anyone wants to hear if I get honest. I remember a friend told me several years ago there were only two topics worth talking or writing about: grace and gratitude. It’s taken a few years, but today I know what he meant. I hope that you, gentle reader, aren’t bored by my seeming lack of topical diversity.

In my interactions with other folks I’ve noted that those who have experienced the depths of God’s grace have one common denominator: gratitude. Gratitude seems to be directly proportionate to grace. The deeper the experience of grace the more gratitude one feels and lives out.

Gratitude changes the way I see the world. I’m more patient, courteous, and giving when I’m grateful. I’m more honest when I admit my own faults and in turn, more tolerant of other folk’s faults. I experience far less conflict and greater serenity. I don’t feel obligated to have “my” way as often. “Enough” is word I understand today.

I don’t always stay there. I still slide into worry, morbid self-reflection, and stubbornness at times. I’ve also come to acknowledge my own humanity with all its imperfections. It doesn’t take me as long to get back to an “attitude of gratitude”. That usually is the result of an awareness of grace. Funny how it all works…

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A Big Thank You!

#GivingTuesday has passed. I want to take a moment to say thank you to those who were so generous to Opal’s Farm and all the other organizations working so hard to make our world a better place as well. The local PBS affiliate, KERA, reported that the DFW area was Number One in donations across the country with over $30 million in donations on #GivingTuesday. Way to go Forth Worth and Dallas! One more reason I’m proud to be from Cowtown!

Just remember, you don’t have to have a special day to give to others. It’s never too late to become a partner, or urban farmer. Your contribution is welcome any time.

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The Global Day of Giving – #givingtuesday

Thoughts from the Porch on #Giving Tuesday:

2018

It dawned on me after my second cup of coffee that November is almost over. I know.“Duh”, right? It’s just that I don’t know where the year has gone. It seems to have blown through here like last week’s cold front, chilled to the bone one day and seventy degrees the next. The race toward Christmas is on and the New Year looms large on the horizon

The holiday season is my favorite time of year. Not becauseof Christmas, mind you, but because of the introspection it brings. December 1stis more special than any other day of the year. It brought about a psychic change, a rebirth, and a new direction to my life. Ironically, it was the direction I’d longed for since my youth. “Lost dreams awaken, and newpossibilities arise”. They really do.

This past year has been unbelievably special. I began a new business, writing content and copy, and in doing so, I unknowingly unleashed mypassion. Through a unique series of events, I met some incredible people, Ms. Opal Lee for one, and began to see something I’d only dreamed about for a long time –an urban farm – become a reality. Opal’s Farm is that place – a place for growing, learning, and community.

 To be honest, I never imagined myself becoming a farmer. Mymother used to send me out to pull weeds as a form of punishment when I was young. It didn’t exactly hold pleasant memories. I never thought I’d come to find joy in it. But I have, and each of those gardens drove me to this amazing project called Opal’s Farm.

When I was younger, I left college full of ideals and ready to change the world. Most of us did. But as I got older and raised my boys, I became less idealistic and, if I’m honest, more cynical. The world I wanted to change became smaller and smaller until I was my world. That seems to be pervasive in our culture. Who of us hasn’t been taught to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” and “look out for number one”? The more I bought into that world, the less I was part of this one.

It will have been thirteen years ago this December 1st that my world began to change. Circumstances brought me to a garden I started taking care of because I had nowhere else to be. I began to enjoy pulling weeds.To make a long story short – I liked playing in the dirt!

 Over the last thirteen years, I have been honored toparticipate in building and managing several garden projects. I’ve watched a face light up when a young man tastes a fresh tomato for the first time. I’ve seen community begin when people come together and relish in the first harvest. I’ve witnessed people regain health of body and spirit as they work together in the garden. I’ve come to believe that simple farming can change a life. It’s changed mine.

Our Mission – “Opal’s Farm restores hope andvitality to neglected communities through an agricultural intervention and education.”  – is becoming a reality. Right in the middle of the city, it provides not just food, but jobs and training as well. It creates opportunity. This is a model for conservation and sustainability, not just for Fort Worth, but for other communities as well.

Today is #GivingTuesday. It offers a uniqueopportunity to double you impact through Facebook’s matching funds. Please visit us at https://www.facebook.com/donate/2246575222246012/.Give today and help us change the world one bite at a time.

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Make it all sound good or just tell it like it is?

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Several years ago, the comic George Carlin did a stand-up routine about our changing vocabulary. You know, how we sanitize terms to make them soundless harsh. “Shell-shock” became “battle fatigue” and later, post-traumatic stress disorder. Sounds so much better, right?

I always laugh when I hear our local weather folks talk about ‘winter precipitation events’. Seriously? I remember when they used to call it snow…

 Now we’ve come up with a similar vocabulary for something near and dear to my heart – ‘food insecurity”. What does that really mean?

 It’s a nice way of saying your neighbors go to bed hungry. That’s right. I said your neighbors. And not ‘insecure’  – hungry

People right here in Tarrant County. They may be across town or they might be right next door. Our  neighbors…

Here’s another one – ‘food scarcity’.  It means that your neighbors don’t have access to healthy, nutritious food. They live in ‘food deserts’ – places where the only ‘food’ store is a local convenience store. The choices are over-priced and often unaffordable, canned, highly processed and ‘junk’ foods – foods that fail to meet even basic nutritional needs. Foods filled with empty calories that fail to satisfy even the smallest of tummies…

The bottom line – no one should go to bed hungry, especially the one in five children that do so every single night in Tarrant County.

So, what do we do about it?

 Opal’s Farm is part of the answer. Opal’s Farm is a two-acreurban farm on the banks of the Trinity River just east of Downtown Fort Worth. Opal’s Farm grows organic, healthy produce – distributing it in Fort Worth’s ‘food deserts’.

 More than that, Opal’s Farm provides jobs, training, and educational tools to address the issues facing often overlooked neighborhoods right here in Tarrant County. We believe that an agricultural intervention can make a difference – restoring health, vitality, and community to our neglected neighbors.

 In this “giving season” of thanksgiving and sharing, it’seasy to feel overwhelmed when planning year-end contributions to the multitude of wonderful non-profit organizations asking for help. I hope you consider Opal’s Farm when making your decision.

 Today, you canmake a difference – right here, rightnow, and for Fort Worth’s future. Opal’s Farm is a long-term, sustainable solution for all of us.

That’s why I’m asking for your help today. Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday, the Global Day of Giving. On #GivingTuesday your contribution will be matched dollar-for-dollar, going twice as far to help Opal’s Farm keep growing. Go to our Facebook page today at https://www.facebook.com/donate/2246575222246012/

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A Simple Thank You

Thoughts From the Porch: I stopped for gas yesterday. I only had cash, so I had to go in and pay for it prior to pumping. I was putting my change and receipt away when the cashier informed me that I had “been the nicest customer in the last six hours”. I was flattered but somewhat taken aback.

“Thank you. Has it been a rough one?”, I asked.

 “Oh man, you wouldn’t believe it”, she replied. “Everyone’sbeen crabby and sometimes downright mean. I just wanted to thank you for beingso nice and polite”.

“You’re welcome”. I headed out to the truck, grateful for the compliment and a bit sad that I was the one pleasant experience in her day.

I’ve thought about our little exchange ever since. I’m saddened that engaging in polite behavior seems to be the notable exception rather than the norm, especially this time of year. I’m grateful that I had “proper raising”.Mom and Dad were big on manners. “Mind your manners!” was heard more than once in our house.

 When I was growing up, I used to look forward to the days myDad would take me to his office for a visit. I always felt so grown-up when I got to go. He worked for the railroad. Railroad folks are a pretty tight knit community. I learned the value of a firm handshake and a proper greeting. I was raised to say “please, thank you, yes sir, and no sir”. My elders were to betreated with politeness and respect. I remember meeting one of his bosses and him commenting on “how polite I was. A regular little man.”

Things have changed since then (and no I’m not just waxing nostalgic…). Social mores are different today. Words like ‘please’ or ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ are heard less and less. ‘You’re welcome’ has been replaced by ‘no problem’ (I still have difficulty with that one, especially from service providers – you took my money – no problem…). What hasn’t changed is the need for kindness and common courtesy.

Exercising common courtesy is so much easier when I see a ‘person’ instead of their position. I guess having been in their shoes it’s easier to reallysee them. I know that’s not everyone’s experience. Yet, when I see a person, Isee one of God’s kids, just like me, most of the time. It’s much easier to treat a person the way I want to be treated, than it is a when I see a server, a store clerk, or some guy who doesn’t look like me.

 I’m not perfect at it. There are some folks who are downrightunpleasant. It takes a lot of work and patience just to be polite. My friend Edgar reminds me that I can’t always be unconditionally loving, but I can always be unconditionally kind.

 Another thing I’ve learned about living by the old ‘GoldenRule’ is that reciprocity doesn’t always apply. It really doesn’t matter what you do. It matters what I do.  

I felt the ‘thank you’ I received from the lady at the gas station was heartfelt. Kindness made her day better. Kindness made my day better. I filled the tank and drove off with a big smile. The funny thing is, I was kinder to friends and family as the evening progressed. I wonder if her later customers benefitted in the same way. I’d like to think so.

The takeaway from all of this is that I seem to get as much from simple politeness as the person on the receiving end. Sometimes more so.

This holiday season remember that the crabby sales clerk or servermay have been on his or her feet all day. The holidays bring their own set of circumstances to us all. Maybe, they had a long line of irritating customers. Maybe it’s just a bad day all the way around. Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows for any of us. Maybe, just maybe, your ‘please’, thank you’, and courtesy changes the trajectory of their day.

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Down On The Farm… #GivingTuesday

The holidays have officially started. Christmas decorations are springing up all around the neighborhood. My ‘Honey Do’ list includes getting the Christmas stuff down from the attic, too! One of my favorite days of the year is coming up on Tuesday. It’s only a seven-year-old tradition so I would like to spread the word this year —- especially this year.

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018, is #GivingTuesday, the Global Day of Giving. Every year, following the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA, #GivingTuesday is the official start of the charitable season. Many folks wait until the end of the year for their holiday and charitable contributions. It’s the perfect time of year for giving and philanthropic work. Since it began in 2012, #GivingTuesday has raised more than $300 million dollars from over 150 countries.

This year, #GivingTuesday means more to me than usual. This year it’s personal. I’m the Farm Manager for Opal’s Farm, a two-acre urban farm in the heart of Fort Worth. Opal’s Farm grows organic produce that’s distributed throughout area food deserts and low-income communities, helping restore health and vitality to local neighborhoods. A portion of the fruit and vegetable harvest is sold to local chefs, restaurateurs, and Farmer’s markets to support local farm-to-table needs and to help make the farm self-sustaining.

 The farm creates jobs, provides job training, and brings a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-reliance to the local community. The two acres of arable, urban land connects food production, processing, and distribution in the same space. This is basically from farm to plate; which is a win-win for the residents of Fort Worth and a model for other municipalities.

Mission Statement:

Opal’s Farm restores hope and vitality to neglected communities through an agricultural intervention and education.

Statement of Purpose

Opal’s Farm is a model for sustainable organic agriculture that:

  •  addresses the elimination of local food deserts and scarcity in low-income communities.
  • offers education in sustainability, soil conservation, food distribution, and nutrition.
  • creates jobs, job training, and entrepreneurial opportunities that provide a living wage for low-income community members.

A simple farm can change lives. On this #GivingTuesday, I invite you to be a part of the farm,  a part of the transformation.

Facebook has set $7 million for matching funds for your donation, so be among the first to donate and see your dollar doubled as far on #GivingTuesday through our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/donate/2246575222246012/

You can be a farmer, too and transform lives – one bite at a time!

P.S. Don’t forget that Facebook has only pledged $7 million for matching funds so donate you don’t have to wait until Tuesday to make your dollar go further. Give today and be a farmer!

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Still Thankful

Thoughts From the Porch: It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Myinbox was filled with a multitude of emails announcing ‘Black Friday’ sales anddonation appeals. It pains me to know I can’t take advantage of either one this year.

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It’s been a difficult few months for Margaret and I, at least where finances are concerned. Business has been slow since my hospitalization in May. The up side is that it’s freed up more time to devote to the farm. The down side is that the farm doesn’t pay the bills, at least not for a couple of more months. Unfortunately, the mortgage and the bills won’t wait that long.

We’re not unique in this regard. A May 18, 2018 New York Post article cites data fromthe United Way Alice Project that, “Some 50.8 million households or 43% can’t afford a basic monthly budget for housing, food, transportation, child care, healthcare, and a monthly smartphone bill.”That’s almost half our population that is one Emergency Room visit or carrepair away from being on the street. Knowing we’re not alone is bothencouraging and disheartening…

Last night, we shared a Thanksgiving meal with family. I struggled to remain mentally present. I had to constantly remind myself to “be where my feet are”. The Cowboy game was a welcome distraction and appreciated more than usual. It relieved my financial anxiety for a couple of hours.

We had a marvelous dinner. Everyone had contributed their own unique piece to the meal. Each had been prepared with love. Everyone ate their fill. I couldn’t help but think of how a few loaves and fishes multiplied to feed five thousand folks. My mood began to lighten.

Following dinner and prior to desserts, we have a family tradition of going around the table and sharing what we are grateful for. If I’m honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this part. I wasn’t feeling very grateful. Yet, something happened as we began our way around the table.

As each of our family shared their gratitude, I gained a little more clarity. Here I was sitting around a table with a full tummy and the people I love and appreciate. That’s something that many folks don’t have. The holidays can be a terribly lonely time for some. Going to bed hungry is a reality for a lot of people. Here in Tarrant County, one in five kids go to bed hungry.

It became a little easier to see my blessings when it was my turn to share. I might have learned the power of ‘Gratitude Lists’ years ago, but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed and fearful that I forget it. When I lose gratitude, I lose vision. When I lose vision, I lose touch with reality.

What I know this morning is that I’m grateful for the life I’ve been granted today. I never thought I’d see forty and I’m still here at sixty to share my thoughts with you. (I know that may not be such a blessing to others at times…) I have a roof over my head and food to eat. Even when the proverbial financial wolf is at the door, I’m safe inside. It will be okay. I can’t think of one single time when it hasn’t. God has been faithful, even when I’m overwhelmed with fear and doubt. Sometimes I don’t see it until I’m well past the problem, but it’s always been that way.

I am so grateful for the people in my life. Our friend Mary, (who doesn’t cook) made amazing dishes to enjoy; all the while being a valued friend and presence for Margaret. Adam, our ‘adopted’ son who reminds us regularly of the importance of sharing life together. Amanda, our new daughter (to say in-law would just be wrong!) who is such a loved part of our family. A great wife to our son, Brandon and mother to our granddaughter, Levi. They were just some of the folks around last night’s dinner table…

I’m even grateful for the current struggles we find ourselves in. For one, I have the gift of Margaret by my side. She has a much better grasp on faith than I do. I’m convinced that’s why God looked at Adam and said, “it’s not good for man to be alone”. I’m so grateful that he felt that highly of me and blessed me with her. She shows me how to love, live, and laugh better…

All in all, life brings its struggles to us all. Our current difficulties are nothing compared to many folks. In fact, they are far more pervasive than most of us would like to admit. Faith doesn’t exempt us from them, but it does provide the sustenance we need to get through them. Gratitude is the first bite of the spiritual food that gives that strength.

If you’re struggling this holiday season, whether it’sfinancial, physical, or far more internal, take a bite of gratitude.