Living as gift

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Amazing leaf-gift from my friend, Catherine

I have been pondering the act of giving, and how we can live more as a gift to ourselves and others.  Instead of living in the commodity mode of exchange our culture fosters, how can I give of myself more steadily to others?

Is this even a goal of which to aspire?

Here is how I’ve been thinking about it.  Life itself is an amazing gift we’ve all been given.  If we’re alive and reading this sentence, we’re blessed with minutes and hours and days and perhaps years.  The earth gives so much to us: fat books with delicious stories, blueberry pies baked by a co-worker, smells of sweet grass in fields.  She gives us sunrises, sunsets and wild thunderstorms.

Just think of what she supplies, so graciously, oh it’s nothing.  Here’s breakfast, lunch and dinner and even a decadent red apple hanging oh-so-beautifully from that dappled tree. Here’s wood to keep warm, wind to blow your laundry dry, cool lakes to relieve that summer heat.

Dive in, enjoy all the gifts!

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Giving away parts of our world

And do we consciously think about this during the course of our day, humming thank you, thank you, thank you?  Or are we, as I’ve been many times, too preoccupied with the pain and terror and fear in the world, too caught in the web of the mind spinning its doom scenarios?

Gratitude can too easily become cliché, if we’re not in the nitty-gritty of receiving and giving.  I can remember doing “gratitude practices” on Facebook and elsewhere, listing ways my heart appreciates.  But too soon this can become stale, for gratitude is born out of the grace of the present moment, always new, always fresh, never truly programmed into a rote practice.

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Gifts of Fossil

Life is possibly meant to flow through us.  Gifts flow in daily–sometimes tiny gifts of a phone call, a kind word, a giggle with the supermarket clerk.

And then gifts flow out of us back into the world.  Here, my friend, take this zucchini, cut it into rounds, and grill it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Here, my friend, it’s your birthday.  Please take this beautiful cement or clay leaf–just because you once admired it at my house–and enjoy it.  (Thank you, Catherine, how I love my birthday gift of that leaf!)

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Tame chipmunk gift

And we can give by constantly recycling to St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill, letting our accumulations flow through us back into the community.  Here, take this yellow shirt that I once loved and buy it if you adore it, too.  Here, take this old bread-maker machine and churn up some whole wheat sourdough bread, and maybe share it with your children or lonely neighbor along with a cup of cinnamon tea. Here, please, take this globe our school no longer needs.

Here, take this, and this, and this.

Why do we accumulate so much that we really don’t need?  What force keeps us hoarding, piling, stuffing our cheeks with seeds for a possible doomsday? Or because we can’t bear to let go, or because just maybe we’ll need it someday?

What if our true riches, rather than simply money in bank accounts, lies in our friendships, communities, gifting cycles?


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Tame chipmunk admires handmade notecards sent from my blogging friend, Fountainpen

So many unexpected gifts keep appearing!  I could write paragraph after paragraph about the way the Universe gifts.  See the Fossil purse up above?  My mom was sending it to Goodwill.  Oh, but I loved it immediately, and she opened her hands and urged, “Take it, Kathy!”

See one of the tame chipmunks (Chippy by name) who gives us endless joy simply by being himself?

And my blogging friend, Fountainpen, has sent dozens of homemade notecards over the years, along with tea bags, and sweet notes.  (Thank you, Fountainpen!)

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Chipmunk stuffs his cheek with sunflower seeds, then gives me photograph

I think it’s possible to be more alert to existing as this channel of life, opening, opening, allowing gifts to flow through.  We see someone who needs money, assistance, friendliness. We let our gifts flow like water, like a mountain stream, like Lake Superior.

Receiving gracously is just as important as giving, I’ve learned.  For some people, it can be easy-as-pie to give, but they refuse to allow themselves open to receive.  The Universe is always urging us to develop both skills, the humble allowing of flow in both directions, in and out, in and out.

(And, yes, there are times when it’s important to close down to sharing with others and simply share with ourselves.  Gift ourselves with silence, peace, love and forgiveness.  For unless we do that, we’ll drain ourselves dry into the fallow fields of obligation.)

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Lily and oregano flower arrangement gift from husband


Please share any ideas of stories of giving or receiving that have nourished you or others.  I am so inspired thinking about this lately.

And, as always, thank you for reading.  That is a gift for me.


About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in July 2016 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to Living as gift

  1. Fountainpen says:

    What delightful surprise….
    To see my homemade cards admired by
    A chipmunk !!!!!!
    Totally delightful!!!!!!!!
    Thank you! Chippy!!!
    Thank you! Kathy!!!!!!!!


    • Kathy says:

      Thank YOU, Fountainpen! I thought you might get a kick out of Chippy liking your cards. *Big Smile* I loved going to the mailbox today.

  2. Debi VanDyke says:

    Very beautifully written with beautiful pictures! Love Chippy 😀 Your post put things into perspective on this busy day. Thx!

    • Kathy says:

      Hey, Debi, thank you–this post helped me put things into perspective today, too! Glad you liked this, and surely Chippy is glad as well.

  3. Heather says:

    I’m giving this some thought. Right now I’m grateful for your thought-provoking gift of this blog.

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you, Heather. And let me know what might come up. As said, I’ve been fascinated with this topic for days! Have been reading a book for a YEAR, no kidding, very heavy-duty called “Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition” by Charles Eisenstein. You really have to plow through it, but there were lots of gems about giving in it.

  4. Kathy — thank you for the gift of this post; I loved receiving it. An example of another gift I received happened just yesterday morning when I walked to the book box to return a book. Out from behind the support-post popped twin fawns. I was bathed in delight at the unexpected gift.

  5. I almost want to give you the gift of silence, because what you write is so beautifully expressed, I don’t have anything to add. But you asked a question, and so I shall answer. So many gifts already this morning. My guy brought me my favorite tea latte this morning at 6, my yoga teacher gave me the gift of breathing and stretching into an intense awareness of love – everywhere, and my blogging switcheroo buddy gave me the gift of words that ….just keep on giving. xoxoxoxoxoxox

    • Kathy says:

      Awww, thank you, Pamela. I loved reading of your gifts. 6 a.m. latte! Yoga breath…blogging words…we are blessed indeed! (Thank goodness you answered my question.)

  6. Sybil Nunn says:

    On my birthday last March I got together with a couple of blogging chums who live in Bridgewater. Kelly had made me a teeny, tiny, Innukshuk she had made out of sea glass and Sara gave me a card with a big “S” on it that she had designed and painted. Special hand-made gifts I treasure.

    But my favourite “gift” is having friends come for a visit and then we explore Nova Scotia together.

    Thank you for helping me realize how much I have to be grateful for.

    • Kathy says:

      Sybil, Kelly and Sara sound like they truly gifted you with handmade blessings. And, as I read your comment, suddenly I wanted to fly to Nova Scotia and visit you and Amy Lynn and Bonnie. Alas, that may not happen but the true desire is here. And I am grateful that the possibility even exists!

  7. lucindalines says:

    Your blog has been a gift today, as I am pondering what to include in my message for this Sunday. The gospel lesson is from Luke and a parable about a rich man who after a great harvest tore down all his barns and built larger ones to hold the abundance so he could retire with all he had. God struck him dead for doing it. I keep reading blog posts today and finding stories about giving and releasing the things we hoard away. Interesting coincidence, I doubt it. I am sure all you have all written was meant for many, including me to read, to get something more to think about. Thanks for posting this, and love that little chipmunk!!

    • Kathy says:

      Lucinda, it seemed very clear when writing this blog that it was a gift for someone. Perhaps more than one someones. I am glad that this post helped you in the writing of your Sunday message. I love how the Universe nudges us to where we need to turn our attention next. And glad you liked Chippy. We are glad he’s still coming around after his long absence.

  8. john k says:

    Oh my gosh, I am soooo thankful for Jenny and the doctors who fixed her up so she can be with me for years to come! I am grateful for the breeze off the bay to move this 90-some degrees air around. I am very thankful for Instagram and all the wonderful places and things it allows me to see when I can’t be there. (I missed the Pow Wow) I am grateful for the Green Party and the Libertarians that give us choices besides Hillary, Trump and sitting it out.

    (This is where three more paragraphs were that I cut out … my gift to you)

    I am very grateful for the gift you gave us of your presence here that shakes up our conscience and expands our minds. Now off to deliberate about three random gifts I can give to some old friends just to remind them that I still think they are pretty special!

    • Kathy says:

      John, this is truly lovely. Thank GOODNESS Jenny could be fixed up and that breeze can cool us off and that it turns to 65 degrees after that hot spell. Thank goodness for choices. (Thank goodness for editing. tee hee. I probably wouldn’t have minded.) And thank goodness for passing along gifts to the next ones. I hope you are glowing feeling the gift of giving to your three friends. To give without expectation of getting. Just for the joy it brings!

  9. Carol says:

    I am grateful for the gift of their time my big kids gave me this month. I am missing them now, but I have the treasure of the new memories we created. I am grateful for the gift of friends who kept my dogs while I took the kids over the mountain to the airport, and for the dogs’ joy when I arrived home.

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, I can almost feel your joy when your kids come to visit you. And they are wonderful kids to come to visit and create new memories. And that you have sweet dogs who can accompany you when the kids fly away. So many blessings! Thank you for sharing. P.S. Did you go to the Portland beer festival this year?

  10. christinelaennec says:

    Such a lot in this post. I think it is often harder to receive graciously than to give, especially vis-a-vis God. And there are many ways that we can give besides materially, which is easy to forget. Your chipmunk admiring the cards is absolutely fantastic.

    • Kathy says:

      Christine, that has been one of my lessons lately, too, how to receive as graciously as give. To allow the receiving to soak in. And to ponder how a telephone call or smile or even small blog can be a gift. Glad you liked the photo shoot of Chippy. I knew the card-maker would adore it. And glad to hear that others liked it, too.

  11. How appropriate. Your blog notice popped up in my inbox at the same time as a private message on FaceBook. My son is a small business man in a very small niche business and he and a direct competitor halfway across the country have been having a very civilized discussion about an issue of concern to both of them. I have been so impressed with the other young man that I finally sent him a note and this is part of the response that came in the private message:

    I never expected to get this message from you. I’m flattered and in awe of you and your support for not only your son but strangers like me. You just made my day.

    Sometimes just giving a little bit of ourselves to someone else does more than we can imagine.

    • Kathy says:

      Esther, that sounds like a very wonderful message-gift that you gave your son’s competitor. How giving of you! And he gifted you back with his awe and support. The circle of giving and receiving shining in wholeness. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

  12. Brenda says:

    Kathy, You are always a gift to me—-a very precious blessing that I treasure! ❤ Thank you for sharing these lovely pictures and meaningful words. Every day I look around while writing in my journal and list things I'm grateful for. Sometimes, it's people, sometimes it;s nature, sometimes it's hope or other feelings. Sometimes it's even something simple like a good night's rest. If we open our hearts and our eyes, we will see gifts all around us and reasons for gratitude. And even in the midst of bad times, we can find something to be grateful for—-that our situation isn't worse than it is, or for the situation to bring a much needed lesson in our lives.

    In my experience, a grateful heart is a happy heart! ❤ And often it is in the giving that true joy is born. ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, so glad you enjoyed this. My “Unexpected” journal turned into a “Flow” journal and now it’s a “Gift” journal. I love how it changes all the times, but it’s always an act of gratitude for life’s sharings. It sounds like your journal is this for you, too. Thank you for expressing this. So precious.

  13. sonali says:

    Oh Kathy! You are so good. I love reading your thoughts and I so agree with you. Its hard for me to be at the receiving end, I take it as a trouble for someone to give me things. Hmm.. yes, i have had some wonderful days of late. Sharing is a blessing, I need to learn how to share. Thank you so much that you open your heart and share your thoughts. You are very wise. Lovely to read your post today, you made my day beautiful 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Sonali, I am so glad to see you here and read your comment! I agree with you that it can be very hard to being on the receiving end. But learning to receive as graciously as we give really completes the circle. It shows our Oneness, our true heart connection. Glad this post spoke to you and gifted you with something perhaps…

  14. Val says:

    Without wanting to sound big-headed or arrogant I think I was probably born in ‘giving-mode’ Kathy. I gave away loads of books and toys when I was a small child – nobody ever taught me to or told me to, it just seemed a natural thing to do. If there was a child with less than myself, I gave her or him what I thought was needed or wanted. So, because that’s how I started off, it’s pretty much how I’ve continued. But it can be a bit of a curse sometimes because, as you’ve said, sometimes people aren’t good at receiving and I’ve often been that sort of person. However, when I get too much into the ‘can’t take’ mode, I recall a couple of things that tend to set me straight. One is when a very old friend of mine, years ago, after I asked for her help with something, said “Oh, Val, it’s so nice to be able to give something back to you.” And the other – which is a sad memory, in many ways, but one I choose to keep in mind – was when I was in a very bad state emotionally and took a taxi round to my dad’s house and cried in his arms. After a while, this man in his eighties who had always been socially active and helpful to other people, but had been rather shunned (he felt) by society in his old age, said to me, very quietly, “It’s good to feel needed again.” That made me cry buckets, but reminded me that giving has to go both ways, it needs to go out to the one who needs and needs to be received, too.

    As for what you give, Kathy. You give us yourself, in your blog. And I’m certain you give yourself every day, in your offline world, too. Thank you.

    • Kathy says:

      Val, this is really lovely what you shared. And how fortunate that your heart was so open to giving as a small child. It often takes us many years of opening our hearts to truly learn to give. It sounds like you were almost born with this natural ability. I also liked the stories you told about how wonderful it can be to actually receive (and give the other person that sense of being needed or appreciated).

      I have not always received as graciously as perhaps possible. Sometimes have deflected a compliment or giving or tried to turn it prematurely back to the other person. Now that I think about it as a circle of giving/receiving it seems a little easier to simply bathe in it for a few minutes, feeling my heart expand.

      Thank you for your kind words about my blog and the offline world. We all try to differing degrees and I’m still learning.

      • Val says:

        I think the major thing, Kathy, is to be gentle on yourself. It’s not a failing not to live up to your own or anyone one else’s expectations. Hugs.

  15. Karma says:

    I loved this post and echo the comments of many in saying how much I enjoy your words and how they always turn me introspective. Special gifts I’ve received recently: the feeling of being in a new place in my relationship with my oldest daughter, unexpected time spent with a special friend, time spent at the beach with family, and upcoming soon – a new adventure beginning in a few weeks which I’m not ready to go “public” with but will certainly be an opportunity for me to both give and receive.
    Love Chippy admiring your note card – how adorable!

    • Kathy says:

      Karma, I am sitting with your words an imagining your new relationship with your daughter, your time with your friend, and the beach trip. And am so interested to discover later what your new adventure will be! I am happy you liked this post…I love writing these introspective ones so much these days. Chippy, surely, appreciates your admiration!

  16. Elisa says:

    my thoughts about your words: what if the gift and the acceptance complete the circle
    not one nor the other, just another dot of place on that circle, in that circle hmm the word i want is floating beyond my fingers
    the brain is scowling at these words
    the something else is giggling at the scowling like a 2 year old seeing bubbles in the sun for the first time

    • debyemm says:

      I think – “the gift and the acceptance complete the circle” – says it very well.

    • Kathy says:

      Elisa, your words are very profound and beautiful. They do complete the circle! Yes, you said it perfectly. Both halves or both sides of the coin. How can we separate them when they’re so intertwined? Thank you!

  17. debyemm says:

    Each day that I can, I walk down to the creek crossing, and in appropriate weather, kick off my slip shoes and stand barefoot on a rock in the stream. I lift my arms up to the sun to receive it’s gifts of light and love and bring these down to my heart. Then I open my arms wide like a crucifix but in my mind, I’m standing there in the balance of equally and generously both giving and receiving. When my arms are like that it is impossible to tell which it is. I like the thought – both at the same time – no matter the details. You write “in and out, in and out” and I think just like breathing. Your writing is always such a gift of your heart and I try not to miss these when the notification comes. Fondly.

    • Kathy says:

      What a picture you painted with your giving and receiving, your barefoot salutation on the river rock, the impossibility of telling which is which. Only we humans separate this amazing breath into in and out or giving and receiving. It’s always both/and, swirling, intertwining, coming, going, living. I am glad that this writing means something to your heart! Thank you…also fondly…

  18. Debbie M. says:

    I think the moment-by-moment awareness of the good that the world (others, nature, God) generously offer to us and what we joyously give back is the best celebration of love and life!

  19. melinda says:

    hello my dear BFF. The other day I invited Shirley over and made her almond butter cookies. She has many food problems and loves my cookies and I made them for her, and sent them home. She was so surprised someone would make cookies just for her!! I thought yeah, I can relate to how it feels when someone does something unasked out of the blue, just for me. Wow, just for me. So it was such a pleasure to give the gift of those cookies. I think it’s my favorite thing, which is to just do something for someone or give something to someone that they need.

    • Kathy says:

      I love this story, dear Melinda. I am so glad you made those cookies just for her! And may dozens and dozens and dozens of emissaries of the Universe gift you in similar ways…

  20. Carol Ferenc says:

    Profound. Inspiring. Lovely. Kathy, you’ve given me so much to think about here. And that is a wonderful gift, my friend.

  21. sherrysescape says:

    “Gift ourselves with silence, peace, love and forgiveness.” Love that.

  22. I Wilkerson says:

    I am buying sooo many clothes now at a resale shop that supports a retirement community (where, who knows, I could end up). And then I donate back–and never feel bad about getting rid of something I might need again, since it seems just part of the circle. I am also trying to be friendlier–you never know who might benefit from (or just enjoy) some kindness…

    One of the best gifts I ever got–over 25 years ago–was when my car stalled in the exit of a busy business at closing time. It wouldn’t start again (bad carburetor) and not a single person honked or did anything nasty.

    • Kathy says:

      Inger, I love this story. What a circle of kind giving. I am happy to hear of the way you think about your resale giving and, yes, my goodness, who knows where we will end up one day? As for the stalled car all those years ago–that was indeed a gift. Others can be so impatient; it’s a treasure when others are kind during times like those.

  23. Dawn says:

    Beautiful post. This week I am enjoying the lake house, a gift my parents left for my siblings and me. It’s a beautiful place and I thank them often.

    Thank YOU for this lovely post reminding us to be gracious in receipt of gifts as we are when we give them.

    • Kathy says:

      A lake house, Dawn! How amazing. Is it in Michigan or out-of-state? Now if I was reading blogs these days, I would surely already know. Heading over to your blog to peek right now!

  24. Joanne says:

    Your stories always make me smile, dearest Kathy! And so did the comment from Fountainpen. 🙂

    I have a lovely story of sharing and accepting a gift (which I really should blog about!) A few years ago, a beautiful pine tree began to grow in our front garden. Husband told me that it would grow into a huge tree if we left it there, it would have to go, because it is growing way too close to a retaining wall, but I argued that it was a gift from my bird friends! And it grew…huge…and I can see pine cones growing in the far away, high up branches, and the birds love sitting in the tree while they sing me a happy song.

    So, over the last couple of weekends, guess what husband has been doing? He is extending the retaining wall to give the pine tree’s roots some room to grow! I really must blog about this, as it is a really special gift, which I love. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Joanne, that is a most beautiful story of Gift. The gift of a pine from bird friends…and now it’s extended to that thoughtful gift from your husband. You definitely should blog about it–this is a story worth sharing. Thank you!

  25. Karen says:

    As always a delightful and thought provoking post. I had to smile at chippy, it reminded me of our summers at our lake house in Maine and the tamed chipmunks that gave us so much pleasure for just a few sunflower seeds. Your “And, yes, there are times when it’s important to close down to sharing with others and simply share with ourselves. Gift ourselves with silence, peace, love and forgiveness. For unless we do that, we’ll drain ourselves dry into the fallow fields of obligation” gave me pause. I do hope that you have not stopped your blog but are just gifting yourself some silence.

    • Kathy says:

      Karen, Chippy has been coming back many days in a row now as summer winds down. Today he filled his jowls with sunflower seeds, scampered off to deposit them, and returned for more, climbing onto my knee. So glad to hear you’ve had the pleasure of tame chipmunks, as well. Not too many people have fed them by hand. As for blogging, the Universe doesn’t seem to be channeling stories through me these days. I keep waiting to see when or if it will happen again. If a story arises and wants to be told–I am sure the fingers will agree to type! 🙂

  26. sonali says:

    I had to come back to this once again dear Kathy! Your blog is my treasure. I began to realise that being conscious about gratitude, it’s not difficult to practice it at all. I feel thankful at the moment, it’s 03:52 a.m. 😍

    • Kathy says:

      Sonali, I suspect you are one person who sees the positive in many events that others might call negative. I love the Zen story–maybe you’ve heard it–about how we never know whether a happening will be positive or negative. The story about how a man’s son broke his leg and all the villagers said, “That’s terrible!” and the man said “Maybe yes, maybe no.” And the next day the army came through the village and conscripted all the healthy young men and this one was saved.

      As to being grateful when one is awake in the wee hours of night–I am admiring that you could feel gratitude. That seems to be a very challenging time for many who want to be asleep!

  27. Stacy says:

    Hey, Kathy! Love this post – and your statement about gratitude not being rote. It has to be genuinely felt in the moment, doesn’t it, or it’s not really authentic.

    At this particular moment, I am grateful for your blog, and that I stopped over for a moment today. ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Hello Ms. Stacy! Yes, that is something that has taken me a while to learn–that gratitude practices can sometimes defeat their purpose by making it rote. So glad you stopped by! Funny, I wrote this post a month and a half ago and four people paused to comment this past week. Strange… have wondered if you have endured flooding this summer?

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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