Gratitude does not come naturally to some of us, and indeed I've met precious few people to whom it does. If you think that you could be one of those people who are naturally thankful under all circumstances, then I can almost guarantee you that a challenge will arise that leaves you wondering whether such a thing could ever be true.
I spent the week of Thanksgiving inhaling decongestants, coughing into tissues, and in the final twist of irony, with little appetite. We ran out of juice, ate easy slow cooker meals, all while I lived in my housecoat. It was not an easy week, and it's not over yet. A lingering cough has been impossible to beat. At our Bible study group last night, I couldn't get more than a sentence out without falling into cough convulsions which sent every woman digging through purse and pockets to dispense more cough drops. It brought back a memory of the time I had a coughing fit to end all fits, right on some stranger's doorstep. I was about 19, and had been working continuously despite being being sick, probably due to financial issues. Anyway, it was an extremely cold winter and I was traveling back to Indiana to my aunt and uncle's home, when the sky became ominously gray. I called home to find out the forecast and was advised to stop traveling and to take cover at the home of distant family friends, The Martin's, who lived about twenty miles away from the I-80 exit I had called from in NW Pennsylvania. This sounded like a fine idea, though I was nervous about meeting this family and staying in their unfamiliar home. It would have been even worse had I known that the message of my pending arrival never reached Mr. & Mrs. Martin. They had no idea that a guest was on the way. It was around suppertime when I appeared on their doorstep, and Mr. Martin opened the door. As I opened my mouth to croak out an introduction, I launched into a coughing fit so intense and long, that it was about fifteen minutes and a glass of water later when, comfortably seated on their couch, I was finally able to surprise them by telling them who I was and relay the news to them that I was spending the night! It was terribly embarrassing when I realized they had no idea who I was or what I was doing there, but the Martin's were gracious and warm hosts, who welcomed me and nursed me back to health through a bitter winter storm. Years later, I can actually laugh about their confused faces when they opened the door to be confronted by a young woman with a suitcase whose only means of communicating was coughing and pointing!
When I woke up this morning with a small infection on the finger of my left hand, shock and paranoia mixed with a round of oh-no-not-again propelled me to the phone to finally make a doctor's appointment. As I perused written notes seemingly everywhere this past week expressing thankfulness for all the usual suspects (health, family, etc.) it left me seeking thankfulness in the less obvious places. That dark corners of the gratitude kingdom, if you will. I pushed away cobwebs to give thanks for the little things. A trouble-free car providing reliable transportation to the store for cough syrup, the friend who voices my thoughts exactly before I can say them ―the gift of not being lonely in your thoughts because others share and understand them. And of course, small moments of grace from strangers in the time of need. There is so much more to explore in the less obvious places when we seek to be thankful, I can barely do justice to them all.
These past few days I wanted something quick and warm to make for breakfast, that took little preparation but would make a big impact on my comfort level. Baked oatmeal worked perfectly. Once in a while, someone will ask me if I know how to make this, and relay a story of having it at a Lancaster buffet or bed and breakfast. I grew up thinking that everybody ate baked oatmeal, but am now learning that it is probably a regional dish. Enjoy!
1 1/2 quick cooking oats
1/2 cup sugar (you can cut this down to 1/4 cup and it doesn't hurt a thing)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients; mix well. Spread evenly in a greased rectangular baking dish or pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Immediately spoon into bowls; add warm milk. Top with fruit and/or brown sugar. 6 servings.
I enjoy it with brown sugar and peaches.