Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “souvenir” as something that serves as a reminder.  Have you ever noticed that while you are traveling, there tends to be a greater expectation that you “buy something so that you can remember the trip?” Visit a museum, amusement park, zoo, state park or restaurant and you will be seduced by an endless array of coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, shot glasses, t-shirts and key chains.  Sometimes we buy Salt Water Taffy with a town’s name on the box even though we go the other fifty-one weeks of the year without ever craving a piece of it.  Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that the words, “Boy, I sure could go for a piece of salt water taffy right now!” have never been uttered out of my mouth.  So, what’s up with that?

I’d be a hypocrite if I told you that I avoid the gift shops. I rather like purchasing those car magnets and stickers because they dress up my otherwise ordinary car and lifestyle.  Cookbooks from other towns’ cafes and restaurants captivate me and sometimes I just cannot resist.  There has been a shift in my focus through the years, though.  The older and wiser I get, I tend to lean toward celebrating the moments that have happened rather than the loot we’ve accumulated along the way.  A picture postcard from a museum gift shop, a smooth shell collected from a walk on the beach, a pottery plate I painted myself with my family in an art studio—these all become my treasures because of the moments we shared, not because of any dollar value.

The young man in Matthew’s gospel this morning (Matt 19: 16-22) goes away sad when Jesus tells him the key to eternal life with God requires great sacrifice and sharing our abundant wealth with others.  Our kids’ kindergarten teacher taught them a song years ago for Valentine’s Day about how “Love isn’t love until you give it away, give it away, give it away…”  My guess is that the young man hadn’t lived long enough to experience difficult times where reliance on God becomes humbling and necessary.  I know for myself it has been in some of the more challenging moments of life that God’s love and the love of others has been made abundantly present.  It has been through the example of others that I have learned to be more generous and less reliant on material goods for happiness.

What are your souvenirs?  Look around at the things you have accumulated.  Pick something up off a dusty shelf or coffee table and try to close your eyes and think about the moment, the people, the memory. That’s where the treasure just may be found, my friends.


Summer Porch Prayers

In the summertime and early fall, I spend a fair amount of time inside our screened-in front porch in the mornings with a cup of coffee and the daily readings.  The air temperature has cooled overnight and I usually catch a light breeze.  It’s not exactly quiet, but a good deal of the sounds at least in the early morning hours are birds or squirrels.  Eventually more and more cars drive by and it’s not quite as peaceful, but porch time is still the most reflective part of the day for me.

On our street this summer, one family has moved away and now another house has a dumpster nearby and I’m wondering if they, too, will be leaving or perhaps they are cleaning or remodeling.  The neighbors’ house on the other side of the dumpster has had some landscaping done and there’s a vivid pink flowering plant in full bloom this morning, with that dumpster just a few feet away on the driveway behind it.  Maybe the coffee just hasn’t kicked in yet, but that image of beauty and growth (pink plant) in contrast with that green dumpster (used to get rid of garbage) resonates with me this morning.

I am thankful for my husband who has spent far more time than me this summer in the garden and attending to the weeds. The back patch of garden once again has color and life and new growth, as if it were just waiting to be uncovered and set free from all that was holding it back from really growing.

What am I willing to cast off in the dumpsters or weed piles of my life today?  Are there grudges or fears or insecurities weighing me down?  What kind of new growth do I hope for, dream of, desire?  These, my friends, are the questions that I ponder while my little city street awakens to yet another day.  I share these thoughts with you and rest assured that THE Master Gardener of All hears my prayers.