Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

To Celebrate Life, Love, Moms, Motherhood, & Valentine’s Day

Letter to My Mom, Mildred Blackmon McEwen

Give her roses while she can still enjoy them. ~ Earnest McEwen, Jr. (my father)

Dear Mama ~

It isn’t your birthday or Mother’s Day. Christmas is over. Epiphany, too. It’s the beginning of a glorious New Year… and I’m writing this letter to honor you. I want to thank you for the singular blessing you’ve poured and continue to pour into my life: you!

You are that blessing. Your life is a poem, a mighty spiritual, a testimony of gratitude, faith, and love. And this letter is a celebration of you.

Your road has been long; your journey has not been easy. Bigotry and prejudice fortified you, teaching you how to love even more deeply and how to see not just with your anatomical eyes, but also to see with the eyes of your heart. Greatest of all, you relied on God’s love and strength rather than your own. In this you gave me the gift of faith and unconditional love for myself and others.

You also gave me what my sister-friend and fellow poet Nikky Finney would say is the gift of being “a woman with keys.” A woman with keys moves in a particular way and she has a responsibility, an obligation to help others find theirs, help them move through their rooms, cross their thresholds, unlock their windows and doors on the journey to claim their promise.

I remember as a little girl, you gave me the precious gift of encouragement. When you said over and again, “Be all that God intended you to be—no matter what, come what may.” I now offer that gift back to my daughter, other family members, my students, clients, and friends.

I remember your humility and sacrifice. For many long years you and Daddy toiled and sacrificed so that my sisters and I could have a better life than the ones you’d known. I remember your and Dad’s Mississippi stories of struggle and strife, of Dad’s deep longing to go to college to better himself and improve our lot, of him working as a janitor at Ole Miss and there, by the grace of God, William Faulkner came into his life and paid for Dad to attend Alcorn A&M College, with no strings attached. I remember you working as a teacher and cook in the nursery school to help make ends meet, Dad’s working at low-paying jobs even with his college degree. I remember you both standing on your rock-solid values of hard work, gratitude, faith, love, and integrity.

I also remember the profound lessons you taught me—to lend others a helping hand, to be of service to others… your constant reminders to do something with my time, to make myself useful. Even if I was already occupied doing something! Today your words echo in my soul as the voice of legacy. Early on, you taught me, Doris, Annie, Debbie, and Vera that you make a living by what you choose as your work, and you make a life by what you do for others.

I remember when I asked what compelled you to go along with Daddy’s “impossible” dreams, you said, “I loved your father and I believed in him. More importantly, we had an abiding faith in Almighty God, and He never gave us more than we could handle, and His grace always saw us through.” Even when you didn’t have any idea of how our family would make it, your love and faith sustained you.

Thank you for giving me a legacy that values education, character, as well as loving, lifting up, and helping others with no strings attached. Thank you for painting on the canvas of eternity with your unshakable belief in the nobility of the human spirit, for painting with a palette imbued with the qualities of humility, faith, love, triumph, and the capacity to treat every human being with dignity and respect. Through you, I have a small glimpse of God’s magnificence, devotion, and triumph.

Because of you, I know—deep in my bones—a few things: if you want change, you must stir the waters and be willing to get out of the boat. If you want change, then you have to invest your heart and soul in the generations to come. I also know that each person must live the legacy that God has intended just for him or her, which means that you can’t hide your light under a bushel. You have to dare to wear your soul on the outside, and keep on keeping on—no matter what, and we have to pass it on by building sturdy bridges for others to cross.

Mother, thank you for being a diva in my life, for not merely talking about blessings… but for being the blessing, and for passing it on!

Love and honor, your daughter Gloria

Pass It On!


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This holiday season, we are blessed once again by my daughter’s presence. Now that she has launched her career, we are even more grateful that she still delights in the simple pleasures of hanging out with me and her dad.

Last year about this time, I asked her what I should write about for my “Feel Good Tuesday” post. She said, “Oh, you should write about family—how wonderful it is to spend time with family members, the importance of appreciating one another, and sharing our love, especially older family members while they can still enjoy your presence.

Family matters. As I get older, I appreciate and celebrate family more and more.

On Christmas Eve, my husband, daughter, and I piled into the car and headed to Vancouver to see my mom, niece, and two younger sisters. We enjoyed a few joyous hours snuggled up on the sofa sharing stories and photos, catching up on each others’ lives, playing games, and dreaming about the year ahead.

Before my daughter returns home to Boston, we’ll gather around the fire, piece together several jigsaw puzzles, and take a few walks in the misty twilight. We might even round up our instruments to make music together, creating wonderful new holiday memories.

As you reflect on your holidays, may you be blessed with the warmth of family, blessed by love given and received.

Sending you and your loved ones Warm Blessings for a Joyous New Year.

Pass It On!

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As the golden days of autumn give way to auburn, rust, and brown,  we lean toward Thanksgiving, a season of deep gratitude.

Today and always I give thanks for my many blessings – family and friends, children’s laughter, angels and prayers that come into my life, bidden or unbidden, even my breath, which I so often take for granted… but which for some is an immense struggle.

Aunbance is Yours

Abundance is Yours

Many years ago, I wrote “Sanctuary,” one of my many poems of gratitude. I share it with you now as an offering of thanksgiving for a faithful, stout-hearted woman of God… my  mom, Mildred McEwen, and to two amazing men whose legacy of generosity and gratitude changed my life… my father, Earnest McEwen, Jr.,  and William Faulkner.

Who has been a blessing in your life? Have you expressed your gratitude?


for William Faulkner and my father, Earnest McEwen, Jr.*

Between the brush of angels’ wings

and furious hooves of hell, two mortal men

fell down. How you must have looked—

white shirt stained, khakis fatigued,

smelling of sweat and smoke,

hair at odds with itself and the world.

At the threshold among your restless dead

in echo and shadow of ancient oaks,

providing sanctuary, offering shade,

you had many worlds behind you,

few yet to be born: stories of insurgence,

scorn, decay—theme and variations

of a vanquished South.

Leaning against a jamb

of antebellum brass, you watched, waited,

raised weary arm and hand, saluted

the familiar stranger. Come. Enter. Sit. Sing.

You reached each other across the grate.

What you two must have known of heaven and hell.

* William Faulkner was my father’s benefactor, paying for him to attend college at a time when he had little

prospects of earning enough money to pay for it himself. This was Faulkner’s way of dismantling institutionalized racism long before desegregation was mandated in the South.


Harvest blessings.

Pass It On!

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In a recent post, I mused about the vibrancy of community in Ghana… & the dearth of community here at home. Of course, the best kind of community is making the best of it no matter what the circumstance.

To Flourish: Gloria Burgess

At the moment, my husband & I are blessed to be in community with my father-in-law, caring for & ministering to him after undergoing 5-way bypass surgery. Our community also includes other family members, wonderful care givers, rehab specialists, kind neighbors, & the many, many friendships he has sustained through the years.

At 88-years young, he’s doing remarkably well. Hallelujah! Though he still has many months to a full recovery, my father-in-law’s good cheer, generosity of spirit, & positive outlook is wonderful reminder of what it means to flourish.

Pass It On!

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John and I just celebrated another anniversary. Our 36th! Where has the time gone?!

Well, we devoted time to growing together in God… nurturing our diverse ministries, including raising our wonderful daughter, creating careers in business, teaching, consulting, and coaching… encouraging others… enjoying and creating music… and attending grad school not once but many times. :o)

Mango Gerbera Daisy.Gloria Burgess

What’s the secret to a vibrant, joyous marriage? Here are a few things that have helped me. Maybe they’ll help you, too.

Commitment. Begin with the end in mind. Even before you say “I do,” create a shared vision for your life together. And when you say “I do,” know that you are making a vow, a sacred commitment for the long-term. Remember that those 2 precious words—“I do”—are intimately connected with “’til death do us part.” When you hit the inevitable snag or a bump in the road, it helps to know you’re committed to each other, to God, and to working together to move through the rough times… and live to tell about it!

Love. The language of love includes gratitude, patience, courage, and forgiveness, along with a good sense of humor. Love is the only thing that multiplies when you share it, so be sure to love generously—with your smiles, kisses, hugs, whispers, laughter, snuggling, hand holding, stories, and hallelujahs. Discover your mate’s  love language—and use it! If just thinking about your spouse makes you flush, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell him. I love romantic surprises—a love note under my pillow or, when I’m on the road, tucked into my luggage… a shared sunrise or sunset… hearing John play the piano while I’m writing or cooking… or even better—having him cook!

Communication. Be sure to talk about everything—the big things and the little things. Share your beliefs and dreams… about faith, money, children, romance, family, friends, work, and recreation. If it’s important to you, then it should be important to your mate. Remember that in the grand aria of life, time is precious and life is short. Don’t waste precious time pouting, sulking, or dishing out the silent treatment. When you fight, get over it—the sooner the better. Do you really care about being right or being with Mr. or Mrs. Right?

Time together and time alone is essential. Be intentional. If you’re raising children, set aside time each day that’s just for the two of you. If you can arrange for a relative or friend to care for your children every now and then, do it. If your nest is empty, set aside a special time for a date night: take a walk, play a game, sing, watch a movie, learn how to say “I love you” in as many languages as possible. The important thing is to have fun. Invest in each other and the rewards will be a joyous relationship, good times, and memories to cherish for years to come.

John, here’s to you… Happy 36th! To many, many more.

Pass It On!

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Welcome Spring! Sensual abundance. I feel very blessed to be coming back to my senses, especially since my fall just a few months ago.

So I’m counting my blessings. There are so many of them—greening trees, bulbs pushing forth from warming soil… more sun, wind and, rain… birdsong, children playing in the park. And less time in physical therapy. Talk about blessings!

I’ve been watching my step… and letting go of some things that no longer serve me well at this stage of my life. To help me prepare for new beginnings, I committed to one action each day, asking God, “How can you use me today?”  Each day, something new is being birthed.

May this Spring bring forth new beginnings for you and the people and places you love. And may your be blessed with great wealth–of gratitude, love, faith, compassion, forgiveness, and creativity.

Pass It On!

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Join me in celebrating Women’s Month: Take a moment to enjoy Maya Angelou’s words and lovely image, taken last month when President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As we celebrate women, here are 4 things we can do for ourselves and others—today and every day.

Show up. This is the first and most essential aspect of taking charge of your life… and influencing the lives of others. Be there. Presence makes a difference. And full presence—spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental—makes all the difference.

Speak up. As women, most of know the pain of being seen but not heard. As an African-American woman, sometimes the pain is double. But I don’t let that get me down. If I did, some days I’d wouldn’t get up! When women speak, we add our uniqueness and offer diversity that would otherwise be missing and missed.

Stand up. Find someone or something—a place, a cause, an idea—that you care about so passionately and so deeply that you will take a stand for it… and you can and will talk about it with anyone, anywhere, without apologies or regrets.

Lift up. We were made to love and honor one another. How will you celebrate someone and lift them up today and every day?

Pass It On!

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