Good Work and Gratitude | Thoughts for Thanksgiving

My wife Nanci usually encourages me to take a relaxation day after coming off the road. And today I’m feeling a bit weary having just returned from four concerts in a row, and a television taping (Context, with Lorna Dueck) at Toronto’s magnificent CBC building. During that time I stayed several days with my daughter’s family, and had some fine time with the grand lads, Luca and Pax, whose energy is as exhilirating as it is exhausting.

So… Nance sounded a little sheepish when she called from her work today to say that given that the next few days are rather full—and frost is expected—today may be the day to dig the carrots from the garden, which, of course means clipping, cleaning and storing as well.

The suggestion felt like an added burden as I had already determined it would be a work day. I’m behind on two separate writing projects—and then there is the never-ending work that accompanies the release of a new album.  It’s hard to relax when so much is awaiting attention.

DaisySo I decided to cut short the morning walk with Daisy so I could get right down to work. But after about 10 minutes, when I assumed I’d be turning back home, a voice whispered, “no, no…keep going.” I hesitated, thinking of all that needs doing, and then decided to continue on.  Daisy and I walked for over an hour in the fall-fresh air, greeting other dogs and their owners, and happily chatting briefly with a builder friend whose crew is framing a house down the way. We passed by the river and paused to feel the mighty flow, then took a wooded walk on a pathway blanketed with soggy-soft leaves.  It felt good.

Dirty CarrotsWhen we got home, I thought I’d get right down to work, leaving the carrots until later, though only if I got enough work done.  But the voice again whispered, “…better, perhaps, to do the carrots now.”  Again I hesitated, and then went out to work in the yard: digging away, bending over to rub the soil off the harvest, cutting off the greens, doing a first rinse with the hose before tossing the discard in the compost and carrying the bounty into the house to be further cleaned and bagged.

All the while, my soul began to slow down and breath deeper.  Fall is magnificent:  the cool wind carrying sounds of another’s labour in the distance, the bug-lessness, the slice of my shovel turning dirt, the rub of moist soil from those roots, Daisy lazing on the grass in a patch of dappled sun…  all magnificent.   I forget how restful and restorative work can sometimes be.

And the first song of my first solo album began to run through my head. Lyrics from Psalm 90 (listen below) :

May the favour of the Lord
Rest upon us and our land
And establish for us all
The work of our hands
Yes… the work of our hands.

And with the song came gratitude.  If for no other reason that I love carrots.  Admittedly, it wasn’t the best harvest this year. The carrots are small and not as sweet as past years (the weather this summer has been weird).  But these are still a far cry from those oft-slimy, store bought, baby peeled carrots that are the vegetarian’s equivalent of the cocktail weenie.

Personally, I like to eat them freshly dug with the dirt still on. But I washed them none-the-less, as I’m sure our Thanksgiving dinner guests will prefer.

Clean Carrots

Gratitude for other things came as well: for meaningful work, for Nanci and our great kids and grandkids, for good friends and great memories, for the love and legacy of my parents and grandparents that I share with beloved sisters, for gardens and gardening…

At this point I recalled a traditional Anishinaabeg tale that I retold in a blog over a year ago:

A hunter’s arrow found and downed a moose.  As the hunter was gathering wood for a fire to prepare the meat, the  hunter discovered all sorts of wild vegetables and fruits as well. Overwhelmed by the bounty, the hunter didn’t know who to thank, but felt a bursting need to thank someone. So he simply looked around, and said “thank you.” This, is where giving honour (religion) came from.

“Gratitude is the highest form of thought.”  GK Chesterton

I feel the same impulse to give honour, to God, for every goodness—even for the hope of redemption for good things gone bad.

I feel… lovely. My head is clear. Now… down to work.





31 thoughts on “Good Work and Gratitude | Thoughts for Thanksgiving

  1. Just lovely Steve – I too feel so relaxed and almost comforted while working in the yard, whether it is digging carrots or caring for the flowers. It is something I love to do and brings great refreshment to my soul. Thanks for sharing.

  2. thanks, Steve. I love fall too. Beautiful day here in Nova Scotia…blue sky, calm ocean, stunning trees. Thankfulness is in the air…

  3. The knowledge that the same fingers that pluck beauty on the guitar also find satisfaction in digging in the dirt, brings you a little closer in fellowship, Steve. May God continue to bless you with a grateful heart and overflowing life.

  4. Thanks for sharing – I love digging in dirt and haven’t had a garden the last couple of years. I had a new fence put around my yard late this year — perhaps next year will find me digging in dirt again.

  5. This is so beautifully written, and such a good reminder to slow down. It’s funny how the most important lessons seem to be re-learned again and again.

  6. In the impulse of thankfulness lies a clue to our end, our meaning…community with one another and with God. Thankfulness drives us from gluttony to generosity. It picks up a full fork of delicious potatoes and says ‘there is too much goodness here for me to enjoy on my own…I must share this goodness by nudging my table partner with a wink and say, “isn’t this great? Just look at this! Just look! It’s too much!” That our food grows in the dirt, that last year’s moose still nourishes us from the comfort of our chest freezer, this is just too much…too much goodness…I must share it. The clue to my meaning screams out from the bounty of my mashed potatoes…I was made for God, and to him I give thanks.

  7. just beautifully written Steve!
    a great reminder to slow down and smell the roses (or carrots)!

  8. Thank you for sharing Steve. Always love your stories. And thank you that again and again you call us to simplicity.

  9. The garden
    It’s where we first came to life

    The Father’s hands
    Had planted seeds,
    Stooped down,
    Gathered soil
    Then Yahweh breathed
    Slowly, deeply

    On our knees
    We tend to harvest
    And remember
    In September
    And the fall
    The call
    To gather in the garden

    There we reap
    A bounty of good-ness,
    Taste and savour
    Giving thanks
    For the Lord’s
    Abundant favour

  10. ” I forget how restful and restorative work can sometimes be.” Thanks Steve – for opening my eyes again to God’s view of work and gratitude…and that he can ” satisfy us in each new day” if we but slow our self down and listen to his voice and direction.

  11. Thank you for the reminder, beautifully put, I will slow down and enjoy this Thanksgiving Season!! All the best & many Blessings to you & your family.

  12. Oh the power of thanksgiving! Like you so beautifully articulated, it clears our minds, refreshes our spirits and opens our eyes to see the hundreds of blessings daily poured out from the Hand of God. Before our 8 year old daughter was killed last summer God graciously prepared my heart through reading One Thousand Gifts. In the midst of mind-rending sorrow, God asked if I would still choose to see His gifts and thank Him. For 15 months I have had to daily make the choice to see Him in the continued blessings, even when it might seem easier to focus on the losses He has allowed. This choice has opened my heart to receive greater peace, joy and strength than I ever knew prior to my grief. I have found sweet fellowship in sharing in His sufferings. I am finding a an astounding correlation between my level of submission and my ability to understand the richness of His Gifts.
    This Thursday I will enjoy your God-inspired music and your thought-provoking sharing in Rosebud. I can hardly wait!

  13. Several times for the Children’s Time during Thanksgiving worship, I have led the children in “When I say my prayers, I thank God for…. (like the game “When I pack my suitcase I take)….and I have often started with “Carrots.” What a wonder to look at a carrot seed; there’s no way to imagine that it could become a delightful orange carrot. So too will we be changed….

  14. thank you SandRa Lee for sharing this evocative poem. It adds another layer to a current bible study, where the author comments that God wasn’t afraid to get his hands dusty making us.

  15. Reading your blog yesterday morning was exactly what I needed to prepare my heart for this weekend. I have a long to-do list as I get ready to host the Thanksgiving Dinner and my tendency to be a “Martha” often causes me to miss what Jesus says is most important. So, after reading your blog, I slipped on my running shoes and trekked around our farmyard, enjoying the sights and smells that our loving, creative Father gave for me to enjoy that moment. As I walked I listened to your beautiful rendition of Psalm 90 over and over again. God used you to remind me what Thanksgiving really is. Thank you.

  16. I firmly believe that God doesn’t lay down curses. Whenever something feels like a curse, either it is a blessing in disguise (like work) or it is not from God.

  17. Thanks for your inspiring words Steve. A few years ago a dear friend of ours who was dying from cancer decided to use her last remaining days giving thanks for all of the blessings in her life. (She too was a great gardener – although flowers rather than carrots.) She created a “Gratitude Journal” into which she wrote, every day, about the many things she was thankful for in her life. She bought us and other members of our prayer group Journals where we could similarly record things for which we were thankful. It was a profound lesson of the transforming power of gratitude.

  18. So beautiful Steve. I love these fall days, walks with the dogs…harvesting and being reminded of the blessings we have. I too share that love of work especially outside, “restful and restorative.” Thanks so much Steve. Glad you listened to your inner voice.

  19. Miigwetch Steve. You’re a great storyteller , in words and song. Blessings this thanksgiving hoiday!

  20. Bless you, my beautiful sister. You managed to enjoy the sights and smells of your farm AND host an amazing Thanksgiving feast. A spirit of thanksgiving permeated the air in your home and was contagious!

  21. Blessings to you Steve for this encouraging post. Hearing you sing at Derksen’s anniversary on Thanksgiving weekend was a treat. Our church congregation sang Psalm 90 on Sunday…truly God wants us to worship him with the work of our hands.
    Harvest is still ongoing. Just gave garden carrots to a friend today.
    Blessings as you tour. God sends His love through you in many different formats.

  22. If you leave the carrots in the ground till after a good heavy frost your carrots will be much sweeter. Just type in how and when to harvest carrots and you will get all kinds of websites. One of my favorites is: Check it out.

  23. Loved the blog and poem and thoughts offered by others.
    It struck me that you, Steve would not have experienced the blessings our Lord had for you, had you not heeded His voice and leading. It reminds me once again to be quick to listen and obey.

  24. and on an afterthought …the sentence ” and the hope of redemption for good things gone bad..thanks!

  25. Thanks, Steve, for sharing your Thanksgiving reflections. Always good when we can find spritual refreshement in our daily labours.

    ~ Nancy

  26. I so “heard” a message in your blog. We get
    so entangled in all the “shoulds” of life, it is so
    soothing to our souls and spirits when we can
    just be. To just stop long enough to look, and
    breathe and see and feel, the appreciate all
    that has been freely given to us. Blessings to
    you Steve and your family.

Comments are closed.