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At 6:10 A.M., I awoke with this affirming dream:

Advent will soon arrive and our group plans our annual project. Instead of buying holiday gifts for loved ones, we will bake pastries in each other’s kitchens, Mondays after work—Of little concern that no one knows how to bake.

After our first Monday gathering, we step back from the mess: sinks filled with soiled pots and utensils, counters crammed with half-opened ingredients and stained cookbooks, floors pastiched with icing and brown sugar. What looks like a plate of chocolate chip cookies sits near the oven. My crocs make stickery sounds as I join the others with a bucket of water and mop; disheartened, we clean into the night.

On subsequent Mondays, some progress brightens our moods: Pastries are beginning to resemble the pictures in the cookbooks.

Our final Monday yields holiday boxes of pastries, unique in taste, design, and decorations. We’re glad to share.

I liken this dream to my daily practice of recovery found in Recipe for Recovery: A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous (cookbooks). Its format resembles a cookbook, with Ingredients, Description, Directions, Preparation, and What It Looks Like. Working this program requires willingness to reeducate our psyches from less-than responses learned earlier in life. Such conscious work also benefits others.

The dream opens with the season of Advent, a four-week arduous preparation for the Christmas mysteries. Similarly in CPA, the penitential climate of Advent informs the practice of the Twelve Steps, a lifelong practice.

Our group symbolizes the spiritual fellowship that consciously takes on this challenging project, with Higher Power’s help. Kitchens represent CPA’s website and the varied sites—phone or Zoom—where meetings are held. Our first Monday gathering reveals deep willingness in the group’s initial efforts to mix/blend/simmer ingredients which flop. Even more is this willingness demonstrated in cleaning up the kitchen. No matter that my crocs will be soiled; they can be hosed down, and I’ll return the following Monday with the others.

The mess stands for Step One, the powerlessness and unmanageability of our lives. Some progress speaks to the beginnings of changed behaviors and attitudes that keep us humble and teachable.

Thus, Holiday boxes of pastries represent the joy of living with Higher Power, now and even more so in the next life. And the final Monday, the last day of this mortal life.  

My gladness is deep


Not fully awake nor fully asleep, I made myself come to full consciousness. It was late, the sun spun lights upon the polished hardwood floor of my bedroom. Outside my window, parents kept up with their kids to the elementary school in the next block, with toddlers plodding along next to their strollers, with dogs yapping at their heels. Yet, the makings of a significant dream were being dissembled the more I tried to make sense of it. Left only with the impression of a frothy cathedral, its gothic arches lost in the clouds, I put it aside, took my medication, and prepared for the day.

Later, it occurred to me that upon awakening other mornings, I had glimpsed other medieval cathedrals, but no stories to accompany them. Only that I was alone and hushed by the beauty, that silence spoke eloquently of Presence, that centuries of prayer molded the wooden kneelers placed in front of the marble altar. Questions flooded me. I yearned for an interpreter to open up the historical significance of where I was and why I was there, but none occurred in the dream.

As a younger woman, travel to European medieval cathedrals certainly fed my psyche with their soaring spaciousness and my time, there, spent in prayer. And yesterday’s YouTube study of the German Holbein father and son, religious artists of cathedrals, saddened me; reformers of Martin Luther destroyed their renderings with knives, hatchets—whatever they could lay hands on. Such images were forbidden in religious settings. Such impressions certainly provide dream material, at any time.

So, what do I make of this series of frothy—the specific word given by the Dreamer—to describe these medieval cathedrals? Perhaps the spirituality implied by such historical landmarks is unsubstantial: Here in this moment; then pop, it’s gone? That my greater need is to rely upon God’s plan for my purification than upon my own practices? That I really don’t know what any of this is about?

So, I begin and end with questions …

There is gratitude, and then there is “wondrous gratitude,” a phrase taken from Step XI’s Recipe for Recovery (2015). There is gratitude from habit, and there is gratitude from attention. There is gratitude from the head, and there is gratitude from the heart.

Happy the individual who experiences even a smidgen of gratitude, either given or received. It does make a difference: the dark curtain of negativity parts ever so slightly, evoking smiles that whisper, that chirp, that crinkle otherwise dour jaws. Living with ourselves and others becomes freer from tension, opens worlds of giggles.

For those engaged in psychic cleansing through practicing the Twelve Steps of AA, however, gratitude takes on new dimensions, colors the ordinary with turn-around looks, and tickles belly laughter, at times requiring Kleenex, for tears. In my perception, experiencing “wondrous gratitude” floods the psyche with wordless unconditional love that sings and blows pink soap bubbles that meander, then pop with surprise.

To wrap words around “wondrous gratitude” is one thing, but quite another, to experience it; years of hospice abound with them: the stillness of contemplation, the next right word at my word processor, forgiveness of self and others, guidance through meaningful dreams, savory suppers of Shepherd’s Pie when hungry and other foods, my weekly helper whose expertise leaves her sparkle and willingness upon everything in my home, the next right book, the daily CPA Zoom member response that untangles my self-made knots, my CPA sponsor whose courage demonstrates stellar recovery and challenges me to work harder, the items on my gratitude list at the end of the day, and so much more—all evidence a Higher Power responding to my willingness to learn and change.  

The key to this attitude is unflappable “conscious contact” with Higher Power. His inspiring company leaves me “wondrously grateful”—a foretaste of eternal life.

Colorful butterflies in lavender field.

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