Wonderings {on gratitude}

What would our prayers be like if we focused them around the things, people and situations in our lives for which we didn’t feel overly grateful? Thanking God for the things we’d sooner we DIDN’T have…rather than asking Him for things we DON’T have and want/desire.

I wonder.

Would we then appreciate more the difficulty and trouble we see as obstacles in our lives, viewing these instead as blessings in disguise? Would it make us more grateful? More appreciative? Would we realize that these difficulties are things that make us and shape us into beautiful people, stretching our hearts so that they can hold more love?

I wonder.

Would that gratitude that was grown and cultivated cause us to give more love? To be love to those around us- even to the ones we are ungrateful for? I truly wonder.

What would happen if we were grateful for things like the following:

Snow and other weather related annoyances
Dirt and mud and soggy grass
Messes (both large and small)
Chores
Work/employment/jobs
Inconveniences (make this one personal)
People who rub us the wrong way
Mundane activities (you name one)
People who offend us
People who challenge us
Financial issues
Health and its challenges
Marriage and its complexity
Relationships and their intricacy
Pain and its hardship
Loss and sorrow

What if the pain in our lives was there to teach us gratitude and how to offer words of thanks for each and every moment we’ve been given…as if everything we’d been given was a gift? For is it not?

We are owed nothing. We come into this world naked. We leave the same way. What happens in between is ours to use as an offering of gratitude, as we can. As we are able. So that we can grow in grace and understanding. So that we can grow in compassion and empathy. So that we can reach out to people in our circles of influence and show those people care. Trouble is here in our lives so as to move us toward something. Might it move us to love? Move us closer toward the Author of gratitude Himself?

Might it cause us to be a grateful people?
Making us mindful of who we are, what we have and what we can give as an outpouring of our gratitude.

Might it open our eyes to a whole new way of living?

“I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.”― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

And echoing these beautiful words, I say: I want to be grateful.

For today, for all my tomorrows and for each day that leads towards always, even after that.

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Experiencing the light {Counting Blessings}

I stand at the gable window, pausing momentarily to fold a blanket and set it on the window seat. It is 7:30 a.m., and I am in the midst of morning routines. So much to do, and so little time in which to get it all done.

What I wish is that I could go back to bed.

As I come out of Daughter’s bedroom, I notice the glow of daybreak through the upper window. Just this once- instead of rushing past to make the bed (without a thought to anything else happening in the universe)- I pause. Catching a glimpse, as I do of pink and purple ribbons extending out across the sky. Just a quick glimpse from the corner of my eye, but it is enough to stop me in my tracks. Pastel hues, as if stolen from an artist’s palette, wash light over grey horizons in a glorious watercolor display. I am awe-struck for several moments as I try to capture in my mind this picture I have been afforded.

A defining interlude in my day.

My mind could never quite do justice to what I am viewing from our upstairs window just now. This image is so exquisite, so rare (if only for the reason that most mornings I miss it). So I run for my half-charged cell phone in an effort to seize the moment; when I return, color is spreading ever wider out from the source, reaching further across the sky. I watch as beams of sunlight extend towards the grey, barren landscape, touching treetops and brushing snow-covered fields, illuminating as they move in regal formation. I watch while frosted roads kissed with color reflect the light. And I cannot help but delight in the wonder that is the shoulder of our road, which runs parallel to our old farm house, as it blushes in rose-tinted tones that reflect the beauty of the sky. The world, a painting in progress, and I am witness to the art unfolding.

“Look at the sky!” I call to my son. “Even the ground is pink.”

We stand in silence for a moment. But then reality sets in again and reminders of the day ahead dictate the schedule. Lunch orders to fill out, bags to pack, beds to make, laundry to wash. Rush, rush. Hustle, hustle. We move about with hardly a conscious thought to the wonder to which we just were given front row seats. Rushing through breakfast routines. Rushing through bed-making. Rushing to the van to make it to work/school on time. Forgetting commitments and then remembering them just in time. And realizing that it is duty day and someone has the wrong boots packed for the weather- just another highlight (low light). And it quickly becomes a day in which I find myself rushing everywhere, noticing little along the way.

But isn’t every day the same? And in all the rushing, I find myself just putting in time as I count down the minutes until each hour is over. Counting down hours until the day is done again.

This is no way to live.

Much later, we talk on the phone, she and I- chatting about this, that and the other, when she tells me that he has started counting little gratitudes. Counting blessings. I am touched by this- knowing what a test this will prove to be. He, who appears to have seemingly very little of which to be thankful for (at this point in the game), has taken up the challenge to count the ways in which he is grateful. And she mentions that he’s starting by noticing the little things- things that might mean nothing to anyone else- but which mean everything to those who have been challenged to be grateful.

Little blessings that mean everything to him.

I conjure up an image of him taking part in this ritual of counting gratitudes: and in my own mind, I am humbly inspired. For isn’t this the way? The way to truly experience light?

Light shines when we choose gratitude.

And yet, it isn’t until this very moment that I truly see light today, although I have witnessed the glorious natural wonder that is the sunrise from the vantage of my window. It isn’t until now- as darkness covers everything a velvet black- that I experience light. For in choosing to focus inward on that which envelopes me in darkness, I cannot see the truth of daylight, cannot appreciate the joy that is today. It is only in allowing the light to penetrate my soul that I am free.

So I too begin to number my many gratitudes, naming them one at a time. And I finally realize what I have been missing all along: the opportunity to make each moment as worthwhile as those precious minutes I spent drinking in a mid-winter sunrise early on a Monday morning. It’s all light if we allow it to shine.

And so. Like him, I will count- for if he can do this from a hospital bed with far less at his disposal, then so can I. I will name my gratitudes.

1. Steaming hot coffee in a tall mug.
2. Raisin bread toast laced with cinnamon.
3. Helpers at recess.
4. Laughs at bedtime with my girls.
5. Unexpected emails that make my day.

And of course there are always others. But for today, I am comforted by the light that I have already witnessed, this ritual of counting moving me ever closer to the Source of light as I name my little and big gratitudes, putting words to paper one by one.

Counting one simple blessing at a time.

Credit to Ann Voskamp for the challenge found in her beautiful book “One Thousand Gifts”.

Present (s)

image retrieved from http://www.tresblessed.blogspot.com

I was on my way back to class- after having scrubbed my soup bowl clean in our staff room sink- when I caught him at it. He had stopped to talk to a colleague of mine and the two shared a laugh or two; after which, Mr. Man skipped along down the hall with perfect timing, in flawless formation. Never missing a beat. I watched him, in awe. It was priceless, really. A moment of absolute bliss both for him and for me. I was transfixed, he- oblivious to anything but the rapture he was feeling in that given moment. No one to tell him “walk, don’t run!” No orders to find his place in the line-up, or directives to “stay in your spot”. No one to say anything. Just one to watch and one to move in such beauty of fluidity in motion- it near brought me to tears.

Oh, to live in such abandon.

It’s a brand new year. 2015- so much ahead, but only today to live. Only this moment. And this one- right now. Just this. Never more than we can handle- never less. Keeping us forever in the present.

And what a gift that present is.

Sure- it brings things like frozen pipes that reek plugged toilets.

I arrive home, finding myself in the upstairs bathroom shortly after school, in frigid temperatures no less- stumbling over snow and ice with five or six grocery bags in tow: only to find that there is no running water up there.  NONE. Youngest cheerfully informs us after using the facilities. And Husband then realizes that he will doubtless spend the next three hours sitting perched over stone-cold rads where he will hold a heat gun to them, moving from room to room- blowing hot stinky air down the grates in the hopes of melting some of that unforgiving ice. His Oldest Daughter will declare that indeed something smells. His wife- the one who turned the heat completely off just this morning, thinking she was doing him a favor (saving money), will apologize profusely.

And the gift gives on.

Sure. This adventure-filled present brings us other fun stuff- like cranky children, and chaotic suppers. Like spilled Bath and Body Works soap inside bathroom cupboards. And it calls to mind every other adventure our family has experienced in the not-so-distant past: from the minor (exploding pop cans) to the more urgent (freak flooding). Calls us yet again to the even more serious moments in life when one is immediately brought to attention- no more games, no more laughing. Just sombre tones, grim expressions.

Moments where life is abruptly terminated and time begins again in another Place of which I can now only imagine.

Can even these present moments be a gift?

Here is what I read today, beautiful thought if there ever was one:

“You have absolutely only one decision to make every day: how will you use your time?
New Years comes right after Christmas because the ultimate bottom line is:
Time is certainly one of the most precious gifts you ever get, because you only ever get a certain amount of it” (Ann Voskamp).

There are no guarantees.  For every moment (right down to the second) is a gift- it’s our present.

So for today: let’s use our present moments to embrace the life we have been given right now. That’s all we have. And it might be messy, might be imperfect- even unpleasant at times. But these present moments have been given to us as a gift- our precious present.

May we never take them for granted.

May we live them with abandon.