On Fighting in the Family

It’s supper time in our house. As soon as we all come together, it seems the tensions rise. Someone did something to someone else and it just continues to unravel from there. Words fly, accusations are tossed about. Insults become pointed. Sarcasm is certainly the lowest form of wit, Wilde got that right. Everyone thinks their version of the story is the right one, and they are willing to put anyone else on the chopping block so as to maintain face. This is how it sometimes can be when families gather around the table.

And on other nights, I am reminded that civil behaviour is possible. We can show kindness and love. We can be gracious. We can treat one another respectfully. It is possible- there is hope.

Yesterday, I browsed through one of my favorite blogs and was disheartened to find a full-fledged debate about the hot topic of homosexuality and what people believed about such. There were a lot of “I thinks” and verses to sway one side to the other. And on and on it went- one mean-spirited comment after another. I say I was ‘disheartened’ because every time these debates occur, there is in-fighting amongst believers, non-believers and otherwise. And such mean-spiritedness. And hatred. And, ugh…it is all so ugly. It rather reminds me of a family at suppertime fighting about what they believe so strongly to be right- so much so that they would be willing to throw their fellow brother and sister under the bus so as to prove their point.

I am reading a great deal about care these days and one care theorist that I have studied in great depth is Nel Noddings. In her groundbreaking book on caring in schools, she had this to say: “the living other is more important than any theory”. And while I hesitate to include this quote as a blanket-statement, I do think that we often sacrifice the people in our lives for creeds or doctrines we hold as truths. We make adherence to a certain dogma more important than the people we live and work alongside. And while I think there are things we can live and die by- while I believe in truth and holiness and justice and all things good and right, I do not think it is ever worth sacrificing one’s brother or sister- throwing them under the bus to get trampled for the sake of an argument. For the sake of a debate. Debates like these drive wedges deeply between people, Christian or otherwise. As I have watched martyrs for the sake of the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus’ love for us) give their lives for the truths they hold near and dear to their hearts, I cannot help but see in their faces a unity with their brothers and sisters. There is no debating the current topical issues as you stand on the line, your life in the balance at the behest of a terrorist- your fellow brothers and sister in Christ lined up on either side. Clarity and lucidity suddenly comes into full view when the eternal things that really matter are before your eyes.

I love the verses in the Bible that call us to clarity. Verses like Micah 6:8 (NIV):
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

Ours is not to do the work of the Spirit of the Living God, acting as our brother or sisters conscience. We have enough work to do in our own lives without trying to take on the job of making decisions for someone else. Getting inside their heart and head so as to figure things out- we don’t know their heart. And we never truly will. The heart is a private place that only the individual and the supernatural are given entry to. We can observe, but we can never truly know. We need to stop playing God. We are not God.

We have just celebrated that glorious of Christian holidays: Good Friday leading way to Easter Sunday. We have risen with Christ- we are no longer counted as among the dead. Why do we continue to live like we are counted among the defeated? It is God who has given us life, we are no longer in chains bound by our own pride and arrogance and superiority. We are free to walk humbly with God. And free to trust that God is doing a work in the hearts of women and men that no eye can see nor ear can hear. His work is often in the secret places- He works that way. With a still small voice.

In the secret.

I love this verse as well, and I believe that for Christians such as me- who have known Christ for a good long time, it is an important one for us to remember first and foremost:

Psalm 51:10 (NIV): “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

This verse calls us as people of God to remember- the work that we so desperately feel MUST be done in others lives, really begins in our own hearts. God works personally. He doesn’t call us to look to the left or to the right- to see what our brothers and sisters are doing wrong (like children fighting at a supper table): He calls us to look inside of our own hearts to see if there is anything there that stands between us and the Father.

Finally, I love these verses about how to act toward our brothers and sisters in Christ- or anyone else, for that matter:
John 13:34-35 (ESV): “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

By our love, people will know that we love Him. What beautiful words to live and grow and breathe by.  May this timeless truth be so in our lives today- that they know us by our love.

Stoke the Fire

For my Mom.

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You are making a difference for that one.
Eight little words. But they hold so very much meaning.

I am sitting down to eat. We have just half an hour before I leave again to drive back home to my little family, but thirty minutes is long enough for a story. As I eat left-over Easter ham and potatoes, she tells me about her friend whose husband has Lewy Body Dementia, a type of dementia that shares characteristics with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. A debilitating condition, he is now in a long-term care facility at the early age of sixty. As I listen, I am reminded again that life is not fair. But when was it ever?

She shares with me the story of her good friend, once part of a successful recording artistry duo that traveled as a team all across the States, a woman whose son had enabled her to share her journey of change (from public to private life) with an audience recently as part of a guest speaker assemblage on a cruise ship. While part of the entourage, the woman told a small audience the story of how she now cares every day for her husband in a long-term facility and deals with the pain of a loss of livelihood and way of life. She bravely shared how God was using her in albeit small ways- while He had once given her a very public platform, she now was meeting people one by one. And devoting most of her time to the needs of her husband.

Humbling mundane work when you are use to crowds of people gazing back at you from the stands. But as life continues on, this is how the story so often unfolds.

As I listened, my storyteller added this last bit to the tale, the punch-line if you will. She said that some had told her friend that somewhere down the line, those changes in her life, which were forcing her and her husband into constraints beyond their wildest imaginations- these details would all come together someday for a greater purpose… so as to influence many people once again in a big way. In other words, she deserved for this pain to pay off- she was after all, someone who had once been used in a very big way. Somewhere along the line, what was going around would come around again- for good.

But is this really the purpose of pain and suffering- is this the end result? That it must be used for some glorious, far-reaching purpose? Must we always have a reward for every suffering we undergo? What do we really deserve, when all is said and done?

My story-teller assured me that she had begged to differ with this mindset, that is, that her friend’s life must needs be counted as purposeful if everything came together somehow and someway in the future. She told me that she had encouraged her friend of this timeless truth: you are making a difference for someone you care about today, and that’s more than enough purpose to give your life meaning.

Sometimes we think that unless it is public and advertised, it must not be worthwhile. We live in an age of social media, and its influence is far-reaching. The more ‘likes’ we have, the better we feel. The more hits on our pages, the more our confidence rises. But in this era of publicly shared living, we might have forgotten the timeless truth: what happens when the lights dim is often the most telling of our truest character. What happens when the music fades is sometimes the best predictor of who we really are.

And beyond this, we can be prone to give much credence to quantity at the expense of quality. The more results, the better we feel. The bigger the audience, the greater the impact. But what if the truest marker of success was the praise we received in private?

My mother’s friend now spends most of her time in a long-term health facility, out of the public eye. While there, she talks to the residents and cares for the needs of whom she is able. She also spends long hours looking after the shell of the man who was formerly her partner in life, a man whose presence was taken from her far too early. But if you were to ask this woman’s son how he feels about his mother and the work of her calling, he would offer the highest of praise. Because he knows that she is daily doing what she can to make a difference, right where she has been placed for now.

She is making a difference for her man whom she still dearly loves and making an impact on all of the others. And for all the people whom she comes into contact with each and every day, her work is perceived as meaningful. It might not be publicly recognized anymore or lauded with accolades. It might never again be given that kind of standing. That doesn’t diminish the importance of the work she has been called to do at this season in her life. She is making a difference, one person at a time. Moment by moment, day by day.

And so can we all. May we never forget, when the lights fade and the spotlight has been removed from our lives: we can still make a difference. One person at a time.

Our work is only ever finished when the candle ceases to burn. May we stoke the fires that lie within.

The Purpose of Prayer

Prayer is something we as Christians take for granted as part and parcel of our life and calling, but it is something really of an enigma for most of us. You see, we are told that we can ask anything in Jesus’ name and it will be given to us. But when we ask, we so often find that there is no response. We sense quiet from God. Maybe even an absence.

Prayer can seem like a wasted moment at best- a farce at worst.

I am in the kitchen watching my Mom make us coffee when she casually mentions that she and a mutual friend (living at a distance from her for every year she has known her) have prayed for each others’ children, as part of a promise to one another made many years earlier. The fact that I have been prayed for by a woman who has not really known me (and who has largely just heard of me through stories told of me by my own mother) is all quite humbling. I have been thought of and mentioned in the presence of God, before His face- by someone who considers my life to be of value enough to pray for me daily. Incredibly touching.

In fact, Mom tells me that this friend has been praying for her five children (and vice versa) since we were all knee-high to a grasshopper. That is a long time to pray, as I am now 40 and no longer a child. I marvel at the commitment this kind of prayer practice takes- to pray for your friend’s children year after year after year, and I think about this a bit before I find myself heading to beat the rush to the shower. As I continue to get ready for the day, I am struck by the fact that I do not pray as vigilantly for my own four children, let alone anyone elses’ (for that matter), as do these two women. They are amazing prayer warriors. In fact, when I consider my personal belief in the power of prayer, I find myself coming up short. I have to ask myself: do I believe that prayer works? And that it can impact lives?
Do I really think prayer changes things?

As I am thinking, I begin to reflect on some recent changes in my life and how these changes have made a major impact on the relationships I hold the closest. In fact, I think of marriage and my relationship to Husband and how our whole married life has been a struggle to find common ground. I consider the fact that marriage has never come easy to either one of us and that we have too many times wondered if marriage was really the right decision for us as a couple. I think about the times we both hit rock bottom, wondering if we would ever find ourselves rising to the surface again. I think of the despair.

And while I am thinking, I consider my own life- the dreams and hopes and aspirations. I think about the ‘would have beens’, the ‘could have beens’- the seemingly missed opportunities. The regrets.

I think about the struggle I have had in finding and nurturing my passion.
I think about how hard parenting has been.
I think about relationships and how difficult they sometimes can be.
I think about my struggle with depression and loneliness- my insecurities and anxiety.

And I think, as I contemplate my life in a nutshell- all while standing there in the shower- I think about two women praying for me. Daily. Consistently. Without fail.

Has the hope I have sensed of late been a long-time answer to an unmet prayer humbly offered by two faithful praying women?
I cannot help but surmise that it wasn’t answers they sought, trophies they pursued: it was hope they were after. Believing that their faith would be honored, knowing that the regularity in which they petitioned their Savior would not return to them void. And all because two praying women believed.

Faith is believing.
Not just in what we hope for- but in what our wildest hopes could never even imagine.
Faith is knowing.
Not just what we think might be true- but what we can hardly even envisage might be possible.
Faith is trusting.
Not just in what seems like a sure bet- but in what feels unattainable.
Faith is expectant.
Already trusting that what is about to unfold is carefully being held in God’s faithful, loving Hands. It has already happened in God’s eyes. We just need to trust.

When relationships are built on believing conviction like this, it no longer matters what we are asking from the One involved in this dynamic- what matters is Who we are asking. The crux of prayer is: Who we are praying to. Who is listening? And Who can meet the need? I really think the point of prayer is not to see a wish-list/bucket list of wants and desires granted, as if God were some Fairy God-father, but rather it is there to grow us in relationship. Closer to Him. Closer to each other.

Prayer is our connection to God. And it strengthens our connections to one another.

It’s the point of prayer- to draw us close.

As I stand there in the shower, on yet another Good Friday morning (two more days until Easter and the hope and promise it offers), I start to see that there is evidence that Someone is changing me, drawing me ever closer to His Heart. Evidence that Someone loves me and wants me to love Him back. And evidence that Someone desires to know me- my needs and wants and fears and joys. Someone is reaching out to me- I just have to have faith to know He’s there. I just have to believe even as I reach out myself, through prayer.

And when I do, I sense that knowing- that understanding. God is there. He’s real. And prayer really works- maybe not for the self-serving intents of my own needs and wants, but certainly for the Higher Purpose of drawing me close to the One who’s got the whole world in His Hands.
Prayer works- if for nothing else than to change me from the inside out, and that is more than enough reason to choose to really pray, starting today.

Giving is the way to gratefulness

When we count our blessings in the midst of life’s brutal storms, rather than waiting for the sunny days with warmth and light and gentle breezes to appear, it is truly the greater sacrifice. As those watching from without, there is nothing so admirable as observing someone with very little making a great deal about what they do have, however small and humble.

Gratitude can be experienced even when the outlook is dismal, can be presented even when the offering is slight. For even when the pool from which we gather is shallow and lacking in resources, there is still something there.

There is always something in which to be thankful.

It matters not what we’ve been given- we still must find the words to offer thanks.

He was feeling low again- not really in that frame of mind to offer gratitude. Not really in that mode of thinking, really. How can one offer praise when life feels destitute of joy, bereft of common everyday pleasure? He really wasn’t able to pick himself up either, like he sometimes could. Couldn’t rise to the day. It was like he’d been beaten down one too many times and the game was now over. He was ready to throw in the towel.

But she reminded him again of his call to chronicle gratitude. Reminded him of all that he’d already found in which to offer thanks. The five gifts he had committed to finding each and every day- small offerings of gratitude to a Father of good and perfect gifts. And even though it was hard- even though it wasn’t easy, he promised her he would still look for something in which to offer thanks.

And while he was looking for those small five in which to portray his day, something else happened. He started to notice people around him. People just like him, all in need of finding a gift. And as he was noticing people, he began hearing people too. Hearing their hearts, sensing their needs, listening to their stories. And he realized that he could not only count gifts, he could offer them to others as well.

And so he did. He offered a small gift.

And that one, small seemingly insignificant gift- it made all the difference for him. And for her- because she wasn’t expecting it- and to be truthfully honest, neither was he. But because he realized that he was still a giver, still a messenger of hope, he was able to stand in the gap. Even with the limitations of his life and struggle.

Actually, in spite of them.

We all can find gifts- that treasure trove of life that we each have been gifted with. But even more than this, we can all be givers: can give something each day to someone else. We can be the gift. Can be one of the five that another counts as a blessing on their gratitude list. For when we give the gift, rather than merely counting it as acquired, we come to understand:

Giving is the very best way to experience gratitude.

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Worthy of Grace

There once was a little girl. And she was a beautiful child- a funny, wise, intuitive, kind and loving child. Her mama and daddy loved her to the moon and back again.  They loved her so much.

The little girl loved to play and laugh. She loved life and she was full of joy. Everything about that little girl proclaimed exuberance, enchantment, enthusiasm and excitement. She was a beacon of light to all who knew her well.

One day, that little girl was playing- having fun with her friends. Being a kid. But as she was caught up in what was happening around her, she forgot herself for a moment. A decision that would serve to unravel her composure. Would serve to undo her reputation somewhat.

And so while she was playing- in a moment of little-girl impulsivity, she opened her mouth and words came flying out.

Words.

The words weren’t really like her. They were a bit ugly and mean. A bit hurtful and sharp. And as soon as she said them, the little girl realized that a line had been crossed. That a heart had been hurt. That the words from her mouth, which were now floating out there in the big, wide space that she and others occupied, could not be gathered back in or be reversed. Couldn’t be hauled back and erased. For the words had been spoken- they were now out there in the atmosphere- out there in the air, somewhere. They were now audible and had been heard- hanging suspended in time and place as if they were a pendulum ready to swing.

As soon as she said them, the little girl regretted her decision. She knew better. She was a kind little girl, and saying mean and hurtful things was not her usual style. But she had spoken, and the consequences of speaking are always to deal with what comes next.

The aftermath.

That little girl- she cried. She cried and she cried and she cried when she realized the power of her words. She cried and she cried when she understood the significance of it all. And even though she had been given time in which to process the earlier decision to speak, time in which to take stock and move on- that little girl, she couldn’t shake the deep-seated feelings of shame she was experiencing for having failed. Feelings internalized for having fallen short from the mark- the expected standards she usually exceeded.

After some time had passed, the little girl and her mama were together in the kitchen talking. And the mama decided it was the right moment to talk about what had happened. And so they did- they talked. And as they talked, the little girl told her mama she was afraid to face the people involved in her story because she knew she’d disappointed them. She knew that she had failed.

She was very anxious about it all.

And as her mama watched her little girl’s face- a sweet little face etched with worry and concern, eyes welling up with tears: her mama made a decision that she hoped would give the little girl some hope. Because she loved her so. So that mama- she told that little girl about grace.  Told her that tomorrow was another day. That the mistakes of today were now forgiven and that tomorrow would be a fresh beginning. That there was always another chance. That there was always another opportunity to get it right. There was always tomorrow.

There was hope through the wonder of grace.

And what the mama really meant to say, in not so many words, was that there are second chances- possibilities. All found in hope through redemption, found through belief in Love’s amazing grace. What the mama meant to say was that there is deliverance in aspiration.  Aspiring to believe. That’s what starting over is for, that’s what it’s all about. Because if we live our lives in constant shame for what we’ve done, failing to embrace the hope we’ve been given, we never come to realize the power in redemptive love. Never come to realize that this is where it’s at: renewal begins with pain. Growth comes through anguish. Possibility is the offspring born of disappointment. Grace. When we make mistakes and fail, there is always the chance to begin again. Always the opportunity to start over.

There is always tomorrow.

Redemptive love and healing grace makes this possible. And what better example of the power of redemption can we find than of the story of the prodigal son.

The little girl- she clung to her mama’s few words like a lifeline. She wanted to believe. And so she did- she chose to believe that even she was worthy of redemption. Even she was worthy of a fresh beginning- today, tomorrow- and every day after that.

And so she was- worthy of grace.
How very much she was.

The Story of the Prodigal Son
“There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Words

They walk and talk- and it is getting so dark outside. The snow whirls around them in a vortex of ragged wind from the north-east as they trudge through the shin-high drifts and try to make their way. But it is rough going. The trail they have carved out is more like a cow-path than anything when they finally make their last turn for home. She stumbles but catches herself from falling.
They press on.
She listens as he talks. And she tries to make sense out of all the trouble- tries to find a way for them both. He turns to her and tells her that she has made him feel better and she hugs him and tells him that was the plan. She wants to help. She cares.
But sometimes words fail to convey that care. Fail to explain, describe, clarify, enlighten. And sometimes even, words hurt: inflict, wound, injure and impair. Leaving the other to try and piece together the remains into something that makes sense.
Life is hard and people are the ones that know this reality the most. Words are sometimes all we’ve got to stake our pride.
And one doesn’t have to look far to find hurting people in need of a word of comfort. In need of a kind gesture, a simple encouragement.
So what does the girl do when she has gazed inside the glass and all she sees is a tunnel of darkness? Pitch black nothingness. An unknown abyss that appears to be bottomless, with no way out?
And what does the boy say when he is faced with the news, given the verdict, read the riot act and there is no happy ending in view?
What do men and women do when life turns sour, when it all turns belly up? When health fails, relationships strain and doom is pending?
What do people do when life gets hard?
Where do we go for help? By Whom are our cries heard?
We wait for resolution with our fragile sense of uncertainty, each and every day. Wondering, guessing, hoping: and then, our expectations are found deflating. Because there is not always an answer that immediately comes to mind. Not always words. Not always an explanation that rises quickly to the occasion, announcing its arrival. Sometimes answers are hard to come by, making both life hard and understanding it to boot seem nearly impossible.
Life is hard- and figuring it all out even harder.
The mystery leads us to the discovery.
The discovery that God gave us people to help us out. Gave us one another- each other, for a reason. To stand in the gap. To bear witness. To hold space. To uphold and sustain one another through the hard times. God gave us ‘each other’ to be that support, that advocate for one another. To sustain one another. And when we do this for the others in our lives, that is encourage one another- even through the hardest of times, we come to realize that we can carry on. There is strength. Hope. And we can make our way through to the other side.

The light shines from the pathway lanterns and together they walk the narrow route toward home. Winds howl and snow eddies tug at their jackets. But these are no match for them. There is no contest.

They got each other- and that is enough.

Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

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”.