Offering gratitude

I remember the Christmas I was about seven or eight years old. I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll. It was all I really wanted that year, to be honest. I had made that much clear to anyone who was listening (Mom, Dad, Santa….God?). I think I dreamed about her, my doll: those chubby cheeks, that rag-doll yarn hair. Those two lumpy pig-tails tied with ribbons, along with the signature on her rounded derriere that guaranteed she was truly made by ‘the’ Xavier Roberts. To have a Cabbage Patch doll would have been to have a dream come true. An answer to prayer, even. (I am not sure if I prayed for her, my non-existent dollie- but to think that I might have makes total sense.)

So imagine my surprise when I opened my Christmas gift that year to find a beautiful china doll with porcelain skin staring back at me instead of a dimpled plastic one. This replacement other- this actual doll was a fine toy complete with dark, wavy hair, finely stitched Victorian dress and a velvety blue bonnet that just never would stay put on that her head. She was lovely, but she wasn’t a Cabbage Patch Kid.

I don’t remember feeling very thankful.

What I do remember was receiving that doll and the disappointment I felt. She was beautiful, elegant and far more of a classic in comparison to the trendy Cabbage Patch doll I craved. But she wasn’t what I asked for. I felt quietly disappointed about the whole thing.

Years later, I find myself still asking. Only this time, my requests aren’t as trivial and innocent.

“Please God, protect them…” “Please God, allow rest…” Please God bring healing…” “Please God, more time…” “Please God….please.” Sometimes the litany of request feels like a shopping list of needs that I rhyme off- with hopes that I will get everything on my list. But what if what I am asking for is no longer in stock? What if it is not available at this time? What if what I am asking for is something not the very best for me- nor the very best for those for whom I am requesting that certain something? What is best, anyway? Do I even know?

What if prayer was less a list of ‘please give…’ and more of an “I thank you…”? What would prayer be like then? Would it change?

Our lives are full of blessings. Some of those blessings come through rays of sunshine and hope. Some of the blessings come through tears and storm clouds. But through the joyous moments and through the difficult times, there are slices of time when light shines through and we see the absolute beauty in life. Yes, our lives are precious in all their complexity- even in the midst of absolute darkness and sorrow, beams of light will radiate.

These little moments for me can be seen as answers to prayer. True, these little blessings are not always the big ticket items on my proverbial prayer shopping list- sometimes they are just those little somethings I noticed out of the corner of my eye. The little things. Things like…

• A friend stopping by to say they are thinking of me
• A phone call just when I needed it
• A message, email or note
• A smile timed just right
• A hug
• A drive to Tim’s
• A rainbow
• My flowers blooming
• A found kitten

The little things in life are sometimes what bring the greatest joy in my darkest hour. They are what get me through.

I have been asking God for some pretty big-ticket items lately. I have a feeling a few of us might be in this same boat. But I wonder if we have sometimes forgotten how to pray gratitude into our prayers. To thank instead of ask. To offer gratitude.

To thank God for the gift of time- what a precious commodity that is. To thank God for the gift of memories- we have such precious recollections of the ones we love- even as we make new memories each and every day. To be grateful for each moment we’ve been given. Even for today. To just relish the very minutes we have right now and breathe a prayer of thanks for this priceless gift.

We are so blessed.

Our lives may seem complex, complicated, rushed, maddening, stressful, anxious and short. But viewed through a different lens, they can also be seen as beautiful, intricate, intense and precious. Our lives are a masterpiece- and this life is only the beginning.

For every breath we’ve been given, our grateful hearts say “thanks”.

Thank you

Over the years, I have had moments as a teacher so memorable they have left a significant, lasting impression. Imprinting forever in my long-term memory the emotions that were felt when that experience occurred.

I remember a particularly difficult teaching assignment in which I took over a short-term social studies position at the high school level for a teacher with long-term illness. Who actually passed away during my time in his classroom. I was seven months pregnant with our third child, taking on three new-to-me high school courses, mid-way through the term. Not only that, there were special circumstances surrounding my hiring, along with some very special students in the classes I would be teaching. Students who were not easily persuaded or motivated to tow the line. To say it was a challenge would have been an understatement.  Overwhelmed was more suitable a word in describing how I felt about my assignment at the time.

Towards the end of June, after exams finished and marks had been submitted, I was helping the school’s graduation committee one day with various tasks associated with the graduation ceremony.  At some point, and truthfully- I can’t remember exactly how it happened,  a Grade 12 student arrived at my classroom door with a note in hand. After he left, I opened the card, and this is what I read:

Ms. Gard,
Thank you for everything you taught me. I know it was not easy to step in and take over the class, and we had to deal with a lot of unfortunate things. All things considered, you did an excellent job. Thank you for being there and seeing that we learned all that we needed.
Thank you.

Two little words. So simple, yet so powerful. So meaningful. And oh! how motivating to me as the teacher.

The whole of that message was really condensed into two little words of gratitude.  Of thankfulness.  Words that we  use at times without realizing their incredible importance in the life of another.   Have we ever stopped to consider them? For there are times when those two little words are the only ones necessary, all that needs to be spoken.  For truly, those two little words have all the power to change and impact like no two other little words in the English language. They are influential.

Game changers of the best variety.

They can melt a heart of stone. Can break a cycle of apathy. Can mend a broken fence. Build a bridge. Heal a wound. Make everything worthwhile. Those two words have sway. Gentle authority. And while there are many ways in which these two little words can be spoken. Many ways in which they can be used to convey the full sense of gratitude of which they speak, there really isn’t anything more powerful than the simplicity of those two little words.

Thank you.

Tonight, I want to say thank you.

Thank you to all those students who have crossed my path in years gone by and in these present days.
Thank you to the girl who recognized me at the drugstore two weeks ago as her music teacher back in Grade 1.
Thank you to the young man at Walmart a while back who remembered me from his junior high days.
Thank you to my neighbour’s son who walked with me the other evening and shared his heart as well as happenings of his day with me.
Thank you to my little friend from Grade3 whom I see at the pool twice a week now. Whom I love to chat with and sometimes like to tease.
Thank you to my own seven little ones in kindergarten who have taught me how to love unconditionally.
Thank you to the little boy who met me at the door today and confided to me a heartfelt sorrow. I treasure that trust.
Thank you to the boys and girls of Bloomfield- every one of them. The ones who ask me to supervise hockey games, the ones who chat with me in the halls, the ones whom I work with in extra-curricular activities, the ones who keep me company on duty.
Thank you to the little one who always writes me love letters.
Thank you.

You have blessed me in ways I could never express. My life is fuller, more beautiful. Because of all of you.

And for that and so much more, I am forever grateful

I am so very grateful…

Gratitude: it’s a matter of the heart.

I could speak of the day.  Gorgeous, crisp autumn chill.  Leaves pattern the dying grass.  Down a heritage road, I can see for a mile a canopy of tree branches laden down with hues of gold, crimson, burnt orange: deep and rich.  Air pungent with earthy undertones.  The smell of wood freshly sawed.  The fragrant scent of evergreen.  The splendid aromas of the great outdoors.

I could speak of the day.  Family gathered round an aging table- passed down from those who broke bread in bygone years.  The heady mix of turkey dinner with all the fixins’: whipped potatoes, cinnamon-infused carrot coins, sweet potato smothered in maple syrup and pecans, green bean casserole topped with crunchy, fried onions.  Devilled eggs as light as a feather.  Rolls and beets and pickles and pistachio salad.  Ruby red cranberry sauce.  Gravy, still simmering in the saucepan on the stove.  I could speak of this.

I could speak of the day.  A walk through the woods.  Gentle winding paths leading to steeper terrain.  Still, silent groves of trees that could tell a story or two.  A lush patch of ivy wound tightly in amongst a hardwood stand.  A huge tree bent over in growth to give the shape of a rainbow. I could speak of all this.

I could speak of the road, hidden away off the beaten track.  Trees bent as if to conceal a secret.  I could speak of the grey chipmunk that scurried across the way, unnoticed by the others.  Of the laughter that silly poses can bring when the camera is still and waiting.  I could speak of giggles and squeals and happy voices. I could speak yet again of all this and more.

We have so much of which to speak.

And yet, it’s those little moments of frustration that cause our vision to become unfocused.  That cause us to lose perspective.  And we forget how much we have.  In a moment of worry or fear or anger or frustration or annoyance or despair or sorrow: we forget.  We forget how much we really have.

I speak tonight of that which I am so very grateful: for those moments in my day wherein I can stop and listen to the heart.  For moments when I can see the mistakes I have made and still find the clarity and wherewithal to mend my wrongs.  I am thankful for the circumstances in my life which have smoothed out rough edges in my soul, like sand polishing a piece of sea glass. I am thankful that life is not perfect.  That happiness is not the goal. And that contentment is not dependent on what I have or don’t have.  I am grateful for the things in my life that make me stronger, wiser, and more intuitive to matters of the heart and soul.

I am thankful for all those event and happenings and defining moments of my life that have shaped me to become the person I am today.  I am grateful that my life is a story and that the Author of this story is not finished with it yet.  I am beyond grateful that he is the Author of all stories told about grace and mercy and joy and compassion.  All stories told about hope and love and renewal and contentment.  I am grateful that He weaves in themes of beauty even in the presence of  themes on pain and struggle and anguish and sorrow.  He writes in joy, for joy always follows sorrow.  Always follows darkness and night.  Joy comes in the morning.

I am so very grateful for Hands that hold.  I am grateful that I am not alone in the journey.  I am grateful, so very grateful.

I could speak tonight of all that I’ve been given, for I have been given much.  But instead I will offer just one word: thanks.

Thanks for giving me a story.  I am so very grateful.