Friday, November 27, 2015

A Fusion of Gratitude

There is a tree on the way to somewhere ... I never quite remember where until Oh!  There it is! It stands tall and majestic in the middle of a vast and wide field.  It is magnificent and tall, branches reaching symmetrically from the trunk, up and out and all around, perfectly spread out like feathers in a tom-turkey's tail.  It stands alone in the field, so stately and beautiful.  It's the kind of tree that the cowboy takes his sweetheart to as he rolls along singing songs of surries.  It's the kind of tree the happy family lays claim to for idyllic family picnics.  I ache to know that everyone else passing by appreciates the solitary beauty of its symmetry.  Is it lonely for people spreading picnic blankets in its shade?  Does it pine for a happy little tire swing and laughing children scrambling up its branches?  Who will love this moment, this tree, this lovely ... if not for me?

I struggle with my Daily Gratitude practice.  It feels cumbersome. I'm thankful for all the good things in my life ... but I stress about doing the list right and saying the right things first.  If I don't put the big things first, does that mean I'm not grateful for those things?  Mightn't getting the order wrong convey I'm not thankful for those blessings?  Also I stress about the "rule" that you can't repeat things.  So I list my family members one by one, sorrowful that I can only list them once.

I get tripped up on the order.  Because that's how you should do it, right?  The most important things first.  So.  Like the child in Sunday School who answers every question with a whispered and reverent "Jesus" no matter how relevant it is, I'm for days feeling like I'm getting it wrong if I don't first state that I'm thankful to be a child of God, and for all the blessings that line up behind that one thing that makes all the difference.

And I struggle with getting the list right.

I know I am numbed to all the every day goodness.  I wade through, intent on listing the next big thing, never minding the small mercies, the singular moments that break your heart with their beauty, that exist seemingly just to be beauty.  Time goes by so fast, my heart longs to recount the days and to hold them close to my heart, to remember them well.  Not the big and significant events ... I'll probably - hopefully? - remember those ... but what about that moment when I was standing in the checkout line at Target on a nondescript Friday afternoon, and the sunsetting light streaming through the windows was so golden and full and bountiful that it burgeoned on the painful side of beauty?  Those are the moments that I want to remember ... those orphaned moments, that don't carry a profound meaning except singular lovely, solitary beauty, pure joy.

I consider this from Geneen Roth:

Sometimes when I look at the flowers in my garden I think: “Wow, if I really let myself take in how gorgeous one of them is, I’m not sure I could even get up off the ground.”
I’m not sure I could move. I’d be so speechless, knocked over by the beauty.
Most of us don’t take it in. And therefore we never feel like we have enough. Because we’re not taking in what we have.
So, taking it in means taking a moment to look and to see. And to actually take it in with your hands. To take it in and let yourself have it.
So take in an orchid for a moment, because it’s a thing of beauty. Do you let yourself have the gorgeousness already in your life? Can you try that for a second? Use your hands. Take it in, and let yourself have it. Just let yourself have beauty because it’s gorgeous.
Let your heart break. You don’t need to be ashamed of it: it’s beauty and it’s gorgeous and you deserve it. And why not?

I go back to her book ... the Ann with no "e" - Ann Voskamp, who spoke out loud the dare to count 1000 things to thank for.  And I'm astounded at the beginning of her list.  Her number one wasn't Jesus.  It was light across old floors.  Ah!  So counting the 1000 things, crafting a gratitude journal isn't listing the things I'm thankful for the in the literal sense.  Always, I am literal ... it trips me up ... it keeps me from flowing.  This gratitude journal can be a marking of the beautiful moments, naming the things I notice that take my breath away.  This is giving meaning and life to the glory streaming in the window of Target.  This is embracing and holding close the beauty of the solitary tree in the field.  This is collecting the beauty of my life and the beautiful moments that crowd around me and are like love notes from a God who provides abundantly, every day anew.

With this dawning, I understand what I knew with my heart but not my head all along ... it isn't the list of obvious things counted and listed in order of importance ... it's a place for the small and seemingly inconsequential things ... the poetic and lyrical moments.  Morning light streaming into the quiet room, streaking gold across the silence ... the quiet, dutiful, comforting tick of the clock ... the sharp hard cold sparkling of the frost on the grass.  I want to recount the inconsequential things that take my breath away in the fast forward motion of my life.  Unremembered, uncelebrated, unmarked moments slide my life right by so very very fast, and the memories and the days and the events flatten out into nothingness.  But deliberately pinned in the tapestry of time, remembered, named, stop-motioned, reviewed ... and life stretches out, wide and vast and resonant.  I remember.

Now I'm counting moments, snapshots of beauty that make me ache and I see what my heart intuitively has known all along - that this counting practice is the answer to what I've always ached for ... a way to capture the beauty of life, to mark the moments and so remember them, encase them in amber glow, to make everyday life gloam and resonate with marked beauties ... they help me remember, they remind me to savor, they call me to thankfulness and fill me with gratitude.

Wishing you the most joyous and thankful of holiday seasons!

Shared joy is doubled joy ... let's double the joy for both of us - what are you most grateful for today? Click below to leave your comment. I'll go first :

  1. This gratitude practice has been illusive for me. I think how it works for each of us might be a little bit different. This year it was a big !eureka! for me, to finally find a way to immortalize the seemingly inconsequential moments of daily life that i tend to blow right by. Using my gratitude journal to capture them makes my days feel fuller and more resonant, and I have a heart full of thankful for that!