Gratitude: Beyond the Glitter

I sat down to write about gratitude and stared at a blank page. I stared out the window. I stared at the cat. I thought of all the ways this year has been hard for me personally and on a global scale. Certainly, there is a lot in between the microcosm of my life and the macrocosm of the pandemic. There has been deaths, unemployment, division, divorce, disease, and depression. And, while those things exist regardless of COVID-19, adding a heaping of quarantines, isolation, mask-wearing, and closures on top of life’s inevitable loss has sometimes felt like an overflow of despair.

So, the words don’t come easy. The spiral of sobering hardships has been like a forced global detox that has stripped life’s glitter leaving exposed the vulnerability and value of life.  Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that’s something to feel thankful for. Life feels raw and uncertain but also miraculous and precious. And most days, the sobriety of it all scares me. I miss the glitter of distraction that let me think that I was in control; that a long life was promised to me; and that happy times were the hallmark of a good life.

While I would not have chosen the trials of this year, I feel strangely grateful for what they have revealed. Underneath the glitter this is what I found:

  1. Control is contrived. Much of life is outside of our control. That’s not defeatist; it’s liberating. This year has been one of the most difficult and the most freeing. My health issues felt so outside of my control that for my sanity I had to surrender them. Surrendering the big things made it easier to surrender the small things. It’s a relief to know I can let things go. I may have more real problems but by giving them over to God, I don’t have near as many worries. We can either rely on ourselves and build a teetering house of cards, or we can rely on God and live secure in the foundation of our faith.

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Thanksgiving: It’s all Downhill

When I reminisce about Thanksgiving, I don’t think about food.  If I am being honest, I don’t even think about being grateful.  What I recall is the excitement of being out of school, the quiet wonder of gazing out the car window at the rows of pines that lined the highway as we traveled to my Granny’s house, and the creak of her screen door as it flew open and I rushed inside her modest two-bedroom home straight into her warm and wrinkly arms.

I don’t think about the turkey.

Instead, I remember running to the park with my brother and sister and our two cousins.  With a coveted cardboard box, we perched at the top of a giant hill that spilled onto an oval track. Squeezing together so we could all fit, we flew down the hill on our makeshift sled.  We slid easily on the dead grass beneath.  The nippy air rushed our faces.  My heart raced with a giddy mix of joy and exhilaration.  Then, having reached the bottom, we sprinted back up the steep hill to do it again with the same joyful tenacity as a Golden Retriever fetching a ball.  We were tireless despite our pounding hearts, icy hands, and the tattered box that eventually disintegrated into pieces.  I felt free.

I don’t think about sitting around a crowded table or how the brown gravy spilled onto my green peas.

Instead, I remember curling up next to my Granny and reading from her stack of magazines.  I remember the gentle roll of her belly with each inhale and exhale.  I folded into her quiet breath and wasn’t distracted by the din of the television or the mundanity of adult conversation. I felt safe. Read more

Gratitude Problem

**This is a repost from five years ago.  I have once again started a gratitude journal and am really hoping that it is something I can sustain long after all the turkey’s been eaten.  I hope you will try it too!

It’s been decades since I have been in grammar school, so when I think of Thanksgiving and the gratitude it’s designed to evoke, pilgrims or Indians don’t generally come to mind. I think of whose bringing what, where am I supposed to go, when will I get my Christmas shopping done and why, oh why, do men watch so much football.

Back in 1621, there were no parades, no Black Friday circulars, and no grocery stores to buy the bounty. There were just groups of people from different cultures celebrating thanks. Read more