Some life-altering things have been happening all around me, and some not so nearby but calling me to contemplate what is important. My father-in-law’s tumor and his surgery last week. A recent diagnosis of prostate cancer for a church friend. A newborn baby with Down’s. A dear friend’s impending divorce and the nastiness of it all. And the Cleveland Park train derailment in my hometown where tragically one 6 year old boy died and 28 mostly kids) were injured. That news hits any parent right in the gut, but somehow blew me away when I think of my sweet 6 year old boy. And then there is Japan. 18,000 people estimated dead or missing. I can’t make heads of everything swirling around me. It is almost too much to bear.
And yet…all around me are the signs of spring. New buds blooming, birds incessantly chirping, warmer temps, pollen (OK, can live without that one). Rebirth. How coincidental that all this soul searching and wondering what’s going on with the world just so happens to take place during Lent. After driving home from the gym two days ago, I just sat in my driveway and did nothing. For like 10 minutes (but it felt like much longer). Not long ago, I would have chastised myself for that time being “wasted.” Now, it counts as one of the most productive moments of my day. Or the time I carve out for reading during Taylor’s piano lesson while Jared plays on the playground. An impromptu walk with the dog. A catch-up phone call with a friend.
You know, we’re all so busy spinning our hamster wheels that we can’t even take a second to slow down and think. Pray. Give thanks. Put someone else’s needs ahead of our own. Try it. It’s amazing the peace and clarity that can come from those few minutes of stillness. Agreed, it works best if you aren’t in a crowd of strangers (a surefire way to get some strange looks) or trying to do this with the kids (heck, trying to do anything moderately productive with kids in tow is questionable, right?) But I am finding that my faith, my peace-heck, my very sanity- hinge on it.
I just started a new book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. What drew me to the book (besides the recommendation of a friend) was the subtitle: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. I’ll admit, when given the choice between truth or dare, I usually chose truth. But boy, dares really get my attention. Because implicit in them is the notion that “you can’t do this.” Granted, I don’t believe that Voskamp is meaning that-but nevertheless, isn’t it human nature to want to rise up to the challenge of a dare? She writes, “How do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does a life of gratitude look like when your days are gritty, long, and sometimes dark? What is God providing here and now?” Finding a way to be grateful is hard, especially when we are reeling from the punches of life. So like Voskamp, I’m starting my own gratitude journal-a beginning on my journey to 1,000 gifts-which I hope to share with you from time to time. For now, I am grateful that I live in a country where I am free to write whatever comes to mind and put it out there in a blog and pretend that some people out there are interested in what I have to say. It’s empowering and thrilling.
So, dear friends, what are you grateful for?