A Grateful Childhood

Lord, thank You for today. I started out slowly, just couldn’t seem to get any traction. Took my time this morning, simply because I could. Thank You for that too. Worked a bit, not a lot, just a bit. Spent a few minutes reveling in the afternoon light off the Duck boardwalk. Saw behavior of Canada Geese I have never seen before, such flapping and carrying on! So that was neat. Thought we might have a sunset, but the cloud cover overtook any color. But I came home relaxed and refreshed. I am amazed how even a few minutes outside is so restorative. I can still feel the calm, still hear the soft sounds of the geese and the swan. Oh, and the blast-off when the boat motored by, even though it was way off. Beautiful. So thank You.

Why do you thank Me for that?

Because I appreciated it, and because someone–Someone–ought to hear, thank You. Because…because You are an Artist, and I love Your handiwork! No, seriously, God. I mean it. Everywhere around I can find–as I did yesterday, and I am sorry for that–reasons to fear, or reasons to be in turmoil. And everywhere around I can find–as I did today, reasons to rejoice, reasons to be glad, reasons to be thankful. So if I am thankful, then it makes sense to me there must be a “You” to say, thank You, to.

You think you so quickly revert to fear, but the opposite is true. You so quickly revert to gratitude. I want you to think back, back as far as you can. I know there were reasons to fear, in your childhood, especially from older kids who bullied you. But when did you begin to learn to rejoice? When did you begin to learn gratitude?

I wouldn’t have termed it that way, Lord. I remember I loved nature early. The apple trees, the willow tree, the lilac forest of my very young childhood. Hi-Baby the goat, I loved her. She loved me and I loved her back. And Sammy, my first kitty. And before Sammy, the neighbor kitten that always followed me home. There was love all around me, God–not just from my folks, from critters, too. Even as a really young child, I loved being outside. I was much more at home outdoors than inside playing with dolls. Rocks, I loved rocks. Still do. Still love all those same things I loved as a little kid! I learned to say please and thank you out of politeness. Now I think I say it out of love.

Indeed you do. Those who love deeply cannot help overflowing with gratitude, for they see the world through a lens that first, looks for the good, the positive, in every situation, and second, that operates from a perspective of abundance, in which everyone may receive. What are the top ten gratitudes you would list from your childhood?

You want me to name them now?

Why not?

Uh, isn’t this supposed to be about You talking more than about me talking?

Trust Me. Go ahead.

Ok. Well. I think the first would have to be, Lord, I am grateful for my life. I was a miracle baby, I know that. The fact that I am here at all is amazing. Knowing that as a fact has definitely shaped the person I have become.

So my second gratitude is, Lord, I am grateful for my folks, for their love of me, for growing up in a home that was safe, and loving. I’m especially grateful for how close my Mom and I were, and even though this reaches far beyond childhood, I am glad I was able to grow closer to my Dad before he died.

My third gratitude is, I am grateful for all the animals I had growing up. They enriched my life in so many ways, and without siblings, were my first companions beyond my parents. 

My fourth gratitude is, I am grateful for the school I went to, though I wasn’t at all grateful for a long time, during those school days. I am grateful I was blessed with a good memory (and where did that go, by the way?) and that I am still in touch today with so many from my childhood and teen years.

My fifth gratitude is, I am grateful for those trees I mentioned–the apple tree I learned to climb, the apple tree I watched every summer for the largest apple, the apple tree with the swing Daddy built. And for the willow tree, my sanctuary spot when I needed to think. And the lilac bushes that truly were a forest when I was just learning to walk, such a magical place.

My sixth gratitude is, I am grateful to have grown up in a home with music and art, with warm wood furniture and handmade things, with a mom who painted and played the piano. I look at my life today and think how much my parents would have loved this, and the reason I love my life is a direct result of their love of the arts.

My seventh gratitude is, I am grateful that I was encouraged in my childhood interests and hobbies, from my first polaroid camera to an early guitar and drum set, to science encyclopedias for middle school and a geology kit in grade school. My folks scrimped, I know now, to provide all sorts of opportunities for me to grow.

My eighth gratitude is, I am grateful that when I got the courage up to tell my folks I did not want to study French in college (something I had said I wanted to do since early elementary school!) but I wanted to study English instead, and write, they were completely supportive. I felt such relief, I wasn’t letting them down at all.

My ninth gratitude is, I am grateful for the friends I made as a child, and as a teenager, as I said above. Many are still friends to this day.

And last but by no means least, God, I am so grateful for You. You began to draw me to yourself in grade school, and when I made a commitment to live my life in union with You, at 16 years old, You changed everything for me. So much teenage angst and beginning depression began to lift then. Not that it all went away overnight, but I owe the kind of life I get to live today to all those seeds planted in my early years. Thank You.

Now, why don’t you invite your readers to do the same exercise you just completed? As you said, everyone has memories of some sort of turmoil, and everyone can point to some turmoil around them right now. But everyone also has reasons to say thank you, to express gratitude, to enumerate blessings past and present.

Ok, Lord. Good idea. You heard God–take a few minutes. If you have some scrap paper, or a computer screen, jot down a list. 10 things. From your early years, things you may not have thought about for decades, if ever. 10 thank-you’s. 10 blessings. Go!

 

Today I Am Grateful For…

Lord, You know how I like to write first thing in the morning. The past couple of days, though, I have been either out of the house early or been interrupted, so I had to get quiet at night instead. What I like best is having my longer quiet at the page, in my journal, in the morning, and then writing out my gratitude list at night. Journaling in the morning helps me start the day calm and centered; gratitude at night helps me reflect on all that went right during the day.

So why don’t you journal your gratitudes here, now?

Oh, well, I could. Sure. So today I am grateful for the practice of gratitude, period. I am so grateful for my friend Karen who recommended the practice all those years ago.

And why was that so important?

I was in a mess. I was hurting and grieving a loss, and she wisely said, you already know everything that is wrong in your life right now. The practice of a gratitude list will change your focus to the smallest of blessings that are still present. She challenged me to write ten things every single day, ten different things. She warned me I would find it hard at first, but if I persisted, the practice would change my life.

And why do you think it did change your life?

Honestly, Lord, I started looking for things to be grateful for. I knew that list was coming at bedtime! I started being alert for items to put down. It started as a challenge and became sheer joy. Some days I had so many things to list, ten wasn’t nearly enough. That practice reawakened me especially to how much nature was all around me, and how much I loved it. I’d become numb, blind, deaf in my grief. Gratitude was like springtime–it brought so much forth that had been sleeping and waiting. 

So what else are you grateful for today?

Well, I am grateful for our new gallery space, and for our landlords that are working so hard to make it possible.

I am grateful for the warmer weather as I look back a week and edit images from our second snowfall; they are beautiful but they look cold!

I am grateful that I now have super warm gloves and coat and boots, so the next time it snows, I will be much cozier.

I am grateful to have seen a beautiful Westie in Home Depot, and that the owner let me squat down for her wags and kisses. I miss Mikey terribly and seeing this affectionate Westie didn’t make me sad, it made me happy.

I am grateful for a yummy lunch out with Pete, like a date! 

I am grateful that this new project is giving him so much joy. He lights up when he has the chance to design something. It feels so good to see him happy. 

I am grateful for all the heart shells I found yesterday. 

I am grateful for all the support I have from friends and staff–not just for work stuff, for life stuff. You told me years ago that I would have help, and now I do. I am so, so grateful for my tribe. Thank You.

Oh, I am grateful for a new lyric! You know how I love to write. Anytime there is a new song, it is a favorite. So I love having time here in the winter to work on music a little. 

Right now, this second, I can hear the tv in the living room. But I feel surrounded by Quiet. The quiet I feel in the morning with You. It is the same peaceful sense, not at all empty, very full. Full of Peace. Full of Your Presence. Is there something You want to say?

I Am Grateful for you. I Am grateful for your vulnerability, the same vulnerability that just brought those tears to your eyes–the vulnerability you sometimes see as a weakness, I see as one of your greatest strengths. I Am Grateful you are so sensitive to My Presence. People say, try harder. I say to you, try easier. Gratitude is an easy way to peace, to calm, to assurance. You don’t have to try so hard. You are here. You are present, present to me, and I Am present to you. And that is more than enough.

Rain Within

Lord, I want kindness to prevail over cruelty and mercy to overtake”justice” if justice is just shorthand for revenge, for punishment. Please, please, what would You say?

Little One, you are seeing the world—My world—as it is, while simultaneously holding the vision I have of the world—My world—as it could be. As it should be. As it will be. Heaven is the church you seek, where all truly Love One Another. You are doing your part to build My Kingdom where it really counts, which is out in the middle of My messy world.

You want to find a gathering space of folks whose tenets are inclusive, welcoming, peace-centered, and when it comes to Me and My Presence, relational and experiential. You want My Presence manifest like you want air, like you want water. You are dry and thirsty without it. You are like a land in drought, spending your precious tears crying for rain when Rain is within you. You have My Spirit within you. Be church. Continue to minister. Continue to stand in love. Make your gratitude lists—and share them.

 

At Table

So I may have some quiet moments yet. What would You say? To me? To the world? On Thanksgiving?

Today, you feast. You celebrate around the table an abundant harvest. Tomorrow and Saturday, you shop. You acquire needed or wanted goods for yourselves or your homes or as gifts for others. Whether feasting or shopping the sales, your theme is the same: abundance. Sales mean you can stretch your dollars to buy more or to get items you might not otherwise afford. Feasting and shopping are national habits on this weekend, along with parades and sports, all part of a festive celebration.

Some lament the celebratory aspect, counseling instead a focus on giving to the poor as a more spiritual way to celebrate harvest.

If you look to Me, you will see I did both. I performed My first miracle at a wedding feast. I was severely criticized and labeled as a fraud because I joined in the revelry of feasting and celebration—even with those who didn’t fit the mold of spirituality in the conventions of the day. I also counseled giving to the poor and warned against greed.

It is easy to live wholly in one mindset or the other. It’s much harder to simultaneously fully enjoy all the blessings of an abundant life, while also giving and sharing those blessings, not out of guilt but out of a conviction that abundance, the feasting, and the joy are all meant for everyone, no exceptions. Yet this is how I lived, in the paradox of abundance. On this day of Thanksgiving, it is how I Am inviting you to live also.

Feast, revel and find ways to share your joy, to invite others into your abundant life, to My Abundant Life.

Into the Quiet

It’s Quiet. I mean, very. Lord, what would You say?

What would you say?

Huh?

What would you pour into this safe, round container of Quiet? If you could say anything?

Gosh, it is beautiful, this Quiet. So honestly I wouldn’t want to mar it with any complaint, anything negative. Just gratitude and praise. Just, praise You, bless You, thank You.

I’m telling you, you have a free pass—you can vent—you can say whatever you need or want to…and you are choosing praise? Gratitude? Why?

Because…because I love You, Lord. Because my heart is full of praise, full of gratitude. Because only that seems fitting to pour into this round Quiet. Lord, I’m seeing blown glass, rather the action of glass-blowing, creating a beautiful glass ball. Is this what the Quiet is like? Easily shattered?

What makes glass special is its transparency. It also makes glass vulnerable. It is the fire, the breath, and the water that take the elements of earth and shape them into a container, a vessel, of such exquisite beauty. My fire, breath, and water have made you a beautiful, transparent vessel. Yet you feel vulnerable to the least pressure as if you are in danger of imploding any minute.

Aren’t I?

No. Some glass balls hang high on the tree, way out of reach, but that’s not you. You are more like the Japanese fishing balls that help secure the net—amazingly resilient even in storms, yet still beautiful and unexpected. You, your life, is a surprise! You were, to your parents. You were and are to Pete. And you are, to your world. You have let Me fill you and heal you over and over, and you’ve done it again.

Thank You, Lord. It’s Your Promise, too, I see that. I can feel that.

 

Dancing Butterflies

Lord, I knew this new puppy would be exhausting. Thank You, by the way, for the extra hours of sleep last night. I am so grateful for some rest. What I did not anticipate and I don’t know how to handle is that the schedule is making it much harder to have my time in the morning with You. The past few days it has been impossible. Right now it is nearly 6 pm and I am snatching minutes before supper to sit, and think, and talk to You, and feel.

And what do you feel?

Honestly, it wasn’t a bad day. But You said to keep connected to You, and how am I supposed to do that, when I don’t have a regular, concentrated time to journal and to listen?

What did you do this afternoon?

Ran the errands I needed to run. Took Pete to the bank, we stopped at Yellowhouse, came home, put the puppy pen together outside.

Besides all that?

I took a few minutes and photographed the monarch butterflies on my lantana bush.

You noticed them. And you took some time to watch them and then to photograph them.

Yes.

Do you remember the verse that says, whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me?

Yes, of course.

You treat yourself in your own thinking as less than the least of these. You contributed charitably, you helped your friend get his car, you finished up the long refi at the bank, you did business tasks at home before that and after that…and in the middle of all that, you gave your attention to honor these winged flights of beauty–and you felt guilty for those few minutes. Didn’t you? Isn’t that why you laid your camera down and moved on to another task? All those errands and chores you did to help anyone else, they count for something in your thinking, in your assessment of your day. But taking time to count butterflies? Not so much. Yet those few minutes were actually minutes of serenity and calm for you. And although you were not uttering prayers, you were actually praying the whole time. You were living moments in deliberate honor and gratitude and you were noticing the beauty of your world.

Lord, it was amazing! There were monarchs and painted ladies and I don’t know who all, on that one bush!

There is more than one way to set a bush ablaze. With Moses I chose fire. Today with you, I chose wings the color of flame. Drink beauty like water. That is one more way to stay connected to all that is, and to Me, as the Source and Creator of all that is. I Am glad you enjoyed the dance of the butterflies. You could not hear them, but angels were making the music they could hear and all to refresh you. Now, let me ask you one more question. How do you feel right now?

Relaxed. Refreshed. Grateful. And somehow leaning on You. And You are smiling.

Yes, yes I Am.

God’s Gratitude List

What in the world would You say, today?

As a parent, you want–I want–the best for our children.

Yes. And…? But…?

No “and.” What can you add to “the best”? No “but”–no exceptions. What is hurting your heart today is fear.

Ok, Lord. It’s hard, though. It’s really hard. Fear makes people do crazy things.

That is why I want you to “be not afraid.” That’s why I want you to focus on Love.

So, God, do You have a message for me to share today? A third way kind of message? I can barely hear You through my sorrow.

Your world is not hopeless, nor is it helpless, although it seems that way to you right now. I have called you to love mercy and to walk open-hearted with Me. When John the Baptist was murdered, I needed some time alone, some time to commune with My Father, some time to receive new strength to meet the needs of the hour. You need that, too–you, as a person and the larger “you” of community and nation. Mostly you need to hear that Hope and Love are not foolish, though they seem so to you now. You try to make Gratitude Lists, even through your tears. Would it surprise you to know I have a Gratitude List, too? Would you like to know some of My Gratitudes for today?

I, God, Am Grateful for loving hearts that struggle to find goodness when all around them seems to be falling apart.

I, God, Am Grateful for anyone, everyone, willing to engage in listening to those with opposite points of view in order to reach common ground and build a better tomorrow.

I, God, Am Grateful for every act of brave kindness, from those who sheltered others in Las Vegas to those who stand up to bullying on the playground.

I, God, Am Grateful every time any person shifts to a loving, peace-centered world view, and seeks to implement that shift in their own relationships with their families, their friends, and strangers they encounter day-to-day.

And I, God, Am Grateful for you–and millions more like you–who get discouraged but never give up on Love as the Way.

Keep shining. Your world needs rainbows through its tears. Keep the Light on.

 

 

In Everything Give Thanks

Whew, God, that worked out. Thank You.

Would you have said thank You if it hadn’t worked out?

Oh. Uh, no. Probably not. I’m sorry. We are supposed to thank You for everything, right? No matter what happens?

No, no. Not FOR everything, IN everything. IN everything give thanks. In every circumstance, you can find reasons for gratitude, things to give thanks for. This misunderstanding has caused much harm. People assume they are supposed to be thankful for disasters, for pain, for war, for abuse, for horrific crimes. Of course you can’t give thanks for that—and even if you tried, I would not receive your thanksgiving because I cannot rejoice over these things Myself. But as you have learned, you can always find something to feel and express gratitude for, in any circumstance. You can look for the slightest glimpse of joy. You can be alert to the least motion of love in your direction. You can take one breath, in and out, focused on peace, for those few seconds. Please DON’T give thanks FOR everything. But please, please, make gratitude foundational in your life, and give thanks IN everything.

Do you know why I asked you, asked all humans, to give thanks IN everything? Because thanksgiving changes you. Because I Am always trying to break into every human conversation, every confusion, every dilemma, with more love, more peace, more joy, more unity. Gratitude opens your mind and heart to receive. You know this; you have lived this. Gratitude focuses the attention, even in sorrow, even in hardship, and helps to illuminate a different way, a different course of action, another choice. Once you make the first choice, to give thanks IN everything, other choices become more evident, more possible.