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Gratitude for the ordinary

Today I am grateful for so many seemingly ordinary things….

For rain pouring down and the sound it makes as it hits the roof and drips from tree branches…

For a battery candle flickering as if it is real, for an electric fire “burning” as I write, for incense rising to the sky like my silent prayers — unspoken but always echoing from my heart to a God who is so distant and so close all at once…

For hours of quiet and solitude stretching before me so I can write, think, pray, be…

For my family, off at school and work but safe and happy and healthy (save for one broken arm)…

For this beautiful month of September, my favorite month of the year (and not just because it includes my birthday). For all the things this month promises…crisp apples (if you can find them this year), crisp air that is just around the corner, and crisp leaves that will soon be underfoot waiting to be raked silently and slowly and mindfully beneath a bright autumn sun…

For the half-century mark of my life that is fast approaching. How did I get here? How much further will I go? Will I be like my grandmother and get to do this entire life all over again until I celebrate a century? I have already surpassed my own mother in terms of years. The mystery of it all can be overwhelming…

For every day I get, for however long…

For every person who loves me, faults and all…

For a Creator who loved me into being and loves without condition for all eternity…

Good vs. evil is often a subtle choice

This Monday morning got off to a hectic and somewhat frustrating start. Nothing major, just the usual mayhem with a couple of extra inconveniences added in. But that’s all they were really — inconveniences. Unfortunately, my glass-half-empty perspective makes mountains out of these kinds of molehills, and that just leads to more frustration, more mayhem, and all around unhappiness.

So after everyone left for school and while I was waiting for the repairman to show up and replace our smashed-in windshield, I decided to whip up some serious green juice and park myself in a deck chair for five minutes of sunshine and silent prayer along with my shot of chlorophyll.

As I read through Morning Prayer (in Give Us This Day), I got stuck on one line from Psalm 20:

“May the Lord answer you in time of trial.”

When I first came back to that line, I thought, “Yes, Lord, why don’t you help me in this time of trial?” As I reflected a little more and sat in silence looking up at the trees, I next thought. “Trials? Really? Nothing about your life is a trial.” And then I thought about all those people I know who have real, true, heart-breaking trials in their lives. Even at its absolute worst, there really isn’t anything about my current life that can be classified as a “trial.” I am blessed beyond measure and recognize that true trials could come at any moment. Yet I still tend to look at what’s around me and see the negatives.

So I asked God, “Why am I like this? Why did you make me this way?” Seriously. I said that out loud to the trees and sky and birds. Why can’t I express my gratitude with joy rather than fear. And that’s what it comes down to. Again. Fear. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always trying to prepare for the day when the blessings are pulled out from under me.

And I wondered — as I do on a regular basis — if it’s possible to change such a central part of my personality at such a late date. Not to change my true self but to become my true self, which I think is hidden under my cynicism and doubt and fear. I’ve made minor advances here and there over the years, but never a major breakthrough toward joy. Joy tinged with fear, but never straight-up joy.

As I sat, hesitant to go inside just yet despite lots of work piled up on my desk, I flipped to the day’s readings, which basically focus on good vs. evil, and a subsequent reflection by Sister Gail Fitzpatrick, OCSO. And I stopped cold. Clearly this was the line I was meant to read today, this was the reason I had lingered outside beyond my self-imposed time limit:

“Each of us knows the agony of daily choices that can lead to life and love, or to darkness and debilitating relationships. As individuals and communities we become who we are by the choices we make.”

“WE BECOME WHO WE ARE BY THE CHOICES WE MAKE.”

So I think that was the answer to my question about whether it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Now I just have to focus on making the right choices, not necessarily when it comes down to the big stuff (I think I’ve got that part down for the most part) but when it comes down to the minor details, the stuff that makes or breaks everyday life at home with a family. In a sense, it’s my own personal battle with good vs. evil, light vs. dark. Not the stuff of superheroes, or even supermoms. Just the simple — and yet sometimes oh-so-difficult — decision to choose love.


Today, choose joy, choose life, choose blessings — even those blessings disguised as trials.