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Gratitude

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.  ~Meister Eckhart

This was a week filled to the brim with activity. Besides the day’s work, each evening held an event. I love my quiet evenings at home, so I was bracing myself for exhaustion.  When Friday finally arrived with a free evening, my eyes couldn’t stay open much past 10 p.m., but there was something else there, which had woven through the week like a golden thread.

Gratitude. The word had come to me on Monday morning, announcing itself as this week’s blog topic. Topics don’t often arrive that way, but I tucked it into my heart. It became like a telescope to view each day’s events through.

I was invited to my Habitat friend Fana’s brand new house for supper on Monday evening, along with many others who she and her husband and family wanted to thank. I had student led interviews coming up on Thursday night, and had a million and one things to do, but who can resist authentic Ethiopian food with friends? She and her husband Rediet thanked everyone from their hearts before the meal. Rediet said a prayer of thanks in his language, and I didn’t need to know the literal words to understand the prayer. His gratitude touched my heart and reminded me of the bigger picture – that God is somehow holding all of us amid all our difficulties, even when we don’t understand, bringing gifts that keep us steeped in love and blessing.

Tuesday evening’s activity was singing at Lion’s Manor with my friend Marilyn. One of the residents who always comes to sing is Jackie. Jackie has Altzeimers. She loves to talk and contribute. Her thoughts are not always coherent, but there is one thing about her that is always clear. She is always grateful. She thanks us every time we come, not once but continually. She is always making positive comments and like a self-appointed manager, she walks us to the elevator and thanks us one last time for coming and wishes us well. I always think that she must have practiced gratitude throughout her life for it to be such a lasting habit. No matter how I’m feeling, she never fails to encourage me.

On Wednesday night, Lyle and I went to our usual Bible study. Even after the study was over, most of us stayed past 10 p.m., talking about life and weaving God’s

Photo by Joel Penner

meaning into the situations of our lives. When friend Cal reminded me he was praying for me as I was leaving, I told him how helpful it had been to be around such rich conversation tonight. Like looking at the depths of an ocean, I was reminded that life is much more than my worries and tasks. I felt gratitude despite myself: gratitude that God is with us no matter what the storms are pounding. God has provided me with a faith community that shores me up again and again.

A 12 hour day lay ahead of me on Thursday, but like usual, all went well despite my worries as I talked to my students’  parents. Afterwards, tucked into one of the returned report card envelopes, was a note from a parent saying a simple thank you. She had no idea how much her small act of gratitude meant to me.

Lyle and I pray together before work twice a week. It isn’t anything fancy. It was my turn to pray on Friday morning and I began by saying, “God thank you for all the ways you carried us this week.” I was so tired that I could have prayed many complaints, but this small prayer of gratitude once again brought me to myself.

I want to be like Jackie, Rediet and Fana, and exercise the muscle of gratitude. I want to practice it so much that it becomes the default setting to my heart.

“Why is everyone hungry for more?

“More, more,” they say. “More, more.”

I have God’s more-than-enough,

More joy in one ordinary day

Than they get in all their shopping sprees.

At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep,

For you, God, have put my life back together.”

-Psalm 4:6-8 (Message translation)

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