A friend recommended a book to me not long ago, saying that it was a must-read for, well, anyone and everyone (I'm paraphrasing, of course). So, naturally, I acquired the book, and started reading it (much to the dismay of my 3 parenting books still sitting on the shelf waiting to be read!). I was about 3 paragraphs into it, when I concluded, "I don't like this book. Not only do I not like it, I'm repulsed by it." After reminding myself that it was recommended by someone who I know has a heart for people to know the heart of Jesus more and more, I told myself that there's got to be something worthwhile here otherwise my friend would not have recommended it as heartfelt as she did.
So, on I read. Gleaning tidbits here and there, I pushed on through the book, but still put the book down time and time again overwhelmed with a heavy weight, feeling more of the author's emotions than I had expected or even wanted. I wasn't sure it was all it was cracked up to be.
And then... slowly, but surely, it won me over. He won me over. Giving the author a chance to come full circle with her thoughts, opened my heart, and thus my eyes, to take in this precious life I've been given through a different perspective... one where I'm learning to see each moment set before me as a gift.
But... could you really be grateful for random, insignificant things in the mundane ins and outs of everyday life? What about when I'm annoyed or frustrated? Are there things to be thankful for even then? What about in times of suffering - in watching others suffer? Even then too?
And what is this about "living in the moment"? Not an uncommon phrase, what does it really mean? What does it really feel like to live in such a way, to approach life in such a way? Why attempt it at all?
Here's how the answers to those questions have played out in my heart over the last few weeks...
Yes! Yes, you really can be thankful for something in all moments! And doing so changes you. Yes, it's easy to be thankful for that adorable, little smile staring back at you; the beautiful, sunny autumn day; great neighbors who bring you brownies for no reason at all. But as I've tried to practice this thing called gratitude, I find that the most growing, the most transforming of my heart, and the most resulting joy takes place when I choose to thank God for something in those moments when I'd rather grumble... When I choose to thank God for my husband, even as I (in my mind, of course) have a legitimate reason to be frustrated with him; as I choose to thank God that I am able to understand my baby's needs when her cries tell me she needs some cuddles and a nap, even though I've been trying to get dinner made for the last hour and half and it's almost 8pm already; when I choose to thank God that I have a home, even as I dread the thought of all the chores that need done in order to maintain it; as I choose to thank God for washing machines and dryers as I load my 4th load for the day, and there's still one more basket waiting for washing and folding; when I choose to thank God that the baby born with a syndrome has parents that are nonetheless excited about his little life and are already looking forward to the life they can give him.
It's a practice that is transforming my everyday moments into God-moments. It brings Him into the everyday-ness of life - messes and all! Hence the "living in the moment" talk...
Too often I have found myself planning for the future (even if the future is tomorrow or this afternoon!) and I'm sure that I miss little moments happening right in front of me! As I push my way through the craziness of Costco, my always-present goal of seeing how fast I can get in and get out looming above me, in an effort to get home in time to make dinner and relax (dare I hope for a moment of relaxation?!), I intentionally avoid eye contact with a familiar face so as to not get disrupted from meeting my goal. Did I just miss a divine appointment? Did I just give up a God-moment so I could beat the clock? (Can you really ever beat the clock? No, I think not.) How sad. Aren't we - as Jesus-followers - supposed to be letting Him use us to love on others? How can He use me when I'm too preoccupied with making it through the check-out line, my focus and energy on what would happen hours from that moment?
Practicing looking for things to be grateful for in everyday moments is slowing me down, drawing me into each present moment, allowing me to encounter Him in everyday gifts in front of me. For the first time, I feel like I have a glimpse as to what it must be like to "pray without ceasing," to "rejoice always," to be able to "in everything, give thanks." How is it that for so long I thought you had to work hard enough, memorize enough scripture, do enough Bible studies for those things to "occur" in one's life? That only the "really good Christians" could do those things?
Is it really as simple as choosing to be grateful? Practicing gratitude?
And how is it that the resulting joy and peace from something so simple is so great?
I may not understand it all, I may not have it all figured out, I may have a LONG way to go, but I'm sure enjoying the journey and what's He's taught me so far... coud I ask for anything more?
And I've got to throw this in there... I think this book is doing more for my parenting "skills" than any parenting book has done thus far...
Oh yeah! What's the book, you ask? "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. Visit her website at www.aholyexperience.com.
Oh, did I mention that I definitely recommend the book? Maybe that goes without saying.... : )