catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 22 :: 2013.11.29 — 2013.12.12


Splendid gratitude

Usually I am a Christmas junkie.  I start feeling the Christmas vibe in July and carry it secretly within until I can let it shine out like a tinsel-covered fool.  I love the lights, the music, the ceremony, the anticipation, the preparations — everything.  But this year I’ve noticed a marked difference.  I’m not in such an eager rush.  Really, I just want to sit and soak in the quietness of fall, to linger in the grace of Thanksgiving.  I want to behold the beauty of a fleeting splendidness as harvest gives way to hibernation, to revel in the gifts that have come, letting my heart name one by one, the blessings.  How many blessings have I forgotten to name in my rush to get to a star-drenched manger?  As I have slowed my pace, gratitude has shown me it is not enough to simply name my blessings.  I must also behold them, allow them the room to rename me.

Why is it that Thanksgiving gets so overlooked?  Our culture seems to skip over it, jumping from Halloween straight into Christmas, with hardly a nod to fall and turkeys and gratitude.  I guess it’s because gratitude is not market-friendly.  It’s so much easier to financially exploit the season of gifting than the one that asks us to behold our lives with gladness and contentment, the one bidding us to see what we have as already enough.

True confession: I was not a fan of Thanksgiving as a kid.  It didn’t have the wonderful decorations and lights and gifts that came with Christmas, nor the hope of snow.  It was hard for me to get excited about Puritan Pilgrims and feather-clad Native Americans.  And of course the only thing allowed on TV was football, which was absolute torture for a girly-girl like me.  Worst of all, those reds, golds, oranges, and browns didn’t fit my preferred color palette.  Quite honestly I hated all those blazing colors heralding something that looked like death: the leaves were simply falling away, leaving barrenness in their wake. 

Perhaps I had not lived enough to know any better. 

I’ve lived plenty in the years since.  My life and body have accumulated the scars of such living.  I am now a mother with kids of my own.  When I think of them, I have so much gratitude.  They are my greatest blessings named.  Their names are prayers on my breath.  How precious they are, how precious this loving can be.  Because having children did not come easily, I see each one as a gift, a sweet surprise of Grace.  I am so thankful for them, especially when I remember the resigned acceptance I had when it seemed having children might be impossible.  Many have said to enjoy them while they are young; the days pass too swiftly.  I believe it.

The other night I tucked my middle son into bed, breathing in the smell of his freshly washed head.  Instantly I remembered those sweet moments when he was a baby, swaddled in my arms, his clean baby smell filling me up with contentment, the weight of his resting body cradled against my chest.  Today I took my oldest to get braces put on.  The lady who was assisting us told me how he handled himself so well, asked good questions.  I could feel the pride and affection pooling within me as I considered this brave soul who took this challenge in stride.  And then there is my youngest.  He has about a year-and-a-half left of pre-school.  He still likes to snuggle close when he is sleepy.  But now he no longer fits so easily within my lap.  He doesn’t care.  He presses his dimpled face close to mine and smothers me with kisses.   My days are steeped in moments like these, simple happenings that offer a glimpse into those boys whom I love.  I find myself wanting to slow down, to lessen the pace of this relentless passage of time. 

During these late days of autumn, I find it especially wonderful when I get to see the leaves falling.  They float gently down, blanketing the earth with their wonder.  I have watched carefully the whole quiet transformation.  Without fanfare or applause the trees have slowly traded in green foliage for varied hues of wonderful — red, gold, orange and brown, a fabulous mish-mash across the landscape.  These colors are rich with living, full of depth and vibrancy.  And I understand now — these colors are the celebration of what has been, joyfully participating in the abundance of life right up until the end.  And then they fall, a gentle giving over to what will someday be.  They show me how beautiful it is to let go, to yield oneself gently to the on-going rhythm of life.

Sometimes my life seems anything but gentle.  My two youngest boys celebrate their birthdays during this season of Thanksgiving.  As I live into the arrangements of parties, meals, sleepovers, and playdates, arranged so my sons will know they are celebrated, I find that I forget to actually celebrate.  I forget that celebration is supposed to happen within me, not just around me.  I have to fight against the impulse to rush through it all, but instead to truly be in this moment, to feel what it is asking me to feel, to allow its meaning to be realized.

In this moment I realize that letting go is beautiful only when we have held close the time that is given to us.  It is a circle, this rhythm of living.  I hold today with gratitude, joyfully gleaning the goodness that comes, smelling and tasting and relishing all its gifts.  And then tomorrow I let it pass through my hands, releasing it with gratitude for the opportunity to hold it close.  When I am free enough to recognize, receive, and release the gift of what has been, I am ever more available to new gift coming.

As I watch all of my sons grow, I feel the bittersweet tinge of releasing them.  The worst is when I pack away the clothes my youngest has grown out of.  The box is filled with memories, garments that have had a season with each one of my sons.  The stains and holes bear witness to their fun, their favorite meals, their rambunctious rough-housing.  Those boys think nothing of what passes into the donation box.  They are ready always to wear out a new pair of everything!  Their living passes with a flourish.  They are exuberance running wild in the freedom childhood.  They have no wistful longings for yesterday.  Yesterday was great.  And for them, new moments are made for making today great as well.

I see in these boys the flourish of autumn’s last breath, those radiant hues I once disparaged dancing in a brisk wind.  It is as if every tree is alive with celebration at what has been, with leaves painted in splendid color as each gives itself over to solitude, an emptiness where roots grow deeper and stronger.  What I missed as a child is that the somberness of empty branches is really the birthplace of newness.  Those colorful leaves dancing are the commencement celebration at the close of a successful growing season, a testimony to life well-lived, an explosion of gratitude, rejoicing as the time for the obvious comes to an end.

As I prepare my heart for our family’s Thanksgiving celebration this year, all of these things are alive in me.  I want my gratitude for the year passing to be bright and bold and beautiful, joining with the thanks of those around me, until all of us are souls dancing in the wonder of what has been.  I want my rejoicing for life well-lived to be the easy relinquishment that creates room for what will come. 

Through it all, gratitude continues to show me the bigness of the life I already live.  With each thanks I give, a deep, hidden joyfulness bubbles up.  It reveals a part of me that I did not know was there.  This life is bigger than I imagined.  It is rich and full and resplendent with Glory woven into all that I have taken for granted.   This is why Thanksgiving matters: as I name the goodness I see, the bigger Goodness takes up residence within me.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus