My life is harder than it was two years ago. Mainly this is because I now have twice as many children.
Also, my book (my baby) is out of print which means no publisher is going to take a risk on me, so my dreams of writing another book are just that – dreams. As in, dream on.
If my life had looked like this two years ago, I would have felt cheated, angry, and very, very sorry for myself.
But I don’t (most of the time, anyway). Sometime in the past couple of years, something shifted. I think it started with the examen.
Practicing the examen, I began to see that, even on the worst days, there were blessings, places God met me, things to be glad about or grateful for. And as the examen became more a part of my daily life, I began to notice those mercies not only as I reflected at the end of the day but sometimes in the moment, as they were given.
And the more I noticed, well, the more I noticed. It was like a snowball rolling down hill: the pile of blessings just kept growing.
The thing was, that pile had always been there; I just hadn’t seen it. My gaze was elsewhere (mostly on me and what I wanted that I didn’t have), and so I missed it. For more than 30 years I missed the grace upon grace that God had showered upon me, poured into my life.
The examen started the noticing with gratitude. Then, in December 2009, my friend Susan took the dare to list one thousand things she’s grateful for. And as you know, where Susan goes, I am swift to follow. So last January, I started my own list, a gift list, as Ann Voskamp writes, “not of gifts I want but of gifts I already have.”
I cannot tell you how transformative that list has been. Since I started it last January, I have written down over 1600 blessings, gifts I already have. And those are just the ones I’ve recorded on paper.
This list has filled me: how much I have been given! It has humbled me: who am I to receive such riches? It has changed me: the glass of my life is no longer half empty; it never was.
This list has pointed me again and again to the God of all good things. It has corrected my faulty vision: I am no longer myopic and moping. I can now see my life for what it is: a gift of grace full of gifts of grace from the God of grace.
So I continue to count the gifts:
1606. Pink camellia petals scattered over green grass
1607. Rafts of yellow daffodils in yard, planting strips, traffic circles
1608. Bare branches and trunks of birch trees, bright white against a gray sky
1610. Grape hyacinth
1611. Pink blossoms on trees, lining both sides of the street
1612. Chickadees flitting from branch to branch of the fig tree and camellia bushes outside the dining room window.
1614. Jack’s laughter
1615. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, beautiful and inspiring
1616. Ben’s striped hoodie
1617. Jane’s dimples
1618. Baby lungs, even when they cry
1619. Nursery volunteers at church
1620. Afternoon tea with toast
This post is part of a Lenten series on spiritual practices that cultivate attentiveness to the presence of God.