Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Grateful Pay Attention

"I doubt there is such a thing as a measure of spirituality - but if there is, gratitude would be it.

Only the grateful are paying attention.

They are grateful because they pay attention, and they pay attention because they are grateful."

- Barnes, the Pastor as Minor Poet, quoted by Douglas Wilson

I've been counting gifts now for sixty-one days. Trying to discern with keener eyes what God is doing for me. For all of us.

149. sami bathed in afternoon light, raking leaves

But on mornings like this one, when I slip in the door from my run to a dark house - so cold I can't warm up, even after a shower. And I send Doug out the door with a disappointed goodbye, because in the end, he had to work today. And then I spill my bowl of cereal all over the desk counter, soaking my calendar, the novel I'm reading, and a bunch of sticky notes, only to turn around and knock the cereal box onto the floor, flinging cereal everywhere...

I have to admit, gratitude isn't the first thing on my mind.

It was a rough morning. We had nowhere to go, but I was unusually sluggish and unaware. In contrast, a few days ago, I squeezed that space between dawn and dark into such a rush it was like someone hit fast-forward and we just kept yanking each other along - from place to place - with no time to stand still. No time to pay attention.

150. new crayons and all my girls coloring at the table

It's not easy to find a pace that allows you to be grateful. And it's even harder to feel gratitude for whatever the current moment is offering you.

But my gratitude journal has helped. I go there several times a day to record God's hand in my life, recognize his reaching. It is constant. And He is reaching out to all of us, if we choose to see it.

151. Our Thankful Tree

Practice (and failure) are teaching me this. Yesterday I found it in the paper towels my boys shredded throughout the house, a prolonged bedtime routine with girls who kept wanting to ask one more question and sing one more song. I saw it in the food caked onto booster chairs, the toys littering the living room. I didn't see it at first, but as I wiped chairs and picked up paper, I realized, all these things are saying matter-of-factly, you have children. And I felt grateful.

152. a yard to trim and rake

We have a house to live in - an old one. But I feel grateful as I gaze out the window into our neglected backyard that needs trimming and raking.

I feel grateful when I find all five kids hiding in the fort Eliza built under the stairs. (Or, on this particular day, when I found her snoozing.) They don't need our house to be shiny or state of the art. They just need it to feel like home.


153.eliza's fort

I am starting to believe we can be grateful for everything.

And when we are, the result is simple. We are happy. Our ears hear more joy, our souls feel more alive, and our hearts are more open - more full of thanks for everything as it is.

154.a warm day

I tend to agree with the quote above. If there was a measure of spirituality, it might just be gratitude. It really does reconnect us with God, especially if we've had a bit of a hiatus, rolled along without him for a spell.

155. Jesus

When I've felt that separation, I notice discontent and entitlement begin to creep in. Not that we shouldn't dream big or push hard, but sometimes circumstances are without our control and all we can really do is choose how to respond.

When this is the case, if I pause long enough to let gratitude fill me, time stalls. My senses take in every detail, and I want to reach up, extend my fingertips towards Him, and say "thank you."

This afternoon it was Spencer's warm skin, still incubating from his nap, as I pulled him from his crib. I breathed in his scent as I nuzzled my chin into the crook of his neck, inhaling long, like they do in the islands when they say goodbye. It was healing and I thought in my mind, "thank you for this boy."

156. spencer's warm wake-up skin, healing, as I breathe in his scent

It has been so fun for me to read some of your lists as you progress toward one-thousand gifts. I'm still numbering mine along my sidebar, as a reminder (to myself) to pay attention.

157. eliza and her bosom buddy, katherine, playing with the dolls they made

What about you?

Are you writing them down somewhere?

What are you grateful for today?

158. lots of little hands to help me plant bulbs

"It's not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness." - Charles H. Spurgeon

Thanksgiving Blessings everyone. May your tables and hearts be full.


  1. ****I doubt there is such a thing as a measure of spirituality - but if there is, gratitude would be it.****

    This is _so_ true, I wholeheartedly agree, ;-). These little moments, if only you take the moment to pause, are what makes life so good! And I find, that kids teach you that.

    I'm not writing a gratitude journal anymore, because I (think) I already learned to appreciate these little moments and to be thankful for them.

    But then, I fell on the good side of life, so it's kind of easy to say.

    On the other hand, what if there isn't any good in your life? On of the signs on the tree says "be grateful". That sounds so much like an order: "Hey, you! Be grateful!" I just imagine somebody who has a tough life and bad things happening reading that... Sometimes, I guess, being grateful is a lot to ask, too.

    I have no idea, what I want to say with that, though, it just struck me.

    So long,

  2. P.S.: That post was not meant to be critical of you! Please don't misunderstand. I was just thinking about being grateful in general.

    And again one thing about the gratitude diary and counting gifts: it does help, and it teaches -- in my experience -- very fast to learn how to appreciate the little moments. And to take the time to cherrisch them.

    So long,

  3. I started tracking my blessings after your post about 1000 gifts (and bought the book!). After a few weeks I was amazed at the little things that go unnoticed but bring joy in my life. I'm grateful that your posts inspired me to remember our many blessings.

    Happy thanksgiving to you and your family!

  4. I was really hoping that you might have a Thanksgiving-ish kind of post. Thank you for your beautiful words and pictures, friend!

    "all these things are saying matter-of-factly, you have children". I love that. What a sweet way of looking at it all.

    My husband too ended up needing to work some yesterday....when I was hoping to have him in the kitchen working on the pies with me, he was holed up in a room on his laptop (since his overseas clients don't stop their lives for our American Thanksgiving!). I reminded myself how lucky I was to have a husband and how lucky I was that he has a job, even if it disrupts my Thanksgiving plans!

    I have spent a lot of time the last 17 months recording sweet, beautiful things, and I know that it has changed my outlook immensely. Counting gifts lifted me yesterday morning when I felt overwhelmed by all the needs and demands of the day.

    Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving, dear friend! I'm off to make some yams. xoxo

  5. Thank you Catherine, I loved this post. I am thankful for my van, that I am going to get in, and drive to your house next week.

  6. Corinna - you bring up a valid point, how do we find gratitude in the really, troubling and hard challenges of life? It's not easy. Much harder to do than say. But I was touched yesterday by the gratitude my brother-in-law expressed yesterday, despite the fact that he has been without a job for over a year. I was touched recently by the gratitude expressed by a friend who lost her newborn daughter. It is definitely possible and that kind of heart always inspires me, makes me want to be better. I really appreciated your insights. Thank you!

    Knit1, Knit2 - So glad you bought the book. I hope you're enjoying it. Happy holiday weekend to you and yours as well!

    Anne Marie - "holed up in a room on his laptop" - we have one of those cave dwellers too. And yes, unfortunately overseas clients don't seem to be as concerned as we'd like over our American holidays! Doug had a huge fiasco fall into his lap Halloween evening. Something that had to be remedied for and Australian client arriving the next day. If only we ran the world, right??

    How wonderful that you have 17 months of gifts recorded! I would love to be a quiet angel on your shoulder, watching what you write down. I hope your pies turned out... and your yams. I had the green salad. Hard to goof that one up! Hope it was a blessed and happy day for you yesterday. xo

    Samsel - Really?? Are you really going to come visit?? Well, then I'm thankful for your van too! I would LOVE for you to come. Door is open. Always. xoxo

  7. Oh, Catherine, you have no idea how much I love your gratitude posts. I even bought myself a lovely gratitude journal for my birthday. And promptly lost it, of course. But I'm still grateful it's there somewhere, waiting to be used! :)


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