I sat down to write about gratitude and stared at a blank page. I stared out the window. I stared at the cat. I thought of all the ways this year has been hard for me personally and on a global scale. Certainly, there is a lot in between the microcosm of my life and the macrocosm of the pandemic. There has been deaths, unemployment, division, divorce, disease, and depression. And, while those things exist regardless of COVID-19, adding a heaping of quarantines, isolation, mask-wearing, and closures on top of life’s inevitable loss has sometimes felt like an overflow of despair.
So, the words don’t come easy. The spiral of sobering hardships has been like a forced global detox that has stripped life’s glitter leaving exposed the vulnerability and value of life. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that’s something to feel thankful for. Life feels raw and uncertain but also miraculous and precious. And most days, the sobriety of it all scares me. I miss the glitter of distraction that let me think that I was in control; that a long life was promised to me; and that happy times were the hallmark of a good life.
While I would not have chosen the trials of this year, I feel strangely grateful for what they have revealed. Underneath the glitter this is what I found:
- Control is contrived. Much of life is outside of our control. That’s not defeatist; it’s liberating. This year has been one of the most difficult and the most freeing. My health issues felt so outside of my control that for my sanity I had to surrender them. Surrendering the big things made it easier to surrender the small things. It’s a relief to know I can let things go. I may have more real problems but by giving them over to God, I don’t have near as many worries. We can either rely on ourselves and build a teetering house of cards, or we can rely on God and live secure in the foundation of our faith.
- Life is right now. There were so many days I wanted to rush through—to get to healing; to get to wholeness; to get to 2021. I longed for the days when my family could be together again; until after the election; until the vaccine; until, until, until. Yet, I finally understood that all we have is right now. I couldn’t afford to rush the days away. I couldn’t squander the moment as messy as it sometimes felt. Looking back was a waste and looking forward was a fairytale. Right now, life is the burst of a flower in full bloom — a moment so perfect that it thinks not of the days it spent closed tight as a bud nor ahead to when it will wither and fall. It only concerns itself with the beauty of what is now.
- Gratitude is the hallmark of a good life. Happy times don’t mean much if you aren’t thankful for them. Without gratitude, they are just moments that feel good. They pass; they are forgotten, and finite. Gratitude elevates and extends all that is good. Its lacquer seals the best virtues of life so that no matter what you are going through you are never devoid of the merits of faith, hope, and love. Gratitude is a grace that illuminates dark periods while inspiring us to keep seeking the light. Gratitude is the awareness of small mercies when everything is going wrong. It reminds us of our abundance, of simple pleasures, and unexpected kindness. It isn’t a measure of what we have but a means to give endless thanks for the improbability of all we have been given.
When I stare and think of what words to write, it’s not nothingness I see. It’s clarity of what the year’s trials have taught me. This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for what I found under the glitter – perhaps it isn’t as shiny as what sometimes sits on the surface, but for sure it’s a treasure worth a good look. May you bask in gratitude for what you find.
Hi all~ I probably don’t say it enough but please know how thankful I am for each of you who read these posts, who are a part of this community that believes mercy matters, and who reflect God’s love to others. In this year of so much uncertainty, I am grateful for the continued gift of this space. What are you thankful for this year? ~ Love, Lara
Read more: Surrender: Into the Arms of God