Oct 3 2011

{Day 3} Noticing Thankfulness

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What is a memory for which you are grateful?

Take a moment to put yourself back into the memory, see the colors, hear the sounds, feel the emotions attached to the recollection.

Be there, just for an instant, stretch your imagination back to that moment. Breathe in the thoughts and feelings.

A precious memory I have is from when I was 8 or 9.  My family was living in Kentucky, at Ft Knox. If you are familiar with the area, you know that there are many little civil war cemeteries in the most unusual places. Some are forgotten in forests or sit lonely on top of hills. My dad and I loved to go on walks or bike rides together, exploring, and we’d pour over local maps to find these hidden pieces of history.

One of these little collections of stone monuments sat on top of a hill, right above the Kentucky Fried Chicken. The tallest obelisk poked out from tall grasses and my little historian imagination would go wild every time we drove past.

The problem was getting to it.

Kentucky wasn’t a place you went treading in grass above your head. Critters of the slithering kind were often minding their own business there. But I was not deterred, pestering my dad repeatedly, until one day, he agreed and we forged our way up the steep slope and unkempt path back in time to the 19th century.

The cemetery was small, less than 10 monuments, worn with weather and years. I was thrilled. The forgottenness of the place just made it more mysterious and separate from the commercial strip below.

And that my dad was willing to take me still makes me smile. I am grateful for this, one of many wonderfully clear memories of my dad’s love.

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Three years ago, I stumbled upon Ann Voscamp’s A Holy Experience blog where she challenges her readers to count gratitudes to 1000 and beyond, small and large. Since then, thankfulness has changed my life and my relationships. When I want to enter deeply into the present moment, especially with people close to me, I count gratitudes. Alongside paying attention, it is one of the foundations of contemplative living and makes any moment a moment of  worship.

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journal

When we look for what we are thankful, our hearts expand, hope is near, and love over-flows. We stop consuming life and start living it, with and through the presence of God.

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Practice: Write down 5 things you are grateful for. Not what you think you should be grateful for, but the people, places, memories, sights, smells, sounds, feelings, that make your heart and mind sing, “Oh, yes, thank you God!” I’d love to hear what’s on your list.

And visit Ann’s blog for some printables to start your own list of 1000 gifts.

31 Days




Jun 20 2011

Answered Prayers

Mondays are for counting thanks to 1000 and beyond

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While I love Seattle, I need to get out of the city every so often to a place with more grass than concrete and more birds than cars. My ears long to escape from city sounds and I want to smell the earth and trees and sea. A couple months ago I had a talk with God about it. Not being a driver, leaving the city (and public transit) behind requires a little more planning, and I’ve loved seeing how God has been working things out without me thrashing about trying to orchestrate it. He’s been teaching me trust and patience–inviting me to tell him what I need, then step back and see what happens.

392.  On Friday I leave for the high school mission trip. Leave may not be the right word since the students will be staying in Seattle for the week working with, mostly, inner city ministries. When I said yes to helping out, I knew that this was not going to be one of those times to get out of the city, but I felt both a call and joyful excitement to be involved no matter what.

Without my saying anything to anyone, I was placed with the team of students going to Tierra Nueva, a ministry reaching out to migrant farmers, 90 minutes outside of Seattle. Most of the week will be spent working on the farm there.  I am thrilled!

393. An wonderful invitation to spend some writing time in a rural house on the peninsula.

394. The gift of a pile of beautiful garden magazines.

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395. A lovely day at the Nisqually Estuary with friends, seeing so many different kinds of birds.

(for more photos of the wildlife refuge, look here.)

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396. A balcony sanctuary, where I can listen to the mingled sounds of city and nature.

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397. A spontaneous day in Bellingham and journaling time on a rock at Larrabee State Park.

“If I spend too much time in these wild places, I will shed the trappings of what I wear in the city and slowly meld into the rock, and sea, and woods. These words even now are full of the waves and foam and splash, no longer empty, no longer easily erased. Words written on my heart.”

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398. Pots of growing things now blooming.

And while not about getting out of the city, two more amazingly wonderful answers to prayer:

399. The long-term loan of a piano keyboard from my friends Cathee and Brian.

400. Fifty one pages done toward my dissertation first draft, and no more anxiety as I write.

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