This post is part of a series on spiritual disciplines called Merely Beloved. For more information about this series, click here.
I’ve been toying with a number of different topics to write about lately … My mind flitting from one to another sometimes forgetting almost immediately that tiny seed of a thought and then sometimes lingering a bit like a sweet kiss on an apple-y cheek. I know that I’m actually kind of sick of thinking and writing about parenthood and babies, maybe because I wonder if people are sick of hearing about it. Maybe. Maybe not. I’m reading books both for pleasure and education, I’m enjoying the college ministry work (it almost seems unfair to call it work) immensely, and autumn is in full swing and just so achingly beautiful. There’s a lot to write about these days.
But I won’t write about fall not after my poetry workshop teacher from the summer IU Writer’s conference advised,”3 things on my blacklist when it comes to poetry: the moon, the ocean, and fall.” She actually kept adding to that list including snow and trees. Her thought was that it is really difficult to write anything new about these topics and that there is more than enough out there already. It still didn’t keep me from sharing this one, which I regret now. Oh well. Live and learn. Sort of.
I was up early this morning. 5ish. Couldn’t sleep. Not for a bad reason. Babies were sound asleep. It was quiet and dark outside. Cozy and warm indoors. The bed and blankets felt particularly amazing. My pillow smelled a little like Angelpie from when she slept near me the night before because her coughing kept her up. My mind was turning because of … gratitude. Andy and I had a great conversation with someone yesterday, and it is basically turning our world upside down. Let’s just say … It is going to make living in Bloomington a little easier. For our whole family, we will be able to breathe a bit more.
I went downstairs, and my eyes meandered over to a box full of blank thank you cards. I realized I have numerous thank you’s to write for so many reasons – to the FPC folks who’ve hosted lunches for students, to friends around the country who’ve been present through thick and thin, to past churches, to people who have had us over for dinner recently, to people who help care for Ellis and the twins, and in a side way, about us, too.
Except I hate writing thank you cards. It feels like a chore. And my handwriting has gotten so awful – it truly is an abomination – so it’s almost embarrassing. And I can’t help but question “is it really possible to convey thanks in just a few short lines? Doesn’t that seem a little insincere???” I just buck at it.
Excuses. I know.
But it hit me like a flash this morning as I sat at the breakfast counter enjoying the moments before the sunrise which inspires the ensuing vortex in the house. I need to write thank you.
“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.”
― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
Micha Boyett has Thankful Tuesdays on her blog and a whole host of others are sooo good about being intentional listing the reasons they have to be thankful. I never finished Ann Voskamp’s book, maybe I will eventually, but I like the little nuggets I run across here and there on being mindful of those daily gifts. And so of course, I thought, “Could this be a spiritual practice?”
What’s my criteria?
Anything that cultivates quiet.
Anything that encourages a slower pace.
Anything that helps me to be mindful.
Anything that quickens me to God’s presence.
Anything that makes me feel more connected to God and people.
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
Yes. This does it. So, I write slow and carefully so my writing is legible. I choose my words deliberately so that they genuinely convey how I feel about that person and the generosity and gift they’ve given me. I breathe words of thank you and sighs of gratitude as I finish and put it carefully in an envelope. And I bask in God’s spirit as this Eucharistic feeling opens me up to so much more. To live and love and see so differently.
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
So I still don’t like writing those thank you cards that much. But when I begin and finish that stack I’m filled and nourished and ready to not only give but to receive as well. And that’s the posture of the Beloved.