I woke up to quiet. I’ve been restless inside myself, begging for quiet mornings. This morning I got one. If only for a few minutes, I got one.
And I didn’t say thank you.
I had a small breakfast and dressed in comfy clothes. I carried my laptop under one arm, books and journals under the other, as I made the short trip to the living room. There, I listened to music I love; I laughed and read stories; I had a satisfying lunch.
And I didn’t say thank you. Because I didn’t see why I needed to.
I decided to go out into the yard, to find a secluded place I could read. The sun was out but not blazing, a soft whisper of summertime’s end. I was looking for the right spot, but along that journey… I began taking photos. Of the bushes my neighbors have tried to destroy only to see them flourish more; of the overgrown trees and plants that don’t allow me to visit the pond anymore but somehow hold an air of mystery now; of my cat, who sat calmly next to her favorite hiding place; of the single apple fallen from the tree. I just kept taking them.
And I wondered if this was a way of saying thank you.
I know that gratitude holds power. I know it does. But it’s hard to do. It’s hard when I don’t want to be where I am, when all I can think about is leaving because everything I want to do is not here. Ann calls it the hard eucharisto, the painful thanksgiving. She knows it well. I know I have no excuse for my stubbornness. Yet I persist in it. Secretly, even to myself, I think I pray for patience and for trust. Because Ann also says my lack of thanksgiving is evidence of my mistrust in who He is. And I know she’s right. I know that I am angry at Him because of where I am.
I watched Cinderella this evening, the version that came out this year. I was charmed by the imagery. I remembered one of my best friends telling me how much it had meant to her, what the movie taught her. And I awaited being able to see what she spoke of.
Ella was gracious, gentle, loving. Her mother’s words lived with her: “Have courage, and be kind.” She did everything by these words, told them to herself more than daily. They were her guard rails, to help her carry on when she grew weary and to guide her choices, big and small. I kept seeing her live them out, kept hearing her whisper them to herself, and I eventually thought: “I wish I had a simple set of words like this to help me remember, to shape my habits and my heart.”
Then I remembered that I do have that.
He told me, “Just be with me. I’ll teach you love, to love me and others and yourself.”
I’m almost crying. Oh, I need to learn love. And only He can teach me.
He is to be my guard rails. He and His love are to carry me when I’m weary and to guide my steps– if I allow Him to be the central piece of where I am. Allow Him to teach me love. Because He loves me enough to allow me to say no. He doesn’t have to do any of this for me; He does not owe it to me and I am not deserving of it. But He’s the one who knows love. And love does things like this. Love is grace-filled. Love is a continual giving. Saying yes to Him and His consistent presence with me is an acceptance of grace, of His gifts to me.
It’s saying thank you. Something I need to learn. Something He teaches in His love lessons.
Ella’s circumstances did not determine if she would live in her mother’s words or not. She chose to. Every day, she chose to serve others. She chose to be gentle and humble, yet strong, in all her interactions. She chose to find magic in the things around her. She chose hope. She chose forgiveness. She chose to be genuine, even if it made her different from those around her. Sometimes things became too heavy, yes. But her faithfulness served her. She kept choosing to have courage and to be kind, no matter the darkness and hopelessness she lived in. And it was that faith and steadfastness that brought her out, brought her into love and safety and opportunity to live.
My circumstances don’t matter– my choices do. My choice to be with Him, my choice to thank Him for all His gifts to me… my choice to learn love from Him. I can do that every single day, no matter where I am or what’s happening to me. I can be faithful in that. And I can see the grace here, and I can have hope for somewhere new someday.
And I can say thank you for all of it. Because He’s in all of it.