Grateful, with a Chance of Grump

Note from Julie: I’ve been busy this past month with teaching and other commitments, so it is with a grateful heart that I share this guest post with Spiritual Drawing Board readers. Thank you, writer Autumn Lubin! 

It’s a foggy day at the end of October. Thickly plush, the fog envelopes the world like a soft, silky blanket. When I was little, someone told me that fog is how God hugs us. That may be why I find fog so comforting. Wrapped up in the blanket of God, I say a prayer of gratitude for all the physical reminders God places around our world to remind us we are loved.

Foggy hillsides--photo Julie McCarty

(click on photo to enlarge)

Most of the time, I find the prayer of gratitude an easy one to send up. So, so much has been given to me in this world. How could I not be grateful for it all? Well, God made us in this quirky human form, that even when we are surrounded by a bounty of gifts of people, riches, experiences, nature and love, we will find the one thing that is missing or not quite right. That place where curmudgeon and envy live in our souls and snatches away the gratitude, replacing it with a lump of grumpy dissatisfaction.

I’ve been working on prayer that leads me from my lump of grump and back to gratitude. A favorite quote reminds me that being grateful is the only true response.

“You cannot be grateful and bitter. You cannot be grateful and unhappy. You cannot be grateful and without hope. You cannot be grateful and unloving. So just be grateful.” –(Author Unknown)

In Timothy 4:4 – 5, we read:

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

I pray for these words to enter deeply and become the blood that pumps my heart. Breathe in heaven, breathe out gratitude.

I’ve come to find that gratitude is an intentional place in us. It doesn’t just spring from us. It requires sight and insight. It requires a desire to appreciate all of what is ours, that which we love and that we dislike very intensely and everything in between. It demands something I call painful gratitude – finding the gift in even that which hurts, angers, humiliates, makes us cry and saying a prayer of thanks. Not every gift we are given is one we recognize or understand its value or purpose. But as I was taught as a child, you say thank you even if don’t like it, don’t want it, don’t know what it is or already have it. With a smile.

The sun has set now and the darkness has vanquished the fog from my vision. But I know it remains outside my window. Gently blanketing my home, I lean back in God’s love and say thank you. Thank you for it all. I will remember to take each and every gift with grace and want for nothing more. This is what I pray. And then I pray for the grace I’ll need to honor my promise because I know some other day, maybe tomorrow, I will find myself again with a lump of grump obstructing my view of gratitude.

How do you practice gratitude?

How do you find you way back when your lump of grump is getting in your way?

~~~

Autumn is a writer, educator and a non-profit consultant. More importantly, she is a wife, mom, grandma, cousin, friend, neighbor and owned by a dog and two cats. You can reach her at amlubin@gmail.com.

Happy Thanksgiving

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
–Psalm 118:1 (NRSV)

Wild turkeys in a nearby suburb--photo by Julie McCarty 2011

When I am feeling a little blue or worried in the middle of the night, I sometimes stop the negative thoughts by attempting to list 25 things for which I am grateful. The list can be wild or seemingly insignificant–whatever occurs to me at the time. I am thankful for a lush tomato from the garden, the color lavender, the scent of bread baking; for specific people/relationships in my life; for time alone with God and time together with others to celebrate. By the time I list 25 things, whatever was bothering me seems a less significant.

The above verse from Psalm 118 reminds me that one thing to be grateful for is the way God loves us no matter what. We sin, we hurt ourselves or others, we make mistakes–and yet, God’s love is ever-present, ever-faithful, ever-merciful.

In the original Hebrew of Psalm 118, the word for “steadfast love” is checed (pronounced  kheh’ – sed ). Checed or hesed, as it is sometimes written in English, is translated various ways depending upon the bible translation and the particular context of the bible verse. Sometimes it reads like this:

O give thanks to the Lord;  for [he is] good:
because his mercy [endureth] for ever.
–Psalm 118:1 (KJV–my underline)

Or, this:

Give thanks to the Lord,  for He is good:
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
–Psalm 118:1 (NASB–my underline)

Checed can be translated all of these ways. God is good, and God’s faithful love, kindness, and mercy are all everlasting.*

Thanksgiving is a time of offering prayers of thanks for  many things. Most often, we thank God for the food on the table, a roof over our heads, our family and friends, our health, our jobs. These are all good prayers of thanks.

But the bible verse above makes me wonder: when have I ever thanked God for his love? Have I told God I appreciate his presence in my life? Have I expressed thanksgiving for the good Lord’s compassion, his kindness, his mercy and forgiveness?

Thank you, God, for your blessings this Thanksgiving–and thank you even more for the gift of Yourself, given to us through the sacraments, the Word of Scripture, the beauty of nature and other people, and your Spirit deep within our hearts.

Until next time, Blessed Thanksgiving!

* Note: Information on checed was found in the Blue Letter Bible online using the bible verse and Hebrew lexicon.

Also note: You can now print off these reflections, email them to others, Facebook or Twitter, using new features of WordPress at the Spiritual Drawing Board shown at the end of each post. (If you have trouble with printing using your server–as I did–try using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox servers.)