In The Presence of Gratitude


At times when the sun casts its light over our lawn I feel like I am looking at a stage in a play. Especially when it’s the orangey-yellow-green light before a storm. It makes the whole yard look like it is lit up with artificial glow and it makes it appear surreal. I am not particularly fond of artificial light.  I much prefer natural light, but it can feel so nice to be suddenly transported to another perspective. It can feel so good to be jostled out of your daily grind and stupor and to be reminded that this world is something beautiful, surprising, and mysterious.  And perhaps more importantly, that you have a part to play in it.

In his book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton, captures this thought much better than I could. He wrote, “Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”

For a few hours yesterday, I felt cornered into darkness. A funk had cast a dark shadow over me as the sun went down, and with it a heavy cloud latched onto me like a cold, wet blanket. It didn’t make any sense. It was a perfect Friday evening. We were making a nice dinner and later in the night, my husband and I, would watch some Masterpiece Theatre. Perfect really, in my little world.

I am sure a glass of red wine and a shopping spree on Amazon would have solved things fast enough. Feeling resolute, I instead chose to talk about these feelings with my husband. The usual downers are the same. Money is tight.  Our appliances are broken. I don’t have enough time for everything I need to do. So many things are simply beyond my control.  I feel alone. I feel needy. I feel my brokenness.

Talking with my husband can be like a spoonful of medicine.  Sometimes it comes bitter.  Sometimes it comes sweet. These little conversations have been countless in our twenty years of marriage. I start naming off a litany of dismays. He catalogs them into things that can be fixed, things that can change, and things to accept. We pray about them, but there is one thing that always remains before us, and if we lose sight of her, everything is lost – the beautiful presence of Gratitude.

It’s a practice we keep, this gratefulness. A sort of game where we list all the things we are grateful for: our children, our marriage, our daily bread, our faith. We think of hard times and how things worked out. We think of how we have grown and how we can still grow. We think of other people in hard times. We recollect small blessings: a working fridge, a cow that got bred, a hot cup of soup. We try to step outside ourselves and see things from another perspective.

As I was swimming around in the darkness, I got jostled back unexpectedly into the light. Our twenty month old tripped onto her tummy while pushing a train car around. She was having so much fun chasing her older sister around with her “arr,” as she calls it.  And then, suddenly she was planted right onto the top of the plastic train with her tender, chubby tummy. It is always so heartbreaking when they go from so happy to so sad, so fast. What purpose I felt to be able to pick her up and love her. To just smother her back into safety.

In that baby hug, I was revived. My litany transformed. Me just hugging her makes it all worth it. Come broken water heater and heaps of laundry all the days of my life. Yes, this is why I am doing what I do. I am so thankful for her, for him, for them! My ingratitude melted away that hug.

This morning as the light pours in through our east window I am again transported. The darkness has left me, finding me either unwilling or perhaps the chemicals are just back in sync. I am thankful that as the darkness clouded my vision yesterday, I managed to bask in it without thrashing about, only to hurt myself and others. Call it chemicals or hormones. Call it seasonal or spiritual. It’s probably all those things.

Whether we like it or not, whether the sun is shining or not, this is our call time to stage. We don’t get to manage the lighting offstage or write the scene for our part. We don’t get to decide we aren’t worthy of the part we are given and we can not play the role someone else has been given. We only have the choice over the sort of character we play, what we do, and then, there is always the hope we can change for the better. Am I the selfish, bitter woman I loathe, or, am I the strong, gracious woman I admire?  Gratitude, God’s lovely maiden, should be my script, our script. She is our guardian of happiness. She is our fortress of peace. She is our gaze to heaven.

Erika Pearson is a convert to Catholicism and the mother of seven (well, currently) on a hippy, homeschooling homestead of sorts. She does most of her serious work up in the clouds and comes down on occasion to write about her findings at aestheticmomma.com.

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