Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Memories of Thanksgiving...

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is
 thank you,
it will be enough.

Meister Eckart

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

I hope you've had a richly happy holiday weekend no matter where you've been - gathering with loved ones, caring for an ill relative alone at home or working shift at a local hospital or firehall keeping us all healthy and safe.

For me, one of the highlights of Thanksgiving weekend is going to the big Cathedral downtown with family and friends to sing generations-old harvest hymns and see (and smell) the colourful displays of flowers and produce lining the chancel steps. The intentional focus on gratitude, particularly for fruits of the earth to share with others, is grounding and revitalizing. 

This Thanksgiving, theologian, The Rev Dr Ellen Clark-King, drew our attention to how easy it is to become focused on the stresses of life and lose sight of the enormous number of things for which we can be grateful:
When were you last truly thankful? Not just thankful because it was the appropriate social response, not just saying the words with your lips, but feeling that deep gratitude within the centre of your being. When was that? What provoked it? How did it feel? Who did you share it with? What difference did it make to your day or your week or your life? Revisit that feeling, hold it again.
To be honest, I couldn't immediately bring to mind the particular time I'd last felt that grateful. I did get there after a few moments but for someone who writes a gratitude journal most nights, I was surprised at the pause in my remembering. So surprised, in fact, that when I got home, I made a point of pulling out gratitude journals from years past and reminding myself of the particular things for which I'd been whole-heartedly grateful for over the years. The first journal I read was from 1998, the year after my husband, Derrick, was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy (progressive weakening of his heart muscle).

Despite watching his diminishing strength and abilities and grieving for the many changes in our lives together, the journal entries of that year reflected the joy of simple things - a slow walk by the lake on a fall morning, a quiet cup of tea together in the mid-afternoon, a short visit with friends, the discussion of a new book. My entries for Thanksgiving Day 1998 included more simple gifts, each one worthy of re-membering:

1.  The beauty of the first frost and the leaves beginning to change
2.  A lovely country Thanksgiving service at little St Oz even though I had to go alone
3.  The feel of Derrick's hand on my face
4.  Derrick feeling strong enough to help with dinner and the fun we had in the kitchen.
5.  Thanksgiving dinner with all of us around the table.  

Being truly grateful is both a spontaneous heart response and a habit of mind. Learning to open ourselves to deep gratitude, intentionally taking in the good of those experiences, and then making time to remember our thankfulness can do much to shape the quality of our lives. For some whose circumstances are painful or exhausting or feeling hopeless, though, it can be hard to imagine such an upsurge in thankfulness as Ellen describes. For you, especially, may the last words of her address hold true:

So hold again that memory of a time when you were truly thankful. Open yourself again to that feeling. Take that with you into this holiday and into the week ahead. Let it live in you and through you, let it touch those around you ... so a thanksgiving day can become a thanksgiving life.

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