Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received.
Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling.
Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.
Henry Van Dyke
I have really wanted to write more since the last post here. So much is going on, particularly this fall as Jessie’s post-retirement avocation has blossomed into a thriving new career. It nurtures her but it also demands a lot of time and preparation. It takes her away from me on precious weekends when we could be riding our bikes, playing golf, or just sitting quietly together on our beloved screen porch. But we are both grateful for this work, which is following a call and a ministry that feeds her as well as those she is tending.
Our sons and their partners are nestbuilding. We give them as much support as we can but they seem capable of handling the lives they are growing into. Zach is transitioning from the crazed world of exhibition management to counseling through graduate studies, while holding a part-time job. Wife Libby, after sacrificial labors in generating her baking business, is experiencing success and a sustaining growth. We look on with awe and relief. They are on their own path; not one that we expected or dreamed, which is as it should be. We have also grown to love Columbus where they live.
Alex and Kim have also developed into a team. (I’m not going to be thanked for sharing this. Alex is not one to want to be in any kind of spotlight.) They are preparing to move down to Pensacola, where there is work, weather, and some friends on which to build a foundation for their lives. Kim has been so good for Alex, we are very pleased. On our most recent visit to their house in Lockport, so much has been done to prepare it for sale. Of course, the biggest change seemed to be the total apathy Jake and Sutter (our granddogs) showed upon entering. No wild barking, just some friendly sniffing: “Oh! It’s just the grands!” they seemed to say. It helps that the dogs have spent quality time with us at our house while the kids have taken trips to Ireland and Florida.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
This is that time of year, marking two, when I started the process that would lead me out of the desert of unemployment. As I have written here: I look back and see more gifts than setbacks, but I believe that is because, as Melody Beattie has written, the fullness of life has been unlocked. The key isn’t just gratitude but choosing to see whatever life has thrown to or at me as a gift. As I have suffered, I have gained some modicum of wisdom; as I have rejoiced, I have felt the benison of humility. As well, we managed a great extended weekend in New Orleans in November as a perk of the job taking me there for our annual conference.
Here are some other things of this past year that stand out:
- A January day in 65-degree weather, spent with Bill and Genie during Kalamazoo Beer Fest. Thumbs up!
- Dan and Rosalind’s wedding. A small ceremony with the bride’s mother calling out, “Kiss the bride!” The privilege to be a witness to such joy? Yes, I am grateful.
- To find the Kamm’s seated behind me at a White Sox blowout of the Twins? A wonderment for which I am grateful. (Confession: it happened in 2012.)
- The hiring of a new Executive Director for Christos Center for Spiritual Formation that withstood a painstaking discernment process and owning some awkward and hurtful realizations? Our Board did good work, the reward is still developing with astonishment by all. Yes, I am very grateful.
- An August week in Michigan filled with marvelous happenstance as well as the hospitality of good friends in far places? I am grateful for Ed and Karen lending their house in Gobels that made so many more things to be grateful about happen.
- A stormy Friday night visit to the Church Street Brewery with Terrence and Chris, then off to Chris’s place in Elgin to open the box and play Firefly for the first time, finding it to be an excellent simulation. It’s good to be a geek!
- Helping my mother move into a smaller apartment with all of us realizing that we have to let go of the stuff of memories and still the memories remain. That this was her decision, not forced on her by circumstances? Here is gratitude at many levels.
- Brother Wayne took great care of Alex and Kim on their visit to the Tampa/Clearwater area this fall. Thanks, bro!
- An evening watching the Bears beat the Steelers while Father Albert offers remarks about Jay Cutler (“He means well.”), with so much laughter and comraderie. You bet, I’m grateful. (And grateful he was not present the night his Saints beat the Bears.)
- Hearing, “Oh, you’ve brought a different man with your this time!” from Sister ___ as Jessie and I walked into the Chiara Center in Springfield, where she has worked with Father Albert on training spiritual directors. It was my chance to see her overnight accommodations and the many assets the center provides. We also saw Gil Opferman play multiple roles in Monty Python’s Spamalot, and visit with Gil and Ann at their home. Again, many levels for gratitude all weekend long.
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
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