When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers…
The sun dipped below the horizon, waving goodbye to the day. The sky looked as if God had broken open a pumpkin with His gentle hands and poured out all of the colors inside. How beautiful it was! I sat on the wooden bench under the pear tree and admired the sunset as the night slowly erased the orange and ochre tones.
“Thank you, God, for my eyes that see your beauty. Thank you, for my heart that feels your love. I am humbly grateful.” I whispered as the dark reached out her cold fingers across the meadow. I buttoned my coat and tied my scarf tighter.
“You’re welcome. Here, let me keep you warm,” God said and put His arm around me. “Shall I walk you back to the cottage?”
“I don’t want to go in just yet,” I said. “I want to stay here with you a little longer.”
“I’ll light your way when you are ready,” He replied and lifted the full moon into the dark sky. Its soft lantern of light cast a glow across the meadow. I sat there for quite some time, enjoying everything about my life. Enjoying everything about God.
When the stars began to shine, I rose and began my way back to the cottage to build a fire to warm my body as I slept, trusting that God would keep heart and soul warm.
Even in your old age, I am God. I will take care of you.
The gate pushed open with a rusty groan. I should oil that, I thought as I walked over to what was left of the garden. A few tomatoes, shriveled and sagging earthward, hung heavy from their branches. I walked to where the squash had grown. The once hardy plants. now unrecognizable, were returning to the soil. Even the still-standing kale looked tattered and forlorn. A rotten apple squished beneath my shoe—its slippery mess now flattened beneath my weight. I scraped off the slime on the grass. A damp wind blew through the trees and I shivered.
“The garden looks rather sad, God,” I said. “But there is a sacred beauty to it.”
“Not everyone can see it,” God said. “To some, it would be depressing.”
“Not to me. I see your handiwork. I have a great respect for the process going on here.”
“All of life is in my care. Even in old age. Even in death,” God said softly.
I nodded. “You are a mystery, God. But I trust you, even with the end of life.”
I looked up and saw a lone bird flying above the fruit trees, its brown body blending in with the dark clouds. A drop of rain fell. Then another. And another. I turned my collar to the wind and made my way back to the cottage, feeling quiet and humble, appreciative of whatever time I have left here on the planet.
A cold wind blows down from the Sierra’s. I pull my scarf up around my head, hoping to ward off the chill. I’m walking in the fold of the day where the morning turns into the fullness of the afternoon. A handful of leaves scatter across the street and then settle. Their small racket stirs within me memories of winters past; nights spent in front of crackling fires with friends. I hold their faces in my heart and I’m warmed. Overhead, the warning of a crow, a shrill crisp note, breaks the quiet. Further down the road, I walk past a woman sitting in a rocker on her front porch. She waves to me as if we are long-lost friends. I smile and return the wave.
Today is a good day. I’ve heard the sounds of nature. I’ve remembered friends and waved to a stranger. These small things that seem so inconsequential are the things that make life worth living. I give thanks for them. I’m glad to be alive on this blustery day.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.
And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
All day it snowed. I anxiously watched from my window as white blanketed the backyard, making the landscape look otherworldly. As the hands of the clock moved closer to the evening hours, my heart filled with disappointment. The big birthday celebration I had planned wasn’t going to happen. I called my friends and told them we’d postpone until the following weekend. I’m sure they could hear the frustration in my voice. I had planned an interesting evening of activities for us to enjoy. I had bought costumes, props, and I’d even written a short story to set the stage for our celebration. We were going to end our evening walking through Aspen handing out small gifts and sweets to strangers. But it wasn’t going to take place on my special day. I would turn forty-four alone, watching the snow fall. Funny, how sixteen years later, as I quickly approach my sixtieth birthday, I can still remember the emotions I felt that day.
Looking back, I see that what I was missing at that time in my life was the ability to be grateful. I didn’t understand that everything in my life was a gift. Even the things I didn’t like. Even the things that hurt. Even the things that frightened me. Now, having grown spiritually, I’m more able to sit with any disappointment and swaddle it in gratitude. It doesn’t take too long before my heart fills once again with peace and joy.
Gratitude is a response we learn how to cultivate through time and practice. Eventually, we learn how to hang out in gratitude far more than we hang out in disappointment. For disappointment is only fear in disguise; we’re afraid that we’ve lost out on something—we didn’t get what we wanted. Gratitude, on the other hand, reminds us that we didn’t lose anything at all—in fact, we’ve gained something instead, even if it’s only a new lesson or insight.
“Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth…”
Last night I decided to brave the rain. I grabbed the woven basket I used for shopping and drove to the produce market. It’s a small family owned store with big tables and bins of fresh fruits and vegetables. The first thing I notice when I walked was the delicious smells! The sweetness of the fruits at the entrance was heady and rich, an intoxicating blend that no perfume could ever match.
As I walked among the tables, I marveled at the different shapes, colors, textures and sizes of the fruits and vegetables. I picked up the produce I wanted and held it in my hand, appreciating it’s beauty and nutrition that would fuel my body. Suddenly, in the midst of the little store, I felt God’s presence in a big way. I smiled. “I know you are here,” I whispered as I pushed my cart past the avocados. I looked at the faces of the strangers around me. I made eye contact with an elderly woman, and she grinned at me as if we both knew we were seeing the God in each other. I nodded to her, acknowledging our little secret.
I made my selections and paid. I decided not to pull up the hood on my coat as I walked to my car. I wanted to feel the rain wash over my skin. I looked down at the beautiful food in my basket and felt incredibly happy to be alive, to be a part of God’s glorious world. I drove home with a prayer of thanksgiving on my lips and a deep peace in my heart. His abundance is so awesome.