I had a birthday this week, and it was wonderful. I was with lots of the people I care about the most, and there was a wonderful collaborative effort to make the day special for me. It was. There were cards and cake and chocolate, and gifts to unwrap, including the gift of a little time away from my little people with a friend, which was fun and just really nice.
It is easy to smile when there are gifts to open!
The next day I was out on the playground with my kids, simultaneously pushing two boys in swings, while playing peekaboo with a just-now-waving her wee hand little girl in the stroller. The boys ran and climbed and zoomed down the slide, I played along with the make-believe-moments, as a shark that turned into a good Pirate, and as a space alien that became an astronaut.
Surrounded by my three small people, on a day with a perfect temperature, the sun streaming in through the trees to make tunnels of light, my heart was warm and well aware: this is another gift to open. Thank You, Lord, it is good.
The boys continued their climbing and jumping while I watched from a shady spot in the grass with the Belle. Music played from my phone that brought me back to Scotland, exercising in the student gym, strolling through the city at my own leisure with headphones in my ears.
Kind of a lot has changed since then.
I stared off into the distance, reflecting on how time has passed and life has changed, and noticed a single piece of pine straw, suspended and dancing the air, caught in a single thread of a spider’s web.
My first thought caught me by surprise: how quick I was to say in my mind, “Look! A gift!”
Somehow everyday simplicity is becoming a joy to hunt out and savor.
I’ve been training my heart to keep seeing all of life through that perfect picture frame, that 5 x 7 of thankfulness, that helps me remember that even when the word “gift” is not immediately apparent when I look at a situation, somehow, it’s very possible that I’ll still have the privilege of seeing the gift if I keep my eyes open (or more often my heart).
Seeing gifts in the nice breeze-by-the-river moments will perhaps always be easier than seeing it in the moments where two out of three children are hollering at the top of their lungs, because there’s an argument about which show is going to fill up their TV time or who did the thing that wasn’t supposed to be done.
Last night, HH and I reflected on the fact that we didn’t book as many weddings this year as we had hoped. We already have a few booked for next year which we’re very excited about, but this year’s wedding season was not nearly as busy as we would have hoped. But as we stopped for a moment and thought about that, about what has happened this past year, losing my Dad and accepting the unexpected part time job of settling his estate, learning to be a family of three and kicking off a career of homeschooling, moving house and starting life over in a new place…
suddenly it was easy to see what we hoped for but didn’t have as a gift, too.
We were blessed with plenty of business, HH has stayed busy with a camera in his hand, and, perhaps one of the greatest gifts I’ve been reflecting on lately, life just keeps happening one day at a time.
None of us can be completely sure what will come our way next year or next month, or even next week. But we can enjoy the life that we have in front of us each day, and we can train our hearts to see the gifts in that day. Whether its a stuffed bag of goodies from a very thoughtful Mama (thank you again, Mom, I love you!!) or looking down at a two-year-old’s cheeky grin and pearly white teeth as he tells me he loves me at bed time, or even enjoying the little bunny rabbit we love to watch munching the grass that has grown up under the pig-cooker in the backyard — it’s an opportunity to see a gift and to unwrap it by letting your soul whisper a silent thank you to your Maker, the One that all the good and perfect gifts come from.
Perhaps you’ve been looking for reasons to give thanks for a long time, and if so, I’m sure you can wax poetic about how life-changing it is. But maybe you haven’t been much for giving gift-hunting a slice of your everyday time. Friend, all I can say is, try it. Try looking for reasons to be thankful each day. And not just for the obvious, your family, your job, your home – although they are important gifts to count again and again, start looking for those simple moments that Elizabeth Barrett Browning referenced when she said:
Earth is crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes –
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
You might find in time, that your heart begins to walk around barefoot, and for your life? It will make a gloriously beautiful difference.