This is an excerpt from “One Thousand Gifts.” This made me cry, made me want to shout, “Yes!!! I get it!” She has a beautiful way of explaining why I write this grateful each day…
Some days I pick up a camera and it’s a hammer.
The lens is my ink, for cameras have sensor eyes, and pixels record. I slide it into a pocket, a thin point-and-shoot, and find another way to chronicle, to force the lids open; another way to receive the moment with thanks reverential. When he comes in from the barn, the Farmer finds me with my hammer in hand, leaning over a plate of cheese grated and sitting in sunlight. It is true. I do feel foolish. I mean, it’s curls of mozzarella and cheddar piled high in a pond of golden day. And I’m changing the settings for macro, pulling in for a close-up frame. He’s fed 650 sows with one string arm this morning, flicked on a welder and melded steel. It is quite possible that the God-glory of a ring of shredded cheese may be lost on him.
“I like finding you like this.” He wraps one arm around my bowed middle, draws me close and up into him strong.
“Crazy like this?” I blush silliness, and he brushes close with the four day stubble. He laughs.
“Perfect like this.” He nods toward the cheese plate. “You being happy in all these little things that God gives. It makes me very happy.”
Happy in all these little things that God gives. Ridiculously happy over slips of cheese. That I am, and it’s wild, and, oh, I am the one who laughs. Me! Changed! Surprised by joy!
Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.
It is true, I never stop wanting to learn the hard [gratitude] for the deathbeds and dark skies and the prodigal sons. But I accept this is the way to begin, and all hard things come in due time and with practice. Yet now wisps of cheese tell me gentle that this is he first step into [gratitude’s] miracle. Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant – a seed – this plants the giant miracle. The miracle of [gratitude], like the Last Supper, is in the eating of crumbs, the swallowing down one mouthful. Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life – even the hard – is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are the new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.
I, too, had read it often, the oft-quoted verse: “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). And I, too, would nod and say straight-faced, “I’m thankful for everything.” But in this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life.
A lifetime of sermons on “thanks in all things” and the shelves of sagging books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.
Little nails and a steady hammer can rebuild a life – [gratitude] precedes the miracle.
I snap a picture of cheese.
I am grateful for the use of this IPad on the bus.
I am grateful for the sound of horseshoes hitting the stake.
I am grateful for a quiet walk in a park, hearing only the crunch of pine cones under foot.
I am grateful for a soft pillow to lay my head each night.
I am grateful for the smile of a young man at a soup kitchen.
I am grateful for sweet words from Grace.
I am grateful for Dani and her concern for the kids and for me.
I am grateful for a seasoned young man whose name is Sy Scarborough, the owner of the Bar D Chuckwagon Dinner and Show. Sam and I were blessed to meet him and visit for quite awhile last night before dinner. I shared with him about visiting the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs a few years ago with a choir and with some friends in the Springs area, and my favorite song had been, “I Am My Own Grandpa.” He told us that they had performed that song the night before and was not in the rotation for the evening’s show. And then, in the middle of the show, he came out onto the stage and surprised me by announcing what I had shared, and he sang it for me.
I am grateful for a new piece of art that Sam bought for me at the last stop. It is a painting of two chickadees in a branch loaded with berries. It could have been painted just outside our front door. I can’t wait to get it hung in the yellow bedroom.
And I am grateful for a camera on my cell phone, so that I could capture the southern Colorado scenery, my version of curls of cheese today.