I promise there’s a good excuse as to why it has taken me so long to post. Life has been FULL and BUSY, both of which are good. This past month alone I was lucky enough to have visited six counties (other than Wexford) all the while balancing the full swing of first communion and confirmation classes and choir rehearsals at Kennedy Park. Life at Conard is keeping us busy with preparation for the Easter Triduum, which means a lot of choir rehearsals, organizing binders, and learning new tunes. All good things, all good things.
Lucky for me, I work with second class students who remind me of simple ideas that shape our faith. While teaching them about the point of confession, I explained how in order to be who God is calling us to be, we must make our hearts clean (to be ready to receive what God has in store). This teaching point reminded me of a quote by Ann Voskamp. In her book “One Thousand Gifts”, she shares the art of thanksgiving, living the fullest life by choosing to live in the eucharisteo. How do we live in the eucharisteo? “Eucharisteo means ‘to give thanks,’ and give is a verb, something that we do. God calls me to do thanks. to give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living. That our lives become the very blessings we have received.”
Can you imagine if we gave thanks for each ordinary and extraordinary thing in our day? What would we be saying to God if we did this? I’d like to think that by giving thanks we encounter the decision to choose two perspectives: acceptance and dismissal. I either recognize and accept said happening, or I pay more attention to my inner thoughts and dispositions to my surroundings. What about my days are easily dismissed? Where is my attention being drawn? Do I recognize the good in my day to day life? These were the questions I asked myself before I started keeping track.
I guess you could say this developed into a semi-late lenten practice, but one that I desire to continue after Lent, too! It was difficult to make an honest assessment of my end of the day rituals, but it was eye opening nonetheless. I found my habits had developed into something to the extent of drinking tea and reading and/or browsing instagram before going to bed. This wasn’t necessarily a bad habit, but one that I wanted to tweak. I decided it was an appropriate time to spend the end of my days giving thanks rather than doing any other activity. This requires me to give thanks for everything, not just those things which are noteworthy (like strawberry rhubarb crumble…thanks Fr. Denis).
Taking on this challenge of giving thanks has actually been really enjoyable, especially when I’ve learned to appreciate many simple things. It has been a continual exercise of transforming the ordinary into extraordinary. I have learned to name my days as good, no matter how rainy or tiresome they may be. It’s not as though I’ve literally transformed by taking on this exercise, but training my mind to see my day with a hint of rose colored lenses has in fact aided my trust in God.
By giving thanks for ordinary things, we receive what is given to us from God, saying “thank you”, no matter how plain jane it may seem. Eventually we might learn to give thanks for the trying times. When we do this repeatedly, we are recognizing God more presently than before, giving Him a chance to wow us with his love and shower us with even more brilliant details than we might have noticed before.
To give you a few examples of what this has looked like, I thought I’d share with you a few ordinary and not so ordinary happenings of which I have given thanks:
- Guests in the house, giving my community a chance to open our arms and our home
- Kilkenny day trip to welcome the first day of spring
- Greeting my sister, friend, and cousin in the airport upon their arrival to Ireland
- Driving on the other side of the road for the first time
- Looking up to find the dome of stars that aligned the sky so clearly while in Connemara
- Explaining the Eucharist to my second class students
- Receiving hand picked daffodils from our friend’s garden
- Finding the sound system already set up upon my arrival to mass last night (thank you, Alex!)
- Finding a counter of fresh tea leaves in Galway (make your way to the Secret Garden if you’re ever there)
- Learning how to make Alfredo sauce for the first time (thanks, Megan!)
- An unexpected phone call from a friend from home
- An extended dinner with Bernadette and Peter while the others were away (thanks for the company (: !)
- Receiving questions from the second class students, one of my favorites being “If God could have chosen to be anywhere in the world, why did He choose Wexford?”
- Perfect, warm weather yesterday
- The opportunity to serve our community throughout the upcoming Triduum this week
Patience and practice are the hardest, most essential parts of transformation in thanksgiving. I have to be willing to make this transition to notice any change. I don’t expect myself to master this practice any time soon, but I’m looking forward to building my trust and thus my faith in God by honoring and giving Him a bit more credit than I have in the past. Here’s to trying to live a full life by giving praise.
“And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.”
Hoping each of you has a blessed and fruitful Holy week! Please pray for us!
In Christ, Madeline