“Joy,” says Richard Wagamese, “is a spiritual engagement with the world based on gratitude. It’s not the big things that make me grateful and bring me joy. It’s more the glory of the small” (Embers: One Obijway’s Meditations, 140).
As Canadian Thanksgiving approached last weekend, I wondered what it would be like for me. For my journey with cancer took an unexpected turn a couple weeks earlier.
A scheduled scan showed that my chemo pill continues to be effective below the neck. However, some new lesions became visible in my brain. This necessitated a five-day course of palliative whole brain radiation, ending the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
So we’ve embarked on a new stage of my journey with cancer. Yet in the midst of it all, I’ve witnessed myself living in the “glory of the small.” Grace Unmistakable has found me during recent days and especially recent steroid-fueled nights. These are still the days of miracle and wonder, which leave me grateful for lucidity.
Richard Wagamese asserts that “what defines me is not what I do but what I receive, and I have received in great measure” (155). Here are ten gifts I have recently received, which together embody for me Grace Unmistakable.
Gift #1: Visits during this period by three sets of old friends from afar, bringing chicken soup, new hymn arrangements for listening, and medical knowledge.
Gift #2: Steroid-fueled energy to get some things done, such as collecting books to donate to spiritual directors and beginning pastors, and fixing a box of sermons, books and files to send to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario.
Gift #3: Increasing colour bursts outside our condo windows, with brilliant orange and golden leaves now dotting the cityscape.
Gift #4: A brightened sky after the rain, calling me to a lovely walk in Rockway Garden across the street, which still looks amazingly good.
Gift #5: A wonderful church service on Thanksgiving Sunday for all ages, with rousing singing. A self-possessed middler sings two verses of For the Beauty of the Earth, one of my favorite hymns.
Gift #6: Thanksgiving dinner with friends, followed by backyard entertainment involving chickens and growing boys.
Gift #7: Members of groups I’m in, making accommodations that enable me to participate with the energy levels I now have. The sense of inclusion and caring is wonderful.
Gift #8: Finding the music CD of my farewell service at Waterloo North Mennonite Church in 2005, thus adding two tracks to one of my nighttime play lists. The rendition of Great Is Thy Faithfulness by two skilled pianists on two grand pianos makes me smile, reminding me of my Aunt Esther’s most joyful, animated piano playing. The Bach Chorale Sheep Shall Safely Graze settles me in God’s care.
Gift #9: Lighting a long-burning tea light candle in front of the icon of the Holy Trinity, which I keep in one of my alternate sleeping/resting places. Each time I open my eyes during the night, I gaze at that glow illuminating the Trinity. I feel myself part of the circle, directly facing Jesus. (See blog #32:The Icon of the Old Testament Trinity). This comforts me in the night and my spirit sings.
Gift #10: Receiving this verse, which comes to me one night and feels true and right: “So we are not depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day” (2 Corinthians 4:16, CEB).
I cannot control the future. I can revel in and be grateful for “the glory of the small.” I can embrace these days of miracle and wonder. I can take each day and night as it comes, in gratitude.
I touch and trust Grace Unmistakable.
Questions for Reflection:
- How has Grace Unmistakable found you during difficult times?
- Which gifts of the season and of your community are you receiving with joy and gratitude?
Next week: A New Book!