On Tuesday morning I woke up to a gorgeous display of hoarfrost on the trees outside our 10th floor condo windows.
Such displays always surprise me – and send me to the obscure book of Ecclesiasticus. As part of a long list, the writer exclaims:
“Over the earth, like salt, he [God] also pours hoarfrost, which, when it freezes, bristles like thorns….We could say much more and still fall short; to put it concisely, ‘He is all.’” (Ecc. 43: 19, 27)
The beauty of hoarfrost ushered in my day on Tuesday with gratitude.
That stance of gratitude was reinforced for me recently in an article written by my high school classmate Marty Kolb-Wyckoff. Two different people sent me her article, Living with Loss, from the Fall 2018 issue of New Horizons (a publication of the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, Pa.)
Loss presents itself to us in a myriad of ways. For Marty, it’s most apparent in the ongoing dimming of her eyesight, caused by a defective gene which has been rife in her family.
“How,” she asks, “do I live with some sense of meaning while continuing to lose function and ability?” It’s a significant question for many of us.
Marty names three behaviors which she has found helpful:
- “Face the challenges presented by the loss. Acknowledge the hurt, the pain, the disappointment, the grief, the sadness – whatever the feelings are that result from the loss.”
- “Find new opportunities…we need to see beyond the loss to something new, to that which can give us meaning and joy in ways we have not experienced before.”
- “Focus on today…One way I seek to live in the ‘now’ is to pay attention to all that I am grateful for.”
It strikes me that the three behaviors Marty suggests are ones I’ve tried to embrace in my journey with cancer.
I’ve grieved the loss of independence in surrendering my driver’s license. I’ve grieved closing down my spiritual direction practice. It was sad to resign from co-leading a fiction reading group at the women’s prison. I’ve grieved having to eat ever so carefully in restaurants and in people’s homes. I miss being “in the loop.”
Yet I’ve also found new opportunities to engage in spiritual (and other!) conversation with blog readers. I’ve enjoyed learning more about our multi-cultural city by riding the city bus. I’ve delighted in connecting in various ways with friends old and new, as energy permits.
And I find that on many days, gratitude wells up of its own accord. It’s not always as obvious as opening the blinds and seeing hoarfrost. Gratitude can come as a response to a difficult but honest conversation with a medical professional. It can arise when I’m reading a really satisfying novel or memoir, or during an e-mail exchange with someone I haven’t seen for a while. Gratitude can overwhelm me when a Psalm or an icon or a song on my playlist really connects for me.
On many days, I’m quietly rejoicing with the writer of Psalm 138:3:
“On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.” (NRSV)
And on days when my “strength of soul” feels weak, I remember that wonderful assurance from Romans:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26 NRSV).
…And always – no matter what else is going on – I delight in hoarfrost!
Questions for Reflection:
- What natural occurrence – whether hoarfrost or something else – causes gratitude and delight to well up in you?
- In a loss you are undergoing now or have in the past, how do you receive Marty’s three behaviors for living with loss?
Next week: TBA
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