As always, a new year begins again. And I am still reflecting on one particular Christmas letter. Initially, I was caught off guard by the authenticity of the young woman I met several years ago and spent time with before she moved to another state. Moreover, I am inclined to keep her letter at the ready to receive the gift of inspiration for my own practice of what the apostle Paul’s encourages in three short verses of 1st Thessalonians:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. vs.16-18
The following is a portion of the letter (I left out their names and the place). I invite you to consider how you would adjust to unfamiliar living circumstances.
We are entering our 4th year of living here! I still rely way too much on GPS to get around, and I am constantly surprised when I make it to my intended destination! (Honestly, this happened in California too! HaHa!) The weather still keeps us guessing daily, but the predictability of the season changes is just so magical to us. The crisp winters, the awakening of spring, lush green summers, and my favorite – the colors of fall! Seriously, it looks like the most amazing confetti when the leaves hit the ground! I sound just like a travel brochure don’t I!!?!…We do miss everyone in California, but I guess you can say we really have hit our stride this past year. Isn’t it amazing how life can surprise you like that? In 2020 we actually didn’t think we would last another year here. We realized that our original vision of what our life would be like here did not match reality. This was a hard realization, but we both decided we were going to change our thinking and adopt an “attitude of gratitude” for our space and surroundings. Well, here we are Happier!
I am amazed by this couple’s year long adoption of an “attitude of gratitude.” Most often I create a long list for whom and what I have deep gratitude. But this couple was grateful for one thing all year: the space and surroundings of their new home. It was intentional. It was life-giving. And like any spiritual practice, I am sure they had to do as Benedict of Nursia reminds us:
Always we begin again.
This is a new way to begin again. Simplifying the practice of gratitude by giving thanks for one “thing” at a time be it a person, place, thing or even a pandemic can be life-giving. And I am convinced it includes being generous and gracious with ourselves to “always begin again” with the hope that we will be happier and even rejoicing always!
If you are a spiritual director or in spiritual direction, consider how simplifying gratitude might be incorporated into your spiritual directions sessions?