about counting gifts out loud
The journal was a gift from my parents; the cover black, like pitch, like a blind dark day. Butterflies explode from the corner, brilliant blue, buttery gold, every size, hundreds of them by surprise, overwhelming all that flat emptiness. I run my fingers over the raised edges of their wings, feeling the fine lines, the smooth, light-bouncing gloss. Flipping open to a fresh page, I grab the next number, circle, and start:
520. long walks with Kevin
521. that my children still *want* me to go with them to parent’s night at school
“Who’re your children?” Riley says. Her spoon dings against the yogurt bowl in front of her.
“Well now, you tell me. Who’re my children?” I didn’t know she was paying attention. Anxiety haunts Riley at breakfast; just the memory of it makes her eat on high alert, with painstaking slowness.
She smiles, a wide, knowing smile that turns to laughter. “Me and Adam and Zoe.”
I return the smile and turn back to the page.
522. good hugs
523. real encouragement
“What’re you doing?”
I put down the pen, giving Riley my full attention but itching to add just one more—that she’s asking me these questions. “I’m making a list of things I’m thankful for.”
“What are you thankful for, Mom Jones?”
I read her the list, letting my finger drift down the page. There’s something about counting gifts out loud, about sharing my blessings, that seems to give them wings and make them soar. I look at Riley, finger stilling, and she’s bright. I don’t know if it’s the morning light or the acknowledgment of grace, because the light in her seems to pour. Is it possible that spoken gratitude multiplies? Does it split and bend, like light? Could my counted gifts seed as recognition, as new gifts, where ever they fly?
“What are you thankful for?” I ask because I can see the fullness of her answer glinting already.
“I’m thankful for all sorts of things,” Riley says immediately. “For all sorts of things, Mom Jones.” She picks up her spoon, disinclined to continue. I feel suddenly starved for her voice.
“Do you want to share some of them with me? Or would you rather not talk so much while you’re eating?” She’s always so afraid she’ll choke.
“I’d rather not talk while I’m eating,” she says, and I’m not surprised. When Riley eats, there’s only eating. In fact, her questions this morning bind up three gifts in one: that she loves broadly enough to want to know my heart too; that she can ask at all; and that it matters enough to her to ask during breakfast.
“Okay.” I smile to let her know it really is okay, and then I pick up my pen.
524. inspiration from *so many* others about how to love well
The last “l” barely dries on the page before Riley’s voice comes rushing. “Mom Jones, I’m SO thankful. I’m thankful for my family, for my school, for our church family; that we have a day off; that I get to see my friends…” She names friends specifically, another and another and another, adding reasons, gifts in them that are gifts also to her–kindness, humor, generosity. It occurs to me that our longest conversations—by far her longest sentences–are about gratitude. As she finishes, joy rises like a glittering tide. Yes. I’m pretty sure that our spoken gratitude multiplies. At least, it does right here, between mother and daughter, flooding the flat, blank day right in front of us.
“Do you still keep your thank you’s?” That’s what she calls her gratitude journal, her thank you’s, as though she carries her blessings, thick and rich and sticky, right in her hands.
“Yes, I do,” she says, a certainty, lilting happy at the end. The chair groans as she pushes back from the table, gathering her dishes, and I realize that this is the beginning of another thing between us, another golden thing weaving wonderful, this sharing of gifts. A good friend of mine once wondered out loud why it’s so much easier for us to openly share our complaints than our gratitude, just before asking a whole group of us to share blessings from the day, the week, the season. I had to think and think about what to share. I realize now the truth my friend suggested: I never have to practice to criticize or complain, but without practice, I forget how to give thanks. And the quieter I get about my blessings, the harder it is to share them. I used to be better at this. Something floats through my mind, a phrase, just some soul-echo, and I write it on the page below my list.
–the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God
I have to look up the reference, but there it is–2 Corinthians 4:15–grace, reaching more and more people; thanksgiving overflowing, bringing glory to God. The word translated glory carries connotations of wealth, like a treasure hoard. And God’s glory has this dynamic power; it’s an Indiana Jones melt-your-face-off kind of force that defies comprehension (Exodus 33:18-23). Just being near that glory is enough to leave a person radiant (Exodus 34:29-35). Word also says that as we contemplate God’s glory, we’re being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). So grace reaches me, grace reaches Riley, grace reaches you–grace in place of grace already given (John 1:16). And when thanksgiving overflows from our hearts into words—because all of our words are really just a heart-spill (Luke 6:45), witness to God’s glory gathers and builds and explodes bright on our faces, right through the blind dark day, bouncing light. There it is.
So shared treasure really is better than buried treasure. Gratitude we share glorifies God, because every good gift comes from Him (James 1:17).
I can see the answer building, so I’ll just ask right now, even before we make it to Thanksgiving:
What are you thankful for?