“Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleuia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight” (Joan Chittister).
Thanksgiving Day will be lonely and uneventful for many Americans this year. The loss of cherished traditions and relationships at a time when we are already emotionally depleted seems to be more than we can bear. In a post on the blog The Reformed Journal – The Twelve, Wes Granberg-Michaelson describes our current malaise beautifully:
Let’s face it. We’ve been living in a sea of tumult. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted whatever “normal” may have meant. Life and death choices have greeted us each morning, deciding whether to leave the house, buy groceries, pick up a prescription, have coffee with a friend, or stay secluded inside with those we love, which sometimes tests that love. Now, when we’re all suffering from COVID fatigue, it has come roaring back, following us even into our quiet, indoor gatherings with a few friends and family.
This virus has attacked our trust, our confidence, and for some, our faith. Even if healthy, it has left us depleted. . . . Breathing air for months that is biologically and politically poisoned, while facing winds of righteous anger, has left us all breathless. We’re exhausted emotionally, politically, and spiritually. Our inner resources seem sucked dry. We’re all gasping for air, which, as we’ve witnessed, can be fatal. We thirst, panting for living springs. We hunger, longing for the bread of life (Reformed Journal : The Twelve blog).
Granberg-Michaelson goes on to recommend that “It’s time for us to take a step back, to detach from the frantic and frenetic tumult that has swept over our society, and re-center our souls.”
Like everyone else, I have been facing the “frenetic tumult” that Granberg-Michaelson describes. My experience has been complicated by the recent death of my husband. I don’t want to “stuff” my grieving nor do I want to be buried with it. Recently, I received two totally unexpected gifts from two different people: a stunning autumn floral arrangement in a basket and a sympathy card with a gift card of $25. These gifts totally changed my outlook that day. I went from sadness to gratitude – and stayed that way the entire day.
In the quote at the beginning of this post, Joan Chittister describes gratitude as an “alleluia point,” a reminder that we grow from dark experiences as well as happy ones. Reflecting on my change in mood and outlook described in the anecdote above, I decided that my “step back” would be collecting and celebrating my alleluia points in a gratitude journal.
I wish that I had begun this journal when my husband became so sick; it took me a while to broadly document all the instances when joy entered my life from the outside world during his last few months and after his death. But now that the habit is firm, I eagerly look for the moments of gratitude that enter my life and record them in my journal. In another version of celebrating alleluia points, I now have a tradition every Sunday of reviewing the dozens of sympathy cards that I have gotten since Fred’s death. Every week a different verse of scripture strikes me or a lovely note on the card warms my heart or the beauty of a drawing or photo on the card catches my attention.
The Thanksgiving season, the Christmas holidays, even the beginning of a new year can either bring us down or can fill us with gratitude – or both. Perhaps a gratitude journal will brighten these dark days for you and yours, including your children or grandchildren.