I read other people's blogs. I print out what they write and glue it into my journal. I read magazines. I watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and even subject myself to Fox News for 90 seconds at a time - all in an effort to find out what is happening in the world out there. Mostly, the news is bad, sad, and heart-breaking.
After wiping the tears from my eyes, I promise myself: I've gotta get serious about this writing thing. I need to tell tougher stories. I need to confront bullies and blowhards. I need to set the record straight on mental illness, faith, women's issues, politics, race issues, war, peace, homeschooling, breastfeeding, prayer, marriage, the environment, parenting, travel, journaling, the institutional church, and other small issues like these.
Vatican City, 2008
War sucks. So do poverty, hunger, sexual slavery and drug addiction. The economy in this nation and all around the world is faltering. People are losing their jobs, their homes, and their dignity every day. Those without medical insurance are forced to go to emergency rooms for assistance or to live with constant pain, creeping infections, and advancing diseases without relief. I have no idea what it feels like to send my children to school and not be sure if I'll be able to pick them up later for fear of deportation, but I know people who do know what that feels like. There are personal stories, individual stories that need to be told, that must be told. And I tell myself that I ought to be the one who tells these stories.
I keep trying to get my act together and be a more consistent, more important, more widely-read blogger telling serious stories about serious topics. I keep on trying to go deeper and be deeper.
But I keep coming back to the same place and the same topic: gratitude.
I am so doggone grateful for every good and perfect gift, every bowl of soup, every slice of bread, every cup of tea, every cookie, every roll of glue tape, every morning that I wake up with the roof still suspended above my cozy bed, every cup of pumpkin-spice flavored coffee, every push-up, every Tae-Bo inspired side kick, every Monday Night Football game, every conversation I have with my kids and my husband, every safe flight and car ride, and every keystroke on my computer, iPad, and blackberry.
Myrtle Beach, 2011
I am grateful for the changing colors of autumn, the clear blue sky overhead, the chirping of birds, the scampering of chipmunks, and the easy smiles my neighbors cast in my direction.
I am grateful for Staples, Cheap Joe's Art Supplies, Good Will Stores, Omega Sports, Rack Room Shoes, Michael's, and Barnes and Noble. I am grateful for gas stations, dry cleaners, shoe repair shops, bakeries, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, construction workers, the people who stock supermarket shelves, the truck drivers that move products and produce all over the country, and hotel cleaning staff.
I am grateful for the Bible stories of the woman with the twelve-year issue of blood, the prodigal son, the midwives who let Moses live, Rahab, Esther, Ruth, Bathsheba, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Jesus. I am grateful for the imperfections in David, Solomon, Moses, Jacob, Elijah, Jonah, Peter, Judas, Miriam, Delilah, Jezebel, and Martha. I am grateful for how frequently I find my own story embedded in the stories of the Scriptures I hold dear.
I am grateful for my family - my husband, my children, my nieces and nephews, my brothers, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my mother and father, and the deceased grandparents I never knew. (Happy birthday, Lizzie. Make tomorrow a fantastic day!!! I wish I could be with you to celebrate your amazing, courageous, inspirational, musical life. You rock, girl. You absolutely ROCK!)
I am deeply loved, fondly remembered, and frequently hugged. The faces of my loved ones, the stories they tell me of their lives, the memories we share - I am overwhelmed with goodness, kindness, wonder, love, grace, and joy.
I do not mean to imply that all is perfectly well, because it's not.
I have very little contact with most of my family members.
I struggle with loneliness and the fear of being forgotten.
I wonder what I did wrong anytime someone doesn't respond to an email or text.
I worry about the bumps on my face and the dry patches on my legs.
I wonder if I'll ever lose what Anne Lamott refers to as "the fanny pack of flesh" that childbearing deposited just below my belly button.
I am reluctant to do breast self-exams for fear of finding a lump.
I wish we had more money in savings and six-figure bonuses coming in every year.
I wonder what we would do if a natural disaster destroyed our home or if the bank my husband works for went bankrupt.
I hope no one I love ever dies, not even our dog.
The "what ifs" wash over me in waves sometimes.
I keep trying to stop worrying and let go of my fears.
I keep trying to write better, to write more frequently, and to write deeper stuff.
The truth is that we have more than enough money for the life we live and enough food in the pantry to feed us for quite a while.
I am in excellent health and always have been.
I'm almost 47 years old; bumps on my face, dry skin here and there, and a couple of inches of soft flesh around my midsection are badges of courage and medals of honor.
No marriage is perfect, but I'm enjoying mine more now than I have in years. And I realize that my previous lack of enjoyment was no one's responsibility to resolve but mine.
(A deer walked across the front lawn as I wrote the last sentence.)
I haven't done anything wrong; some people just don't want to be in contact with me anymore. Their loss, not mine.
I write just fine, just enough, and just what I need to write. I'm gonna let the deeper folks write deeper stuff. I will stick with my gratitude, my contentment, and my deep love for the rich blessings of the life that I have been given.
Life, with all its attendant mishaps and misunderstandings,
with its disappointments and failures,
with its alienation and isolation,
with its dashed expectations and unfulfilled dreams,
with its too-frequent moments when we say,"good-bye,"
and too-infrequent times when we say, "I love you,"
life is a gift.
And I am enormously grateful.
A statue outside the children's library here in Charlotte