This is the time of year where these little challenge things come out of the FB woodwork. I am not sure if they are quite contests or programs or little experiments or just things people do.
Recently I have noticed a few friends doing something called “30 Days of Gratitude” No negative comments from me. I am a fan of gratitude. I don’t think we see enough of it and I am fairly sure that I do not express it as I should.
While I fully support my friends who are doing this, I am not. It is not that I am ungrateful, it is that I feel inadequate in my words, to express fully how I feel. I am not entirely sure how to put into words what is in my heart. It is not a place I visit often. It is a place that is guarded by jokes and lightness and banter, to protect something more personal.
It seems here in 2015 that we find ourselves surrounded by attitude more than gratitude. We hear a lot about “my rights” and not so much about “my responsibilites.” I didn’t hear about rights when I was growing up. I heard about responsibilities and priveleges and how the two were directly interrelated. I did not enjoy getting up before the roosters to build a fire in the kitchen stove, bundle up in the dark and go out to mix milk replacer for our calves, climb into the hay loft and throw down bales of hay and straw, clean soiled bedding, chip out frozen water troughs and feed the waiting and rather noisy horde. I didn’t enjoy it on Christmas, or birthdays or when I was sick. I didn’t enjoy it when my best friend, Belinda Imhoff would drive her pony over and tell me she was going to help bale hay, which everyone knows is totally the best job ever because you get to ride on the wagon and play on top of the hayrick. But I had to stay home to pick weeds out of the cornfield…. by hand… acre after acre after acre. Which everyone knew was the worst job because it was SO boring! I would grumble about animals needing roughage and weeds were perfectly acceptable roughage! I might add that I made sure that the grumbling was done well under my breath!
I didn’t like those things. I didn’t see the lesson or a foundation being built. But I am grateful.
I am grateful for the hard things in my life, which is a very different thing from liking them. I do not enjoy the struggles of pain or hurt or hardship. I am grateful not because I am wise or strong or courageous. I am not. I am grateful simply because I choose to be. To be clear and honest, I have not always been grateful. I am no saint and I can write my own indictment for all my faults and failings. Make me out to be nothing more than I am, a daughter of the dirt; very plain, very simple, and very flawed.
I am grateful for pain that has made me more compassionate. I am grateful for weakness that has shown me that strength is more than just physical. Weakness and strength are not mutually exclusive and not always the opposites we see. Uncertainty is a mountain and a monster. It casts our lives in shadow… if we allow it. It is a difficult thing for which to be grateful. But I have tried (and on many occasions, failed) to choose to be grateful for the question marks that lie before me. It has allowed me the choice to relinquish control …. control that was never meant to be mine in the first place. Relinquishing control is not the same as giving up. It is the choice to put my life in the hands of the God that I said (with words) I always trusted. Now is where the words meet the actions. I am grateful.
This is where this post lists off center. This is where my awkward leaks out a little. I can effectively express feeling and emotion in the third person and I often do so to protect myself. But some things, like gratitude to an individual, need to be first person; hand to hand, face to face, heart to heart. I find all of those things hard, not because I am so emotionless or cold that I am incapable of feeling, but precisely because the little group of people to whom this post is addressed mean so very very much to me. More, in fact, than written words will ever be able to adequately describe. It is being exposed and vulnerable… that too, is a choice.
Words come, often, somewhat easily to me. Sometimes far more easily than they should! I read a lot, I have a fairly wide ranging and ecclectic vocabulary and I like the spin of a story cleverly told, of words carefully woven together. But in this post, I sit here completely at a loss. How many times in the last few days have I shaken my head in disbelief.
On Monday evening I received a text from my friend Erin Sisson. I knew she was having her Andalusian mare, Aurora, trained by Mark and Miranda and was going to ride her for the first time in 5-6 weeks. She was excited and I was excited for her. We joked and talked about what it was going to be like and since I knew that she and Miranda would be together, it was no great surprise that she mentioned calling or Facetime or Skype.
After working through the normal difficulties of technology, I heard that Skype tone that is so unique and familiar (and I might mention, annoying?).
I clicked accept and the first face I saw was Mark’s. I was thrilled, thinking he might not be there with them. There we were, 4 crazies crowded around our cold little distant pieces of technology; laughing and smiling. It made me miss them so much more. There is an ache that is worse than any physical pain, and it comes from longing to see friends that you hold ever in your mind and heart, but rarely within your physical grasp. It is almost indescribable and any small dim picture of their face, hearing their voice, seeing them smile and laugh, is so amazingly good that words simply fail.
Earlier that day Mark and I had joked back and forth. He said he was sending me a surprise. The very first thought when I read his remark was, “If only it was THEM, not a thing. I don’t want any THING, I want my friends.” But I ruthlessly banished that thought, because it seemed so unlikely and so far away, and frankly, it was painful. So we joked and laughed and I buried the hope.
Yet, there he was, telling me that he was sharing his wife with me for a couple days.
Why? Over and over, after we hung up, that question filled my mind. Why would they do this? All three are business owners. All three are busy and have more important matters to attend. I had done nothing to deserve this. They weren’t coming to train a horse or for a clinic or lessons and the more I wracked my brain for a reason, the more confused I became. Why?
When they got here they seemed genuinely happy to be here, not as though they felt they should be, but were truly having fun. Overwhelming.
Gratitude is more than just liking something. It is more than just thankfulness. I think it would be popularly acceptable to say that gratitude is the desire to repay a kindness. But there are some things that can never be repayed. How do you repay a friend? You can certainly do things for one another, but I have little of value that will benefit Mark or Miranda or Erin in any tangible way. The fact is we repay debts, but what they gave me was not a debt. It was a gift. Gifts are meant to be accepted and enjoyed. Something hard for me, and for many I think.
I go back to hearing that skype tone on my computer. Two choices you are given as that tone plays repeatedly …. waiting… You have to make a decision. The choice is yours.
It’s really that simple. To not decide, is to decide. If you abdicate, choose to not make a decision, you have chosen “decline.”
There are things that I can say only personally to these three, because they are for them alone. But I can say, that one of the greatest gifts that can be given is the redefinition of the word “friend.” I find it both unmistakable and incredibly hard to articulate. The depth and breadth of your friendship is overwhelming. Your commitment and faithfulness to me, someone who can offer you so little, speaks volumes.
I pray that God will grant me the time and ability to somehow express my gratitude, broken and faltering though that effort may be.
I click accept.