It has taken me 49 years to get here. To this place of real gratitude. My soul has been empty, searching, lonely and dry. PARCHED. For most of my life I have been dehydrated at the soul level and now it is time to let God rehydrate me.
Seven years ago I pushed God away. It started with upheaval and then turned into a movement, not completely away from God, but was a distancing from Him and a removal from His love by my choice. Fear pushed me there, as it always does. I did not trust God. I did not trust His outcomes.
I am scared to trust God and always have been. As I small girl I remember waiting for the next shoe to drop. When would God punish me again? That was my relationship with God for many years.
When my parents got divorced in 1978 divorce was not common. Friends left me, I was ashamed, I was heartbroken and I assumed that God was punishing me. I was not worthy of goodness. There was a gaping hole in my soul and I tried to fill it with many things. At first it was a sport – tennis. Tennis consumed the life of my family and I let it consume me. That was safer than feeling the emptiness inside. By the time I arrived at The University of Virginia in 1983 I was ripe for an explosion. Alcohol, drugs, and men consumed me and I willingly let them. I felt no pain that way. I could not feel the hole when was I was drunk or high or in love.
Then a miracle happened in my life. I got sober. I am an alcoholic and addict. I have been sober for 27 years, by the grace of God. Looking back I can see that God intervened, but in 1987 I saw it as helping myself. “Hi, my name is Helen and I am an alcoholic.” Those powerful words were the beginning of a process of letting go of my myself and my wrong living and heading towards God. But at the time I called Him “a higher power.”
A second miracle happened in 1987 – I met my future husband in an AA meeting. I dated a lot of “bad boys.” They did not treat me with respect or dignity. I could not help myself , for years bad love was better than no love. My husband was different from those other guys. When I met him he could see the good side of me that I could not see. It was if he could see my soul. He treated me with respect and true love. This was an eye-opening and new experience. After our first date I called a good friend to tell her I had met the man I would marry. We were married on October 21, 1989 in the Episcopal church.
We both grew up as Episcopalians. My family was nominally Episcopalian, my husband’s family members were practicing Episcopalians. In fact his father was a minister in the church. We went to various Episcopal churches for 6 years. By the end of those years we were both unhappy with the direction of the church and her lack of doctrinal teaching and structure. My husband began to explore the Catholic church and we entered RCIA (rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) in 1995. Our first son was born in November 1995 and we were received into the Catholic church at Easter 1996.
I began a 19 year process of trying to understand the Catholic church and her teachings, her sacraments, and her liturgies. I attended bible studies, book clubs, seminars and in fact was a speaker at many of these. My family was active in our parish and we were faithful Mass goers. My faith was growing, but I was still not fulfilled. Somehow I was missing something. I was a stay at home mom raising three children in a God centered family (our second son was born in April 1997 and our daughter in June 2000). But many of my days were frantic and I was anxious. I was unable to find God’s peace. Looking back I can see the bountiful blessings that God bestowed upon us, but in the moment I was often ungrateful and surly. I wanted more. I did not know what more was – but whatever it was that’s what I wanted. Everyone else’s life seemed better than mine.
I was chasing security and contentment and I could not find it. I remember thinking “when will life quiet down and just be normal?” “When will there be a point where I am not worried or waiting for trouble?” Every little blip made me jump and react wildly. There were points on this journey where I had moments or even days of being “up on the mountain” with God, for I was pursing Him with a passion. But I have never been able to find daily joy. I see it in others but have been unable to find it myself.
In August of 2014 the theme of gratitude starting popping up everywhere. I began to think back to my early days in AA and remembered writing gratitude lists. I thought “ok I just need to remember to be grateful.” I even wrote a few lists of things I was thankful for. But without a daily routine of gratitude I could not get my arms around what it means to live with a thankful heart.
I was at my therapist’s office in September and we discussed me trying to figure out what I would do with the rest of my life after my children are grown and out of the nest. A common theme for many women my age. She asked me if I had tried praying daily to specifically ask God to show me direction and purpose. She pointed out that I might not get a quick answer but I would have the posture of openness. I began to do this and was surprised at when the pressure of trying to figure out everything for myself began to lessen. I decided not to worry about the outcome, but instead enjoy the journey. As I open myself to God what I see around me is much different when I am purposefully trying to be thankful and not greedy. I don’t yet see where the path will lead, but I do the see path.
Through reading a blog post about a young woman with cancer I ended up on the blog A Holy Experience. I picked up the blog author’s book one thousand gifts. I began to realize that being truly thankful means thanking God in every situation, not just the situations whose outcomes we like. But thanking Him for everything in our lives good and bad, and knowing that his Grace will bring us through anything.
So it has taken me 49 years to get to this point of being able to be truly thankful. Not just for blessings but for all that life is, good and bad. This blog will be my journey into daily living with a thankful heart. It will be a place to share the process of what it is like to live an intentionally thankful life. Please join me on this journey. On the way stories will be told, secrets will be revealed, places of hurt will be healed and joy will be shared. In sharing there is power and love. God is inviting us daily to take his hand and walk in the garden of gratitude. There we can find peace and solitude, heavenly companionship and joy. Come with me into the garden.