everything a gift

Here we are in a new year.  It feels not entirely different than the last one, though it seems we convince ourselves that experience can be separated into periods of time like things can be organized neatly in boxes, rather than running all together, the messy and lovely intertwined and complicated at once.  I say that, but I appreciate the opportunity to reflect and look forward at a particular point and I enjoy the metaphors about turning pages and fresh starts and blank spaces to fill.  At the top of every year, I engage in a pretty serious practice of reflection and goal-setting for the months ahead that seems to work for me.  Reflecting helps to make sense of what the last year taught me and clarifies my thinking about the coming year.  

The most important part of this practice is the prayer or theme that develops and guides my perspective in the next twelve months.  I alluded to my prayer for 2020 recently when I mentioned open hands and what God taught me about the capacity to accept and give and the grace that allows me to do that at all.  Countless times I looked back on something that happened in a way I did not expect, or even resented in the moment, only to realize sometimes months later what a blessing it turned out to be.  I caught myself saying aloud or under my breath or in prayer, "what a gift" and it was true about so many things.  Even when I did not see the goodness or purpose in what happened, God surely intended it, and by his grace I too came to see it once in a while.  

My prayer for this year, then, is that the conviction that everything is a gift, whether it comes wrapped up like one or not, would be more instantaneous, that my perspective would shift so that I am aware in the moment of how deep the relationship between the unexpected or unwanted and the blessing in everything is.  Last summer, I read Anne Lamott for the first time, an experience everyone should have, and one particular thing she wrote has helped frame this prayer for me: "it's like the faucets are already flowing before you even hold out your cup to be filled."  I struggle sometimes with the concept of abundance because it is rarely something I sense is true of me.  True abundance and fullness is of God, though, and so it is natural to feel that I am not enough or that my hands are empty and my energy only available in limited doses.  Only his fountain never runs dry.

I'm not sure how this prayer will work itself out, or how it will change the way I see and think.  That is the exciting and scary thing about this practice.  I've learned and still am learning to let go of any expectations and hold on tight.  Somehow I am always surprised, and that, I think, is the great adventure of following God, of letting him take the lead.  After all, it's his story, and in a shocking act of grace, he invites us to be a part.

(If you couldn't tell from these pictures, in Indiana seeing the sun during winter is a pretty big deal.)

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