I was talking with a friend of mine the other day who remarked, “won’t it be interesting for you to look back at your blog after a full year?” The truth is, it’s rather difficult for me to imagine a time I wasn’t writing this blog, even though it hasn’t yet been a full year. It has been right around 9 months, actually, which is ironically the perfect gestational time frame for a something new to begin to take on a life of its own. I was thinking of her remark earlier today when I was pulling together the final version of this week’s Who is My Neighbor? media blog, the theme of which is gratitude for healing. That particular project is coming to a close in a couple weeks, and I was considering what the next iteration of inspiration would look like for my church community, and how I might integrate that here, in my personal blog space. It occurred to me how grateful I am to have rediscovered writing in my spiritual life. That thought has been percolating in me as I moved through my day. Just now, writing time found me. As, I have come to learn, it always will.
Truthfully, I began this blog serendipitously when the story of sneaking down into a dormitory basement to receive my first Lenten ashes was persistently and relentlessly on my mind last year on Ash Wednesday. I had declared a Lenten intention of nourishing my spirit as often as I nourished my body, but didn’t really have a well thought out plan for exactly what that “spirit feeding” might entail. But, plan or no plan, inspiration appeared and my words began to take form. By the end of that day, I had set up a blog and released the words of that story into the wider world. That “wider world” was probably one or two people on that day, but the point was really to set the story free not to count the numbers. During the nine months since, I have become familiar with the emergent process of my blog-writing as a way in which Spirit speaks through me. Blogging is very much a part of my spiritual practice.
Incidentally, blog-writing is completely different for me than the pattern of my academic writing, which is methodical, logically ordered, and sometimes even painstaking. Writing this blog is different, and inherently spiritual. As I move through my ordinary life, I feel my spirit being stirring to a thought, a memory, a story, a quote. This is my cue to allow myself to move into a time of stillness where that small inspiration takes on form and substance, and builds within me until I can find time (or time finds me) in order to allow the words to flow from me. Sometimes, my words rush faster than my fingers can type. Sometimes I pause, and breathe, and move away for just a bit until I can do a final read through. Sometimes I am so busy…but the story is so relentless…that I have to pause and allow it to flow at crazy, haphazard places or times. Sometimes the path of my story meanders and comes around to something which surprises and delights me, releasing a realization or insight which speaks to my own spirit. Admittedly, everything I write still requires my final editorial review before publishing. After all, I am a human being who likes run-on sentences, and for whom auto-correct cannot be trusted. Some things are a constant in the writing life.
What does all of this have to do with my attitude of gratitude? Everything. I am astounded by what these past months have meant to me in growth spiritually, interpersonally, professionally. When I revisit this blog and the posts I have written, what I feel is gratitude. Deep, overwhelming, life-altering gratitude. I have been through some challenging times over the years, and I have had amazingly beautiful moments, too. I have companioned others through their own difficult moments, and celebrated their successes. I have written down stories and experiences I have shared and also hold in my heart a whole series of stories that have not yet flowed from me but will, when the moment is right. Not a day goes by when there is not a small point of light, or a present and persistent reminder of divine love and grace just waiting for me to take notice. I don’t lead a charmed life, nor do I lead a blighted one. I simply live a life with highs and lows and lots of moments in-between. But, the life I lead is rich with gratitude for lessons learned, gifts bestowed, wisdom outpouring from friends and strangers. The more deeply I live, the more I am called to live deeply.
As I casually browsed my blog archives earlier today, I started to create a list of the people I wanted to thank for their roles on my journey. Then, I considered all the people I have yet to mention, all the stories that have not yet spilled out, and all the small points of light yet to emerge. I realized that saying thanks would be insufficient. This is really a blog about gratitude; gratitude for the ordinary that becomes the extraordinary. Gratitude is different than thanks. When I think about saying thanks, I consider “thank you” my direct response to something specifically done for me; “thank you for the gift”; “thanks for taking care of the hedgehog while I was away.” Thanks is important, necessary, and appreciated. Gratitude is “thanks plus” in my mind. It makes us aware of not only those things of which we are thankful, but also those daily actions which could so easily be dismissed or overlooked. Gratitude brings us directly into to the awareness of the gifts already around us, taking the form of our lives. Gratitude is an attitude to be intentionally cultivated.
What I couldn’t possibly have realized on that day I wrote my first blog entry was how much I would be transformed by this writing and by others’ responses to it. For that, I am grateful beyond words. I have been healed by the conversations that have emerged with people who read this blog, even those who knew me fairly well to begin with. I treasure the fact that my father printed off every one of my Lenten blogs and made a book. I treasure reconnection with friends and family with whom certain stories I write resonate over time. I am grateful for every conversation that begins with, “I was reading your blog….” because those conversations take whatever thoughts I was having and push them even further into another person’s experience. That shared encounter transforms us both. I am grateful there are people I don’t even know who may be inspired by this writing, and that keeps me focused on the role of Spirit as central to my writing process. Not only is divine spirit present when I am writing, but also after I hit “publish” and allow the words to travel freely to other people in other places. I trust Spirit to guide that journey. Last, but not least, from writing and sharing my words and stories, I have experienced healing in places where I had not even realized there were still wounds. I have myself been immersed and transformed by the divine grace of which I so often write.
So, today, I am grateful. I am thankful for the inspiration and healing that has been a gift from my own writing. But more deeply, I am grateful for the journey of life and the spirit which allows and inspires me to write.
My attitude of gratitude, cultivated through this blog, is its own small point of light as I continue my journey.