I acquired a painting recently.
At first, the canvas seemed nothing more than a simple reminder of my grandmother who created it. The plain wood frame, decades old and dust-covered, did nothing to enhance the art or make me want to hang it anywhere prominent.
After wiping the dust away, I removed the brown frame and took the print to a frame shop. I placed a couple different frames around it, but none seemed to do it justice, until I tried a plain black frame.
Suddenly, the creamy lilies popped off the canvas. Deep olives and greens of lily pad leaves flloated on the water, white speckles of painted of sunlight reflecting off their edges. Inky shadows under the water nearly moved with intensity. I felt like I was wading in the sun-dappled creek, the lily stems stroking my bare feet and legs.
In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp relates intense, personal stories of lives lost, the daily physical and financial hardships of keeping a family farm afloat, and the joy and pain of raising six children. Near lost in the intensity and constant swirling stress of her life, Voskamp decides to choose to be thankful in the midst of whatever hardship comes her way, sibling rivalry, threats of foreclosure, even the trauma of losing a child. She dedicated a blog to this practice, which challenged readers to seek out and track gifts, or blessings, they might not notice otherwise in the course of their busy days.
“. . . Every where we look we only see all that isn’t: holes, lack, deficiency . . . I hunger for filling in a world that is starved,” writes Voskamp.
Don’t we all? Especially as winter gray and long struggles toward spring.
In the 1990’s, Oprah made gratefulness a fad, introducing gratefulness journals to the public with the challenge to write down five things you’re grateful for at the end of each day.
There’s even an app for the practice of gratefulness. Called the Gratitude Journal, the i-Phone application provides users with custom fonts, bullets, and image frames, inspirational quotes, photo uploading and other capabilities to inspire and track your gratefulness.
Whatever form or method used, gratefulness has a way of reframing the mundane, even hopelessness, of life.
Gratefulness can be small . . .
. . . like the fact the washing machine worked one more day; your toddler napped for a whole hour; or, you spied the pointed leaf of a crocus pushing up out of your flower bed.
Gratefulness can be big . . .
. . . like when hospital test results come back clear; you reconcile with a rebellious teenager; or, you finally got the job.
Today, I hold my hands up to my face, first finger and thumb in the shape of an “L.”
Life reframed, the white gleam of love reflects off the edges and the sweet smell of blessings rises, fresh and clear, like lily pads floating to the top of a murky pond.
Gratefulness entwines around the prickles on worn and weary hearts, smoothing and pullling us to live fully again.