A few weeks ago, when I was in Missouri, I was going through stacks of books. My parents basement has an entire closet that is full of boxes of my books. When I moved my space was limited, my destination uncertain, and so it seemed prudent to leave a lot of them in storage. Slowly and surely I’ve moved them…bit by bit, slower than I would like, but my space is still limited and my destination still uncertain…its just at this point I really WANT my books. So I’m bringing them westward, bit by bit. Sometimes when my parents come and visit (which brings them in the box full) and others, by means of carefully constructed packing techniques, which usually just means that I pack fewer clothing options than I would like, in order to allow space in my suitcase for more books on my return flight. Books trump clothes every time. Picking which books to bring feels like picking ice cream in a homemade ice cream shop, and only being able to have one scoop of one flavor, but wanting to try them all. So I agonize, rearrange, and contemplate the choices.
This summer my eyes happened to land on a small book, that I’d forgotten I owned. One I went through several years ago, in my mid-twenties. I remember enjoying it, but I hadn’t thought of it for some time; nonetheless, it kept creeping to the top of the stack. When picking which books to add to my suitcase, I generally prioritize books that I own, but for whatever reason, I hadn’t gotten around to reading them while I was in Missouri. I don’t usually prioritize books that I’ve already read once, liked, and kept as reference. But this one kept speaking to me, every time I looked at it, and so into the suitcase it went. When I returned to the PNW I still wasn’t thinking about it, but it kept sending messages to me to read it…no really, I feel like it was calling my name from the bookshelf. And so, because one can’t ignore talking books forever, I finally caved, and spent September reading through 31 days of Praise By Ruth Myers. The book is a devotional, arranged for 31 days (hints the title) of praising God through various verses. There is also an end part of the book that details benefits of, and ways to incorporate, praise in your life.
Envy seeps in, like food coloring in a bowl of water, and porous as I am, it clouds my clarity.
And so I’ve spent September thinking about praise, and how to include it into my life in a more regular way. I thought about it last Saturday while I was hiking through Mount Rainier National Park. I met a lady on the trail who was musing how blessed we were to be here. Blessed? Yes. And I forget about it. When I don’t intentionally set aside time to say how blessed I am, I get busy thinking about all the ‘have not’s’ in my life. The things I have not accomplished, the things I have not earned, the things I have not been given. And then I compare that list to the ‘they have that’ I see in other peoples lives. Envy seeps in, like food coloring in a bowl of water, and porous as I am, it clouds my clarity.
Praise always feels like it has a super spiritual sound to it; it’s a loaded, hyped word in Christianese-land, and doing it usually feels more spiritual than I feel. But really in a way, I think it’s simply focused gratitude, and a way of exercising faith. A way to say, I believe my life is going to work out…in the long run… even on days when I don’t see the evidence for that, or understand the big picture. It’s about appreciating the process. And trusting the grand weaver knows what He’s doing.
I completed the 31 days on the first of October, and interestingly I’m thinking the book may warrant a third reading. I’m not done learning about this practice of gratitude, in fact I think I may simply be beginning. And in the days of transition, when things are still birthing, when envy is too easy to perpetuate, I think in these days particularly, praise is my defense. And I can do this even when I feel less than, I can do this even when I feel the ‘have not’s,’ and I can do this even when the big picture is impossible to make out.
So cultivating my heart seems important right now. Perhaps it’s the only thing I can do…perhaps it’s the only thing we really ever control.
I’m not sure what victories it will bring in the long term, or the short term, but we are most ourselves in the quiet times, and the quiet places, in our own hearts where no human eyes can see. But if the roots are strong, the fruits will come…eventually. And so cultivating my heart seems important right now. Perhaps it’s the only thing I can do…perhaps it’s the only thing we really ever control. And so I do what I can do, and I release myself from figuring out what I cannot do. And I believe that all this will work out, eventually. Someday, farther along, I will see; we will all see.