by Christine Sine
This week has been a lot of fun for me. Last week I mentioned that I planned to create a gratitude garden to help me focus on God’s abundant blessings during the next couple of months until the beginning of Advent. And that is exactly what I have done.
I usually make the week of Thanksgiving my gratitude week, but I so enjoyed Canadian Thanksgiving and I am so looking forward to American Thanksgiving that I thought: Why not make October and November into a season of gratitude? Perhaps you would like to join me.
Here are some suggestions for how do to that.
Start with prayer.
Like all good new spiritual practices we want to establish, we need to begin with prayer – not looking for something to complicate our lives or make us busier, but really trying to discern what God wants us to be doing during this season.
As I sat with my eyes closed, savoring the presence of God and the many blessings in my life, Psalm 23: 5-6 came to my mind: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
My cup does indeed overflow I thought – what a great theme for this season of gratitude.
What is God prompting you to do during this season?
Create a focus
Next I realized that I need a focus to remind me of my blessings. (Yep if you are like me it is easy to forget to count my blessings and thank God each day). Establishing any new habit is much easier when we have something visual to prod our memories.
As you know I am a garden person and so it is not surprising that my focus is a garden – a small indoor garden that I am calling my gratitude garden.
I made a trip to Goodwill and purchased a frame that I thought would be perfect for this exercise. Its a fruit tree with a banana hook. Then I rummaged through my unused plant pots until found one that fitted perfectly inside it. Next I chose a tea cup to hang from the hook. I planted the pot with succulents and filled the teacup with trailing plants that overflowed onto the main garden.
Last but not least I painted rocks with the words “gratitude” and “my cup overflows”. Painting rocks has become a regular spiritual discipline for me, a contemplative activity in itself but also one that provides an important visual focus for my devotional times. The result was the garden at the top of this post.
What do you enjoy doing that could help you create a special focus for your meditations during this season?
Establish a practice.
My garden now sits on my desk where I conduct my devotions each morning, a wonderful reminder to reflect on all the blessings in my life. Initially I intended to just make a list of what came to mind when I asked myself “What am I grateful today” Then I felt God say choose one and go deeper.
In part I have Bjørn Olav Hansen to thank for this suggestion. When I posted my completed gratitude garden on Facebook last week he reposted it and one of his friends responded: Today I thanked God for creating colors. And for creating my eyes so I could see the colors. And for creating my brain so that I could appreciate them. I love the changing colors of autumn, but it had never occurred to me to thank God for my eyes and my brain that enable me to apppreciate these colors. Going deeper enhances my joy and gratitude.
So now I have developed a lectio divina type of practice for the season:
- Write a list of what I am grateful for.
- Read through my list until one resonates in my soul.
- Read it over, savour it, sit with it in the presence of God.
- Go deeper and allow God to unveil new insights about my gratitude. Why does this gratitude resonate in my soul? What is it about this person, place, experience that makes me grateful?
- Respond – is there a prayer or poem that wells up in response? Is there an image that needs to be created or a photograph that needs to be taken? Do I need to write a thank you letter, give someone a hug or even prepare a special meal.
What is one thing that you are grateful today that God is prompting you to spend more time savoring and appreciating?
This has been an enriching and strengthening exercise for me. It was fun, it made me slow down and think about what is really important at this season and each step of the process brought to mind another rich array of blessings I need to be grateful for.
As we approach the Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas seasons it is good for all of us to establish practices that encourage us to slow down, to reflect, to attune ourselves to God and to take notice of the abundant blessings in our lives.
What activities could encourage you to slow down and notice the blessings of God in your life at this season? What could provide a focus for you and what is a simple daily practice you could establish to guide you?