grace + gratitude
for life, others, and ourselves
"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."
: Meister Eckhart :
Before twin babies and the need for more space prompted us to leave Chicago, I walked most mornings to our neighborhood's stretch of Lake Michigan. Rogers Park has its challenges, but it's a homey place and I loved being part of it. We were lucky: from our condo, it was a five-minute stroll to a sandy beach and our very own beautiful, brooding Great Lake. Those morning walks are among my most precious Chicago memories. Being close to a massive body of water always inspires my gratitude, but I consciously immersed myself in being thankful for it. Strolling up the shore, I stuffed my pockets with sea glass and listened to inspirational podcasts (Trish Blackwell! Fourth Church! it's been so long...). At the halfway point, I often paused on one of the long concrete jetties to try meditating (try being key). Consciously appreciating the beauty of my city and especially my neighborhood made me happier and more grounded. While gratefully walking along "my lake," I felt closer to living my ideal life than ever before.
That ideal life looks different now. Forget leisurely collecting sea glass; I have three-year-old twins and an overgrown puppy. Even if I still lived near the lakefront, I'd spend the whole time chasing them in three different directions. And I won't pretend that I don't sometimes lose sight of how precious all that chaos is. It's way too easy to feel frustrated at the never-ending spills, stains, arguments, and tantrums, and to feel annoyed at myself when I get frustrated. That's why grace complements the gratitude, I think; it's just as important—and just as difficult—to be kind to ourselves when we forget to be grateful. When I consciously step back from judging my less-fine moments, the softer side of me glides to the surface and I become someone I like again.
The benefits of a daily gratitude practice, including greater optimism and happiness, and less stress and illness, have been documented by experts, but I've seen the benefits up close. I no longer have an hour every morning to linger on the beach, but I crave those moments of focused appreciation for the gifts I've been given. My collected moments of gratitude and the tools I used to explore them are linked below. I hope they inspire you to celebrate gratitude and grace in your own life each day.