I sat with Karoline in the early morning light, cuddled up together, candle lit, for our beloved "story time." Karoline has learned that if she forces her eyes awake as soon as she hears me stirring in the morning, she will have me all to herself. And I will read and read and read any book of her very own choosing. Often, almost every day, one of those books is Abraham's Search for God, a book from our family collection of Old Testament picture books.
The story is a legend of young Abraham, who instinctively knows that the idols and statues worshipped by his ancestors are not the true God. So, he looks to sun and moon, to thunder and rainbow, and finds them all lacking. Finally, the little boy Abraham recognizes the one true God in the beauty of the created world around him. He doesn't worship creation, but Creator.
On that morning not long ago, I asked Karoline if she could see God in her world. Could she search like Abraham did? Where was He? She eagerly shared that He was on nature walks, in knitting lessons, in the atrium (the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), in her little sister, and on Skype with her brother. She chattered on and on, naming and listing with all the sincerity and enthusiasm a four-year-old can muster. I remembered some magnetic list paper I'd recently grabbed from the dollar bin at the craft store. And I began to record her list.
When she took a breath, I said to her, "You know you are really good at seeing God in your everyday life. Look at all these things! These things are the way He tells you that He loves you."
Karoline glowed at the thought.
"And when we make this list, we can think harder about these things and about God and we can stop and thank Him for every one of them."
And she did. She kept searching. I kept writing for her.
I let the idea bubble in my brain for a few days. Each of my children brings a different temperament and personality to his or her relationship with God and then I bring yet another to my own. I wondered if we couldn't all encourage one another to be aware of the gifts. Katie noticed Karoline's list hanging on the refrigerator and wanted one of her own. So I helped her begin. Sarah noticed both lists and crawled up on the counter, drew on them and tore the front page away from the pad. Sigh. Need a new plan.
Could I dare my children--all of them--and inspire them to count the gifts? Could we begin right now, at the start of Lent, and count together as a family, gathering all that awareness into individual books of praise to be filled by Easter morning? I don't know. Maybe. It was worth a try. I gathered them all in one place (something very rare in and of itself) and I told them the plan. I tried to explain the concept of One Thousand Gifts in a way that made sense to them. And then I gave them each a blank book and a dare: Can you count one thousand ways God loves you?
With one exception, they have all taken eagerly to the challenge. Their notebooks are private, but a few glances I've had when they've shared their thoughts have been amazing insights into their souls. And an interesting aside: their lists very much reflect their love languages. It's remarkable how God speaks differently to each them.
For myself, I have a journal on the kitchen counter and another in the diaper bag. Still, I find myself noticng gifts without pen and paper at hand-- at ballgames, at the park, at the grocery store. Sunday morning, as I was leaving home for church, I saw a robin in the rain. I need to remember to write "robin in the rain." I tell myself these things, but often, I do forget. I recalled that Patrick had sent a text to my phone, from my phone, back when my phone wasn't working. Could I text my gratitude notes to myself and then record them later? I almost always have my phone with me. I could and I did. That phone still isn't working well. Sometimes it takes hours, even days, to receive texts. So, when my phone chimed twenty minutes later and I read, "robins in the rain" I smiled at the unepected joy of it. God messages on my cell phone!
The acoustics in our church are not good and I often have trouble hearing. Given my morning, perhaps it's no surprise that, just an hour later, I heard our priest say "May God bless and text you" instead of "May God bless and protect you." Yes, I giggled a little, please, God, keep texting me.
~robins in the rain
~all nine children home for a grace-filled, peaceful week
~a good cry
~late night emails
~yarn that doesn't untwist
~people who will spin such yarn for me
~child who cleans without being asked
~the man who cooks dinner on an afternoon that begs me to write and write and write, steady rain as my rhythm
~stacks of freshly folded laundry
~the boy whose eyes light up when he recognizes grace and he suddenly runs to find his gratitude journal
~the Facebook wall of an old friend and neighbor on the day her father dies--it's like a block party on a summer evening in my childhood; they're all there, all remembering, all loving her.
~four versions of the Bible strewn about my bed and three of us searching, looking for meaning, for Him