Giving love to God through gratitude becomes my gift for the infant Jesus, my offering to lay at the foot of His crib. Ann Voskamp at Holy Experience has the right idea; she's been keeping a gratitude list for the past few years and is now counting praise in the thousands! Here's my latest contribution of thanksgiving to God for the blessings in my life, the things that cause me to love God for my own sake, as I work toward St. Bernard's Third Degree of Love: Love of God for God's Sake.
Today I am grateful for:
My faith-Catholicism; full of wonder, mystery, traditions, beauty, suffering, joy and romance with God-this is my greatest treasure.
While teaching my daughter the family tradition of making Czechoslovakian kolaches, hands working dough and hearts feeling love, she sweetly professed a desire to be just like me. Had she said this a year ago, I would have smiled and thanked her, but inside I would have prayed that she would grow to be anything but just like her mother; why would I wish a life of pain and depression for her? But this time, I truly was grateful for her loving comment, and thought, yes, I do hope that she grows to be like me in many ways, and can already see so much of myself in her-the good things and even some of the not-so-good, but I know that regardless of what type of adult she grows to be, she will always be in God's loving hands and all will be well.
On the last day before the air warmed and the snow melted in our area, I took my children and my great-nieces sledding at our favorite hill. What fun! Wind blowing past my face, weaving and whipping down the slope, screaming and laughing all the way down; it is my favorite childhood joy that I never tire of re-living.
Midnight hooting and hollering from the boys as they arrive home from a victorious Buck's basketball game with Dad; even though their voices woke me from my sleep, it was such a lovely sound to hear them all having fun together.
Watching my daughter happily playing in her first basketball game with Dad as her coach, and the joy of seeing her score two points...for the other team!!! And the greater joy of her upbeat attitude about her mistake.
For the fun of fortune cookies! My favorite ever fortune: "You are domestically inclined and will be happily married."
I am so blessed with a wonderful co-worker and friend, Melissa, who lets me share all of my faith stories and struggles, even though we don't share the same faith-she is a spiritual friend whom I can always count on when I need to speak of God and His works in my life.
It was such a lovely way to use our family heirloom Nativity Set from my childhood and leaves much gentler wear on the pieces than the way I used to use it as a child, which was throwing the pieces at my brother when I'd get angry! Kidding, of course! It was my brother who threw the pieces at me! No!!! :) But I don't know how else to explain all of those nicks and cracks and glued together pieces. I guess this set has just been well-loved through the years!
And, something about my broken-down manger feels right, after all, when Jesus was born in the stable, I'm sure it wasn't perfect; clean, fresh, and bright with all brand-new animals and farming implements-no; surely it was filled with some old and sick animals, a tired and worn down shepherd, tools that were worn and well-used, and a manger in which many animals guzzled their food. I think my worn down stable fits more closely with the actual scene that must have occurred that long-ago night in Bethlehem.
But wait! Who's that adoring Jesus in my manger? Oh! It's Archbishop Dolan! Well, he certainly gives those worn-down and broken manger pieces much more class, doesn't he? His picture of adoration on his card is so lovely and I decided to frame it so that all year I will be reminded of our need to adore the Holy Child.
(The trick here is the lovely Christmas Card that he sent to my family, tucked into our scene.)
And today, I am most grateful for the HOLY NAME OF JESUS-the name of which I never tire of saying or hearing, the name that brings more joy to my heart than any other, the name I vow to take deep into my soul until He spreads and grows and flows out from my soul to the world around me and my entire life will be deeply surrounded by His Holy Name-Jesus!
Won't you join in praising God with your own list of gratitude; your reminder of all those things for which you Love God for Self's Sake?