Dusting off this weekly opportunity to reflect on gratitude, although that won't become obvious until deep into this post...
Yesterday was Ken's birthday (as most readers here know, since we also keep up on facebook). It was a pretty rockin' day, if I do say so as the unbirthday girl. A little background, first...
Sunday we went to worship at St. Augustine's Chapel, the Episcopal presence at Vanderbilt University. The chaplain at St. A's is one Becca Stevens, about whom I wrote a couple of posts ago. For a variety of reasons St. Augustine's is one happening place. In recent years the chapel membership has outgrown its designated physical space on campus, so they now meet for their principal service at the university chapel. On this particular Sunday the music was a combination of traditional--from The Hymnal 1982--and offered by local musical artists. Remember that this is in the heart of Music City, so when I refer to local musical artists I'm not talking about people who can simply carry a tune. The congregation includes a modest sample of greys (you know, retired folks), families with young children, and everything in between. The pulse is palpable, and I felt very much at home. On this particular day I had the honor of being asked by Becca while I was receiving communion if I would come to the altar at the conclusion of the service to give the blessing.
The reason for our presence at St. Augustine's that day was two-fold. One, we had never been, and we are looking for a place to worship (now that I don't cry through worship this effort has taken on a higher priority). Yes, it's a little bit of a drive to get there, but that is true of any Episcopal Church for us. Two, Ken wanted to connect with Becca about arranging for a work project by the Templars to lend a hand at Thistle Farms. On our way out the door at the end of the service we made arrangements with Becca to be there yesterday at 9 am.
When we arrived at Thistle Farms that community was engaged in a meditation circle, a regular event there. Those present identified themselves, a practice that incorporated us as visitors. I do not exaggerate when I say there were probably 70 people overflowing the space, including students from an area high school, first-time volunteers, regular volunteers, board members, staff, Magdalene House residents and graduates, and who knows who else. I felt the gift of blessing being folded into that experience.
I won't detail our time there, but
will say that it is an impressive operation of thoughtful, visionary, grace-filled ministry that touches many, many lives, and inspires many more. We now consider ourselves part of the Thistle Farms family (and have a bumper sticker to claim it)!
Having skipped breakfast by default to get on the road earlier, we were starving when we left TF at 10:45. We thought we'd find a place close by, but ended up back in town near Vanderbilt, and headed to Pancake Pantry. PP is a Nashville institution, boasting pancake options that puts IHOP to shame. On weekends the line extends outside the door and down the sidewalk for a very long way, that is how popular this place is. Even at the hour we arrived the restaurant was full. We had a great meal (pastrami for me!), and felt the continuing touch of blessing's outstretched hand.
Our next stop was to pick up our flooring before coming home, and while we were driving Ken shared some reflection on the day's scripture reading from the morning during his prayer time. The psalm made reference to "a blessed man," and we got to talking about how one could be blessed even when one's life didn't feel blessed. As you know, these are challenging times for us, and we feel the weight and stress of a multitude of what might be considered burdens. We are careful and grateful to acknowledge our blessings. We are also aware that our days feel like breathing while an elephant sits on our chest. In such circumstances I am especially grateful that I experience hope almost without ceasing, trust with conviction that better times lie ahead, and have faith that many factors are at work on our behalf--beyond our comprehension or our anticipation. God is good all the time, as the saying goes, not just when life feels good. Both realities coexist, and it's okay to say so.
So my thankfulness today comes from a deep place forged through surviving trials that have littered my path in earlier years. That I can laugh, smile, muster energy and continue to seek purpose for my life bears witness to my journey through the refiner's fire. The dross is not all gone and the work is not yet done, but the core is stronger than ever to withstand the heat. It is exceedingly uncomfortable to be in the fire, but today I give thanks for being upright, on my own two feet. I give thanks for fortitude that makes it possible to put one foot in front of the other. And I give thanks that when the tears of grief, desperation and sadness overflow they give way to renewal and perseverance. Though bruised, I am not beaten. One day this chrysalis will have served its purpose and release the new life being transformed within. I may not be having fun, but the taste of gratitude is a regular guest.