Day One

It’s supposed to be my first day of eucharisteo – life-filling gratitude – the practice of which is exercised in recording blessings, one by one. After receiving the idea, I soared on the high all day yesterday – the very notion of the power in giving thanks filling me with joy overflowing. Today, as it would happen, my mood is sour and serrated. I wake up feeling achy and tired, and like my throat is full of stones. I’m snapping my wretchedness all over the house, to anyone in my path, and I’m disgusted with myself. It’s all grating on my last nerve – all of it. Everyone. Every “mom!” holler makes me cringe, every child’s slight pushing me over the edge. I grind my molars together, tense up my neck muscles, pick up a pen and number the page.

Come, gratitude. Come.

Thank You, God. Thank you for… number one: Morning sunlight in the kitchen window.

It’s forced and awkward.

For orange juice. For Scotch tape. For my toddler… who never, ever, ever listens and I just don’t know how much more I can take of this. I turn inside of myself.

Yesterday, eucharisteo was a revelation, a world-crashing-in sentiment. Today, though, I’m not sure this can be the answer. This is the crudest, the rawest I’ve ever felt. I’m a wounded animal – agitated and dangerous, and I just want to warn everyone, even God, to stay away. Far away. Out of my reach, out of my capacity to claw and bite into them.

The washing machine has been filling and, like me, its function switches and it begins to agitate.

Thank you. For… a working washing machine.

The little one has his hands all over me. He whines. “Get my booger, Mommeeeeeee!”

Sigh. For Kleenex. For nap time still to come, today.

I am trying hard not to be consumed by Little One’s defiance. This is important, and he’s distracting me. I ask him to sit on the couch. He comes closer and grabs on. Whines. Digs his fingernails into my arm and flops his body on me, kicking his legs behind him, spilling the glass of orange juice. The fire rises in me. This can’t be the time for this. I will come to eucharisteo later.

Later, when life is quiet and I can be thankful.

And I feel even more wretched because I know that eucharisteo is not real until it happens in these moments. This is exactly the idea. Gratitude for all the gifts. Even these. Even boogers. Even spilled orange juice and defiant toddlers.

“Sit down, now.” I say it tense between clenched teeth, with clenched fingers.
He does.

And I am grateful. More grateful than I’ve authentically been for anything yet today.

Thank you.

“Thank you for listening,” I say. He is pleased with himself, and he grins, lowers his eyelashes, satisfied. “Long, black baby boy eyelashes,” I write. Number eight. I think about writing “boogers” but don’t. I’m not really thankful for them. Not yet. That’s the destination of this journey, perhaps… but I’m only on number eight, and there is much work to be done within me, still.

“Mama! I need help with this question.” Girl Child bounds into the room, glasses lying crooked on her face, and she twirls toward me as if on stage. I start to feel annoyed, sure that I will never, in all my life, be able to gather several minutes in a row for myself, sure that I will never sit in peace long enough to even warm the seat, sure that the children will never get their lessons done without my nagging. But I watch her spin and twirl, for a moment, and say nothing. She sees me watching and pauses – awaiting a chastisement, sure I am going to tell her to stop and get back to her schoolwork. The moment slows and I walk myself through it, deliberately. I keep my mouth closed and move my pen down a line: Number nine: Twirling.

It is slight, but I feel it already. The choice. And I already begin to understand this to be something more than simply counting my blessings. It’s making a choice. A choice to change my perspective. My reaction. My experience. Eucharisteo is the difference between wretchedness and beauty. It’s what Christ did to prepare for His own death. Gave thanks. Broke bread. Chose joy in the experience. Even in the ugliness of that experience. And it feels, ever so slightly, like growth.

Thank you for twirling. For Girl Child. For joy.

The phone rings, and a caseworker from my office is on the other end. There’s this boy… he’s hurting and angry and not at all coping well. Lashing out at others, being ugly. His mom died several months ago and has learned, quickly, how to use anger to manipulate and control. He can’t stay where he is, but its up to us. Will we take him in?

Fear rises. I don’t want to make this decision. I don’t want the extra weight in my head right now.

I think about the boy and see myself similarly, today. Ugly and lashing out. Not at all okay with the way things are going. And I wonder where gratitude falls in, here. I want to say no. Our plate is full. But this business of eucharisteo has slowed me down to the moment, if nothing else. I slow to listen more and learn more about him, before I decide. Stories, frustrations, worries… none of them sound promising, but I don’t know what else to do. I say yes, send him. I’ll prepare a bed. And there is peace. And I breathe in thanks…real, pure thanks for my children and that they still have a mother and father. And for whatever we can do for this boy.

I begin to understand. Trust. Eucharisteo is also Trust. Gratitude for what God gives means trusting Him for His best. Gratitude comes before Provision. Christ gave thanks before partaking of the bread, before He broke His body. And I am asked, also, to give thanks not after, but before. To be grateful for what I don’t yet understand, as an act of trust. This is hard… this was not on my agenda for today. And it was hard enough for me to find gratitude for sunshine, today. Now, I’m looking for it amongst death and rebellion and boogers.

But you know what? It’s there. I find it. And I learn that the looking for eucharisteo is the very practice of eucharisteo.

Thank you, God, for the exact measure of what I need, exactly when I need it. For being trustworthy. For the provision that I am certain will come. For grace. For eyes that can see all this… and ears and noses, and… boogers within them.

This time, that’s for real, and I start to feel a little enlightened and a little lightened – the weight of my foul mood is decidedly less jagged than it was an hour ago, and it feels like progress. I pen a few more and I mean them… warm chamomile tea and candlelight and old books.

Right on cue, Little One chimes in with a whine. “More boogers, Mama! Moooore booogers!!”

Number twenty-one. Thank you God… for your sense of humor.

By: Cara Sexton

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