Two Ways of Looking

Posted on October 17, 2018 by Jenn Zatopek

I sit contentedly in my little house today, bundled up in wool, flannel, and cotton. Outside, the huge oak tree sways gently in the rain, manna from heaven for this delighted soul. I am sick with a head cold, and strangely enough, I couldn’t be happier. I have finally learned the importance of being absolutely and only myself. There really is no one else to be. 

I’ve learned it’s good to ask for help, and I have done so many times since last week, after the cold’s unexpected entrance. That’s what being ill has always meant for me: a forced and necessary respite from life. For me, it’s both Sabbath rest and active participation in the healing God has for me. What a gift!

Part of me knows the way of discontent and I could travel down that way today, familiar groves in the neural pathways of my brain. I could bemoan my circumstances, fuss about all the things that need changing in the world and or in my own life. Or I could find another way instead.

I sit at the little brown dining table and look behind me at a Mid-Century American buffet one of my best friends gave me. In the center of the table sits a bouquet of fresh flowers my husband bought me. I wear freshly laundered clothes and stay warm and dry in a cozy, albeit small, home in a beautifully green neighborhood with sidewalks and autumn trees shedding their leaves. For lunch, I eat homemade chicken noodle soup my husband made me, and I look out through the windows, watching the cold rain fall steadily upon the great big post oak tree outside my front window, the cold weather finally arriving in Texas.

Is gratitude simply denial dressed nicely in fancy wordplay or is it the best and only way to live in a beautiful, unpredictable, and dangerous world? I could lament about my illness, the damp and rainy weather, and the constant lack found in the world. That’s something our culture tells us to do, doesn’t it?  Find the culprit and blame them till they bruise. But nothing real gets resolved and tempers flare and we miss out on the amazing miracle of being alive.

For me, each day is a gift from God, and in between the sorrows of loss, I will surrender my way for another, perhaps something that connects me with thousands who have gone before me on the path of faith.  That’s what gratitude is: it’s joy in the face of unmitigated suffering and saying “I refuse to give in. I refuse to despair. I will take it all and make it beautiful.”

Just for today, I will turn away from the urge to whine or complain or project my fears onto the future (or others) and instead, I’ll surrender to the good found hidden in the tiny recesses of each moment. Each day is filled with endless possibilities for healing and trusting that growth happens on an invisible level. And so we trust and enjoy anyway.

Show me a day when the world wasn’t new. (Sister Barbara Harce)

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  • Reply Carolyn Goldsmith

    So beautifully written! What you are choosing isn’t always easy, but you and I are well worth the effort!

    October 24, 2018 at 3:42 pm
    • Reply Jenn Zatopek

      Thanks, Carolyn. Always grateful to hear your words of encouragement!

      October 29, 2018 at 5:12 pm

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