Several years ago, back when I was the mama of one, I found myself in the confessional.
I was feeling overwhelmed with life. My baby wasn’t sleeping through the night, I had just left my full-time career to become a stay-at-home mom, showering was infrequent at best and our financial life was stressing me out.
Perspective is such a funny and beautiful thing, isn’t it? Now I shake my head at that Kathryn, so naïve and anxious about all the wrong things. Yet, I suspect many of the things that lie on my anxious heart today will be fodder for much laughter in a few years.
That wise, wise priest clasped my hands in his and walked me through my sins with wonderful counsel. My penance? To make a list of all the things – all the things – for which I was grateful, ponder it, read it aloud and sit with it in prayer.
Fifteen years later, that list is still tucked away in my Bible.
To date, it was one of my most powerful experiences through the sacrament of reconciliation. From time to time, I pull it out, ponder it, read it aloud and sit with it in prayer.
I’m a Type A list-maker by trade. So this “gratitude list” was spot on for my love language. Since then, we’ve added five more kids to the brood, experienced a miscarriage, endured a NICU stay and seven subsequent surgeries, survived the death of a parent, lived in three houses, been on pilgrimage to Italy four times and lived through countless other life events.
But you know what hasn’t changed? The gratitude.
The items I wrote on that list for which I was grateful—“food to eat,” “my CRHP team,” “two paid-for cars,” “my education,” and “our priests”—are still just as true today as when I wrote them. Now, I would also add “frequent showers,” “teenagers that appreciate my culinary skills” (maybe too much) and “Catholic schools” to the 2016 list.
What’s on your list? If the priest asked you to make note of all those items that bring you joy and gratitude, what would you write?
As we sit at the banquet of Jesus each Sunday at Mass and partake in the Eucharistic celebration how thankful for all the moments, both big and small in our lives, are we? In ecclesiastical Greek eukharistia means, what else, thanksgiving! How thankful are you that YOU get to live this life, raise these children, love this spouse, live in this country, love these people, worship this God? It’s easy to bemoan all the shortcomings in life—the coffee pot isn’t full enough, our house isn’t nice enough, our children aren’t well behaved enough (especially during the consecration!), our boss isn’t supportive enough, you aren’t good enough.
God didn’t promise us an easy life, but He did promise us an eternal one. That doesn’t come without sacrifice. The growing pains of motherhood have taught me to endure the season, for each has its reward. The next season will come with its own sets of rewards and challenges, but I can’t hurry it along any faster. God doesn’t work that way.
At the conclusion of my list, I offered this prayer:
“Dear Lord, please grant me humility and obedience. Humility to motherhood and marriage and to be every thankful for the countless blessings in my life. Obedience to listen and follow Your plan for my life rather than my own. And, for patience as a mom and wife, that I may take it all in stride knowing that You’re here to help. Allow me to make daily prayer a habit, not a burden. Amen.”
At the end of the day, it’s not about our list, but about how big our hearts are to love God in thanksgiving for it all, the good and the bad. We suffer big because we love big. If you ever doubt how much Jesus celebrates in thanksgiving over your life, just focus your eyes on the crucifix.
For it’s there, we find love.
This article originally appeared in The Catholic Spirit