Unexpected delights

Just as I had resigned myself to the approach of cold weather by deciding to savor and store up some of summer’s gifts, late fall has brought its own unexpected delights.

Although many people where I live claim autumn as their favorite season because of the rich colors of leaves before they fall from the trees, the crispneIMG_1621ss of the air, and seasonal traditions like pumpkin-carving, it was not these that captured my attention as October unfolded.

Rather, it was a mini-resurgence of summer that displayed itself in a Monarch Butterfly feasting on the clover in our field, an Eastern Phoebe and other migrants stopping by on the way South, and the garden popping with scattered patches of color. Even in late October, I found a few stray Black-eyed Susans, Purple Coneflowers, and Phlox in bloom. Elsewhere, tall spikes of annual Salvia had reseeded themselves from last year’s plantings, taking over where the Daylilies had finished their show.

My response to all this has been a surge of gratitude for these unanticipated gifts, the delight of discovering them, the pure joy they have brought, the brief delay in the onset of winter they represent, and for a few more glimpses of beauty to recall as shortened days and lengthened nights descend upon us.

Amid this has come another unexpected October delight – the arrival at my door of the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I had read a library copy of this book several years ago and when it appeared again as a birthday gift from my goddaughter, I instantly knew the timing was perfect.

Of course, I could have said, “Oh no, I’ve read this already.” But I would have missed the delight – and gratitude – that came from realizing I loved the idea of having my own copy and that it might just be time to shore up my “attitude of gratitude” by re-reading it. Plus, there was a bonus: The book was accompanied by the One Thousand Gifts Devotional, IMG_1611Voskamp’s companion book of reflections.

A writer friend first introduced me to One Thousand Gifts, which describes how Voskamp forged a “lifestyle of radical gratitude” out of the pain of her family’s loss. Having read and reviewed the book, she suggested our book group read it. Even before we began reading, one of our members had prepared the ground by telling us how she was praying in a new way – by naming 50 and then 100 things for which she was grateful each day. Voskamp’s approach was similar in that she decided to accept a friend’s challenge to create a list of “one thousand gifts.” The list became an antidote to the sorrow that encumbered her and had cast a pall over her family after her little sister was killed in an accident. Ultimately, she discovered that being thankful changed her.

The act of naming what she calls “grace moments,” Voskamp writes, took her beyond the “shopping list variety of prayer” and into the love that was shown her by the Giver of all gifts. In “eucharisteo,” Greek for thanksgiving, she began to be fed and filled and sustained.

So in the midst of this October P1000595of unexpected delights, I am looking toward winter knowing I have a good start on stocking up on the same kind of “food.”  Just like the little chipmunk I captured with my camera a few days ago stuffing his cheeks in preparation for the season of cold and snow, I’m on the look-out for other staples to add to my winter pantry: bits of beauty, joys sprinkled among the sadness of our world, signs of hope, and gratitude for it all.

As Voskamp says so well in her book: “We take the moments as bread and give thanks and the thanks itself becomes bread. The thanks itself nourishes.”

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