Monday, July 04, 2016

Noticing

2016-07-03 19.29.20

I heard one of my grandsons wailing this morning. He didn’t want to go to school today. I didn’t blame him - the morning was rather cold, dark and drear. And I think he was still wanting to bask in the warm and sunny weekend just past, full of cats and cousins and his grandfather’s birthday.

2016-07-02 17.34.43

Cousins on the weekend

When these boys’ aunt was this age, she didn’t want to go to school either. Not even when the sun shone. That’s the year I learned all the flower names. Every morning we walked to school together v e r y  slowly taking note of ALL the flowers blooming beside the road. Consequently, I can now distinguish azaleas from rhododendrons – and tell you what they are in Japanese, too!

Actually, in those days I had a whole houseful of want-to-be-truants and I learned never to ask “How was your day?”  If I wanted to make conversation when they arrived home in the afternoon, it was far wiser to attempt to elicit a positive response with, “Tell me, what was the BEST part of your day? I’m sure LOTS of good things happened today. But what were the best ones?”

And it worked!

Maybe they were never truly convinced that every day was so absolutely chock full good things – and they still weren’t crazy about school. Nevertheless, they did learn to recognize the bright side! And so, in the end, I had a houseful of reasonably happy, reasonably positive children.

fishing

Cousins of an earlier era

I’ve often used the same technique on myself – counting blessings like the old hymn told us:


1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

  • Refrain: Count your blessings, Name them one by one,
    Count your blessings, See what God hath done!
    Count your blessings, Name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done
    .

2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by. Refrain

3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings wealth can never buy
Your reward in Heaven, Nor your home on high. Refrain

4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, Angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end. Refrain

I learned this hymn in Sunday School when I was still a small child. But it was probably from the Reader’s Digest that I learned, in my teens, how  - and how very important it is - to really put into practice this counting of blessings.

Many times since then I have for a period of time kept a record of blessings.

I did it during Lent in 2012.

That’s probably the year my Chinese professor introduced me to St. Ignatius of Loyola and his Examen which, while actually a little more complex than this, has in popular culture sometimes been simplified down to “What was the best thing about this day?

It makes a difference to name our blessings – to consciously look for them.

That’s why last year, in a fit of desperation, I suggested to my husband that he start listing his blessings every day. Now he writes a list of ten every night. And it seems to have fundamentally changed his outlook on life. Yes, of course, that’s an exaggeration - he made a few more changes than just this one. Yet, this one “small thing” has really changed his attitude!

That’s actually very biblical. The Book of Proverbs indicates that if we look for good we will find it. And conversely, if we are always looking for the bad, we will sadly find it!

I want to be one of those who looks for the good!

seek good

As I wrote recently, I want God’s favor to shine on me and Proverbs says that we find favor by seeking good.

So today I have decided to take up Kathleen Thompson’s 30 Day Challenge to find Beauty in Every Day. The Challenge is only a tool for noticing – I’m really just seeking good. I’m counting my blessings, again (!), in a new sort of way.

God is good – he makes the sun shine and the rain rain on the good and the bad.

And life is beautiful – even in this present evil world.

But we need to NOTICE all that goodness and beauty.

2 comments:

Anita Clement said...

Laurie, reading this has been such an encouragement to me today. I seem to be concentrating a lot more on negative issues these day. No wonder I'm feeling down and slightly depressed. Time to start concentrating on the good. There certainly are many blessings I could be thinking on. Thank you Laurie. Thank you so much. Isn't it amazing how we can be so far apart and yet still touch each others heart? God is sooooooo good. Much love to you and John. <3

Laurie Elliot said...

It makes such a difference what we focus on, doesn't it?