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Standing at a Thankfulness Crossroads…

     In Monday’s post, I told you my husband and I just returned from a two-and one-half week vacation to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. For over a year, we’ve been planned to mark this milestone by enjoying the birthplace of U.S. history and the splendor of a New England autumn.

     Ron and I flew into Boston the afternoon of Wednesday, October 16th. A few hours later, an epic Nor-Easter blew into the region. The motel where we stayed rattled from the force of near-hurricane-force winds.

     Local news Thursday morning was filled with photos of huge trees, which had crashed into houses, smashed cars and made many roads impassable. Thousands were without power.

     We’d planned to begin the day of our arrival exploring Boston via the “T,” which is the name locals have given to the Boston transportation system. Instead, we used Uber to take us to dinner and then visited nearby museums on Thursday while winds still gusted around 40 mph.

     Storms often alter our plans!

     That storm set a new vibe for our entire vacation.

     While planning our special getaway, I’d envisioned hillsides, dense with deciduous trees decked out in brilliant autumnal tones of ruby reds, golden yellows, brilliant oranges and rich rusts, framed against azure skies filled with fluffy cotton ball clouds.

     Instead, autumn arrived early in New England this year. Peak colors faded prior to our arrival. The violent storm snatched many of the changing leaves. Skies were often filled with dark, menacing clouds. My least favorite weather element—wind—was plentiful.

     During the one full day we were able to discover Boston, I observed notable street names like Acorn, Commonwealth and Hanover. These signs reminded me our long-anticipated vacation may have placed me at an important thankfulness crossroad where I needed to ask: Am I going to choose the road called “Grumbling” or the path named “Gratitude?”

     Storms provide opportunities to choose thankfulness!

     After this awareness, making an attitude adjustment was a relatively easy choice. Choosing gratitude because vacation plans don’t turn out as envisioned is one thing. Other choices aren’t nearly so easy.

     Life often deals us hands that are painful and puzzling to play. Options may involve:

          disappointing decisions,

               painful possibilities,

                    crucial, uncomfortable conversations, and

                         adjustments to a ‘new normal.’

     Because I meet with many folks who are hurting, and frankly, because I am simply part of humanity who lives with the reality of changing human conditions, I encounter transition quandaries almost daily.

     I will never minimize how desperate and energy-draining some situations are for those traveling through them.

     Despite the difficulty, however, I’m convinced God has given us free will to choose whether we will grumble about our circumstances and resist accepting difficult changes or prepare to take each arduous step with a faith-filled, grateful heart:

Despite the storm, I can choose an attitude of gratitude!

Prayer: Dear Lord,

Even though the circumstance through which my friend journeys is difficult, I pray You will give him or her the strength to choose the pathway of thankfulness. Please, Lord, bless my friend with glimpses of goodness each step of the way.

Amen

One of the “glimpses of goodness” we experienced on our recent vacation. The night skies were clear, so Ron drove to a nearby meadow to practice some astrophotography techniques. I hope you can make out the Big Dipper’s spectacular reflection in the pond.

Blessings to each of you…

Sue Reeve

Focusing on Gratitude…..

     Each five-year anniversary, my husband and I try to take a special vacation. On June 8th of this year, we celebrated our 40th. Our landmark getaway was postponed until October because we wanted to experience a New England autumn together. We returned yesterday from a trip that took us to Boston, Vermont, the Berkshires in northern Massachusetts and beyond.

     Today is the first Monday in November. Since we as a nation will be celebrating Thanksgiving in a few weeks, I decided to dedicate November’s Listening on the Journey… posts to focusing on gratitude. Also, beginning this coming Thursday, each post will include some of the photos Ron captured during the two and one-half weeks we spent in New England.

     I am so extremely grateful for the opportunity to write this blog and for you who take time out of your full schedules to read the words I write. I’ve appreciated your words of encouragement more than I could ever express. They have given me courage to keep learning, growing and being intentional about my own journey of faith.

     So, to kick off this Month of Gratitude, I’d like to say that I’m:

     I’d also like to encourage each of us to be generous with our gratitude and challenge ourselves to often:

Blessings on your journey of gratitude…

Sue Reeve

Experiencing Jesus in Everything…

Sue’s Note: The photos in today’s blog were taken by my husband during our September vacation to Southern California. One of my favorite activities during our relaxing getaway was a long, early morning walk on Coronado Island, sharing the beach with graceful sandpipers.

     During a four-day contemplative prayer retreat at Cova de Sant Ignasi in Manresa, Spain, in 2018, my heart aligned with the 16th Century religious leader who founded the Jesuit Order. My admiration for Ignatius of Loyola deepened with each page I read in his biography, Alone and on Foot, by Brian Grogan, SJ.[1]

     For the next 9-12 months, as part of the Spiritual Direction program I started recently, I will be doing an intensive process known as the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.

     Ignatius was from a wealthy family. During a long and painful period of recuperation from a wound he received during a fierce battle, Ignatius became committed to the mission of Christ. In time, he relinquished every earthly possession and lived the rest of his days in poverty, service to others and learning.

     “Ignatius wanted to help everyone, no matter what age or stage of life, experience Jesus…”[2] When I read those words, I thought, wow! That’s what I want!

     Above all else, my deepest desire is to experience more and more of Jesus, to learn about and pursue a journey of being conformed increasingly into His character. I desire to let nothing but that which honors God possess me. This, I know, will be a lifelong process.

     As I become aware of non-essential attitudes and behaviors, I want to be willing to loosen my grip on all that’s temporary—on everything I own, even everyone I love, every hope and every dream I hold dearly. I admit, though, I have no desire nor plan to give up everything, wear coarse burlap clothing, beg for food, sleep on the floor nor pray five hours a day as was the practice of Ignatius!

     Ignatius identified with words written by the Apostle Paul in the second letter he sent to his friends in the Corinthian church:

     An important part of the Spiritual Exercises is the Prayer of Examen done two to three times daily. The prayer is a simple process. I thought it might resonate with some Listening on the Journey… readers. Some may want to join me in this spiritual discipline.

PRAYER OF EXAMEN

  1. Give Thanks.
  2. Ask God to reveal your sins.
  3. Examine how you lived this day [or portion of the day] in thoughts, words, and deeds.
  4. Ask forgiveness
  5. Ask God for the grace to amend your ways.

2 Key Questions to ask each time:

– Where did I experience God’s love?
– How did God’s love impact the way I lived my life?

Blessings to all as we travel and grow together in our journeys of faith…

Sue Reeve

  1. Ignatius quote on first sandpiper photo is taken from this book.
  2. Journey with Jesus – Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, Larry Warner, InterVarsity Press, 2010