It began with a conversation about how hard the world is today. The news, be it local or national or international, was filled with rage and wrath, injustice and cruelty, and my husband felt the weight of it. Being a naturally sunny and some would say too light person, I openly boasted, "I could name 100 blessings in your life without breaking a sweat." He smiled. "You could."
The words echoed in my head and I knew, I must do this, because gratitude is something we grow. It is also something which tills the soil of our souls, making them more receptive to grace, and more capable of love.
Why? Because when we are grateful to God for the gifts we receive, we become more aware of the gifts He has given, and thus begin to use them better. I liken it to my children discovering after I've reorganized the basement, toys they'd lost in the mess. They delight anew in things they'd forgotten brought joy. Cultivating gratitude in our souls, allows us to delight anew in forgotten gifts given to bring joy.
So today's small success, is also a challenge, to stop and allow yourself to really take stock of all the riches your life drips with as a result of our lavish and Loving God. (You don't have to do 100). I'm going to give you the first 25 of mine.
Here's my list, in no particular order, but rather as I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit, to reflect:
25. My life. (It's been a tricky thing so I know, it could have ended many times and that it still is, means God continues to will it).
24. My health. I know this can change in a moment.
23. My husband. He forces me to think, to plan, and to be gentle when i want to be shrewish, and to love more when I want to less. He is my spiritual trainer in addition to being my best friend.
22. Our children, for each of them teaches me about love, about sacrifice, and about how God loves. They teach me every day, they remind me of the lessons of yesterday I already forgot, and prompt me to reflect on the future, something I tend to not consider as I normally live very much in the now with all the tasks of the day.
21. My parents. I was blessed with good parents, who had a great marriage and shared with us, their children, great lived faith.
20. I call my mom almost every day. She reminds me to do things I'd rather put off --like dr. and dental appointments, and she listens when life with all of these people feels overwhelming. She prays for my family, she is who taught me to pray for my family, the when to pray.
19. I pray with, and miss my dad. He taught me to love reading, how to pray, and how to fish. He also encouraged me to write. So I am grateful not just for my parents' witness and marriage, but for each of them for the people they were/are and how they raised me and my siblings.
18. My faith; it has always come easily for me to just know that God is, even if I've sometimes felt I couldn't pray or didn't want to, or have deliberately ignored that relationship because it would call me into account. But I have always known God is, God loves me, and if we pray, God always answers. Grace is for the receiving, all we need to do is ask and God knows, I love asking. I nag God now a days all the time. It's why He's pushing me to more silent prayer, so I'll stop the laundry list of "Okay God, today I have one kid with missing assignments, the computer is fried....he won't potty train, I wish we had more money, I...I...I."
17. The sacraments. I've had the blessing of experiencing the sacrament of Baptism of my children ten times, (and one of my two godchildren) and first communion thus far, 7 times, and confirmation (my favorite sacrament), 4 times beyond my own. I only know, I can't think of one of these without smiling.
16. Adoration. I love going to visit the Blessed Sacrament, they feel like dates with God to me. It's a selfish thing, but my favorite moment is when I'm there, and for some reason, I find myself alone with the Eucharist. It is a moment of joy found nowhere else.
15. My extended family. My husband's parents are generous souls. They do everything with extreme care and attention to detail. Going to their home is a feast of beauty in the tiny things, the food, the decor, the tree at Christmas, the flowers at Easter, the fun of ordinary time. They wrap my children with cloaks of generous love and pure presence. I long to be as thoughtful in my everyday actions instead of hurry up, get it done get it done.
14. The seasons. I love snow days and watching snow, I love the blooming season of Spring in Maryland, the simmering heat of summer and all that comes with it, and the harvesting of tomatoes and garlic, and the Autumn season of sports, school, pumpkins and apples.
13. Our house. It was a gift, something we didn't think we could get, which fell in our laps. It is beautiful, even if we've done a lot of scuffing of the walls and floors by living in it.
12. My children's elementary school --the one they attend today, are filled with good people who care about my kids and their educational outcome.
11. Saint Martin's; the school they attended until this year, a school attached to our parish which has become a surrogate family to ours as we live far from his and my parents, aunts and uncles. I miss it because of the people who have become part of our family over the past fifteen years.
10. My oldest son's way with his siblings. When he comes home, everyone laughs more, smiles more, plays more. He visited last weekend and within moments, the youngest three were giggling and falling over themselves with joy as he pretended to be a dinosaur and they ran hoping to be caught.
9. My oldest daughter's fierce and lavish love for her goddaughter. (my youngest). My youngest loves her letters and holds them to her heart.
8. The college I attended, Saint Mary's, helped grow my faith by providing me with opportunity to receive the sacraments. ( I did fitfully). More importantly, the faculty introduced me to beauty, to thoughts, to the ways we integrate faith into everything if we're going to be people of integrity.
7. This country. I know there is much that needs work, but this is a great place to live, full of promise, full of good people, and a great gift for each of us.
6. My friends, both on the internet and in everyday life. They are generous, intelligent, caring, strong and loving people filled with great talents and energy, and I need all of them.
5. The Church. The more I discover as I try to mature in this faith, the more I love this gift of being part of the Body of Christ, and all that it requires. I'm grateful to be able to lean on the Bride of Christ rather than try to discern without the aid of scripture or the saints or the catechism, good priests and all the sacraments. I need it all.
4. The Blessed Mother and Saint Anthony in particular; we all have friends we hold closer than others, and in Heaven, it is no different. The Blessed Mother keeps teaching me to pray more, to be gentle, and to meditate on her son's life. Saint Anthony helps me find shoes, my keys, time, my temper, my patience and my sense of humor when they go awol. He's a dear friend from 1988 on, when I went to Padua on my 22nd birthday. He's never failed me when I ask. I wish I'd remember to ask more often.
3. All the gifts of every day I take for granted, like coats and socks, food in the pantry and heat in the home, all these things that make life easier and more comfortable, they are gifts that need not be, and thus I am grateful even if they are only things. In particular, I'll single out chocolate and diet coke. I'm a human being. These two things are part of my diet almost daily, I enjoy them. I'm grateful they exist, and that I have the opportunity to enjoy them on a regular basis.
2. Work. My husband has a good job and has now for going on 20 years, and I have found little jobs that allow me to contribute without putting too much of a demand upon my family while doing something I love. I'm grateful for the opportunity.
1. Books. I love them. I devour them when I get to read them, and I love introducing them to my children. It is a great gift to open the pages and see another imagination poured out onto the page, and I treasure being able to share stories both with them, and with the world by writing.
Now it's your turn. I have to go craft the other 75 for my own satisfaction, but I hope you had fun reading, and had lots of small successes this week. Go, count your blessings!
Copyright 2015 Sherry Antonetti.
About the Author
Sherry Antonetti is a Catholic published author, freelance writer and part-time teacher. She lives with her husband and 10 children just outside of Washington, DC, where she's busy editing her upcoming book, A Doctor a Day, to be published by Sophia Institute Press. You can find her other writings linked up at her blog, Chocolate For Your Brain! or on Amazon.