Forty Days: Thanksgiving

There is a dragon in my room. Right now. I’m not kidding. He’s looking at me as I type.

He’s made of yarn and stuffing and felt. Some hot glue. Little beaded eyes. I made him myself. I named him Burny. It took about a week and it was a labor of love but it was worth it. I got an adorable dragon companion who is all smiles. My friends are always amazed by the little dragon, impressed by the craft. I find their amazement rather misplaced. If I could make Burny, anyone could.  It’s not difficult. But seeing the product of time and effort is always amazing to onlookers. The more time and the more effort put in, the more impressive the finished product or outcome, for yourself if for no one else. What you put in is what you get out.

I procrastinate on Ash Wednesday. It’d always been the deadline for something I should’ve spent more time thinking about: my immortal soul. Last year’s attempt to give up meat lasted about ten days before my health reacted. It wasn’t a well thought out plan. This year, I had no excuses. I’m sure I can find excessive indulgence somewhere in my life, but it occurred to me this year would require more than one of my half-baked sacrifices. I had to do something. I had to commit. This Lent had to have real meaning.

A few weeks ago, I looked around my room for some kind of divine Lenten inspiration and found it in Burny.

Rather, it was above Burny on a shelf four feet above him. Suddenly, the statuettes of saints, Mary, and angels I’d been given as gifts over the years struck me with sudden confidence. The saints of all people would know how to handle…well, anything. How to bring me back in touch with my faith during this holy time, how to trust God would take care of His own and get me through whatever dark cloud had been paralyzing me for months, how to find the strength to put in the time and effort to create something a little more valuable than a stuffed dragon (no offense, Burny). The saints were a friend pool I was not going to find on Facebook. The had run the gauntlet before. They’d see the best and the worst and knew what to do. And mostly, I would need a support group to keep my Lenten commitment.

My resolution became thus: I would keep a daily gratitude journal to remind me of just how truly blessed my life is. Additionally, I would pray to two saints a day and read about their lives, asking for their intercession.

It sounded like something that would be worthwhile in the end and if I could keep up with it, I considered making it a daily practice.

Easier said than done.

What was I saying about effort? About how putting in quality time and effort to attain an impressive outcome? Neither one of my resolutions was easy. True prayer required true heart so  I found myself repeating prayers until I actually meant my words.  My strife for forty days of Thanksgiving was not easy either. I’ll break everything up, I thought. It will be easy to list a few items a day. But after one lists “life” in a gratitude journal, what then? I’d mentioned material goods and comforts, my family and friends, my physical and mental health, the sunny day outside and my mother’s magical macaroni and meatballs. I’d even mention God Himself. What more could I be thankful for?

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This was just the beginning of my Lenten journey. I am proud to say this is no longer an issue.

I’ve learned a lot. Reminding myself the saints were once people I might have met on the street in another time helps me speak to them with reverence and regard, but with wholehearted meaning as I might speak to another person right in front of me; as I might speak to a friend. I’ve found that truly appreciating the wisdom passed down from those who have come before us will help us avoid making the same mistakes. My gratitude journal no longer chronicles objects or concepts I am grateful for but specific acts. I’m grateful for my kind coworker but I’m also grateful for her words of encouragement last week. I’m grateful for my friend but also the card she sent me to congratulate me on my new full time job. I may be grateful for my life but I’m grateful I have a life where I can eat homemade meatballs, write in cursive and craft small dragons out of yarn.

I’ve been looking forward to submitting to Traveling saints, but I felt without much traveling experience or spiritual revelations that anything I could say would be ineffectual. However, I think I’ve finally taken a step in the right direction on my own journey. As we put in our time and effort, so we will reap the rewards. As they do in heaven, so must we do on Earth. As above, so below.

I’ll see you on the path.

Holli Catherine of Pennsylvania| An accountant with a creative side expressed through writing fiction, crocheting plushies, baking anything with chocolate and wearing as many soft or fuzzy clothes as are socially acceptable. 

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