GRATITUDE – A POETRY PROMPT
Gratitude can sometimes feel elusive in the midst of chronic pain and illness, yet whether shrouded in fog or buried by loss, forgotten in a dusty corner or almost imperceptible through our tears, gratitude remains firmly rooted in the soul.
Even when we are overwhelmed.
Even when we cannot speak the word.
Even when gratefulness feels as weightless as the breath in our lungs and as insignificant as five minutes of peace in the midst of chaos, even when we close our eyes against a golden slant of sunshine on a long dark day, gratitude intentionally spoken in the dark will seek the light of a brand new day.
Intentional gratitude learns to notice small moments of grace, to thank God for junk mail, instead of one more bill in the mailbox today. It is noticing the sunlight dancing through the leaves, the warmth of a fresh cup of tea, the smell of clean sheets, the love carried by an unexpected memory.
Edward King (1829-1910), Bishop of Lincoln, wrote this about gratitude:
I will thank God for the pleasures given me through my senses, for the glory of the thunder, for the mystery of music, the singing of birds and the laughter of children. I will thank God for the pleasures of seeing, for the delights through colour, for the awe of the sunset, the beauty of flowers, the smile of friendship, and the look of love; for the changing beauty of the clouds, for the wild roses in the hedges, for the form and beauty of birds, for the leaves on the trees in spring and autumn, for the witness of the leafless trees through the winter, teaching us that death is sleep and not destruction, for the sweetness of flowers and the scent of hay. Truly, oh Lord, the earth is full of Thy riches!
And in The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sings about her favorite ordinary, everyday things.
Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things
Both Edward King’s words and the lyrics sung by Julie Andrews are about about noticing. About details. About paying attention.
In the book, Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer, Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney write:
The writer is aware of the miracle of a maple tree bark, even though she may be in a forest of maple trees. The writer is aware of the cracks in this one sidewalk he walks on, even though he is walking in a city of sidewalks. The writer is aware of the smell of salty pretzels, the beat of the sun at the high altitudes, the lonely cry of a train whistle across cornfields …
Noticing the details gives us gratitude footholds on dark days. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote it like this:
And now, when the clouds gather and the rain impends over the forest and our house, permit us not to be cast down; let us not lose the savour of past mercies and past pleasures; but, like the voice of a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memory survive in the hour of darkness.
Why the title A Harvest of Grains?
From a distance, fields of grain move as a single undulating wave in the autumn sun, yet a single grain, like a single moment, can nourish and sustain. A single grain reminds us to pause and pay attention to a sip, a bite, a breath, a creak, a snap, a petal, a touch, a hum. A field reminds us to look up and notice the horizon, the ocean stretching out as far as the eye can see, to tip our heads back in wonder at the endless night sky.
Both give form and rhythm to our days. Both nourish and sustain. Both draw our hearts deeper into Jesus. Intentional gratitude invites us to notice and thank God for grace upon grace upon grace.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Set aside a few minutes today to notice:
- the sun slanting through the window
- cool, fresh water pouring from the tap
- clean sheets fresh from the line
- the nuzzle of a puppy
- the laughter of a child
- the smell of freshly brewed coffee
- the creak of a floor board
- the sigh of wind in the pines
Notice. Pay attention. Collect the moments.
String them together.
Play with line breaks and sounds, with the rhythm of words. Let them dance, sing, and breathe.
And when you’re ready, write.
A Poem to Get You Started
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1901)
We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.
Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hang about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
And conquers if we let it.
There’s not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.
Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble;
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,
Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.
We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.
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More Poetry Prompts
Is there a basket big enough to hold all of ourselves? Wins, losses, employment, recreation, love, sorrow and joy, wellness and sickness? A God-created space that He fully inhabits? A basket for our life. Whole, complete. Integration instead of compartmentalization.
What would you say, in a poem, to a friend facing a serious diagnosis? How might your experience provide wisdom? Is there a poem that ... you could share?
Cindee Snider Re
Author and Co-Founder at Chronic Joy®
Cindee is a wife of 28 years to the man she loves most in this world, mama of five world-shaking creatives (18-27), author of Discovering Hope, Finding Purpose, Embracing Worth and I Take You in Sickness and in Health, photographer, craver of quiet, lover of cotton, denim, Jesus and tea, and co-founder of Chronic Joy®. Cindee and four of her five kids have Ehlers-Danlos, dysautonomia, intractable migraine, and myriad co-existing conditions, through which they're learning the deeper the valley, the greater their capacity for joy.