When I was a girl, I was a Girl Scout. Thankfully, we had an active troop leader who took us on all kinds of outdoor excursions, from camping and hiking to ice tobogganing, in all kinds of weather. Recently I thought of a song that we sometimes sang as Scouts, the “Johnny Appleseed Song.” It went: “The Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me.”
As we move into the new calendar year, I’m more aware than ever of the centrality of gratitude to prayerful living. While many people make New Year’s resolutions and hope to have stronger willpower than ever, for me deepening my life in Christ is less and less about trying to exert my own will more exactingly. Instead, the prayer is more and more about handing over my will to God in trust and letting God lead me, i.e., surrender. The foundation of surrender is gratitude.
Everything good that we have in our lives comes first from God. Our families, friends, work, talents, and our lives are all gift. Then, as the Principle and Foundation says, we are invited to make a response to those gifts. Gratitude naturally moves toward generosity.
Over Christmas, I spent some time in prayer holding the baby Jesus, gazing at him in gratitude. Along with my profound sense of the giftedness of Jesus, I was reminded of the beautiful moments when I held my own children as infants, and the blissful looks on their faces when they fell asleep on my lap after nursing. My sense of gratitude for their very existence encourages me to think about how to be a more generous parent to them now as they approach adulthood, for example, helping my oldest to learn how to budget in anticipation of living independently or hugging my son on his way out the door to an exam.
As Scouts, we joked that singing the “Johnny Appleseed Song” inevitably led to rain on our camping outings. In truth, we can’t control the shifting weather in our lives. It may rain or snow one day and be all sun and light the next, but all we are given is part of the giftedness of existence. And so I pray for ever greater surrender to the all-good Giver of the gift.