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Advent invites us into a sense of gratitude for the gifts God offers us.  In this time of darkness, we become more sensitive to those places of light and illumination.  In our eagerness for new birth, we become aware of the life bubbling inside of us, pulsing and readying.  In waiting, we come to recognize the hope we hold in our bodies, anticipation knit into our bones.


My life is filled with gifts.  This weekend, one of those gifts is in a twelve-pound package.  Doesn’t that sweet little face make you smile inside?  Niko belongs to one of my husband’s co-workers, they are both on retreat with some of their students this weekend, so I am dog-sitting.  She is a very sweet dog and has already started working her way into my heart.   I am enjoying the gifts of stillness and solitude and the affection of my brief companion.

I am taking a short break from grading papers.  I am about halfway through a pile of 28.  Reading the “Rule of Life” each of my students created in response to what we learned in class brings me delight.  It is a gift to see the ways they have woven together the material we have discussed this quarter and experience the value in my work.  I have received many warm and gracious emails from students about what the class meant to them, including one who sent me this gift of a poem from Rumi that made her think of me and my teaching:

Now stop the words.
In the center of your chest, open the window;
let the spirits fly in and out.

Yesterday was a full day of gatherings, rich and fruitful time spent in creative community.  In one of my prayer experiences I became aware of the grief I hold still for Duke, especially in these winter months when he would snuggle in closer to stay warm.  I miss the substance of his body so much and experience the loss in an embodied way.  I am grateful for his continued gift in my life.  I am grateful I am able to be so present to loss and grief, I am grateful for having been able to love so much.

I feel grateful for the simple gift of friendship.  Tonight I will break bread with a good friend and share in the gifts of music in a performance of Mozart’s Messiah.  My soul will sing with praise in harmony with the musicians.

I am grateful for my dreams these long holy nights.  They have been coming frequently and with a sense of some urgency.  Tending dreams seems especially fruitful during this night season, when perhaps the veil is even thinner between day and nighttime visions.

I am especially grateful to be on the cusp of my sabbatical time, time to rest and savor, linger and cherish the beauty of moments.   Time to live in response to my deepest longings and trusting a vision I have not seen, but only feel in my belly.  I receive the time ahead as a great gift.

As I miss my beloved this weekend, I relish the great gift of his love in my life, one of the ways I experience the sacredness of love incarnate each day.

With each gift something within me opens, spread wide like wings that lift and glide.  With each offering of thanks I acknowledge the wonder that there is anything at all, much less such beauty and love and tenderness.  With each moment of gratitude I feel God’s holy fire within me growing. 

I am aware of those who go hungry or without shelter, those who are alone or who live with abuse, and I pray that all of us who have received great gifts may offer thanks and recognize that nothing is solely ours, we are invited to share.  In sharing our gifts they multiply.  In offering generously we live out of God’s abundance rather than our own scarcity.

What is igniting your gratitude this day?

-Christine Valters Paintner

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8 Responses

  1. Oh gosh, I’m sorry about the name mixup. I know I knew that from prior posts. My stepdaughter recently lost her very beloved cat, Duke, and I think of him when you mention your sweet dog by the same name. The sentiment remains the same. (warm smile)

  2. Hi Wendy, yes she is a very sweet little creature. Duke may very well have had a paw in her visit. :-)

    Hi CO and welcome! Thanks for your very kind words.

    Blessings, Christine

  3. I read your post last night and it touched me, but I didn’t have the words to express my feelings. I still don’t. But I wanted to let you know that your depth of love for Duke, embracing grief as part of that wonderful relationship, and the expression of gratitude and compassion…that was a spark.

  4. Oh wow, you can just feel this dog’s goodness and sweetness. Makes me miss a dog friend of mine I petsitted for in British Columbia. Maybe Duke brought you and this new friend together : )

  5. Thanks Zorra! Niko has been very snuggly today.

    Hi Lisa, the loss is actually of my dog Duke last August. Niko is the dog I am sitting for this weekend. Blessings are in abundance when we pay attention! Even in the midst of sorrow.

  6. Now that is a sweet face. It is good that you can voice your grief over the loss of Niko and it is good that you brought each other comfort and joy for a time.

    I love the way you speak of gratitude. It does bubble up. As I recognize the beauty in every day life, the small conversations with people I love, the feeling of cool air on my skin and the warmth of a home when I’ve had enough, singing my favorite song with a good friend for teenagers….these are all just from one afternoon. I am truly blessed.