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There is gratitude, and then there is “wondrous gratitude,” a phrase taken from Step XI’s Recipe for Recovery (2015). There is gratitude from habit, and there is gratitude from attention. There is gratitude from the head, and there is gratitude from the heart.

Happy the individual who experiences even a smidgen of gratitude, either given or received. It does make a difference: the dark curtain of negativity parts ever so slightly, evoking smiles that whisper, that chirp, that crinkle otherwise dour jaws. Living with ourselves and others becomes freer from tension, opens worlds of giggles.

For those engaged in psychic cleansing through practicing the Twelve Steps of AA, however, gratitude takes on new dimensions, colors the ordinary with turn-around looks, and tickles belly laughter, at times requiring Kleenex, for tears. In my perception, experiencing “wondrous gratitude” floods the psyche with wordless unconditional love that sings and blows pink soap bubbles that meander, then pop with surprise.

To wrap words around “wondrous gratitude” is one thing, but quite another, to experience it; years of hospice abound with them: the stillness of contemplation, the next right word at my word processor, forgiveness of self and others, guidance through meaningful dreams, savory suppers of Shepherd’s Pie when hungry and other foods, my weekly helper whose expertise leaves her sparkle and willingness upon everything in my home, the next right book, the daily CPA Zoom member response that untangles my self-made knots, my CPA sponsor whose courage demonstrates stellar recovery and challenges me to work harder, the items on my gratitude list at the end of the day, and so much more—all evidence a Higher Power responding to my willingness to learn and change.  

The key to this attitude is unflappable “conscious contact” with Higher Power. His inspiring company leaves me “wondrously grateful”—a foretaste of eternal life.

Colorful butterflies in lavender field.

“Got any lotion ‘round here? Your feet look very dry,” said my friend as she concluded our afternoon visit in my study, her navy shirt and shorts setting off her summer-tanned limbs as she stood up. Daily swims free up chronic pain that enables and enhances her care for others. Each time that she comes, she treats me with a high-calorie protein smoothie, its almond butter and chocolate, a perfect blend. “Just tell me where it is and I’ll get it,” she added.

I shook my head. Her question reminded me to add lotion to my next shopping list as I’d just used up what I had.

“Well, I’ve got some, here,” she said already fumbling around in her over-sized bag. “We can use some of this.” Flipping off the lid, she squirted large portions of creamy lotion in her ample palms and rubbed them together. Already, fragrance filled my study, a fitting comparison to the sweetness of my friend, as I waited for her touch.

Then, I felt her strength course through my bluish-purplish bare feet, felt them tingle and giggle, the truth being that I rarely offer such care to my feet because of not being able to reach them. And then it was over, the lotion recapped and dropped into her purse.

Immediately, another experience of foot-care seized my imagination. Hearty in spirit, strong in nurturing, He cared for His disciples’ road-dusty feet, despite the reluctance of one of them. I admit a tinge of my own until feeling the smoothness and lingering fragrance of the lotion. I, too, had been touched and my feet still sing.

Daily adherence to my routine of self-care, basically unchanged since last March, convinces me that countless prayer supports this uncharted journey in which I’m largely content. My gratitude soars, my new learning challenges and enriches, my diminishments, especially my silvery-white wavy hair, a surprise. And with these changes, I’ve scraped free the outer Liz that no longer works, reminding me of the transparent skin of a garden snake I discovered in my front garden, years ago; its owner, freshly gone.  

But there are interludes of transient pain, clothes that no longer fit, phone calls from solicitors, tiring conversation from visitors. At times, meals lose their taste, fatigue chokes my spirit, and my dry eyes burn, even with Refresh. At other times, noisy motorcycles roar past my bungalow, delivery trucks inch past parked cars, and lawn mowers manicure yards already trimmed.

And occasional exposure to the global news confounds me even deeper and jettisons me into prayer, especially for growing families. And even August colors sigh with inevitable change—the marigolds in my flower beds straggle with blackened leaves.

When yanked away from what I want, I resort to Jesus’s teaching in Luke 12:19:

I’ve come to cast fire upon the earth and I wish it were blazing already.

This same gentle fire informs both Gospel and Twelve Step living and restores my acceptance of “Life on life’s terms” until the next downer. This is how the gentle fire works. It always does.

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