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by Jessi Uran | 3-minute read

 

We trailed through whispering, gold grasses,
making our way around the shining lake.

Our cheeks were a mix of dusty rose from the cold,
and dainty pink from the noonday sun.

I the teacher, she the student.
The homeschool lesson: Praise and Thanksgiving.
Our classroom: the wide world.

We were lost in the splendor of late autumn’s wealth.
Running breathless between birches,
lying down in deer beds left over from the night before,
copying the calls of the birds.

The basket she had brought was full of fall riches.
Cattails, a fallen nest, the skeletal lace cups Queen Anne left behind.

No less valuable were the things we could not take with us.

“Look there! A beaver dam!
And there! A field mouse scurried at your feet!”

Our joys were without number.
The sky smiled its most brilliant blue.

“See? Gratitude is being thankful for all that God has given!”

Ahh, there. The teaching for the day laid forth.
Now before us, only the final stretch before home…

We soon exited the tree-lined path and came to a clearing.
In its center stood a large hawthorn bush, barren and leafless against the horizon.

Closer attention revealed its hostile skeleton.
Each thorn nearly as long as my hand.

“Look.”

I beckoned and she came, but not bounding as before.
As if she sensed the solemnity of the bleak branches.

“These they lay on his head. They formed it to a crown and pressed it to his brow.”

Cautiously, she reached to touch,
Her tender fingertip recoiling at the point.

The winds whipped about us. I squinted to read her face, to hear her thoughts
the way that mothers do sometimes.
She remained silent, her gaze unwavering.

A train whistle blew in the distance just then. The sandhill cranes shrieked their prehistoric cry.

“Time for us to go,” I said.

I trekked ahead. She lagged behind.

A mile still before we would circle back to our car.

“Getting tired, Love? Come up here by me.”

I turned around to see her several paces off.

At her feet lay the basket.
All the treasures from the days’ journey she had dropped.

Her arms were full of only milkweed pods. Their white, silky bellies burst at the seams.

“Quick! She cried!
“Help me gather the lamb wool leaves by your feet!
And more milk weed pods!
Mom, help me!”

“Why did you drop the basket? What is all this for?”

“I need soft things for the King!
I want to make him a new crown!
One that doesn’t hurt him when He wears it.”

Such big thoughts from such a little mouth stopped me still.

In an instant, roles reversed.

She the teacher now, and I the student,
being given in that moment, a new definition of gratitude.

I immediately knelt beside my small professor and joined her on her holy mission of praise.

And as we filled our hands with only the gentlest plants, my heart was filled with new understanding that day.

That gratitude is so much more than being thankful for all we have been given.

It is a dropping of what we once held dear
to offer with wholehearted abandon
something else entirely
to bless him.

It is a great exchange.
A bowing down in the innermost place to cry out:

My King, you once wore a crown sharp with my pain.
Let me offer you one soft, anew this moment,
with my praise.

 

 

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Charles Inskeep
Charles Inskeep
November 26, 2020 8:45 am

I was brought to tears at Jessie’s story! What a marvelous rendering of the horrors of the sacrificial death of the Savior through the eyes of a child and her desire to lessen the suffering! I often wish for a simpler and more direct attitude myself.

Michael O'Toole
Michael O'Toole
November 26, 2020 7:08 pm

Loved reading and feeling blessed to be reminded of gratitude as well knowing that you both are having an amazing positive impact on our world. I believe the Lord is smiling and looking down with joy on you both!