Spiritual Care & Development

Gratitude during Difficult Times

When I lived in Seattle, November was always the time when the winter rains began to roll back into the city. The sky would turn gray and gloomy, and there seemed to be a permanent mist in the air. Although the city was surrounded by mountains on all sides, you wouldn’t know it because of a persistent cloud cover obscuring the view. The first two years I was in Seattle, I found this weather oppressive. I began to dread November and the inevitable gloom it brought.

It always felt a little strange given this context of gloom to celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of November. Be thankful! Be grateful! Never mind that you know what the next six months hold (gray, gray, and more gray).

Well, one year I decided that I needed to find some way to cope with November, as I couldn’t do anything to change the reality of the gray. No matter how much grumbling or complaining I did, the weather didn’t seem to listen. I decided that I would try to find at least one thing that I appreciated about the change in seasons in order to deal with the inevitable.

The first year, I noticed that one benefit to the gray weather was that I felt “permission” to stay in and read, reflect, and cozy up with a nice cup of coffee. The next year, building on this newfound appreciation for the gray, I found an even greater gift in the change of weather.

Although Seattle summers are gorgeous and filled with an unlimited number of opportunities to explore the mountains and sea, by the end of the season everything begins to dry up. Look around in September and you’ll see dead grass, dusty sidewalks, and scrubby bushes. What I discovered when I stopped to look through the lens of gratitude was that the winter rains didn’t just bring gray—they also brought back the green! In the midst of the gray and gloom, the Emerald City began to live up to its name as the landscape became richly verdant once again.

I learned a lot about turning to gratitude during difficult times through this experience. There are difficult times in our life that feel like Seattle in November. Things are just inevitably gloomy and damp. It might be personal health struggles that we go through, fear and concern over political posturing, relationships in turmoil. These are real challenges, real disappointments, real griefs to be mourned. At the same time, it is very easy to get so wrapped up in our gloom that we miss the grace of God exploding in the foliage all around us.

Please don’t take this to mean, “don’t worry, be happy!” We can’t just ignore difficult times that require a real response. When the gray clouds came back, I still needed to wear my rain boots and take my vitamin D. Sometimes in difficult times of life we need to get help from medical professionals, reach out to loved ones, attend a protest and write our elected officials, or just have a good cry. But at the same time, some of our suffering can be alleviated if we also seek to open our eyes to see grace in the middle of it all. God continues to reach out to us, even in the gloomiest times. And this is something for which we can truly be grateful.

First Monday Turkey Dinner

This month we are gathering on November 4, 11:00am-1:00pm, with our annual catered turkey dinner from J.L. Richards. Dwayne and Susie Berg will be presenting on their recent whale-watching adventure. First Mondays is a gathering of folks 50+ for fellowship and fun. We meet in the Great Room at PUMC. If you have questions about First Monday, please contact Pastor Kate, ksweet@peoplesumc.org.

Practice@People’s blog post Did you know People’s church has a blog? You can find the blog at https://peoplesumc.org/ and clicking on the “News” tab. Each month the Discipleship team has been highlighting a different spiritual practice through its Practice@People’s article. In August we explored journaling, in September we looked at using prayer beads, and in October we considered “holy listening.”

So how do you grow in your faith? Because each one of us is unique, there are many different unique ways to grow deeper in faith. We want to feature many different faith practices, so if you have a spiritual practice you’d like to share, please talk with Pastor Kate or email her at ksweet@peoplesumc.org.

Grace and Peace,

Kate Sweet

Sue Koch