Europe 2019: Learning How to Get Gifts


I sit in one of my newfound favorite study haunts — the Edinburgh Art College cafe — staring through full-face windows at a weather progression that, in any other ecosystem, would have looked like a time-lapse video. In Scotland though, the sky going from beaming blue to foreboding grey and then dumping rain in five minutes’ time is par for the course (golf reference intentional — when in Rome, as they say). I’m enjoying the magic of trap jazz through bluetooth headphones and taking a break from writing my masters’ dissertation paper to muse for a minute.


This last week or two, I’ve missed a lot. Missed my childhood home; my brothers and sisters; days when I slept better. Missed big kitchen pots, campfires, being in a band, and long-lost versions of life I now have only the residual pleasure of remembering. Missed screen houses, and pine trees, and driving, and good Thai food, and the nice Kawai bass and camping gear I used to have on-hand. Missed driving by Lake Michigan, being greeted by a dog, working on my motorcycle, pancake breakfasts with my undergrad basketball team, weekend adventures with roommates, working crazy camp jobs, and biking through Forest Park in St. Louis. And, more-so, all the people included in those memories.


Little things in life can trigger massive memory throbs, and these days they seem to come around a lot. I find that they often get stronger when I near the potential end of a chapter (in my life, those seem to come around more frequently than I’d prefer) — when the honeymoon phase of figuring out a new life environment and settling into something new has waned and the horizon holds a lot of unknown. In times like these, it’s tempting for me to withdraw and insulate myself from enjoying, from loving, from cherishing and relishing life around me. That way, it’s not as hard to leave and I don’t add to the long, long list of things I don’t have anymore.


Yesterday I sat on a bus carrying me through Scottish countryside out to a town near Edinburgh to watch a basketball practice for my dissertation. As I basked in an especially long stretch of sunshine and reveled in some of the most picturesque and quaint small-European-town scenery you can imagine, I realized how full of blessing my life is. It’s like one big shiny emerald, green as the Scottish hills. And to discount it as anything less is selling it dramatically short.


For this next bit, a couple premises need to be established:


  1. I believe God is not only out there and real but interested in my life and yours.
  2. I believe that He is not only interested in, but involved and, in fact, in charge of my life. A conviction that causes equal parts awe, peace, and chagrin, and one that dictates much of my waking conscious thought.


Alright, back to it. I’ve realized that I overestimate my ability to receive things from God. I’m actually really bad at it. And part of what I think God has done in my heart over the last few years is begin to teach me how to receive the gifts He wants to give. Patience to slow down and see them; a receptive and quiet heart that’s interested rather than soley focused on what I want; a capacity to recognize gifts that in the past I would have just assumed to be coincidence or my own doing.


Being marginally more competent at recognizing God’s goodness has made a profound difference in how I see the world and in my general quality of life. Priorities tend to get straightened out; I don’t feel caught spending a lot of time stressing about things that have little impact; and I (hopefully) have more capacity for supporting other people in their lives rather than freaking out about mine all the time.


I think we could all benefit from a little practice receiving rather than requesting. Instead of planning out our requests of God, what if we took a week and, instead of asking Him for anything, we examined our lives and came up with new things each day that are blessings we hadn’t recognized before? How would it change our perspective? Perhaps something worth trying.


For those who have read to here, this post might thus far seem a bit disjointed. I started out whining about things I miss and then riffed on a tangent about God’s blessings. What gives?


Most, if not all, of the memories I mentioned that I hold so fondly were cut from reels of time when I existed predominantly dissatisfied with life. I shudder to think of the number of hours I’ve spent in my past deeply sad, angry, depressed, confused, or generally angsty at or with God — blaming Him for circumstances I didn’t like, exhorting Him for answers or changes, frustrated in my present and seeing no way out of it (or looking for ways to run).


This reflection is one that has begun to solidify over the past few weeks. Plenty of sages can do it more justice than I can, but accept this token dogma as a starting point for seeing it play out more eloquently in your own life: God gives abundant blessings. Even in the darkest, weirdest, most nebulous, most dangerous, or most blasé seasons of life. And your acknowledgement and enjoyment of them is a muscle worth strengthening. Did I fully appreciate most of those things I sorely miss now? No way. Do I want to avoid making that same mistake again, and use more of my energy enjoying and appreciating what I have in front of me than wishing for what I don’t? Yes. So instead of pining over my Mazdas or kitchens or coffee shops of old, I’m going to thank God for what, while writing this, has turned back into a gorgeous summer day and the blessings He has given me in the here and now.


That’s all from me. Back to dissertation. Until next,



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