book photo

[photo by Comfreak]

Many Octobers ago, I said to myself, “This is as good a time as any.” I pulled out a 5×8 blank book that was stashed among my office supplies, and began “My Book of Blessings.” The first blessing I wrote was “For Christina’s suggestion that I record a daily blessing, Thank You.”

That blessing was written on October 13, 2004. Since then I have recorded four-thousand eight-hundred forty-eight blessings. My third blank book will be filled by the end of this year, and a fourth one is waiting patiently for me to initiate it.

If I had to evacuate my home in an emergency, my three Blessings Books are what I would grab just after my wallet and keys.

I have instructed my friends that, when I lie dying, I want to be read to from my Blessings Books. Just randomly, not in any particular order. I want to be reminded of how good – how blessed – my life has been. And, if I am able, I might want to elaborate on blessings that I remember especially fondly. Mostly, however, there are not connected stories, just a grateful noticing and remembering of something from each day.

These blessings are small, simple, usually just one a day – like,

(#814, 1/4/07) “Saw an owl in flight tonight by full moon. Thank You” and

(#1214, 2/8/08) “Planted a yellow primrose in the rain. Thank You” and

(#1764, 8/11/09) “Saw the Wild Horses sculptures above the Columbia River, again after 20 years. Thank You” and

(#2969, 10/16/12) “Carrot/ginger soup. Thank You” and

(#3130, 10/15/13) “Hundreds of orb webs strung between overhead power lines and illuminated by a fresh coat of fog. Thank You.”

Sometimes I can’t choose just one noticing, and so I record a string of wonderful things. Like

(#4315, 6/6/17) “Morning sun through red poppies, bunnies frolicking, a gourmand deer, spectacular Olympic Mountains, and meals with friends. Thank You.”

And sometimes I even acknowledge the blessing in painful things, like

(#3707, 12/5/15) “Totally exhausted from 16 hours of retreat facilitation work in one day. Nevertheless . . . Thank You” and

(#4566, 2/15/18) “Feeling my heart break over yet more gun violence. May my heartbreak be my prayer. Thank You.”

No blessing is too small to be recorded: (#4430, 9/30/17) “Brown basmati rice. Thank You.” And no blessing is too huge: (#4815, 10/22/18) “Leo died at about 2:00 this afternoon. I am grieving deeply. For his amazing life, Thank You.”

On Thanksgiving Day last week, after the feast, and after the leftovers were divided up and sent home with guests, and after the dishwasher was running, I pulled out my three Blessings Books, and thumbed through them for an hour or so. Then I held them in my hands, placed them over my heart, and whispered, “Oh yes, Thank You, so very much!”

Then I put them back on the shelf, so I’ll know right where they are . . . in case I ever have to evacuate my home in an emergency!

NOTE: POETRY PUBLISHED – “Peacock Journal,” a lovely online literary journal devoted to beauty, is publishing five of my poems in December at PeacockJournal.com . (Unsure yet about exactly which week. But the poems will be held in the journal’s archives over the next year) And stay tuned next month for a pre-publication notice of Mortal Beings, my first book of poetry, to be published by Finishing Line Press.

40 replies
  1. Shirley Jallad
    Shirley Jallad says:

    Thank you so much for the beautiful Christmas ornaments you made and sent me over the years. They are all gracing our Christmas tree. I showed them off to some dinner guests on Saturday.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Looking back, I don’t know how Joe and I found the time to make those ornaments. But I’m glad we did, and that they still bring pleasure after all these years.

      Reply
  2. Jessica R Trenshaw
    Jessica R Trenshaw says:

    A few years ago I wrote down a small note whenever something special happened, and put them all in a jar. At the end of the year I read them, and it was shocking just how many amazing things happen in a year!

    In my life I have started taking many photos, trying to capture “Living in the moment”, but starting a blessings journal sounds absolutely wonderful! Thank you for the idea Grandma, I love you (and thanks for being a blessing in my life!)

    Reply
  3. Miriam Raabe
    Miriam Raabe says:

    Great little practice! I have been using 750words.com for a few years for daily writing – both journaling and poetry. Recently, I have been too occupied with caregiving to do it daily, so I might just follow your suggestion for now and see if it sticks. Your blog posts are consistently delightful. That might be today’s blessing. Many thanks.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      What an honor – to be named as today’s blessing! And I’m also honored that, in the midst of your difficult caregiving you have taken the time to reply to this post. I hold you with compassion and admiration.

      Reply
  4. Janice C O'Mahony
    Janice C O'Mahony says:

    As always, you tell me things that make sense and resonate deeply. So I bought a notebook and I now have two entries. It’s fun to notice good things and pick the one that gets recorded. Very helpful to a person who struggles with “my cup is half empty” tendencies. Thank you, dear Cynthia.

    Reply
  5. Katheryn M Trenshaw
    Katheryn M Trenshaw says:

    I love this well crafted and timely post. I have, not surprisingly, the same practice…as well as journaling with which I am more daily… but equally passionate about and grateful for. I have NO doubt whatsoever that my capacity for, value of and appreciation of these powerful practices come from you my dear Mother. Thank you!

    I will add this to my list of suggestions for values statements and end of life suggestions in the resources that I am compiling for people living with cancer.

    PS It has only occurred to me recently how amazing it is that I have held these practices for so long… even amazes other artists which I find …well…amazing as I always thought this was just normal. Love that. Thank you again.

    Reply
  6. Alison Heins
    Alison Heins says:

    When I see the blackbirds flocking and settling, I always recall a story you related of a time you were parked, waiting for the ferry. You watched a long line of birds perched on a wire. Each time one flew off one end, another would settle at the other, and they all moved up one space This made you laugh. It makes me laugh. And wonder. How amazing birds are, and what are they up to? I wonder if this incident is in one of your blessings journals? I bet it is.
    Lovely blog post. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      The blackbirds-on-a-wire may well be among the blessings I’ve recorded, though I couldn’t say exactly where it is hidden. Thanks for reminding me – that story may have to be made into a poem soon . . .

      Reply
  7. Anna Trenshaw
    Anna Trenshaw says:

    Having a gratitude journal is not a new concept for me, but your execution is unique. Thank you, as always, for sharing! (Maybe that will be my first entry…)

    Reply
  8. MARY NAUSADIS
    MARY NAUSADIS says:

    What an excellent idea, Cynthia! I have several directees who say they just don’t have time for a prayer routine, but this is an easy way to get into the habit of jotting something down, as well as becoming conscious of where and how God is present in our lives. I believe once it is habit, we would look for things that happen during the day that we can record at the end of it.

    It makes us more present to the present and makes for lovely thoughts to fill our minds with as we drift off to sleep.

    You have blessed my day.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      This is a subtle way of erasing the spiral of guilt about what we “should” be doing (but can’t seem to manage) in our spiritual life. Thanks for passing this on to your directees.

      Reply
  9. Barbara Joy Laffey
    Barbara Joy Laffey says:

    Thank you Cynthia! What a beautiful practice and what a beautiful post! I’ve been told that Meister Eckhart used to say that if the only prayer you ever say is “thank you,” that would be enough. And so it is. Blessings.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      I’d love to take credit, but they come from Flikr Creative Commons, a portion of which is built in to WordPress, which is the platform for my website. The only trick is deciding what topic to search for. . .

      Reply
  10. Susanne M Fest
    Susanne M Fest says:

    So simple and so easy– or so it sounds. And what a wonderful way of redirecting the mind from the “negativity bias” to looking at the other side of “what is”, too. My first reaction is: I really want to develop this habit, too. But can I.. and sustain it? What has it taken for you to do this? And yes, THANK YOU for sharing.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      As I told Ann, below, the hardest part is getting out to a store and buying the small blank book (about 5″x7″ or 6″x8″). Put it on, or next to your bed, along with a pen (and reading glasses if you need them). Then just START – on any evening. Then do it the next night, and the next. Pretty soon you’ll have a dozen, and then you won’t want to stop collecting the beautiful little blessings of each day.

      Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      This is SO much easier than journaling. I often find myself a week “behind” in keeping a journal. But this seems so natural – I have my current Blessings Book right on my bed, along with a pen and a pair of reading glasses, and this is the first thing I do when I snuggle into bed at the end of a day. The most difficult part of the practice is BUYING A SMALL BLANK BOOK (my current one is 5″x7″) . . . after that, it’s easy.

      Reply
  11. Ann Linnea
    Ann Linnea says:

    Wow, Cynthia! I think the reason we call things “spiritual practice” is that we actually need to practice to take them into our souls as part of what crafts our core. This is a powerful tribute to doing just that. Very inspiring!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      May it be so, that this practice “crafts my core”! In the end, it may be all I have to offer in exchange for a wonderful life.

      Reply
  12. jane hayes
    jane hayes says:

    Wonderful habit…writing it down. I always do it mentally but I’m sure this will be more powerful and intimate. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Yup, there’s a big difference between thinking it and making it concrete, in black and white. It’s a sweet way to end each day.

      Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      And what can one say to “thank you” but “you’re welcome”? Otherwise it threatens to become a closed loop: thank you . . . no, thank YOU . . . no, I said it first, so thank you . . .! So I’ll just say “you’re welcome,” and I’m grateful for your reading.

      Reply

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