Learning Virtues with Gratitude

On this Canadian Thanksgiving, I have much to share. I haven’t written in awhile as this past year, I have been more private as I grieved the loss of my Mother. However, much has happened for which I am grateful including a summer filled with weddings and celebrations for family and friends as well as the vacation of lifetime with my husband and kids.

As I think of all I am grateful for, I find myself focusing on family, specifically my children. They have all been my teachers, and like most of you, they have certainly taught me that patience is indeed a virtue and the very essence of self-control. Pause, breathe, count to 10 before responding… you parents know what I am talking about, right? Patience is a virtue.

It’s amazing what we learn if we are open to personal growth. My first born son, Jansen, died when he was close to 2 weeks old. His life also taught me about faith. I found it, lost it, challenged it, questioned it, leaned on it, and found it again – all in 12 days – then lather, rinse, repeat day by day for months. Ultimately, I learned faith requires habitual practice and selfdiscipline which leads to self-confidence. Faith isn’t rational. Faith isn’t logical. Faith isn’t about wishing, it is about practicing mindfulness and adopting an active attitude of will. Faith is a virtue.

My second son, Houston, taught me all about love. I learned that love is the greatest emotion. I learned that I could love fully and be full loved – unconditionally. I learned the power of love over hate. Love is limitless, unless contained within the boundaries of emotions. Love is in actions and words, it is a principal to live by, not just an emotion to fleetingly feel. In his book, Love as a Way of Life, Gary Chapman outlines seven characteristics of an authentically loving person: kindness, patience, forgiveness, courtesy, humility, generosity and honesty. Before he could complete a full sentence, Houston had taught me this complete lesson. From him, I developed self-respect. Love is a virtue.

My third son, Chris, taught me all about hope. I believe hope is what allows us to live our present circumstance by connecting us to our unknown, but visioned future. It bridges the gap between what is and what can be. I learned that hope does indeed float to prevent sinking in difficult times. It can anchor us to keep us steady in life’s storms.

Throughout Chris’ epileptic-seizure ridden childhood, I learned hope defeats fear. I learned that to stabilize one’s self in hope comes from selftranscendence and a higher connection. Hope is a virtue.

One of the most significant changes in my life this year is that I have become a temporary foster mom to a young woman, a teenage girl, whom I met by chance. I’ll call her “Elle”. She is teaching me and our family about the true meaning of grace. I have learned how difficult it can be to give. I have learned how necessary it is to give it. I learned the humbleness of grace and that it comes from a place of selflessness. I am learning not only to extend the gift of grace to her, but also to myself as I find many efforts to help her are futile. She is emotionally wounded and her ambiguous behaviour is confusing to me and those who want to help her. However, grace is a kindness, a mercy, that perhaps we extend to others without the requirement that they ‘earn’ it. Can grace become an enabler? I believe so. Is grace a virtue? I believe so.

In totality, I have learned that my 3 sons taught me the principles of the 3 theological virtues, faith, hope and love, and that it takes all three to reach grace. I am reminded that It is through grace and by grace that we are all saved. I am grateful that my sons prepared me for this moment in time as I see it will take faith, hope, love – and truckload of patience to connect to her.

I have learned that grace is my responsibility to give, and Elle’s responsibility to receive. I believe this is God’s message to us all. I have faith that all will work out for the her highest good. I have love for her despite her choices. I have hope that she will seek God and receive the divine gift of grace. In the meantime, I believe the best way to teach is to show, and sharing our lives with her is the best example we can give.

I have to take this opportunity express my gratitude to my parents as well. I see that they prepared me for this moment in ways for which there are no words. In this and all things, I will try to honour the name Mom and Dad chose to call me which means grace.

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