This Sunday morning my niece sat next to me during church service. I will admit this is one of the main reasons I enjoy church. Right or wrong, there it is. With the man I love on one side, and two precious kids on the other, with my sister nearby... it just makes God's presence seem real and close and wonderful.
Caroline usually sits close to me, so that our shoulders are touching. Sometimes she puts her head on my shoulder or leans into me as we sing, pray, and listen to the morning's lesson. Sometimes she takes my arm, sometimes she puts her head in my lap, and I bask in the wonderfulness of it. I absolutely adore this child.
I stroke her hair with my hand and think about the days when she will be too big to lean against me and too old to think sitting next to Aunt Jane is so fun. So I soak in these moments and hold onto them tight. I try to slow them down so that each second lasts an hour.
This particular Sunday morning, Jason's parents joined us and we were sitting behind Mark and Julie. Caleb sat with them, and Caroline came back to join me. We sang a few songs, the last being, "Love One Another," which is a favorite of mine. Caroline does not usually sing. She stands when we stand and is attentive, but she does not sing (although, I know she does when in class with her friends). When the song showed up on the large screens in the front of the church, she noticed. She had my hand in hers and together, we sang the alto part of the song. We repeated it again and again as the other parts and verses joined us.
"Love one another, for love is of God. He who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love. God is love."
With Caroline's voice accompanying mine, Jason and his family and my family all around us, the beautiful sound of all the parts coming together, and the powerful simplicity of the words we were singing, I could hardly finish a verse without my voice cracking. I had to swallow and work hard to pull it together as I did not want anything to interrupt this perfect moment.
What a gift! What a powerful, amazing, sweet, precious, WONDERful, gift! I've been counting and keeping watch. I've been noticing the beauty around me, the things that make me smile, and an overwhelming thankfulness takes over every moment I spend thinking on things that are true and right and noble and good. But this gift...this gift takes the cake. Or it IS the cake.
Caroline's voice. The words we were singing. Being surrounded by those I love... what a gift. Gifts within gifts. I am still holding on to that moment. I wrote it on my gift-list for yesterday, but maybe remembering it should go on today's list.
I leave you with a favorite quote of mine in the book, "One Thousand Gifts" (along with the suggestion that you read it for yourself).
"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
- Sarah Ban Breathnach