In everything, give thanks. (1 Thess 5:18)
As we begin the month of November, I find myself filled with gratitude for many things, mostly people around me who show me the light of Christ by the way they live their lives. Today, I want to give a shout out to one such woman.
A year ago perhaps, I found myself in the carpool line at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School, just as I had been nearly every week day for 16 years straight. I had gone inside the church to say hello to Jesus, and when I came out to try and remember where I had parked my Durango, there was the very genial, Jennifer. We began to quiz each other about our children, as moms will do. The details of the conversation elude me to be honest, but I just remember leaving her thinking how authentic and lovely she is…and how deeply she loves her two daughters. I already knew her uber friendly girl, Avery, because she and my son, Zach, were in the same class at SLDM. Her much younger daughter, Grace, I knew less well. She’s pictured with her girls, above. When I left Jennifer that day, it felt like a blessing in my week. Some folks just always seem to leave us a little more joyful than they found us– that’s this gal!
Genuine, friendly and kind are the adjectives I choose to describe Jennifer Layden. She’s also just sunny, witty, and incredibly beautiful. I think she’s a local who grew up in Carmel, maybe? Also, she’s a Xavier University grad, so we’ve bonded a little over our Muskie connection since my oldest son is a senior Finance major there! Her husband is a handsome guy named Dan who I am not sure I have ever officially met. She’s a St. Louis Cardinals fan, for reasons unknown to myself?
Here’s what else I know for sure. Jennifer has a warm, kind heart. Her social media posts attract my notice for their consistent positivity. She’s incredibly supportive as a mom, a fact I know from all the events she attends all the times she raises her hands to help others around her. I don’t know her as well as I’d like, but I’d bet she’s the sort of gal who watches the Hallmark Christmas movies, ha? Her heart is of the soft and mushy variety, the kind that reminds me of marshmallows. I mean that as a profound compliment.
Many months after our talk in the carpool line, a chat I had long forgotten, Jennifer found me again. She reminded me that I had encouraged her to pursue a desire that was gnawing on her heart in a way she hadn’t previously considered…and that she followed my advice! She made a point to find me because she wanted to say thank you. To be candid, I feel like any contribution I made in the matter was extremely small, however her intentional act of gratitude made it’s mark on me. You see, I am hard on myself. Often, I chastise myself for the little failures, and rarely do I remember to be gentle with myself and notice the goodness– that day particularly so. God used her to help me correct course, judge myself less harshly. Her example of a simple “hey, thank you for listening and weighing in– it helped” reminded me ONCE AGAIN how truly important it is that we notice and acknowledge the goodness of those around us and that in ourselves.
When the Holy Spirit whispers, “say thank you” or “be kind” or “listen carefully”…it’s likely the Lord giving us a chance to be His hands or His face to another. Jennifer Layden is a lovely example of a wife and mother who seems to intuitively grasp that. Today, I just wanted to say I SEE YOU, JENNIFER. Well done.
The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. (Henri Nouwen)