A miracle, to me, is something awesome that happens, something with a connection to Divine power. It can be when someone who was expected to die is healed, or when unforgiving family members offer forgiveness. It might be a personal achievement for one with significantly limited abilities, or maybe it is love being shown by the most unlikely person you could imagine.
I strongly believe that whatever we choose to focus on will grow. If my attention is drawn to the faults of other people or of my own, I will never run out of qualities to criticize. On the other hand, if I make the effort to keep my gaze on the positive traits—again, those of others or of mine—more of those traits will appear.
And so it is with recognizing miracles.
I probably spent the first half of my life living in an ego-centered state with my mind constantly playing and replaying all my issues—MY worries, MY to-do lists, MY hopes, MY goals, MY needs, MY wants—ME! ME! ME! And throughout those years, I don’t recall seeing very many miracles.
Fortunately, I have learned through mindfulness training to calm some of that runaway craziness of my mind. The majority of the time I am now able to shift my focus from all the “me issues” to the perspective of the moment at hand. As a result, I am now seeing miracles as they unfold before me.
I find joy in watching them occur on a regular basis. I see them, I acknowledge them with gratitude, and they keep showing up—AMAZING!
Among my favorite miracle memories is this family story that happened Christmas Eve four years ago.
For several years my mother-in-law resided in a nursing home about an hour and a half from our house. My husband would faithfully make the trip to visit her about every two weeks, spending three hours on the road for a visit that would last one to two hours. I often accompanied him, but even when I had other plans, he made the trip without complaint.
On Christmas Eve one of our sons who was home for the holidays made the trip with us. When we arrived that day, we found her asleep in bed. Although it was apparent from her attire that she had been up earlier, we could not get her to open her eyes. We pulled up three chairs around her bed and took turns calling her name, trying to get a response. Nothing. This went on for nearly an hour, and at that point, my husband suggested that we might as well leave.
It didn’t seem quite right to go, but we had tried everything we could think of with no success.
I wanted to try one more time.
“Why don’t we go to the car and get the guitar?” I suggested.
My husband had learned to play the guitar from his father and two older brothers. When his dad was alive and they used to get together for the holidays, hours were spent playing and singing together. So many good memories! It had been such an important part of his family’s tradition that he had brought his guitar, hoping we could all sing with his mom. But now, the hope was fading as we couldn’t even get her to wake up enough to know we were there.
Nonetheless, our son went outside and returned with the guitar case in hand. My husband tuned it quickly and started singing and playing “Silent Night.” Almost immediately, his mother’s eyes opened and her mouth formed a beautiful smile as she began to sing, “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.”
My husband’s voice began to falter, and when I glanced at him, I saw the tears streaming down his face. I glanced at my son and noticed the same tender response. The three of us were overcome with emotion as we watched her continue until the song was finished. We immediately started singing another Christmas carol and then another, and she sang and smiled the entire time.
After the third song she became quiet again, so we prepared to leave.
There was absolutely no conversation with my mother-in-law that day. In fact, there was no evidence she had even seen or recognized us, but it didn’t really matter. She had opened her eyes and smiled, and she had sung with us.
Our hearts were overflowing with the joy of the gift we had just received.
Just as we started our long drive home, it began to snow gently. The three of us agreed that this beautiful white scene was a perfect ending to the miracle we had just experienced.
Our wonderful, perfect Christmas miracle!
Looking back on that memory, I realize that, left to my own devices, that experience would have been missed. One side of me would have been preoccupied with all the holiday things that needed my attention, and I would probably have welcomed any excuse to go home as soon as our visit seemed pointless. I would have been thinking to myself, “I’m sorry this didn’t work out, but let’s get on to doing the next thing. We are all busy and exhausted, and there is so much yet to be done.”
Thankfully, though, this one time a different part of myself showed up, someone who quit worrying and thinking ahead and planning. All of us were in the same space, focused on nothing other than the moment we were having together. And that, I believe, made all the difference.
Food for thought: I don’t claim to know how any of this works. When we successfully quiet our runaway thoughts enough to just “be,” do we open the door for miracles to occur? Or, are these miracles always unfolding, yet we fail to see them because we are so preoccupied with the 50,000-plus thoughts we average in a day?
For me personally, I know the better I am at releasing the thoughts of the past as well as the concerns for the future—the more successful I am at being present in the present—the richer my experiences are and the more alive I feel. And so I continue to practice mindfulness, checking in with where my mind might be and gently bringing it back to where I am.
Nancy Kidd, a former Juvenile Detention Center teacher, loves her husband and two grown sons, playing piano to make people smile and the idea of finding out what the next joy around the corner might be.