When I was in eighth grade, my aunt gave me a handmade needlepoint. It shows a dove outlined in rainbow colors, and next to the dove is a verse from the Bible: “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith” (Galatians 5:22).
I’ve had the needlepoint it for almost thirty years, and now it hangs in my bedroom, right beside the mirror. I pass it countless times a day, usually without giving it a second glance.
Then one day, I found myself consciously pondering the words in a way I never had before. I realized that the needlepoint was an invitation, a chance to think about how true that verse really is. Where in my life do I find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faith?
An idea popped into my mind: I’d work my way through the list, focusing on one fruit of the spirit each day. I’d live that day with my mind open, alert to all the many ways that the virtue shows up in my life. (Though the Bible goes on to name two more – gentleness and self-control – I kept it to the seven on the needlepoint, one for each day of the week.)
Thus began my Week of the Fruit of the Spirit. And here’s what happened:
I found that these fruits show up in many little ways, even on an ordinary day. On Day One, I noticed love everywhere. My husband brought me a mug of coffee as I sat at my computer. My preschooler spontaneously said, “Mommy, I like to kiss you.” Looking at a photo of the dear friend I lost to cancer two years ago, I found myself feeling grateful for having known and loved her.
So many things around me – even tiny things – were evidence of the love that is and has been a part of my life.
I found that having a particular virtue on my radar meant that I did a better job of living it myself. When my boys wanted to do an art project on Wednesday – Patience Day – I stopped what I was doing to help them get out the paints, spread newspaper, and do all the other tasks required for the transformation of the dining room into an art studio. They loved it, and their paintings of rainbows and birds and ninjas brightened a rainy afternoon.
I found myself pondering what these words really mean. On my Day of Joy, I realized that I associate joy with rare, exciting events: the last day of school before summer vacation or a romantic getaway with my husband.
But joy can be subtler than that. I felt it when I was at the park with my boys and while I admired the vivid beauty of red Gerbera daisies in a vase. Moments of joy are present even in the quiet rhythms of an ordinary day.
I found myself thinking about the big picture. On Day Three (Peace), I suddenly thought about how lucky I am to live in a peaceful time and place. So many women live with violence, oppression, war. It was a reminder of something I take for granted and shouldn’t, as well as a reminder to keep the suffering of others on my prayer list.
Most of all, the week showed me that life is always better when we approach it intentionally. It is so easy to push quiet reflection off of the to-do list or to give its space to something more mindless and flashy, like TV or the Internet.
But if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that taking time to pray about the events of the day is crucial to my happiness. This needlepoint reminds me that when I pause to look for the evidence of God’s presence in my life, I never come up empty. It’s always there, threading its way throughout the random moments of my day, just waiting for me to notice and be grateful.