Miracles Happen Everyday (and This Is How to Experience One)


Photo Credit: Bigstock (Syntheticmessiah)

I wake up to an alarm and darkness and, behind eyelids too heavy to lift, my first thought is how good it will feel to get back into bed tonight. Eventually, I muster the will to lift my legs over the side of the mattress. I stand. My joints pop like rheumatic fireworks. I move toward the bathroom. More fireworks. It didn’t used to be this way. Waking didn’t always feel like resurrecting. And yet.

I still choose to be here.

(A miracle isn’t a moment.)

I stand at the sink, remove my mouth guard. Another night of clenching, but no cracked tooth, no chipped crown. I brush my teeth while looking into the mirror, while looking into almost forty years of time, while looking into dark circles, thinning hair, greying whiskers. I look into the future and see where time is taking me. And yet.

I still choose to be here.

(A miracle is a collection of moments.)

I climb into the car on a morning tipping toward winter. There is a chill in the air. I turn on the heat in the car. The dust from a summer of unuse makes its way into my nostrils. They itch. I shiver. And yet.

I still choose to be here.

(Miracles gather.)

I go to the gym and put in the time to stave off time the best I can. I return home, where my family is shaking off its slumber. I hope for hugs but get silence. The little girl, usually all smiles, is in an inexplicable funk. She cannot, we have learned, be retrieved from this place—she has to come back on her own. The middle one is anxious and his anxiety leads to a spill and a denial. The teenager slumps over the counter, shoveling cereal, head ensconced in headphones, clearly wishing he was anywhere else. And yet.

I still choose to be here.

(Miracles congregate.)

On this morning, the children are borrowing every last ounce of my wife’s patience. I let them have everything she has to give—we will be business partners for a morning and not much more. And yet.

I still choose to be here.

(Miracles accumulate.)

My family leaves, disappearing into the obligations of their day, and I settle into the obligations of mine. I return phone calls, reach no one, leave messages. There is a book to be edited. I’ve been writing it for almost three years. The finish line is so close yet so far away. I edit. There is a blog post to be written. I begin it as I always do, nervously wondering if it will be any good. It is difficult to write in nervous wonder. And yet.

I still choose to be here.

(Buechner writes, “A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”)

The blog post is mediocre, and I need to get away from it, so I go for a walk in the here I’ve chosen. I notice the morning chill has been burnt into autumn glory. The sky is as blue as an iMessage bubble. I hear the industrious chatter of squirrels in the trees, shelling acorns and walnuts for the winter. A gentle breeze blows and one lone dry leaf click-clacks its way across the street, like the first tap dance of fall.

I choose to be here.

(Buechner writes, “A miracle is where one plus one equals a thousand.”)

And I notice. Throughout the woods, vines have wrapped themselves around the trunks of the trees. For an entire season of summer, the green vines could not be seen amongst the green foliage. Now, though, the vines are dying sooner than the rest, and they stand out in crimson red. The beauty which was unseen can now be seen.

I choose to be here.

Why would we choose, daily, to be here in this sometimes mundane, often painful, and always uncertain life that we live? Because, like the forest, this life contains something more than we can usually see—it harbors a beauty that can only be glimpsed in particular moments, during particular seasons, from a particular angle, when the whole of it can finally be seen.

We choose to be here because this here plus that here plus another here will sometimes add up to a Here so sublime it can be called nothing less than a miracle.

Because aching joints and aging skin, morning chill and crabby kids, complicated mornings and complicated marriages, spoken words and written words, squirrels and vines, sometimes they add up to more than the sum of their parts. If we choose them—rather than allowing ourselves to feel chosen by them—sometimes they add up to gratitude we have no good reason to feel. Sometimes, if we’re paying attention, this ordinary thing plus that ordinary thing adds up to a veil being lifted, to a glimpse of something sacred. Sometimes, all the minutiae of life adds up to more than it can possibly add up to, and we become aware of this miracle called being Alive.

Miracles don’t happen when the rules of physics are bent. They don’t happen only when a bush is burning or when feet walk upon water. They happen amidst our daily toil and drudgery, when we choose it, over and over and over again. All day long. Every day.

Because miracles don’t happen all at once.

They accumulate.

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Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

36 thoughts on “Miracles Happen Everyday (and This Is How to Experience One)

  1. Why does everything you write touch something deep and profound in me? I love this. Thank you for being you.

    • Isn’t it amazing how he is so spot on for most of us? I’ve read things/people before where one or two posts you can REALLY relate to, but the rest you kind of roll your eyes or think- ok, not me!! But Kelly- it’s like he is everything I want to be and do and see and hear in life. It’s like he is our conscience. He says everything that is in my head somewhere, just waiting to be spoken/thought about.
      I find it sad yet reassuring that Kelly fears a bad blog. Sad that he has these doubts, reassuring that I’m not the only one who worries about something they are really REALLY good at.
      Kelly- you are so young to have all of these insightful thoughts. No matter what the fireworks and mirror tells you.

  2. Excellently written dear brother! Thank you for reminding me of the power of how I choose in a day. Thank you Friend!! I love how you turn a phrase, take me into the moment, invite me to see/feel with new eyes!

  3. Absolutely loved this!
    As my life is filled with medical challenges and I am so small, scared and feel alone, this among other things helps me see that light I need to hang on.
    Thank you!

    • Amy, I’m sorry to hear of your health problems, and I hope you can keep looking for the angle on them that will help you see them for something more valuable than they can possibly be.

  4. Wow! I am now going to look at every day differently! My husband died this spring, and I’m still trying to find my ‘new normal’. This way of looking at things is so going to help. Thanks so much for this!

    • Oh Ellie… I am so sorry for your loss!
      The “new normal” is a shifting thing in the mourning process in my opinion… May you just be opened to it, to embrace it, to find the daily miracles and gratitude…whatever you feel it is an ode to the love and relationship you have shared… Be in peace!

  5. Kelly, you may ‘nervously’ wonder if ‘it’s’ going to be ‘any good’, but even though it’s difficult you push on through and choose it. And I’m always encouraged, I always learn, I’m always thankful after having read what you share. You shine a light on and make sense of some tough stuff, the ‘beauty for ashes’ kind of things in our lives of which we need to be reminded. Thank you for being faithful to your call. Once again, you’ve changed what the course of this day (and the next and the next…..) will look like for all of us.

  6. Aw man. This one bums me out. I’m in a bad spot thanks to a couple of choices made in some desperation – best I could do with the information I had, but how little I knew! At times it seems that I set myself up with a bad strategy, and now I’m trying to make something of my life and the increasingly narrow paths I’m not entirely sure I want. (What I want most is some perspective and some comfort.) It is lovely writing, and hope is too painful this morning.

    • I hope that this morning, you will let yourself have exactly what kindnesses you can afford yourself. You are right to extend yourself the grace of remembering your choices were made with your best information and best efforts of those times and those places. If hope isn’t for this morning, it needn’t be forced.
      I have a wish for you that something shiny along one of the paths before you sparks something wonderful when the moments are right.

  7. Thank you for this. Life throws us some curves that can knock us down or set us sideways. I’ve realized that I’ve experienced things I’m thankful for and been able to do for others I would not have known for those blind curves I would not have followed with better foresight. But your insight that it isn’t merely where we are—but the perspective we view things from— this! This is the missing piece in my awareness. It is more than mindset or viewpoint, it is also vantage that allows Amazing into our lives.
    Thank you for waking me up this Wednesday.

  8. You offer words that create lifelines of hope. We desperately need this light to as we try to find our way. When you’re thinking they’re just average or so-sother, I hope you’ll get a beautiful reminder that you are gifted for this. You are a mouthpiece for heaven and the goodness we need help seeing. You help me see more deeply and clearly. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

  9. Yup. Sometimes it is ecstatic, and other times a slog. Given my circumstances, overall you’re right: my getting to experience this life today IS a miracle.
    Slight tangent: Getting older is tough, ain’t it? I must admit, though, that my 40’s have been by far the best decade. I turn 50 in February and I’m interested to see how I’ll feel about that decade.
    Decade 1 is a blur, as is much of #2. My 20’s were a wreck, spending the 1st half digging a deep hole and the 2nd half climbing out. My 30’s? Continuing to climb out of the hole. I got married, we had kids, job/career took off. Big changes externally – and a lot of it.
    My 40’s was the time where everything came together. Things FELT right. I felt like I fit. I was finally able to be OK. Since you understand shame and the toll it takes, you can understand what a miracle that is.
    I have really enjoyed it. Grey hair, creaking joints and all.
    Happy Wednesday

    • Mike, this comment is a gift. I turn 40 in December, and this makes me anticipate it in a whole new way. I certainly understand the magnitude of what you are saying, to feel mostly free of shame for a decade. May 50 treat you even better. 🙂

  10. I find myself always anxious to read people’s posts to see what they got out of your writing. Am I “getting” it? Are they “getting” it? No matter, the important thing is that YOU get it, and do such an amazing job of helping all of us get it too. Thank you.

    • Donna, I love what you’ve said here. I’m often amazed at the range of very unique insights that arise from what I write. I try to find my way to the center of a post and then discover that other people have found a different center! Perhaps this is how healing spreads? Thank you for your kind words.

  11. Another lovely post Kelly! In fact, another lovely reminder… So often I forget about the miracle of “just being here”… All that the “just being here” means… yet, with the same frequency I spend so much time away from “the miracle of being here”… I like your reminder that being here is a choice we have to make, to meet all the mundane -that funny enough, is per se, a miracle-.
    Certainly life gives us these moments of pure joy and amazement, when all seems a real miracle… but some of these moments are just mundane moments, only we are looking at them with rest eyes. Thank you again! Cris

  12. The sun has set, Yom Kippor, the Jewish day of atonement is over — it has been a long day of introspection, sorrow, pangs of hunger, the desire for my toothbrush, a shower, a drink of water, and more . . Yes, the day has been long but I chose to be here.

    I start the Jewish New Year with a clean slate between me and my Creator. I am quiet and will continue to be so, as I get cleaned up and ready to eat my first meal in 27 hours. 27 hours seemed to be such a long time last night when Yom Kippor started. I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to partake in fasting, being repentative for all that I wronged in the past year. I chose to be a member of my Jewish community and I am still here.

    This life I live is my choice. I chose it 40 plus years ago. No, it is not always easy. There are people who either dislike or hate me because I am a Jew–they will always be there. It is their choice, not mine. I chose my relationship to G-d. I will continue to be here.

    Thank you for reaching out with your words. I do appreciate you despite the fact that we don’t even know each other. Your words have meaning. I treasure them and you. Thank you!


  13. Hello Dr. Flanagan,
    I was first introduced to your blog on Pinterest. Someone posted your article of words from a magazine. I felt it was excellent and something I’d say to my 13 year old daughter as well.

    I really loved your intricate details on a simple morning. I myself am a morning person and take energy from the rising sun. My family on the other hand would rather still be in bed.

    Please keep up the good work of helping others to understand the minds of busy families as yours!

    C. J.

  14. I feel I get so stuck in the routine mentioned in the first half of this blog and forget to keep going.
    Every so often I can see the second half. Or when my husband is stuck in the routine and down, I often can point out to him that this is exactly what we “signed up for”. This is an answer to my prayers that I used to pray daily in my lonely one bedroom apartment. I have everything I ever wanted. I chose to be here.
    I often wonder, is this something we should be teaching our children: life is tough, having a spouse is tough, raising children is crazy tough. Do we paint an unfair rosie fairy tale princess picture for them and expect them to cope effectively? But then I think, heck no. My father hammered home how life is unfair and adulting is work. But I was excited for the challenge. Maybe if we, as young adults, knew the trials, we wouldn’t ever choose it. Maybe that is why our brains are set up to be invincible at that age.
    Thank God we aren’t invincible at this age (42!!) ACK!!!!
    Choosing to be here, one day at a time.

    • And this is so right! I’m happy to see your thoughts here as well. 🙂 It’s such a good community for sorting and noticing what’s ever so good, right in front of our noses. LOVE your last sentence!

  15. It was a perfect post! Couldn’t have been more perfect and timely for me. Thank you so much Dr. Kelly!!

  16. In 1996, Bantam Press published ‘Simple Abundance’ by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Now, 20 years later, I am taking up the challenge of reading each day’s ‘gentle lesson’ and attempting to act on her advice. I liked your article so much that I mentioned it in my blog ‘Simple Abundance in France’. Please have a look at it on http://gringaba.wix.com/literature-blog and let me have your comments. Thank you.

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