My niece has a special appreciation for the sky. She gets it honestly, because her mother has the same appreciation.

Over the years, they have influenced me.

I always thought I had an appreciation of the sky—sunsets in particular—but until I started receiving the texts and pictures from them, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t see.

Sometimes, my niece will send me a little note from the bus. My phone will beep, and I’ll open it to see something to the effect of, “Look at the sky!” It’s usually not hard—I just have to walk across the kitchen to the east-facing window.

And yet, again and again, the effort I make to walk 20 feet and stand in the shadow of the sunrise never fails to remind me of many things.

First and foremost, I am reminded of God. Especially this time of year, when the air is still and oh-so-cold, there is something warming about the explosion of pinks and oranges in the morning. The days are getting longer, little by little, and they are doing it in gloriously, loudly.

I am also reminded of the special relationship I have with this niece. Years ago, when she lived far away and I visited her family, she insisted that I sleep in her bed. I was the guest, you see, and she would have it no other way, even at age eight. Recently, she was confirmed, and I served as a sponsor for her. We are now intertwined, a part of each other’s lives, in a way we weren’t before.

Those early morning glimpses of the sky also remind me that the day is new, fresh, ahead of me. They serve as a beautiful bookend…I know there will be a sunset that will probably take my breath away, if only I pay attention.

How often I forget to pay attention! How often I walk around with my eyes closed to the everyday beauty and the commonplace miracle of life all around me.

In this, the longest short month of the year, I am going to try to foster gratitude for these moments of beauty in the sky and all around me. Maybe it will take my mind off the humdrum monotony of February winter in Ohio!

This “Finding Faith in Everyday Life” column originally appeared in The Catholic Times