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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Remembering To Be Grateful

I don't think that people mean to be ungrateful  Life is so very busy and ever changing that, some days, we feel good about just making it through the day.  Our to-do list seems unending and we fall into bed each evening ready for the precious hours of sleep we are able to gain until the next morning when we start all over again.  For those who have never felt this sense of rush or experienced the endless tasks that remain unfinished at the end of the day, then these words may not be for you.  If, on the other hand, you are painfully familiar with the busyness of life, then perhaps you will identify with me when I say that, rather than take everything for granted as I rush through the day, I pray that God will grant me the grace to remember to be grateful.  

As I write these words, I am sitting at the dining room table in my mother's lovely home.  Mother and Daddy are watching our favorite baseball team, my brother has just cut the grass and I am smelling its freshness come through the screen door.  I am free of chores, tasks, and obligations which allow me time for reflection and writing.  I listen to Mother and daddy talk about the game and the sound of their voices are so precious to me.  I find myself thinking how grateful I am for them and for all the things they have taught me about life and faith.  They have been such wonderful parents to me and my four brothers.

Being grateful, though, is not just being grateful for what we have---it is being grateful for the ability to live life to its fullest.  Each new day offers us choices and grants us opportunities to capture the moments of life with awe and breathless anticipation of what will happen next.  To be grateful is to look at life, the good and the bad, and know that we have come through it all for a purpose.  Every heartache, every moment of despair, every sorrow, every weary moment, has helped mold us and develop strength of character that only comes to those who endure.  These difficult times of life make the good times all the sweeter.  Enduring hardship prepares us for moments of sheer joy that could never be fully appreciated unless preceded by deep sorrow.

How do I know this?  I have been in those moments of life where I felt no joy, no happiness, no anticipation for another day.  I have lain in my bed and watched the sunlight begin to filter through my window and I have thought to myself, "Another day to struggle through.  Another day to feel my broken heart---another day to cry."  I have wept until I had no more tears to weep and could only sit in despair and sorrow, wondering what was the use of living.  I hurt so badly and no one could help me.

Gradually, though, I came to realize that, though I had much pain and sorrow, I also had small things that broke through that sorrow.  I learned the healing power of my grandson's arms wrapped around my neck.  I discovered that a cup of tea with a friend was like the healing balm of Gilead.  My father's booming voice telling me how much he loved me brought tears of joy to my troubled mind.  Mother telling me that she was keeping me in prayer allowed me the peace to sleep through the night.  

As I began to heal and recover, I found myself giving thanks for the small things.  I began to read the Psalms, I listened to instrumental music, I sat outside on my porch swing and felt the breeze on my face.  Most importantly, I purposed that at the end of each day, I would find something to be grateful for.  Giving God thanks for the small pleasures of my life helped me find my way back to living that life.  Was it easy?  NO!  Was it emotionally exhausting?  YES!  Was it worth it?  YES, YES, a thousand times yes.  Life is always worth the effort.

Since that awful time, I have continued to give God thanks and to be grateful for the small things.  Things like the smell of a fresh pot of coffee, the spritz of my favorite perfume, the pink of the sky as the sun sets, the softness of the pillow beneath my head at night, the comfort of a friend's presence and, most of all, the knowledge that no matter where I go God is with me.  I have a small journal that I use to list the things for which I am grateful  Each day I try to add something new to the list.  It keeps me from sinking back into despair when life is painful and keeps me mindful of the daily blessings God bestows upon me.

I pray that God will keep us grateful.  I pray that we will look around at life and realize that, even in our busiest moments, He is there blessing us with small favors that make life rich and full.  I love the praise and worship song that simply says, "I'm forever grateful to you".  My desire is to never forget where He brought me from and to remember to be grateful for the small, daily joys that fill my life.  I yearn to always remember to be grateful---always.