Every day presents a new opportunity to grow. A lot of times these opportunities come in the form of painful circumstances, wherein I choose whether to trust God’s love and providence or “lean on my own understanding.“ Other times, the opportunity is more a gentle whisper or nudge that challenges my thinking or inspires me to act in new, more loving ways. Of course, I prefer the latter.
Take today, for example. Meandering along sidewalks that curve around the beautiful park near our home, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I had an extra spring in my step, and I don’t even know why. It’s true, I always feel most peaceful and close to God when I’m outside enjoying nature, and this was a stunner of a day. I caught a whiff of jasmine, and while I was still in the middle of savoring that, wind rushed through the tops of the trees, rustling them like petticoats at an old-timey dance. The sun was out, of course. After all, this is Southern California. My heart was bursting with thanks, and the statements formed in my mind and shot like fireworks to God in rapid succession, just tripping one over the other;
Thank-you-for-this-beautiful-day-thank-you-for-the-smell-of-jasmine-thank-you-for-my-sweet,sweet boys,-thank-you-that-I-can-stay-home-with-them-and-take-them-on-walks-in-a-beautiful-park-like-this-thank-you-for-a-husband-I-love-and-adore-more-than-anyone-thank-you-for-a-roof-over-our-heads-thank-you-for-delicious-food-to-eat-thank-you-for-being-the-good-shepherd-and-for-how-you-promise-to-help-us-who-have-young-ones-thank-you-for-friends-and family-who-are-so loving-and-generous-and-patient-with-me,even-considering-my-flaws…
It occurred to me, even amidst this unusual level of gratitude, that a lesson must be forthcoming. I do have flaws, after all, and one thing God is faithful to do in me is to root out the weeds, one by one, so there is room for my roots to grow deeper still. I’ve asked him to do this gardening, knowing I myself can’t keep a simple potted plant alive (see rose picture. So sad.) And he loves me too much to leave me in one state, even a state of unusual gratitude!
Back at home, recalling a phone conversation with my mother this morning, I thought again of my beloved Gamma, who fractured her pelvis in a fall yesterday morning and now waits in a hospital for the details of her recovery to be decided by doctors. I’m so thankful that we still have her with us, at 98. So thankful that her voice, when we spoke yesterday, was still full of that unflappable spunk that is her undeniable signature. So thankful that my husband has a Summer job in Virginia that will allow us to see Gamma and the rest of my family. Yet I’m heartbroken when I consider the pain she is suffering from these fractures, and the tough recovery ahead of her. And I’m sad, today, that we don’t have enough money to send her flowers. Not even that little extra.
Stopping by my room to drop off some laundry, I noticed a box of cards sitting on my vanity; the beautiful, gilded notes bearing butterflies and hydrangeas I’d bought a few weeks back, having finally resolved to practice the art of sending hand-written notes. My sister-in-law, Madeline, has been a huge inspiration in this; while supporting her family by working two jobs as a hospital Pharmacist, she has managed for years to send out hand-written cards for every single birthday and holiday. I, on the other hand, haven’t even managed a phone call for most of my nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays. I’m still pretty good about sending gifts out to my sisters and parents, and for years I’ve taken pride in that fact. Well, I suppose there we’ve found the problem. Pride! And there’s that gentle opportunity to grow, expand my thinking and my heart, even a little bit. It’s almost as if I can her him saying;
Dear child, don’t simply rest in the gratitude of today’s blessings. Certainly that is a good thing, but there can be more! Don’t simply celebrate how I’ve helped you grow over the past weeks, months or years. Certainly it is God-honoring, but there can be more! Don’t wallow in financial worry and uncertainty, you’ve been down that road! There are better things for today. Trust me for tomorrow’s needs, and use today‘s gifts to their full extent!
How amazing it felt to finally take the first beautiful card from the box and begin writing a “get well soon” note to Gamma. I was so careful to write neatly and include just the right sentiment in the small space allowed on the card. And I felt strangely privileged just to write on such pretty stationary (even the envelope was beautifully decorated!), to sign the names of my husband and children alongside mine, to imagine Gamma’s smile when my mother reads her my note. I wrote another quick note to my sister-in-law to thank her for being such an inspiration, and just then, the mailman drove up. I threw a couple of stamps on the cards, rushed out to shove them in his hand, and was a few steps away when I glanced back and caught his puzzled expression. “Uh, you do realize these are two cent stamps, right? These won’t go anywhere!” Luckily, he waited for me to rush back inside and find the right stamps. I still don’t know why we had two cent stamps in the house. Perhaps it was just so that I could say that I hope I’m able to keep practicing the wonderful, lost art of sending hand-written notes, and more than that I hope I keep growing even a little bit every day (and on some days, maybe even a lot), and well, I guess that’s my two-cents worth!
”He tends to His flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11