I’m living my dream. The thought struck me just as my foot struck the asphalt. I’d crossed the long winding street—the one that ties many neighborhoods together— for approximately the 800th time, as I began my daily walk. Many years earlier I’d imagined how nice it would be to live in a community connected to a walking path, surrounded by nature. I wished for a place where I wouldn’t have to dodge cars or jump off the road when big trucks whizzed by. I paused, amazed, as I scanned my surroundings of swaying pines, blooming magnolias and deer leaping through the woods.
The funny thing about answered prayers or gifts from God is after a long time, you may forget them altogether. I’d lost track of my ideal neighborhood dream and once we moved from North Carolina to South Carolina, I was so sad about the relocation, I forgot to thank God for all the good things. The dream neighborhood I’d imagined was in our hometown, Wilmington. I’d only known Columbia, South Carolina by a highway sign and hadn’t expected to live here. See Moving to hear more.
What other gifts had I failed to notice?
I imagined God looking at me with a fatherly smile and a gentle shake of the head.
I see what happened. Fear, grief and uncertainty overshadowed my gratitude. I focused on negatives: moving away from home, children, and friends. Rather than pondering my blessings, I kept thinking about answers to prayer I still didn’t have.
For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.John 1:16, ESV
I want to be more optimistic. As I pause to glance over my old wrinkled faded prayer list, I see a glimpse of answers peeking up. Prayers I planted like seeds so long ago might finally come to life. I must remember that God’s timeline is not like mine.
How often I’ve failed to be grateful, and how important it is for me to write each blessing down so I don’t lose it in a messy life. I’ve taken so many things for granted.
Our minds, like magnets, cling to negative elements and the blessings fade into the background of our lives. I want to be better; to bring to mind the gifts I’ve forgotten and rehearse the obvious and not so obvious benefits in my life.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.Psalm 103:2, ESV
I pause to remember the long-desired gifts I hold in my hands and heart today.
What are the odds that an engineer in North Carolina would fall for a single mom of two in Mississippi, including one with severe handicaps? There weren’t online dating sites or cell phones in those days. Only God could create the scenario for a wonderful marriage to begin.
Even dreams come with difficulty and that’s why I forgot to be thankful that my dream of being a wife and mama had come true. Decades of routine, monotony, disappointment, sorrow and exhaustion took the shine off the gifts God handed over to me. I sometimes forgot how fortunate I was to spend time making a home, reading books and nurturing our kids.
I have a home. Not just a home for me or for us. A home for family, friends and strangers. A place to cook food and arrange flowers. How blessed am I? Many times when I was single, I shared homes with others, but I’ve never been homeless. In our home, we’ve hosted parties, showers, small groups and holidays. We’ve spread out, reached out and wrangled in others who needed a place to visit, or who needed a place to stay. I’m completely myself at home. It’s where I’m privileged to develop and use gifts God has given me. Gifts are always to be shared with others.
In our home, we host a small group of new friends where we study together and share meals on occasion. As has occurred repeatedly for decades, we watch the magic of strangers learning to love each other. God knits together opposites and brings about our genuine concern for one another. One of God’s favorite joys, I believe, is to watch the miracles that come when we open our doors and tables.
Old friends are priceless. They’re our undeserved riches in this life.
My life is not perfect. I can always find things to be sad about. I’ve run out of space on my chalkboard prayer list. Tiny additional names will be squeezed in.
Several years back I completed a list of over 2,000 items I was thankful for. It was far easier than I’d imagined. Somehow, I got out of the routine of writing my daily gratitude list. I need to get back into that habit.
There are always ALWAYS things to be thankful for. When your prayer list is long and you’re weary of asking, look up. The bright azure sky with white cumulus clouds, the fuchsia crepe myrtles, stars of late summer, the perfect golden mango I just sliced and ate, and my trailing variegated pothos atop the book shelf. This list is embarrassingly short. Gratitude is a gift in itself. The more often we’re grateful, the longer our list will be. My gratitude list is truly endless.
What about you? What gifts have you forgotten? To learn gratitude we may need to navigate our way through a maze of disappointments to find the treasures that exist today. Why not take a few minutes to recall gifts you once longed for and now enjoy?
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, ESV