Grandma’s Gratitude

My grandmother was the most grateful person I’ve ever known. She was easily delighted by a lemon-filled donut, a surprise visit from family, or a photo album chronicling a celebration. I remember her with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. Anyone who met her would never have guessed that she had ever lacked anything, but her past told a different story.

She grew up in a house with dirt floors. Her childhood was marked by hard daily work on the farm, often around large animals that frightened her. Joy and laughter were hard to find, as were brand new clothes or other things often considered necessities today.

After years juggling school and hard work, she married, moved away from the farm and took a job in a dental office. She had three daughters, lost her only son, and weathered by faith almost losing her youngest daughter in another health crisis. Through it all she was not bitter and did not complain. In the old photo albums, she was always smiling in her children’s or grandchildren’s wedding pictures, smiling with a new grandchild or great grandchild in her arms, smiling in someone’s graduation or holiday celebration.

She never had a big house, never took big trips, but she had a big heart and knew how to do a big Thanksgiving. The whole extended family would gather in her small house. All the food went on a long table in the basement. We said grace with people standing throughout her little kitchen, dining room and family room. Then everybody went to the basement and filled their plates with food. Some of us ate in groups upstairs and others were downstairs; her little house was full to overflowing with joy and gratitude.

I think my grandmother overflowed with gratitude because she chose to live in the reality that she didn’t deserve anything…that everything was a gift. When you start with dirt floors, 20-year old carpet under your feet is luxurious. How often does my bitterness, or even jealousy, spring from not having something that I think I should?

We all know our Thanksgiving celebrations this year will look different. All of 2020 has looked pretty different. So I’m trying to approach these holidays like my grandmother would — focusing not on what I don’t have or think I should have — but on everything good that has come into my life. It’s easy to be so distracted by what we think we’re missing that we miss noticing our blessings. May God draw your focus to the people in your life who love you. May He give you this Thanksgiving eyes to see the abundant good He has brought into your life and may He give you a heart that is easily delighted by them!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Pre-Election Letter to my Friends

So in our nation, it feels like anxiety and suppressed emotion are building up like steam in an old locomotive engine ahead of the election. Whether spoken or unspoken, it’s as if people are holding their breath waiting to see if their “ideology” or the “enemy ideology” wins the election. If the tension that seems to be floating in the air is any indication, no matter how all the political races end, a whole bunch of people are going to be catastrophically disappointed and a whole bunch of others are going to be happy — I think.

The human temptation (if one ends up on the “winning” side), is to whoop, holler and gloat with excessive celebration. On the other hand, if one ends up on the “losing” side, the temptation is to weep, wail and (according to recent trends) lash out in violent frustration. Some of the pent-up emotion is the result of this grueling election war we have all watched in the media for months. Some is the result of being held hostage by an oppressive pandemic for almost 7 months. Some is the result of personal oppression that has spanned years.

Regardless of the cause, it might be wise of us to anticipate the opening of the emotional flood gates and pray in advance for God to enable all of us to respond to election outcomes with grace, compassion and self-control. If our candidate wins, perhaps we could plan to be sensitive to those around us whose candidate didn’t, guarding our words and Facebook posts? Perhaps if our candidate doesn’t win, we could hold onto the truth that there is NO political leader who is equipped to step in and fix all that is broken in any people group, be it local or national. God already sent the world a Savior and His name is neither Donald nor Joe, but Jesus. He is not hanging around with a physical presence anymore, but the Spirit of Jesus is alive and well — and those of us who claim to follow Him are called to be His hands and feet here. The song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

To my friends…Christian or not or unsure…(which include those of widely varying skin color and political ideologies, btw) — I am a sister in Christ and/or friend to you before I am in any way political. After the election dust settles, I will continue working behind the scenes to bring blessing to you where I can. I will continue to pray for you and be a friend to you.

Hoping compassion is contagious…