Friday, February 15, 2019

When Thankfulness Went Sailing Away

Marshall, Liberia

I came home at lunch today looking forward to sharing a meal with a friend. The house was quiet and as I headed into the kitchen I realized that I had the date wrong on my calendar. A bit of disappointment clouded my heart but regardless, it was nice to leave my desk, stretch my legs, and get away for lunch. Moving from the kitchen to the table I suddenly found myself laying on my back in a lake of water. Slowly I stood up, droplets falling from my skirt and plunking in the lake around my feet. Stunned, I looked around. Water everywhere. I think a little sailboat floated by through the dining room, the family room, the entrance and out the front door. I sloshed down the hall and into my bedroom. As a little girl I used to pretend that my bed was a ship sailing in a sea of blue carpet. This is not what I had in mind, I thought, as I gazed at my island bed floating in the middle of the room. I could feel tears adding to the wet mess I was in. Of course this sort of thing is bound to happen while the doc is working - in another country. Thankfulness was not anywhere close to my heart or my mind. I think it sailed out the front door with that little boat. Sometimes it doesn't take much for thankfulness to leave my heart and unhappiness and entitlement to fill the space. 

There has been a wave of "thankfulness" efforts going through the Christian community. This is not a bad thing! Thanks to Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, the challenge of living thankfully each day before the house floods is ever present in my mind. Of course I think back to the old hymn I grew up with, Count Your Blessings, and I realize that this idea has been instilled in my mind since I was a child. 

The opposite of thankfulness is a hard thing to live with. Think of that person who stops by your office each day with a nagging complaint, or the neighbor who sees the world through gloomy lenses. It's hard to live in a constant environment of unhappiness and negativity, but what if that person is you? What if you've seen all the negative in your life and the world and you can't find anything to be thankful for? How heavy that is to carry around day in and day out. It continues to drag you and those around you further and further down. Eventually all you can see is a negative answer to even the most mundane situation.

When your heart has gotten worn out and you can't see beyond the negative, you have to do something to change. You have to make a very conscientious effort to change the way your mind thinks. And this is what Voskamp is challenging you to do by listing one thousand things you are thankful for in a year. It starts small with one thankful moment at a time, written down so that you can go back and remember.

So after figuring out where the water was coming from and turning off the water line, changing my clothes and making a few phone calls for help, I made lunch. Inside I wanted to start sweeping the water out of the house, but I knew that if I did that I would twist myself into a knot of anger. So I made a sandwich, pulled out a chair which sent waves of water through the room, and I sat there in the middle of the lake, quietly eating my food. After eating a bit and letting the situation sink in, I looked around. I noticed that the water was clean. Thankfulness item number one! Then I began to ponder how if I hadn't written the wrong date on my work calendar, I wouldn't have come home for lunch at all and the water would have run and run and run. Thankfulness item number two!

After 3 or 4 hours the water was gone, carpets were removed, furniture was tipped on its side to dry and the cause of the flood was discovered. From what I understand, an old pipe for the sink had corroded and water was flowing from the wall.  It was a yucky situation to be in, but by this time my thankful list had grown quite long and joy bubbled out of me when I thanked the workers for helping me. I felt gratitude for the work everyone had put in to come to my aid that would have been clouded by frustration if I hadn't found so many things to be thankful for.

So make a choice to find things to be thankful for in the mundane days. I promise you that soon a not so mundane day will come your way and without having practiced how to be thankful, you will find yourself swept away with negativity.

In everything give thanks:
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

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