Today is day three in my posts from France. If you’d like to get a greater glimpse of how we’ve dealt with life after ministry stress, click here to read the missing chapter of Thin Places. As I re-read this post, it occurred to me that even now I have the choice to practice gratitude. How about you?
God continues to remind me that He is present in small things. My friend Hud has taught me a lot about living a lifestyle of gratitude. He says, “There is no neutral space between ingratitude or gratitude.” Essentially, we’re either thankful or we’re not.
As one who sees the glass half empty, I struggle with this. I want to be grateful for all that God sends my way. Even as we go through trials, I want to be thankful that God considered me faithful enough to endure them. Often, though, I let the circumstances of life overwhelm me.
So today, in hopes of being more gratitude-based, I want to share some small things I’ve noticed that make me grateful:
- We rode our bikes on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. (We’re pictured here.) When we stopped to rest, an interesting man walked nearby. He had a green wreath on his head and stopped each nearby person to say a few things. He stopped in front of Aidan and Patrick, said some things, smiled, and walked off. Patrick used the language technique known as laugh-and-maybe-they’ll-think-you-understand. Aidan laughed too. “Do you know what that man said?” Patrick asked. “Of course, Daddy. He said he carries bowls of soup on his head inside the wreath!” I smile in the recollection because I can see how much Aidan is growing in his understanding of French. Oh to be more like him!
- We met the “other” Julia (who takes to bully our Julia) at the Christmas performance. The other Julia is a head taller than our Julia. It helped me develop more empathy for our small blonde-headed girl. But, the gratefulness comes in when I consider the amazing fact that Julia sang about 8 very long French Christmas songs! She knew all the words. And last night, her report card was quite good.
- I am running again (finally!) There’s been so much in my head that I figured I need to run 100 kilometers before it all comes spilling out. When I run, I sense God’s presence. I hear His voice. I pray. Today on my run, a golden Labrador retriever saw me, didn’t bite me (thankfully), and went on his doggy way. I run a small circuit around the kids’ school, down through a neighborhood and then up on the main road to home, cars whizzing by. Almost home (on a completely different street), the golden dog appeared. I sensed the Lord say, “I am with you, Mary.” God is bigger than a friendly, curious dog, of course, but this meant the world to me. God is with me. Like a companion.
- We received a package last night from some dear friends in the States. They sent us a Christmas book that her sister illustrated. The author of the book led her family to Christ 25 years ago. It reminded me that God is always at work, that He uses all sorts of people to extend His kingdom: authors, illustrators, bookkeepers, teachers.
- I spent the better part of yesterday writing thank you notes. Just doing that made me grateful for family and friends who have loved us from afar. God is good to provide so many good friends. He “places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy” (Psalm 68:6). I’m grateful He placed me in a family. I’m thankful He blessed me with three beautiful children and a devoted husband and father.
- The vistas here are amazing. I fall in love with Jesus when I look at His handiwork: in the olive groves, the snow-topped Alps, the aqua-marine waters of the Riviera, the hard-to-bike rolling hills, the blooming flowers in my garden.
How about you? What makes you grateful? What things, small and large, can you thank God for today? If you’re in the dregs of life, perhaps making a list like mine will help change a crabby day to a thankful one.