So much of today’s technologically advanced world is designed to remind us of what we don’t have. Advertisements for everything under the sun – including peace, if only I would buy the organizing package, flood my inbox daily. My eyes are constantly bombarded with all kinds of enticements, for things I don’t even know how I would use them if I owned said item, but mostly the constant deluge is a persistent reminder to be discontent. The reverberating message -the grass is always greener somewhere – is disheartening, but more so has the underlying intent to choke out life and spread discontent in every corner and crevice of my existence.
Oh, I have fallen into the trap one too many times, because on days where the only prayers I have to offer God are tears, just buying something to brighten my corner of the world seems so appealing. As does anything that helps me deal with the clutter of my life. Numbing the pain in retail therapy is very alluring as deep in my heart I wish for Calgon to take me away. But time and again, I have learned that it is not now nor never will be material items that soothe all the hurts or that take away stress or pain in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a little purchase, like flowers in the gray days of winter, brightens my world. And I can never discount a glass of sweet tea with extra, extra ice to remind me of the far away place from where I came.
What I have learned about contentment and joy and comfort comes from a place of deep gratitude. I was once asked if I wanted to draw a line in the sand and tell God I had had enough. My honest answer was “No”. I do realize that as bad as things have seemed in my life, there is ALWAYS somewhere in the world some who have it worse than we do. Just being thankful for what I have helps me find contentment and rarely comes from counting blessings of material things. Admittedly, I am incredibly thankful for comforts that much of the world doesn’t have.
Often times from the outside looking in, others marvel at my family’s story, but I know the truth behind the mask of strength. There is one unshakeable and unfathomable truth – we are loved. God’s amazing love flowing down in creation and in acts of kindness by friends and family and sometimes by strangers, who become friends.
Every day we have a chance to repay these kindnesses, not in the physical sense, because we would never be able to do that, but by living lives deeply rooted in gratitude. Every day we choose to be thankful despite the hardships that come our way. No matter how awful a situation looks, we have all received the greatest gift of life in Jesus Christ. No one in my family forgets that. It simply cannot be diminished. Life can be hard and full of struggle, but Jesus is so much bigger than all of that.
Just the other day I was reminded of how much gratitude can reframe everything. The last few years have been incredibly difficult for our Sister, as she has had to deal with injuries, health issues, and lack of support and understanding. On the latter, I have been dismayed and disgusted. Being disappointed in the actions of others is a greater blow to my heart’s contentment than not having the latest new gadget. I have learned too that this is a ploy to isolate rather than to bind hearts together. Then something happens and my eyes get a realignment focused on the God who has seen it all. In those moments, a heart that chooses gratitude always finds a way to do the right thing even in a tempest tossed.
Sitting quietly, without fanfare, on my desk was a letter seeking a stamp. Our Sister took time to write to her ligament donor to just say thank you. Melt this momma’s heart. In the sea of discontent, her words reminded me of all the ways we have been loved. It was a heartfelt letter to the family of a stranger, who like her brother gave the gift of life. The words she carefully chose were uplifting and honoring. After sharing a bit about herself, she wanted them to know how much their gift meant as she was able to play basketball again, while also acknowledging how incredibly hard it is to lose someone you love. Somewhere in the world a family will receive this letter. Who knows? Their hearts might be needing a little boost, a sign of God’s love that they nor the loved one has been forgotten.
When they receive that letter I hope they know that there is one family, particularly one girl, in Minnesota who is filled with nothing but love and gratitude for the gift they chose to give her. Because there isn’t a time that she laces up her basketball shoes, or any shoes for that matter, that we don’t remember the incredible and agonizing gift they gave. We know the taste of that particular pain, but we take comfort knowing that out in the world there are others who received the gift of life because of our choice to honor Reed’s wishes.
Pain and comfort co-mingled, light in the darkness always shines the brightest. In the quiet moments even amid the chaos and trials of life, those broken but not beaten hearts remember choosing gratitude leads to a road paved with joy unleashed.
*Special thanks to Roger Schroeder of phot*agape for the amazing photos, but mostly for his unending friendship to our family.