The other day I escorted my parents to the funeral of a friend of theirs who had lived to the ripe old age of 92. While visiting at the reception afterwards, I had the opportunity to chat with another elderly woman whom our family has known for many years. Being in Madeleine’s presence is always an experience in encouragement. She is a gentle, loving soul, with warm hugs and eyes that sparkle with smiles. Her countenance shines and her conversation overflows with gratitude that wells up from the depths of a thankful heart.
To be sure Madeleine, like anybody, has had her share of life’s troubles. At her age she is dealing with health related challenges. Since last year she has walked through the valley of grief over the death of her beloved husband. Last week their family home finally sold, and she will now be moving to a condo that she and her husband purchased just 3 weeks before his death. She is grateful to have had the chance to stay in a familiar place as she has slowly adjusted to life on her own. Now, she said she is ready to be brave and undertake a move. She is thankful that in her new home she will be surrounded by many friends.
Madeleine is someone who has learned to look for hope amidst the tears, the positive in circumstances that are difficult, the proverbial silver lining in the cloud. To be with Madeleine is to be lifted up – to view life from the good side where there are always blessings to be counted.
As I grow older, I find myself thinking more and more about what kind of person I will be when I when I’m in my 70’s or 80’s or 90’s, should I live so long. It seems obvious that the cultivation of who I want to be in the future must begin with habits I am forming now. Becoming a sweet, gentle, pleasant and positive old person doesn’t just happen – like anything in life, our character grows and is shaped over the years. It’s a cumulative thing.
Jesus said that he came to earth and into our lives to give us life abundant and fullness of joy. Even when life is hard, as it will inevitably be at times, we are encouraged to know that “the Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6). Notice the words “with thanksgiving”. Jesus knew that a persistent attitude of gratitude can transform a person from the inside out … but it’s something we must practice.
I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions because usually about this time (or earlier) they have been forgotten or aborted. At the end of 2012 however, I felt prompted by the Lord to make 2013 a year when I intentionally focus on being thankful. Every day in my journal I make note of something particular that I am grateful for … and then I try to remind myself through the day to keep giving thanks for it. I am hopeful that by the end of the year I will have begun to cultivate a heart that no longer takes so much for granted. I want to be conscious of and thankful for my blessings great and small. And I want to give honor to the Lord from whom they come.
Some of what I have given thanks for so far in 2013 includes: my heavenly Father who loves me so much, health and strength, my Mom and my Dad, a new day and God’s plans for me, healing in my body, my grand-daughters, each of my children, my daughters-in-law, work, younger people I can mentor and encourage, a good health care system in Canada, a warm safe home, my siblings, laughter, Jesus and salvation, forgiveness, a faithful and loving husband, sunshine, friends, how God speaks to me, answers to prayer, a hot shower, days when I can sleep in, freedom to worship, my washing machine and dryer …. and the list goes on. From the profound to the petty, I am practicing thankfulness. I challenge you to try it. It’s good medicine for the body, soul and spirit.
What kind of list can you make? What are you thankful for? How can you encourage someone else by having a grateful attitude?
I think that today I will write a note of thanks to Madeleine. I want to thank her for her thankfulness!