A few days before the new year, big sister and hubby invited me to escape with them to Galveston Island. Although the weather turned rainy and cold before we left, the time away was exactly what I needed: Stress-free days with people who love me. It was also a time of inward reflection, counting blessings, looking forward—those things I do as one year ends and a new one unfolds.
During breakfast one morning, in the cafe downstairs, an older couple came in with a woman in a wheelchair. By all appearances, she was their adult daughter. About 40 years old, and very disabled. Her head was tilted to the right. Her eyes were opened wide, and her mouth never closed. There was no sign of understanding from her. No sounds of any kind. No movements. Just sitting and staring.
As the dad pushed her by our table, bumping into a few chairs along the way, he chuckled and said they were "used to that." My sister and I looked at each other. No words were needed. We knew how blessed we were with healthy adult daughters, living on their own.
Later that evening, in the lobby, a male trio played jazz music for guests of the hotel. A few feet in front of the piano sat the disabled girl in her wheelchair, her mother close by.
At one point, the musicians took a break, and as casual chatter ensued, the piano player walked over and kissed the silent girl on the forehead. Only then did I recognize him as the same man who had pushed her into the cafe that morning, bumping into chairs as they settled in. Who would've known this gifted musician, spreading joy in such a masterful way, was the father of a severely disabled child? I wondered if I would be so strong. I think I would cry every day. But not this man. Somewhere in time, he had made peace with his challenging circumstances, and had moved on with his life.
As the music resumed, I was reminded of the Apostle Paul's instructions to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. He didn't say we should be thankful for all circumstances, but we are to give thanks in all circumstances. Even without a disabled child, giving thanks isn't always easy to do—we all know that. However, gratitude is a glorious gift we can give to ourselves.
Melody Beattie describes it this way: "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."
Chances are, life in 2015 won't be without heartaches and sighs. However, if gratitude can fill our hearts every day—sunrise to sunset—our lives will be full the whole year long. ♦
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