Learning to be thankful…

photo credit: alamy stock photo

One of the most important lessons I began learning (“began” because I’m still learning!) when we lived in Romania under Communism was to be thankful. In everything. NO exceptions. 

We initially lived in Caminul 14 — the only housing option available to us at that time as foreign students. Our tiny, narrow dorm room had two twin beds, each with a desk and chair at the end. If either of us leaned back in our chair we’d bump the other! A sink completed our little home — the bathroom was either down the hall (for men) or up two flights of stairs (for me and the other foreign women). I remember washing our clothes by hand, hanging them on a line above our beds to dry… being irritated by the drip, drip, drip that interrupted our sleep.

I had a terrible attitude… complained to my young husband (we’d only been married three years); grumbled about our colleagues who lived in Vienna—who had hot water and electricity ALL the time, plus a washing machine AND clothes dryer; questioned why in the world God had sent us there. My wise young husband had us do a Bible study on coveting, which helped me see that wishing for/wanting something that others had and I didn’t was, in a word, sin. Coveting. Yuck. 

And… one of the primary results of a covetous attitude is discontentment.

As a practical application to help deal with this attitude we started a daily habit that still is a part of our lives… over 40 years later! Every night before we go to sleep we review the day and think through all the things we’re thankful for. Short little sentences. Not asking God for anything. For example, “I’m thankful for a good talk with Katie.”  “I’m thankful for finding cheese at the market.” (that was a BIG deal back then!!!) “ I’m thankful our families are healthy.” 

Some nights, the only thing I could honestly say I was thankful for was that the day was over.

But… what began to happen was that throughout the day I would “interpret” whatever problem or inconvenience I encountered through the lens of thankfulness… and what a difference it has made! I’m not done learning this lesson, though. This COVID season of life is providing ample opportunities to continue learning… and practicing being thankful!

May we all develop hearts of thankfulness… and together grow in our ability to have joy in the journey of this thing called “Life.”

Ugh… not again…

I started writing this July 27th … when, the previous week, we had received word that ALL domestic flights from our city to the capital were suspended. Since September 1st, however, a handful of domestic flights are once again in service. And yet an eerie silence has ruled the sky, which at one time was teeming with both domestic and international flights. At that same time (back in July) bus travel to the capital was also be suspended.

My response… I’m beginning to feel trapped. Stuck. Again.

For the thirteenth time (not exactly sure when the counting began), a nationwide Emergency Decree has been extended. From August 1st to September 30th. And then there have been regular “rumors” about when our part of the country will be reopening for tourism, when vaccines will be available, when schools can go back to in-person versus online instruction.

Ugh. Here we go again dealing with uncertainty and the feelings of dread, fear, hopelessness that accompany it…

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Proverbs 13:12

There’s a lot of truth packed in that little proverb. I was talking with a friend in the US this morning who excitedly shared about an upcoming visit with her brother. Having something to look forward to, to plan for is proving to be such a boost to her morale! It is helping her see beyond the challenges she’s facing at work, the upheaval associated with a myriad of changes simultaneously bombarding her, the grieving of life-as-she-knew-it to something yet to be defined.

I guess that’s partly why I’m struggling. Those “looking-forward-to-it” things have been few and far between these days. Life has been a series of putting plans, desires on hold… for a LONG time now.

And yet… I think God is wanting to show me how I can incorporate glimmers of hope, so to speak, into my life. For instance, I can TAKE the INITIATIVE and get together with a friend for coffee (thankfully, cafes and restaurants ARE open!). Instead of wallowing in my frustration at not being able to visit with family (for two years already!) I can CHOOSE to be THANKFUL for zoom calls, emails, Messenger chats that are enabling us to keep in touch. I can BE HONEST with God and with others regarding how I’m really doing instead of trying to put on a bold, happy face.

Yes, I need to be honest with God, to pour out my heart — my longings, my frustrations, my fears — to Him.

What might you be able to incorporate into your life this week to combat the inevitable “hope deferred” kinds of feelings? How might you bring hope to someone else? We’re all in this thing called “Life” together…

… and together, may we have joy in the journey.

Remembering my mom…

My mom died five months before we moved to Thailand. Today is the seventh anniversary of her death… and so I’m in a nostalgic, reminiscent frame of mind. For years she had encouraged me to write… and so here I am, finally aspiring to something she saw in me. This new venture, this blog, is dedicated to her.

I was still processing her death, grieving when we arrived in Chiang Mai. Add to that the already challenging mix of adjusting to a new culture, language, climate and… well, it was hard. Beyond hard. One of the things I became acutely aware of now that she was “finally home” with the Lord was that my biggest cheerleader, the person who always believed in me, encouraged me was no longer audibly rooting for me. Her voice had been silenced, her impact preserved in a treasure trove of memories.

One day, when I was having a particularly rough day, it seemed the Lord was saying,

“Mary, I’m here for you. I’m your biggest fan. I always have been – and I always will be!”

In an intellectual, theological way I KNEW this was true… but now… I guess you could say I was experientially learning what God had been communicating all along in His Word:

“I will never leave you, never! And I will not loosen My grip on your life!” Hebrews 13:5b (TPT)

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Isaiah 49:16 (ESV)

“I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3 (AMP)

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Romans 8:31 (NIV)

In a very real sense, ALL of us need to be reminded that God is rooting for us and wants to see us grow and prosper. No matter what time of day or night, HIS voice is ready and eager to reassure us of His love, His faithfulness, His commitment to us, His ability to make possible those things we deem impossible.

You know what’s interesting, though? Even though I no longer “hear” my mom’s voice of encouragement, God often uses others to speak His message of hope and healing to my heart. Be that someone this week for someone else… and together, we’ll have joy in the journey of this thing called “Life.”

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