The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
This year has been one with way too many funerals. Precious souls who have been wrenched from our lives. Sudden. Untimely. Unfair.
At each service while listening to friends and family share how the departed enriched their lives, I’m reminded of a song that states, “Give me roses while I am living.”
Am I doing enough of that? What would I say about someone, about what they meant to me, about their character, and what I really appreciated about them, during their funeral service that I’ve not said to their face?
Now, while they live, it is time to let them know.
To me New Year’s Day is like a clean slate. Before I write on it, I look back over the previous year and evaluate what I wrote on it. I ask myself, “What did I do, think, or say that backfired on me, that caused me sorrow or pain, even worse, caused someone else sorrow or pain? I do this because I don’t want to fill my clean slate up with the same bad scribbling. This week before New Year’s Day is perfect for reflection. I will take a hard, honest, look at 2013 and determine what things need to be erased from my life. When New Year’s Day 2014 dawns I will be ready to write on my clean slate and hopefully I won’t be ashamed during my week of reflection as I prepare for 2015.
~ Linda Apple, December 2013
I wrote the above quote one year ago today. And I can honestly say I’ve achieved this goal. The most rewarding achievement is learning how to forgive. For years I held myself in a prison of bitterness because I wasn’t willing to forgive someone. But this year I reached a point to where I couldn’t continue living with unforgiveness and animosity, so I released the person I had held in this state. Now there is peace between us . . . even friendship.
Of course, where there are people there are hiccups, times when misunderstandings arise and the temptation to hold a grudge happens. But this year I’ve practiced flinging these temptations from me as fast and far as I can. I do this by practicing gratitude. A grateful person is a happy person, a person at peace.
My goal for 2015 is to my slate with gratitude. I want to express my gratitude to those around me. There are those who flood my soul with life and never even know it. But they will from now on! And should hard times come, for as we all know life is famous for handing us those times, I hope to gather enough courage and still be grateful.
How about you? What do you plan to write on your 2015 slate?
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
Autumn is a season of harvest. It is also a time to plant. The problem is, unlike planting in the spring where we are rewarded with tiny first leaves within a couple of weeks, fall planting is delayed gratification. The daffodils and tulips snuggle in their earthen beds all winter until the warmth of March wakes them up. It is worth the wait.
This brings to mind how gratitude is like those bulbs.
All too often I find my soul in winter. Life is full of problems, heartaches, and disappointments. And then there always seems to be that irritating person whose goal in life is to make me miserable. It is so easy to be negative. If I’m not careful, this becomes my reality.
But there is a solution.
I practice gratitude. In a way it is like planting a bulb. I may not feel different, but gratitude does its magic in my winter soul. One day I find I am different. I’m not angry at the irritating person. My vision is clear and I consider the reasons this person is that way. I’m able to reflect on the heartaches and disappointments and see them as growth steps. Problems? There will always be problems. How I think about them determines their affect on me.
What do you have to be grateful for? You may be asking yourself that question this very minute. I think of the most basic things I would hate to do without. While in Honduras I saw people draw their drinking water from scum-covered ponds. They also bathed in that water. I came home grateful for the warm baths I took in drinking quality water.
If you find your soul in winter, all is cold, bleak, and gray. Plant some seeds of gratitude. Spring is just around the corner.
There are days when I am overwhelmed with the sadness and pain in this world. When my family has troubles. When my life gets complicated. There are days I stand at the window and whisper to my Abba Father, “Help,” because it is the only word I have the strength to utter. I’m overwhelmed because I’m so focused on the bad that I cannot recognize joy.
Our brains take us to the place of our focus. If I am in a negative place—complaining about the way things are—it doesn’t take long to darken my mood. Despair blinds me. I muddle through the day missing opportunities because I cannot see them.
This picture of my granddaughter reminds me of the importance to take baby steps to joy. To throw back my head and drink in life’s good things, no matter how small. We have so much to be grateful for. And if we focus on those things, we will find our way out of the darkness.
Have you ever read Hinds Feet on High Places? It is a wonderful little allegorical novel. The heroine, Much Afraid, is on a journey to the High Places and the Good Shepherd gives her two traveling companions, Sorrow and Suffering.
As we travel through this life in order to reach the High Places, it seems we have those same traveling companions doesn’t it? As I read this book, I was struck by the simple truths and wisdom Hannah Hurnard imparted in this story. My favorite being the little flower in the desert. Much Afraid came upon a golden flower that grew under an old pipe where an occasional drop of water fell to the dry sand. The flower’s name was Acceptance with Joy and it held its face expectantly for that life-giving drop. The flower was thankful for what it got, it was brave, and kept the attitude of hope. It didn’t curse its circumstances, wither, and die.
There are times we all go through desert times. During these times we need to hold our heads up, be thankful for all we have (including the occasional drop of water), stay brave and keep the faith.
Over the years I have experienced an extended desert experience in one aspect of my life. I’ve cursed my situation, wept bitter tears, even waved my fist at God. Thank goodness He is patient with me. Today, more than ever, I’ve learned to turn my face up to Him, be brave, keep the faith, and trust Him, even if I only get a drop of encouragement at a time.
Something I do to help me with my perspective is to keep a gratitude list made up of all the things in my life now that I would hate to lose—like bathing in hot, drinking-quality water. Something that many on this planet can not even imagine. I find that I have much to be thankful for even though everything in my life isn’t the way I want it.
What about you? If you find yourself in a desert time of life, don’t despair. Life up your head, be brave, and keep the faith.