Thanksgiving Brings Hope for Today-1671

No doubt about it, we live in a complex, challenging and unpredictable world in 2017. The paradox seems to be that all of the good in mankind is shining brighter as it compels us to reach a towards a more glorious, loving, and giving God. Yet, the existence of devastating, perilous harm in so many forms is getting darker like a pitch-black cloud that tries to plummet us into a helpless despair over the evil plaguing our current days. But still, still I am thankful and hopeful for today, another day of life.
I began thinking about how thankful I am now for each day, despite the turbulent times, as I remembered a past when I was not always entirely content. Recently, Pastor Craig Brown, one of the Pastors at the Heart of the City Church, excitedly asked the congregation in his sermon, “We are There!” to wake up and realize that today is the day we should celebrate and enjoy. He encouraged us not to wait until we finally retire at 89-years-old to play all the golf we always dreamed about on Saturday morning; just to discover that now both our knees and back hurt and we have to sit in our recliner and watch another episode of “Let’s Make a Deal,” while glancing wistfully out of our living room window dreaming about another beautiful sunny day that could have been spent on the links.
While Pastor Craig continued his sermon, a poignant tug at my heart caused me to I look around the church at all of the happy couples with their adorable children. My mind drifted back to my life as a young mom with four beautiful children living on a breath-taking, scenic 30,000 acre rural Montana cattle ranch that my remarkable husband managed. It was an idyllic place to raise a family. And yet, yet I should have been more grateful during that special season of my life.
Yes, there were long, hard 16- hour- work days that often raced forward for weeks without a break. Our young family’s budget was frugal; powdered milk was often a household staple (sufficiently healthy but not a gourmet delight, right?) And as every mom can imagine taking care of two grade schoolers, a preschooler and a baby, is both, “the best and worst of times,” as Charles Dickens said. However, extreme exhaustion was layered with much incredible happiness throughout those years. So, my circumstances were not the cause of an occasional lack of appreciation for all of my blessings.
Reflecting upon that period of my life, though, did help me determine two particular reasons for my slight discontentment. First, I did not completely delight in every minute of that time because I was never “fully present.” As Pastor Craig said, I was never happy where I was, because I always had my eyes on future. As my children were growing up, I sometimes functioned on a survival mode. If I could recapture those years, I would enjoy the journey more. All of those irreplaceable years really did go by too quickly. The best advice I would give any parent is to love each day of your children’s lives-to be all in, all of the time, right where you are, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically.
It’s somewhat funny now, to remember how desperate I used to be for our annual vacation to visit my husband’s parents in Colorado. Every day I thought about, dreamed, and planned a wonderful two­week trip in January. However, inevitably the kids would get sick, the weather would be too cold or our daily routine would overtake our plans, and typically, no one actually had a memorable experience. It was like drooling over a fast food drive- through menu, imagining a delicious meal. Then receiving your order and discovering that a sack of a cold, greasy cheeseburger, soggy fries and a guilt-laden soda doesn’t really fulfill your expectations. Big build up, followed by degrees of disappointment!
What I know now is that if you are not happy where you are, chances are you won’t be happy anywhere. Also, Pastor Craig pointed out in his sermon, when you choose to be thankful for the
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present, enjoying every minute of your life, “you are already there.” You are free to be happy now; you don’t have to live a suspended existence forever.
Failure to accomplish personal aspirations was the second cause of my frustration in earlier years. My own little demon sat on my shoulder everyday with the same tormenting tirade, chirping in my ear:
“You’ll never achieve your dream of becoming a writer. You’ve failed in all of your plans. Could of
.. should of ... didn’t, that’s you Tonie.” My everyday companions were condemnation, regret and negative thoughts. I was internally stressed about future achievements and judged myself as unsuccessful because certain life goals had not been achieved.
The major problem with my dissatisfied mind-set was its huge price tag. I periodically sacrificed the enjoyment of my present everyday life because I was obsessed about getting to where I wanted to go. In reality, when I failed to embrace and appreciate the “here and now,” it kept me from having the energy to create the future of my dreams. I was essentially defeating myself by putting life on hold until some potential point in time when my career ambitions were attained.
Fortunately, sporadically feeling impatient to attain personal aspirations did not ultimately impair the most important role in my life: to be the best Mom, I could be. Jacqueline Kennedy was right when she said: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”
But I digress. There is a reason why I am now filled with more gratitude and hope. I made a conscious decision to change my attitude about enjoying the gift of everyday life. As Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker, said: “Of all the ‘attitudes’ we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life changing.”
What if I asked you this question, “Today are you ready to start with thanksgiving, living the life you have always envisioned would be yours? If the answer is “no” to this question, what are your reasons?”
Are you wasting today because of anxiety over your future? I hope not, because I have learned and many wise people have said: “This life is not dress rehearsal.” It says in the Bible, “What is your life? It is even vapor which appears for a little time, and then vanishes away,” James 4:14. Besides, you have today; but you are not guaranteed tomorrow. As I have shared in this column, after hearing Pastor Craig’s sermon, which started all of this introspective analysis in the first place- I made the decision to start enjoying my life now when I chose be thankful for all of my present blessings.
Instead of keeping your eyes fixed on the future, maybe you are unable to stop living in the past?
Stevie Nicks in her song, ‘Landslide,’ sang, “I been afraid of changing because I built my life on .... “ What?
What keeps you thinking about the past, rather than creating your own new, incredible present-day life? Regrets are a waste of time. Today is the only day you can change. You might as well, rejoice and trust God to redeem all of your past mistakes and failures as you live the best life you can at this point in time.
Or maybe, as mentioned before, the condition of our current world grabs your attention and it’s hard to accept. You quickly realize that its multidimensional intensities of good and evil will not likely meld into a utopia any time soon. On one hand, ISSI is marching on with its evil terrorism, trying to suck the rest of us under it black, dark eternity; along with other daily increasing worldwide malevolence.
Yet, my husband and I witnessed first-hand the loving care that the teenagers working the nacho station at the Heart of the City Church’s {HOCC) “Harvest Festival” showed to all of the children in their fun costumes. God is on the move and His simple and complete love still makes this world worthwhile.
However, there are so many extremes buffeting our thoughts and external reality, that we just have to decide to be happy today, anyway. Time stands still for no one. While life may never be perfect, it is always a wonderful opportunity; a chance to get be positive and think about things that are good, excellent, praiseworthy, lovely and true.
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And the opportunity to get your hopes up for good things to happen. A few of the goals I want to accomplish include: seeing my grandchildren who live in Virginia Beach, VA more often, finally getting my two novels published, and to continue avoiding all political discussions, forever.
No matter what happens, my perspective and attitude have definitely changed and now every day I try to remember that, “This is a day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it,” Psalm 118:24. Again, I want to acknowledge that Pastor Craig deserves the credit for waking me up!
But there is one last reason which motivates me to be filled with gratitude. Living in beautiful Idaho and having the chance to love and help others around me creates a life full of amazing possibilities. So, yes, I will always, always be thankful and hopeful for each new day-for today as my Lord Jesus lives out Our Father’s Kingdom will through my life by the power of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t get any better than this, baby, living large in for God in Idaho.