From the time I left home, my parents wrote me a letter every week. My mother wrote her part of the letter in her own handwriting. My father typed his on his typewriter (originally a manual typewriter, and then finally an electric one).
Fortunately I saved many of those letters. In later years, when I began to realize how much of a treasure they were, I began to put them in order. I then filed them in a three ringer binder with the name, “Letters from Home.”
My parents lived a simple life in a small town. Their letters were filled with very ordinary things … the weather, who had come to visit, who was getting married, etc. As the years progressed, the references to “keeping the doctors busy” began to appear. And it then became clear that things were beginning to change.
My mother’s usual strong handwriting seemed a little less firm and straight on the page. She began to apologize for her “shakey hands,” but wrote from her heart of love, telling me how much she wanted to share life. My father said jokingly that his typewriter seemed to make a lot more mistakes than it used to.
But in reading the letters all together, a curious trend began to appear. The more difficulties they experienced in life, the more confidently they expressed the Power of The Lord. The more things they lost, it seemed that they were steadily gaining. The letters were filled to the brim with thankfulness for what they had!
He Makes Me Lie Down, But Are These Pastures Really Green?
My parents were in an automobile accident when they were in their nineties. My mother’s condition deteriorated such that she was never able to return to her earthly home again. However, she had already packed her spiritual bag and so whatever physical things she left at home that day were not a loss.
She had taught me earlier in life an important principle that proved to be true all the way to the end. She once told me,
Your mind and your heart are like a chest of drawers.
Today you may choose what you put in them.
But the day may come when someone else will open those drawers,
and all they will find is what you put there.
As she lay in a hospital bed, wracked with pain, her spirit soared above. As my niece and I were distraught over seeing her in such pain, we prayed fervently that God would relieve the pain. In the midst of our prayers, we heard another voice — my mother’s.
Her weak voice grew stronger and stronger as she prayed prayers of thanksgiving for all God had given her throughout her life and how much He was still providing for her.
She prayed prayers for my father, my brother, all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren. She prayed for all the spouses. And she prayed for each of us by name!
We were lost in a sea of need. She was sailing on a sea of gratitude!
Singing a Song of Gratitude to The Lord!
My father lived for another five years after my mother’s death. He returned home for a season. In spite of the devastating loss of my mother, he continued on. He returned to tending his garden, thanking God for His Provision. He gave away all he grew and talked of what a joy it was to have something “to divide” with others.
My father had never liked to sing. He whistled with great joy, but because someone had made fun of his singing when he was young, he never sang much after that. I remember what a treat it was that he sang happy birthday to me on my birthday each year.
My mother recounted the Sunday she was singing in church and suddenly heard a fine, tenor voice somewhere around her, singing. With amazement, she realized it was my father. He had been healed of an old hurt and sang regularly after that. In his times of isolation at home, he told me he got the hymn book and sang one song after another. He said he was so thankful he could sing. He said he thought he was making up for lost time!
My father eventually went to the place he never thought he wanted to be — the local nursing home. However, those who cared for him said he was the most wonderful “missionary” they had ever seen. Unlike many others, they said he was so thankful for everything they did.
And he had the interesting habit of saying thank you three times each time. When expressing gratitude, he would say, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!”
A Great Sufficiency!
I witnessed the growing old of both of my husband’s parents. I noticed this same odd phenomena in them. The more they lost, they more thankful they became.
My father in law died this year. In the last year of his life especially, his physical health declined. And yet, he hummed songs as he struggled to get out of the chair. He sang hymns of praise in groups and in his apartment. He never complained about anything.
When anyone asked him how he was, he would say, jokingly, “I’m just as happy as if I had good sense!” And then he would add, “No really, I’m fine. I have a great sufficiency! God has been so good to me.”
Complaining About The Rain or Enjoying it Washing My Face?
As much as I stood in wonder at being in the presence of these saints of God, I must admit there were times when I felt bad.
I was disturbed when I saw how little they had left and yet they did not seem to notice.
I was further disturbed when I wanted a good “ain’t it awful” person with whom to share my complaints and they did not seem to understand complaints.
My complaints seemed trivial next to their joy! I seemed to always want more. They were content with less. I felt entitled to some things in life. They felt entitled to nothing. Everything was a Gift from God to be savored!
The Secret to Joy!
The path to Joy is not actually a secret. It turns out the writers of The Bible have recorded faithfully the map of how to find Joy.
Joy goes beyond happiness. Happiness is a mere giggle. Joy is a full throated belly laugh! Experiencing Joy fully is to allow every cell in your body to be alive with Joy in the Presence of their Creator!
John 15:9-11 (NLT) records the Words of Jesus:
I have loved you even as The Father has loved Me.
Remain in My Love!
When you obey My Commandments, you remain in My Love,
just as I obey My Father’s Commandments
and remain in His Love.
I have told you these things, so that
you will be filled with My Joy!
YES, YOUR JOY WILL OVERFLOW!
Matthew 5:5 (The Message) records the Words of Jesus:
when you’re content with just who you are —
no more, no less.
That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners
of everything that can’t be bought!
Paul, who had many things about which he could have complained, said instead, as recorded in Philippians 4:11-13 (NLB):
… I have learned how to get along happily
whether I have much or little.
I know how to live in almost nothing or with everything.
I have learned the secret of being content in every situation,
whether it be a full stomach or hunger;
plenty or want;
for I can do everything God asks me to
with the Help of Christ,
Who gives me The Strength and Power!
David said it beautifully in Psalm 23 (TLB). I invite you to join him and me in praising the Lord for our many blessings. Read it out loud. Hear The Words coming from inside of you. We have a Great Sufficiency!
Because The Lord is My Shepherd,
I have everything I need!
He lets me rest in the meadow grass
and leads me beside the quiet stream.
He gives me New Strength.
He helps me to do what honors Him the most.
Even when walking through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
For You are close beside me,
guarding, guiding all the way.
You provide delicious food for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You have welcomed me as Your Guest.
Your Goodness and Unfailing Kindness
will be with me all of my life,
and afterwards, I will live with You
forever in Your Home!
Praise God for parents, who taught me, from an early age, the Joy of thanking God. The picture is of a young me!
This is so beautiful Carolyn. I felt tears well in my eyes as I realized this is exactly what God is doing in me. The more I lose the more I gain. I have been counting my losses lately with the Lord, allowing space to grieve where I haven’t before. What I am finding though is some of those things I don’t need anymore, and others He is restoring doublefold. His love is giving me new joy and a deep growing passion for more of Him. He’s so good! Thank you for writing and for sharing this. Precious!