"I like to sit in the puddle of sunshine," she told me one warm June morning. There was a sliver of summer sun flooding in through the front window.
She was in her eighties and was a resident of the long-term care facility in which I worked. She had lived through great hardships in her lifetime, some of which I was honored to learn about as I grew to know her. A lifetime of sorrow and joy. Numerous heartbreaks and repeated opportunities for healing. Eighty years worth of moments, with me as a spectator of her later life, that I could never fully know the extent. Me, the one who had not actually lived her rich life.
In spite of it all, she radiated joy. Her face held a smile everywhere she went, as if she knew a secret the rest of the world didn't.
And she did. It was the practice of gratitude. The practice of learning to find the "puddles of sunshine," even in the midst of ongoing difficult circumstances.
Admission to a long-term care facility means forfeiting one's independence, declining health, or the ability to live alone. There is grief that comes with this life-altering change. There is also separation from loved ones; those who aren't always able to visit as often as they would like. Even in spite of her unwanted circumstance, this beautiful person cultivated gratitude as a daily practice.
Over the past few years, the tension of the world has increased to a level that feels palpable at every turn. A brief scroll through social media can leave my heart feeling heavy and discouraged. It can be challenging to feel genuinely grateful. Often it feels easier to grumble, or to default to worry.
Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
It's impossible to be a light to the world around us, or to be a beacon of hope, without a practice of gratitude. Gratitude is rooted in trust. It's remembering Jesus's words in John 16:33 (NIV) when He reminds us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Or as the book of James 1:2-4 (NIV) instructs us, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
The Webster's definition of trust is, "firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something."
A grateful heart can acknowledge the hard places in life and remain thankful because it is anchored in something deeper. It's anchored in trust in the One who can be trusted.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
In Matthew 8:23-27, we see Jesus sleeping through a storm while His disciples are fretful and fearing for their lives. They accuse Him of not caring about their well-being. Jesus was able to sleep through the storm because He fully knew the character of His Father, and the authority He had as God's son.
I often wonder what it would be like to know God so intimately that I could sleep through the storms and trials of life. Or to remain in a continuous posture of gratitude, one that never grumbles. Just when I think I've arrived, another trial takes me by surprise and humbly reminds me that I have not. I want to be a light to the world around me. I want to be someone who is described as a seeker of the "puddles of sunshine."
Father, thank you for your commitment to the slow work of guiding me. Thank you for the promises in your word, which are life giving for me on the good and not so good days. Help me to find a rhythm and daily practice of gratitude that is rooted in deep trust in You, the One who has never failed me. Amen.
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