In 1997, in the middle of a HORRIBLE period, I decided to take Oprah up on her gratitude journal challenge. As I strained to write something in my very first entry, I pondered my recent break up, the need to move IMMEDIATELY from our apartment so that the management could recover "real property" from a delinquent (in payment, not intellect) roommate, my honors thesis that was not going well (and in fact, it never did turn out the way I wanted it to), and what on earth I was going to do with an English degree.
In the end, I wrote "Merry has been such a good dog for the last fifteen years."
Thirty minutes later, my sister called me to come home because Merry was dying. I saw her last coherent look before she fell into a coma and died.
I didn't really keep the gratitude journal after that.
The next time I recall a real "gratitude" moment, was an evening that my husband and I were talking as we watched our sleeping boys.
"You know," my husband said, "We may not have everything. Things may not be easy. But our boys are healthy. What's more important than that? I'm really thankful to your God for that."
The next day, the little one had a seizure.
I am careful when I give thanks now. I am reminded all the time that there are no guarantees. Life doesn't go as planned.
In the end, in God's book, I don't deserve anything. That is hard. Everything is a gift. I should be thankful for it all. And yet I still hold back. I feel like my hand has been slapped. And I forget that the Giver is bigger than the gift.
And I am so grateful for my husband--a husband who kicks me in the rear when I need it. I always think that I could not love my boys more than I do, and then the sun rises, and I love them even more. And I am thankful for every moment that we have had, both with them and with all of our family on this and the other side of the ocean. And I am terrified every time I say it.
But for however long it lasts, I plan to enjoy it. And when the sun rises tomorrow, even if life changes, I will try to remember that I love the Giver too and that each new day brings bigger love.