“Try to accept each day as a gift without worrying about what tomorrow will bring.” These words from a trusted spiritual friend seem like a fitting way to wrap up 2020. During a recent conversation, this friend encouraged me to see God in the midst of today – just as it is, without worrying about the future. Pondering his wise words caused me great distress over the many times when I didn’t, or perhaps couldn’t rest in the present moment. I wondered, “how often did I miss a beautiful God moment this year due to my anxiety or worry about things not in my control?”
As a world, we have faced quite a lot – the worst pandemic in over one hundred years which has claimed the lives of too many precious souls, major natural disasters which have destroyed countless homes and lives and horrific racial injustices which we had hoped were part of our imperfect past. Any one of these events is enough to make a person struggle to find peace and live in the present moment.
Watching a favorite old movie the other night reminded me of the importance of persistence and good friends – something we have all needed this past year. In the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy finds herself in a strange land. In order to get back to Kansas, she has to accept her current plight while simultaneously pursuing her good efforts to return home. Her journey brings many unexpected people into her life. Despite the trials along the way – a Wicked Witch and an unreliable Wizard of Oz – she accepts the friendship of an endearing Scarecrow, a loving Tinman and a courageous Lion. These beloved friends along with her trusted dog Toto help Dorothy to accept her present situation, push through the tough moments and even challenge the things which contribute to her despair. In the end, she realizes that her happiness was right in front of her, in the present moments of her life at home. At the conclusion of the movie, Dorothy responds to Glenda the Good Witch, “And it’s that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
So what are your backyard gifts this year? I believe that in between the rough moments of 2020 there have been many backyard glimpses of hope for all of us – simple things like a zoom call with extended family or a peaceful walk in the woods. The mandatory work from home requirement was a gift which allowed many family members to spend more time together. I’ve seen more requests for meal sign-ups and gift drop-offs than ever before. People helping people – that’s a backyard gift to be truly thankful for. Perhaps God has given me eyes of faith to really see and appreciate these simple gifts in a whole new way. Whatever the reason, I am grateful for the illumination of mind and spirit as we conclude one of the tougher years in recent history.
“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”Isaiah 40:31
I’d like to conclude tonight’s blog with a dedication to my beloved mom Joan. She was a woman who really did live in the present moment – always giving thanks for the gifts of the day. I’m not quite sure how she managed it, but she was somehow able to muster up the courage and faith to continue this attitude during her battle with cancer. On the eve of my 5th birthday without her, I’d like to ponder her beautiful life-giving soul and give thanks to God for the gift of her. I hit the “mom jackpot” when God destined her to be my mom 53 years ago.
There are many days when I long to see her face and hear her voice. But when I live in the present, and try to take stock of my backyard gifts, I believe that I still do. I see her generosity of spirit in the efforts of my daughter Grace who works tirelessly to help me with my insurance as it relates to my health and bad back. I hear her loving voice in my daughter Emma who shows authentic kindness and friendship to folks when we drop off Christmas gifts or food bags. I witness her love in my husband who cooks delicious food for folks in need and willingly suggests menu items and extra treats. And I think of her warm smile when I watch my son shovel an elderly neighbor’s driveway. Mom lives on in every member of my family – her heart, spirit and soul.
So as we conclude this tumultuous year, let us give thanks for all the big and little backyard gifts in our lives. May they help us to live in the present moment of each precious day – struggles and all. Also, let us give thanks for the beloved people God has gifted us with – those with us now and those who have gone home to heaven. Each one has served a special purpose and has left us with much for which to be thankful.
Happy New Year to all!