Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Grace and Gratitude

A group of women at my church have started a new women's class. This past Sunday was our first meeting and we were challenged to practice gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal for a week. Just one week of writing down three things we are grateful for each day and telling why we are grateful for them. What a great exercise! What a doable discipline!

I'm already two days behind.

Yesterday, however, I attended a memorial service that has spurred me on to incorporate this practice into my life. Grace was a friend of my family, one of those people who have just always been there. Her husband taught with my dad and they shared an office for several years. She was my Bible class teacher in 2nd grade and she taught Becca as a 4-year-old every Sunday morning. We were in the same prayer group for a couple of years. She had a beautiful smile and was a wonderful Christian woman who loved the Lord and this life with a quiet but noticeable passion. She lost her battle with lymphoma last Friday.

At her service, Grace's daughter Rachel -- a beautiful young woman in her early thirties -- spoke of her mother's ongoing reminder that we should practice the admonition, "in everything give thanks." She spoke of her teen years and how her mom would remind her to be grateful even for the people who made her angry. She spoke of how this discipline of thanksgiving had led her to have a more positive view of life, even during very hard times. She spoke of how she still felt very angry about the cancer who had robbed her of her beautiful mother, but how she also knew that her practice of gratitude would help her work through her grief and anger as she faced the rest of her life without her mom.

In everything give thanks. It's hard, isn't it? When death looks at us, laughs, and steals someone we love it is very hard to be thankful. When we continue to pay the consequences for a sin long ago confessed and forgiven, it's hard to give thanks. "In everything?" Surely not everything.

But -- yes -- everything.

So, today I am thankful that God put Grace in my life and that her beautiful smile and passion was in front of me for thirty-something years. Because of this, I know that Christian women can influence many people and make an impact on the world.

Today I am also thankful for words and the ability to express thoughts and share emotion. Without them we would be isolated and alone; because of them we are connected and can share the joys and sorrows of life.

And I thank God -- profoundly and passionately -- that he is a God of love who forgives and invites us to partner with him throughout our life and for all eternity. Because of that we can know that death is not the end, but only a new beginning.

Grace and gratitude. A wonderful combination.


Sheila said...

I was just thinking..."lost her battle with lymphoma..."

When I read that, of course I understood what you mean.

But the thought that came to me was, "No, she won the battle." As Dr. Brewer said in his email, now she will have an incorruptible body. And her suffering--not just from lymphoma, but simply the suffering of having to live in a world so darkened by the Fall--is ended.

In no way do I mean to diminish the sadness and loss of death (for those of us left behind), but thinking of her life just makes me think we are more than conquerors because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. The longer I live (and encounter death) the more Romans 8 means to me.

And inspires Grace and gratitude.

(I'm not really disagreeing with you, just seeing through a different lens for a moment...and surprised by it!)

Maury Draper said...

I really enjoyed reading this! Thank you for sharing!