Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, has challenged her readers to participate in the Joy Dare. I’ve decided to do it. I’m sure there will be days where I forget, am overwhelmed, or aggravated. Days when joy feels far from me….and yet, through it all, I continue the discipline.
Today’s challenge is: Giving thanks for three gifts that might never have been...
*** I met him for the first time, completely by chance. It just so happened that we, two 17 year old’s, were filling out applications for summer camp at the same time. Two soon-to-be counselors, writing out our basic information to our prospective employer. I noticed his brown hair, and striking blue eyes first. I was the first to say “hi” as he looked up from where he was seated and gave me a smile. As he left he said, “I guess I will be seeing you at camp?” I shook my head, yes.
That was the beginning of a decade(s) long friendship. Back and forth we would write and call, long before the simplicity of emails and Skype. Late nights of talking about everything and nothing, visits to see each other across the miles, and knowing that the other one would always be there to listen. Many happy memories are wound through the years of this friendship. I think about this man whenever I hear someone talking of lacrosse, New England in the Fall, books of poetry, or surprise trips to college graduations. How precious and valued time was back then.
As is often the way, time and distance drew us apart and we went our separate ways. The thoughts of those days, and the joy that they brought me, still linger. I’m thankful for that time in my life because I realize it might never have been…and I would have missed out on so much. Thanking God for paths that cross in the most ordinary of circumstances, that can change a person…… forever.
***I have an auto-immune disease of the thyroid. I was diagnosed with it when I was just 14 years old, so I’ve lived with it, and the frustrations of having a not so healthy thyroid, for most of my life. I remember when the doctor told me it might be difficult for me to get pregnant because of it. It scared me, because I always wanted and expected that I would be a mother some day.
The day I saw the plus sign on the stick, I nearly passed out. I was overjoyed to say the least. God, in His infinite mercy, gave me my desire and several months later my husband and I welcomed our little boy into the world. I always enjoyed being a mommy, from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I might have been exhausted, but I was content. When our baby was a toddler we decided to try for a baby brother or sister. Months became years… I didn’t understand. When our son was 4, his daddy was diagnosed with a chronic heart disease. My son was fatherless at the sweet age of 5.
I look back at that time and I mourn the loss of my husband, but also mourn the death of a dream. The dream of having more children. I was widowed at 32 and at that point I knew I probably wouldn’t have anymore. It was a sad time. As the years of widowhood went on, I came to realize that God’s ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my own. In all honesty, it was much easier raising one child alone, then it would have been, had I had two or three, or four. God knew that. He knew me. My heart learned to lean on Him, and know contentment with my circumstance. I am thankful for my son, because I realize that he might never have been, had it not been for God’s grace and mercy shown to me. He knew my heart, and he gifted me with a son.
***In my late 30’s I filled out an application for an internet dating site. What possessed me to do that, I still don’t know. I’m glad I did. It was through that whim that I found my second husband. A man, who understood what it was to be widowed. A man who shared my faith and values, and looked to God in his daily life. I have no doubt that God can, and does, work in mysterious ways. He can even use the internet to bring two souls together across hundreds of miles. Individuals that would never have met in person, drawn together by common circumstances, and intertwined by the Master’s hand. When I married for the second time, God gave me, not only a husband to share life with, but more children too! God is good. All the time. I am thankful for my new family because I realize that it might never have been. My signing up for an online dating service, turned into a real life relationship, in the hands of the One who knows hearts.
Can you look back at your life and see divine appointments amongst the day to day? Are you aware of God’s providence? Aware of things that might never have been…but, looking back, you are so grateful…because they did!
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8 NIV