Life in a small town has its perks as well as its pains. Being known and being seen whenever you need to go to the market, mail a letter or walk your dog can fall into both categories depending on whether or not you have makeup on and are fully dressed.
This I know for sure, you can count on seeing almost everyone you know when your face is naked and your outfit is quickly applied. That my friend is a law of the universe I cannot explain. 🙂
So there I am in the produce department at my neighborhood Wal-Mart (a whole separate topic that often makes me into a she-devil ) and I run into the nice woman who was the town librarian when our kids were of the age of summer reading contests. Her face had barely changed over twenty years but a thick snowy mane now beautifully framed it. Miraculously, I was pretty well put together on this trip to Wal-Mart. (I know, I know- I judge other’s who are not fully dressed at Walmart. My full confession on this topic can be enjoyed HERE). I had even taken the time to put on a bit of blush and mascara and lipstick!! The lipstick is a BIG deal people! It requires careful outlining and filling on my very thin lips!
The berry counter overflowing with the end of summer’s bounty was where our conversation began.
Exchanging niceties of the last ten years with a library acquaintance can be pretty brief but in this case it was pretty powerful- at least for me. I am quite sure it was anything but that for her.
After catching up on her kids and mine, I learned that she had a few grandbabies living in Montana with her daughter. Her and her hubs now in the waning years of their jobs, energy and hope were getting by. As she talked about being trapped in our small town by an upside down mortgage and a terrible economy her still youthful face seemed to age right before my eyes.
I have lived in our town long enough to know how economic hardship takes its toll on people. At times when I return from the big city, I can feel it lying low and thick like a blanket of fog that muffles the hopes and dreams of the people under it.
Feeling compelled to be that annoyingly positive perky woman before we parted ways, I tried to leave things on an upbeat note, “How about all of the rain we have had this summer and all of the amazing wildflowers that we haven’t seen in years? What a beautiful summer! And just look at these juicy blackberries for a mere $2.10 a pint!” She was not impressed.
I’m not here to judge the town librarian. I’ve been on the planet long enough to know there is a larger story behind her resignation and the pedantic rhythm of disappointment in her cadence. I am guessing the regularity of it all has become so loud that she can no longer hear the whisper of hope or see the plump sweet blackberries right in front of her nose because they are not on her list of provisions for survival.
I admit, I was a bit stunned by her sadness.
She left without blackberries and I left without realizing I had picked up enough of her resignation and hopelessness to begin a conversation with anxiety on my way home. (I did however help myself to a $2.10 pint of those plump blackberries.) In a matter of minutes, I began to feel nauseating fear rumble in my gut and begin to climb up the back of my throat. Surely, you know what I am talking about?
Maybe we were actually trapped! (I am envisioning that scary show called The Dome or the endless seasons of LOST!)
Maybe I was just delusional and under the spell of a pint of cheap blackberries and needed a few more set backs in order to see the reality of how hopeless our future really was?
Anxiety wanted me to believe we would never be able to divest and sell any of our properties and move on to a new chapter.
Then it happened.
Gratitude whispered in my ear and my faith muscle began to beat a little bit louder than my fear muscle. My heart began to beat stronger with each memory of His grace and goodness over the last six hard years.
Gratitude began to pull me back into the embrace of remembering how the Lover Of My Soul had provided so much for us during years of great loss.
Gratitude reminded me of how He so often spoke words of encouragement at just the right time, provided ways out of hard places beyond our wildest imaginings and gave us divine personalized gifts wrapped in His grace and love.
The regular practice over six years of slowing long enough to be grateful and of taking the time to notice and record His everyday gifts had helped me see the gracious hand of God in the midst of circumstances that on the surface seemed to indicate that life was going very far south (think, a very hot place) in a berry basket.
Gratitude for His love and provision beginning to take up more space in my heart than fear and anxiety or sadness and survival. Wow.
Gratitude taught me about the sweetness of His friendship, the faithfulness of His character, the eternal treasure of being loved by Him and the truth of being enough in Him.
Gratitude helped me see a greater hope beyond the fog of disappointment, that is some sweet fruit- not cheap, but sweet.
It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful. Brother David Steindl-Rast
Enter with the password: “Thank you!” Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank Him. Worship Him. For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever. Psalm 100:4-5 MSG
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 MSG
PS I’d love to hear some of the stories about gratitude in your life in the comment section below…or if you’d prefer, you can email me on the contact form. XO