What does it take for you to appreciate the little things in your life? Did you wake up and thank God for the ability to open your eyes and know where you were; or for the clarity of your mind to remember your name and recognize your family? Were you thankful for the electricity to prepare your breakfast, and light your way? When you turned on the television to update today's events, did you even give it a second thought? Wasn't it nice to be able to flush the toilet, or take a shower? Did you sleep in a bed last night? Were you warm and safe?
Millions of people in this world don't have those simple things, and they are thankful for a few spoonfuls of rice. Children are raising their younger siblings in cardboard boxes or mud huts without windows, after the death of their parents. And they wake up thankful for the rags they call clothes that some charity group gave them. All around them death feeds on the people they loved. Slowly killing off the bodies of the young with AIDS, Hepatitis, Cancer, and diseases we haven't even heard of yet here in America. The median age being 30 years old, an age we would consider the beginning of adulthood. Young girls as little as toddlers are raped and the older ones sold into sex slavery. Few are the ones who haven't seen someone they love murdered. And still you see pictures of the children laughing. They are happy for a few small treasures of candy handed out by a visiting missionary, or a new outfit that is clean. Shoes are a prize no matter what size they are. The highlight of their year is a shoebox full of crayons, coloring books, toys and school supplies they receive at Christmas from the missionaries. (http://www.samaritanspurse.org)
A year ago, my family and I lived in a three bedroom house. It was old and run down by today's standards, and shared a wall with the half of house next door...leaving little room for privacy. If they sneezed you felt like you should bless them. We had no back yard and the houses in this part of the country are built right on the sidewalk out front, leaving no front yard at all. I sat in my room reflecting all that I didn't have in this life.
When I was in my twenties and early thirties we had beautiful homes, antiques that had belonged in my family for years, and new cars. We took cruises for vacations and week end trips every month. We owned a 25 acre farm with a beautiful home that had everything I could ever want. In the fields we had black Angus cattle, show goats, hogs, chickens, horses, and geese to make the picture complete. Our back yard was a lovely garden full of tasty delights we loved to preserve for the winter. We loved to take our golf cart for a ride down by our lake to pick wild blackberries for a sweet dessert. We went camping in 5 star resorts, and stayed in the best of hotels when we traveled. It was a regular treat to eat out in a gourmet restaurant or our favorite home style diner. Then one day all of that ended. My husband of 10 years had found someone else, and sold everything we owned in a one day auction while he took us vacationing in Florida. I had no idea that while I was riding Mr. Toad's Wild Ride that my personal life was about to take the same twists.
One day I was saying my life was perfect and Heaven couldn't be much better than my life on earth...then over night it was all gone. My husband disappeared and took all the money he had collected from the auction with him...and my two year old son with him. My life would never be the same.
Twenty years later, and another husband gone as fast as he came, I sat alone with two babies to care for and a heart full of sadness at my losses. I longed to show these babies the life I lived before, but that was never God's plan. As hard as I worked, the bills always seem to grow faster...never leaving anything for trips or frills; and often never enough to pay the bills. My son reminded me all the time that others had so much more, and why could we have things like that...
At first I used to cry myself to sleep thinking that someday God would bring me a Christian husband to share my life with and we would take the kids camping, or to see the Grand Canyon, or on that cruise I always promised them. But he never came. Neither did our dreams.
"I wish we could have gone there" my daughter would cry.
"It's okay Mom, at least we appreciate what we have." my son would try to comfort me. But I knew it wasn't okay.
On June 25th of 2012 we lost everything we had worked so hard to acquire. I know I was becoming a horder. I always felt I had to replace my losses, and there was never enough. God knew no U-Hauls would be going to Heaven and needed to lighten our loads.
We were evicted. I thought I had another day before we were to be out of there, so I went to get coffee and some breakfast sandwiches for the kids and we had a truck backed in to load the boxes. At 9 am my son called to tell me they were changing the locks and we had to leave the property. I wasn't even allowed to grab a change of clothes. The constable tried to explain that the property manager had to put everything in storage and allow us to redeem it, but the man refused. He said he was taking everything straight to the incinerator. I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach! And he did as he promised...
For the next week we called and begged to buy our most precious belongings and pictures back from him, but he laughed and refused. Gone were the graduation diplomas the kids worked so hard to earn, my grandmother's pictures, gifts from my children, and books we had collected. All of our clothes, gifts my daughter had saved for her "hope chest", and camera with pictures we can ever replace again.
We spent the next three months living in a car, or staying in a motel we could rent by the week. Never knowing from one night to the next where we would be. Food was scarce. When we were in the car we worried our pets were going to die from the 90+ degree heat and tried to keep them sprayed down to cool them off. There was no one to turn to.
My sister writers sent clothes, books and money to help us get through the hardest of days.
My oldest daughter had decided we were too much drama in her life and turned her back on us. While she relaxed on vacations, or sat watching television in her spacious air conditioned home, we watched our family falling apart. My son couldn't take the stress anymore and he left us to go stay with friends. Now there was just me and Stevie, my 21 year old daughter.
Just when you think life can't get any worse...well you know how that story goes...yep, it did! I went to the emergency room with stomach pains and came home with a projection of 4 to 6 months left to live. I had advanced stage 4 cirrhosis of the liver, kidney disease, a cyst on my kidney, a huge hernia that was draining into my abdominal cavity, blood in my urine, and my back had so much damage I was loosing all feeling in my lower half. I can't lift my legs more than a few inches, or stand or bend...and I walk with a walker. Every week brings new problems after more and more tests are run.
But remember this blog is about thankfulness. We learned to be thankful! We found a place to live! There are two rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen...and we share it with another person. Okay, so there aren't any closets, but hey...we lost everything anyway. The only real draw back is the bathroom is tiny. Only a shower, no tub to soak in...and I can barely squeeze through to the toilet...but at least we have one! (We didn't in the car!) But we have a kitchen and can cook a real meal now! And it is affordable!
If this had been offered to us a year ago we would have turned up our noses and never given it a second thought. But not today. Today we love it. It has a big backyard for our dog to run, and the cats have found their hiding places. There are lots of windows for them to look out of, and there is a college for Stevie just three blocks away. We have already found some wonderful churches to choose from, and the people here are very friendly. We have a river in our back yard. The little town is like Mayberry, and we feel like we have stepped back in time. It even has a little restaurant that looks like it was straight out of my childhood. The music is from the 70's, and the prices match. Where else could you buy a grilled cheese sandwich for $1.69, french fries for $1.89, and homemade pie for $1.89? It is a tiny town, but we are so thankful for it. We are two hours from where we started, and we would have never found this place had it not been for our circumstances. God had to get our hearts ready to accept His plan.
So when I get up, I thank my Heavenly Father for another day on this Earth to make memories with my daughter. I thank Him, as I stir my morning coffee, for the coffee to drink and the coffee maker to prepare it. I reflect as I take my shower on how nice it is to have running water for my shower, realizing someday soon we might not have either electricity or running water. As I dress for the day I thank the Lord for friends like Tracy Ruckman who loved me enough to send me clothes. As I sit by the running water of the Juniata River and read my books, I pray over all my writer friends who sent us books to read, and blessed us with scriptures to encourage us. And every minute I thank Him for my daughter, Stevie, who didn't let my complaining scare her away, and always takes care of me through good and bad. And I thank God for giving me 20 wonderful years with my baby boy, Floyd, before he had to spread his wings and fly off to become an adult.
I lift up everyone who sent us books and money, or just lifted us up in prayer...for they bring the love of our Heavenly Father to earth, and gave me the strength not to give up.
My word for today is Thankfulness...because no matter how bad life is there is always a reason to give thanks.
"Without the rain, we wouldn't have flowers and rainbows..."