Earlier that morning, Keith offered to drive the boys to school so I could stay home and get some work done. As he and our 3 kid circus tumbled out the back door, I started a load of laundry, made a bed, & then put on a pan of water to boil for my oatmeal. I looked around for my phone, and realized I had left it in my car, which Keith had taken. Even better than a quiet house was no phone to interrupt me too!
Then I saw it – Carson’s John Deere toy sitting on the counter; he had forgotten his show-and-tell. Show-and-tell day at preschool rolls around once a week, and Carson waits for it with great anticipation. I immediately pictured the meltdown that would take place upon arrival at school, when he realized he had forgotten it.
I grumbled, knowing my plans for a bit of peace were shot, then called Keith and told him I’d meet him somewhere en-route. He was just heading for stop #2, so we decided on a place to meet. As I climbed into Keith’s truck, I growled to myself about the disaster in the cab, and made a mental note to add “clean Keith’s truck” to my to-do list. About 5 minutes down the road, it occurred to me that the pan of water on the stove had probably been rapidly boiling for some time now. I turned around and headed back home. As I reached for my phone to let Keith know what I was doing, I remembered it wasn’t with me. Grr. Back home, I quickly called him and came up with a new place to meet. I turned off the stove, the pan of water entirely evaporated, and grabbed an apple. So much for my warm bowl of oatmeal, heaped with walnuts, raisins, brown sugar, and bathed in vanilla almond milk. Boo hoo…
I chomped on my apple, totally disgruntled, as I drove to meet Keith and finally, handed over the toy (the source of all my morning misery).
Several hours earlier, that same morning, I had finished reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp . The book had come highly recommended by friends. I’ll be honest, there were parts I enjoyed, but also parts where I felt like the author’s poetic use of words was so forced that I had a hard time staying focused. I was glad to be done with the book, and as I finished the last page, I wondered how this book would have relevance in my life. See, I really wanted to love the book as my friends did. It was about finding joy and giving thanks, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Maybe it’s because I thought I had already arrived in that place of joy and thankfulness.
As I drove back home, something moved me to take a different road. My morning had already been disturbed, so why not take a few extra minutes to see a change of scenery? No sooner did I take the first turn, when it occurred to me how crazy I’d been to get so frustrated over a little hiccup in my schedule. My mind went to the book, and I wondered how the author would turn this into something to give thanks for. I realized the apple core was still in my hand. That had been a good, juicy apple. I visualized what her poetic words might say: “fingers sticky sweet from juice of a just eaten fruit.” And with that, my mental list continued.
I was driving home in a truck with all things Keith. Everything I had grumbled about that was surrounding me was a reminder of him – the guy that I’d watched go through a great deal of suffering over the past year, and who still came out on top. Not on top because he’s cured, but because his faith in the Lord proved that no matter what your circumstances, if you’re on God’s team, you’re on the winning team.
There was his disabled parking pass. Just the week before, I’d laughed and thanked him for “taking one for the team” as we took our front row spot at Costco.
And then there was the little bottle of hand sanitizer, almost empty from use. I thought of all the times he laughed at me for using it before he was sick. For the first time in his life, he had to be watchful for germs, not because he wanted to, but out of necessity.
As I turned the corner, a plum-sized ball rolled across the seat. He hadn’t taken time to see a physical therapist once he was up and running. But, he squeezed this ball wherever he drove each day- rolling it around, working it with his hand, determined to regain the use of his left fingers, whose function had been lost as a result of the disease. Determination has he, and the ongoing effort that he never even mentions is working.
Beside me sat his leather day planner, branded on the front with the Rocking Bar H. At one point I had wondered if modern technology would ever replace it.
And then the tools of a builder – a calculator, tape measure, wood glue, and assorted tools were all within my reach. I smiled, thinking that aside from the lumber, all one might need to build a structure could be found within this truck.
There it was, a list of gifts. A list of things that made me thankful and brought me joy. Had the show-and-tell toy been remembered, I would not have climbed into this truck on the same morning that I finished a book about receiving God’s gifts…all of them…with thanks. I would have missed some of the purpose of that book for my life. The truck ride, preceded by a chain of events, preceded by a forgotten toy, had been a gift. The toy, once gifted to my boys on a snowy Christmas morning, became a gift again.
My reminder, that everything we receive is a gift. Sometimes, when it isn’t so obvious, our job is to open our eyes a bit wider to look for the gift. For it is always there.