It was a beautiful Palm Sunday afternoon.
The sun was out.
The sky was blue.
The birds were singing.
It was a much-needed sign that spring has arrived. Though winter wasn’t that harsh in Texas overall this year, we got a heavy dose of cold temperatures, ice, snow, and rain over the last six weeks, and everyone around here has been struggling with a bout of cabin fever.
My family members each had their own ideas for how they would spend the glorious afternoon at home. My husband and our oldest son decided to tackle the vegetable garden project — something I’ve been longing for since the day we moved in. Our youngest son chose to plant the palm leaf he got at church in the backyard. And I spent the afternoon catching up on some housework, with the hope that I could enjoy some time on the patio once I was finished.
But our daughter had the grandest plans of all. Which is fairly typical. Because she’s a dreamer. (I love that about her.) She had visions of script-writing and movie production with her neighborhood bestie dancing in her head. Unfortunately though, her friend wasn’t home, so instead, she sat.
On the steps to our front porch.
Listening to music on her iTouch.
After about 30 minutes, she came bounding in the front door.
“Mom, I need to talk to you about something.”
(This usually precedes something serious.)
“What’s that?” I asked, trying to be very nonchalant so as not to let my panic show.
“I was really upset that Avery wasn’t home to play. I mean so upset, I started to cry. And I was sitting on the front steps, feeling really sorry for myself when Little Bit drove up in his toy Cadillac and said, ‘Well, you don’t look very happy. Where’s your smile?’ Mom…I think it was a sign from God.”
“What kind of sign?” I asked.
“That I need to stop feeling sorry for myself because Avery can’t play. I need to count my blessings. Because I’m so blessed, and I have so much to be thankful for.”
Well that got a standing ovation. I rose from my seat at the bar, walked toward her, smiled, and gave her the biggest hug.
Because she’s right. And I appreciated the reminder.
I thought you might too.
I don’t know what life may be bringing your way right now. Because life can take us to the tops of the mountains. Where the air is crisp. The sun is shining. And the view is good. But it can also deliver us to the bottom of the canyon. Where the terrain is rocky. The sun doesn’t shine. And our view is limited to that one boulder standing in our way.
In my own experience, though, I’ve learned that usually, it’s not just one or the other. It’s both. All at the same time. But I get so focused on the parts of my life that take me down into the canyon, I can easily get lost there, losing sight of everything else.
In fact, there was a time my life became so challenging that my prayer to God every morning was nothing more than to ask Him to give me the will to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other. That was the only prayer I could think to pray because that task seemed so overwhelming, I couldn’t see past it to what was next.
The burdens of my heart were so heavy, it became difficult to breathe. Managing the basic necessities of life was impossible, and each day, I woke to discover I was turning into someone I didn’t even know. Life was taking me down, and I felt helpless to do anything about it. It was the toughest journey I’ve been through to this point. And when I was in the midst of it, I wondered if I would ever reach the destination. (Whatever that was.)
Have you been there? If you have, then you know it’s frightening.
One of the things that helped me claw my way through it, though, came in the form of an exercise assigned to me by my Christian therapist. (Yes. I have a therapist. And if you don’t? You should.) In one of our early sessions together, he asked me to try to praise God every day for at least one thing that I was thankful for in the midst of the storm.
That seemed like a daunting task because I couldn’t think of anything. But the obedient, rule-following school girl in me kicked in, and I tried.
I created a routine of getting up extra-early each morning before the rest of my family. I lit a candle, sat in my favorite chair, spent my quiet time with God, and tried to praise God for that one thing.
It was really hard at first.
But you know what I found?
That one thing turned into two things. And those two things turned into three things. And those three things multiplied into so many more reasons to praise God, even in the midst of chaos and turmoil.
Looking back on it now, I realize that praising God in the midst of the storm helped save my life.
In Rhinestone Jesus, by Kristen Welch, a book I’m tearing through right now because it speaks to me so personally, she says this:
We don’t know what the future holds. It may be filled with heartache or it may contain joy. Odds are it will have both. No matter what Jesus has done in my life, I tend to be faithless, full of guilt, loneliness, and doubt. But I can bank on one thing: He is faithful.
He is faithful.
Maybe that’s your one thing today. Even if you don’t feel it right now, my guess is that you can look back into your past and see God’s faithfulness in your life over and over and over again.
I know that I can.
So do that. Start there. And see where it might take you in the arena of praise.
Or maybe your praise comes from the 29th Chapter of Jeremiah, where it says:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11.)
Maybe today you can praise God for hope. Or at least the promise of hope if you are feeling hopeless. Because our hope is in Jesus, and it is there that we will find a future beyond that which is holding us down today.
So do that. Start with hope. Maybe that’s your one thing today.
Or maybe it’s grace. Because when Paul asked the Lord three times to take away the thorn in his side, the Lord spoke:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Grace. It follows us wherever we go. To the tops of the mountains. And to the depths of the canyons. Grace abounds all the time. And everywhere. No matter where life takes us.
So maybe that’s your one thing.
I don’t know what your one thing might be today. But no matter where you are, I encourage you to try to find it. Because it’s there. Even if it seems small and seemingly insignificant from your point of view, one word of praise is a place to start. And my own experience reveals that one word of praise today will begin to multiply itself in the days to come.
And that will change your life. Wherever life is taking you today.