The first sight of fall leaves, the scent of pumpkin lattes, and the celebration of my favorite season bring this time to my mind. I also remember the events that led up to November 10, and continue to relive the events like they happened yesterday. For example, as I drink a pumpkin latte I remembered having my first pumpkin spice latte of the season on the way to the hospital two years ago.
But it was two years ago, not yesterday. "Get over it," I tell myself. "It's not that big of a deal." Well in fact it was a big deal! We moved countries and uprooted our lives after this surgery. And yes, two years later, the scar on my spine is sore and I still have a daily, chronic pain. There are still certain activities, especially with my children and re-entering employment that I cannot do (or am limited in). It's important for me to pace myself—considering my schedule and how it will affect my pain. There is still a long list of medication I take (complete with the side effects) and co-payments that never seem to end. Yet I have another category of things I've received through the tumor and surgery—and that is a host of blessings.
This list is much longer: I have deeper convictions about relationships and steadfast faith. I have a different perspective on what is important in life. I continue to learn the power of gratitude and of finding joy in all circumstances. I have more depth and trust in my relationships with my husband, kids, close family, and friends. I remember those who visited and fought through the trials with me. We received endless amounts of love and support. We also received generous gifts. When we moved and relocated to Massachusetts from Spain, we were in need of countless things. The list of things we received through the love of the Christians is amazing. We received a car, Christmas gifts for our kids, endless amounts of household items, physical training, a shoulder to cry on, and so much more.
The gifts and help we received upon restarting our lives in the United States impacted my family and me forever. We were moved by the thoughtful acts of service (like a homemade Thanksgiving dinner delivered while in the hospital and rides to physical therapy during the six months after surgery that I was unable to drive. We've received tremendous amounts of prayers and encouraging words. The lessons we've learned and continue to learn are life changing. The closeness we have as family through enduring hardship together is invaluable. We are humbled by the opportunity to inspire others. The list of blessings doesn't end there. I continue to witness God's love and power as He takes care of us and is with us every step of the way. Our lives were altered in ways that started off as a crisis and turned into endless moments of gratitude!
"I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." -- Philippians 4:10-13
Paul understood that the secret of contentment was Jesus Christ. He knew what it was like to have physical wealth and recognition and what it meant to be in prison. He was able to write about joy and gratitude while imprisoned for his faith because of Jesus. He no longer lived for himself. Therefore, even while imprisoned he was full of joy and gratitude.
During the last few months most of my prayers have been about joy and gratitude. Every time I'm reminded of November 10, 2015, and realize it's now been two years, my first instinct is negative thinking. I think, Yes, I can walk now but I'm not who I was before all this happened. I was counting down the months to the two year mark, and now I'm here still living with chronic pain and restricted in certain areas of life because of it.
That's when I must stop, look around at all I have because of the love and generosity of others, and most importantly because of the love of Christ.
Even through our darkest moments God is ready to be our strength. And when we reach out to accept his power and strength we allow God to turn our trials into moments of thanksgiving.
In the coming articles we'll look deeper at what the Bible says about being thankful and how to train our minds to turn moments of disappointment and defeat into moments of gratitude.