Making a Difference . . .
I know that birthdays are supposed to be a time for parties and presents and celebrating and cake (and if you've read any of my posts in the last several days, you know how much I LOVE that aspect of birthdays!), but I also think that they are a time to be reflective . . . What have I done right in the past year? What have I done not-so-right? How do I want to be better in the next year? What kind of person do I want to be? Yesterday, I had an experience that really made me think extra hard about all of this. Gary called me about 6:30 in the morning and asked me to listen to something. It was a tape he had found while going through a box of "junk" the night before; when I heard it, I immediately knew who it was. It was Jim, a friend of Gary's from work who we hadn't seen in several years. On the tape, he was telling Gary how much he appreciated he and I for the love we had shown him. He said that we had been such good Christian examples to him. And he even thanked me for some cookies I had baked him. (Jim had developed some weird infection at this time, and he was in the hospital while they ran tests trying to figure out what was wrong. We had gone to visit him at the hospital.) He said that he thought it was important to tell people that they were appreciated. We later sponsored Jim on what's called an "Emmaus Walk, " a spiritual weekend that is one of the most powerful things Gary and I have ever been on.
After playing the tape for me, Gary told me that Jim had died the day before. I immediately teared up, then cried even more. First of all, it made me sad. Secondly, it made me amazed that God had placed that tape in the right place, just so Gary would have a chance to find it. Then, thankful for a guy who could say the things he'd said. And lastly, as Gary shared with me how he felt, it made me feel a little guilty. We hadn't seen Jim lately (he had to quit work after he got too sick), and had I made a difference like I'd made to him in the lives of anyone else lately? I like to think that I do make a difference every day. At least, I try to. I try and help a person when she needs help. I try and be nice and friendly to strangers. I teach at church and hope that it makes some sort of impression on others. I try and be the kind of wife and mother I think I should be. But I know I fall short most of the time. I want to be a shining example of what it's like to love others, help others, and do what Jesus would have me to do. But do I? My hope and prayer on this, my 38th birthday, is to make even more of a difference this next year. I want to make my 38th year a productive, meaningful, and loving one. One of my favorite authors, Max Lucado, has this poem at the beginning a journal I have called Grace for the Moment. I think it will be my inspiration for the following year-- Each Day I Choose Love No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God does. I Choose Joy I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical. I will refuse to see people as less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God. I Choose Peace I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live. I Choose Patience I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the other who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage. I Choose Kindness I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me. I Choose Goodness I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I accuse. I choose goodness. I Choose Faithfulness Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My husband will not question my love. My children will never doubt that their mother will always be there for them. I Choose Gentleness Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself. I Choose Self-Control I am a spiritual being . . . After this body is dead, the spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest. * * * * * * * * * * (As I wrote this, Gary came down and sang "Happy Birthday" to me and gave me a big hug and kiss. I'm blessed beyond measure today and everyday, for having a husband who shows me he loves me and children who do the same. I'm looking forward to my birthday--lunch today with Gary at Red Lobster, then our annual bowling celebration tomorrow night. Life is certainly good! So, happy birthday to me!!)