Every Hard Thing

RoadFor about five years, I’ve done the same thing every morning when I wake up.  I pray for five people and I thank God for five things.  Well, that’s how it started.  It’s morphed into praying for five people, or five situations, or five countries, tragedies….you get the idea.  Pray for Five.  It came to me years ago in a place of deep despair, I was chronically ill almost all of the time and I felt useless.  I kept asking God, “why don’t you use me?”  I couldn’t understand why He didn’t want me to volunteer at my kid’s school, help teach music, be a better wife, mother….the list was long of things I couldn’t do.  So I kept asking, “God, what do you want me to do?”.  And He said…pray for five people.  In my customary foot-stomping that I often do with God, I said “that’s all??  That’s all you want?  Why can’t it be something better, more important, more useful?”  And He said, “pray for five.”  So I started praying for five.  Every morning, no matter how awful I felt, sometimes I had a lot of time, and sometimes I’d overslept the alarm and I had to pray really fast.  Sometimes I will admit, I did “pray for five” in the shower.  Where I could take my time.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered gratitude.  I discovered I was one of the most ungrateful people I knew.  I took a lot for granted, I complained a lot and I missed a lot.  I read Ann Voskamp’s book 1000 Gifts.  I started doing photo scavenger hunts, snapping pictures of everything I could find that was lovely, simple, beautiful…all things I had always missed.  I took a Brene’ Brown class on Whole Hearted Living.  I wanted to feel more joy, and these Whole Hearted People had the key to a lock I couldn’t seem to open. I read The Gifts of Imperfection.  I watched her Ted Talk’s, I learned to be more courageous, and vulnerable.  I learned I could be brave and scared at the same time.

One morning I was lying in bed listening to rain on the roof.  I don’t like rain and I have a very hard time in this beautiful Pacific Northwest from November to May…rain, rain, rain.  I thought about the grey days of November, the darkness settling in around us at 4:00 pm, the windy sideways rain that challenges even the toughest Oregonian.  And I decided to thank God for the rain.  It was hard, thanking God for something I really didn’t like.  I know we need the rain, I get it, we need it.  But sunshine is my drug of choice.  I’ll take a heat wave and a sunny forecast any day over raindrops falling on the rooftop.  But I decided to be grateful for the rain.   Grateful for something that was hard for me to say “thank you” to.

And then it started….being grateful for hard things.  For things that crushed my spirit, things I dreaded, things that caused me pain and agony.  I embraced gratefulness for the hardest things I had ever experienced.  Sometimes I would lie in bed on those lonely mornings and I would ask God…”that too?  I have to be grateful for that…..?”  Most of the time God was silent.  But I felt His presence in those silent hours.  I felt cradled, I felt loved.  I felt grace wash over me like I had not ever experienced.  I thought about the darkest days of my life, the struggles I can barely name, let alone be thankful for.  It took a long time to get to this place.  A place of acceptance that every hard thing mattered as much as every lovely blessing.  It was just hard, that’s all I can say.  There are no pretty words.

It’s been a few years now…and I say it every morning.  Every single morning, I still pray for five…people I love, people I don’t know and won’t ever know.  I pray for people I don’t like, people who don’t like me.  I pray for impossible situations and and things I don’t understand.  I pray for five.  And the blessings list….I stopped counting to five.  I just lie in bed every morning and I try as hard as I can to think of everything I am thankful for….some are big things and some are tiny.  I am always thankful for coffee, and my joy is magnified if I realize while lying there that I am also not out of half and half.  I think of the centers of flowers.  I thank God for butterflies, kittens and hand written letters.  I am grateful for music, art, and people who smile.  Sometimes I wake up far earlier than I’d like to and I just start the process.  Thank you for my warm bed.   Eventually after I get through all of the lovelies, I come to the hard things.  The aches and pains, the illness, the tragedies.  The loss of loved ones, the tears I can’t erase.  The worst days, the darkest times, the gut punches.  And I remember…and I embrace the lessons, because without them, I would be lost.

Every hard thing…every day…and I am forever transformed.

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