I haven’t always been good at being grateful. Sometimes life handed me lemons, and I became a bit of one. I had to learn to find gratitude, to seek it out. It became a sort of skill for me — one to help me create lemonade from all the lemons being handed out. I am in no way saying it was easy for me. It still isn’t easy. But, as I use and seek gratitude in my life, I find myself feeling happier, more at peace, and more thankful for all the beautiful things I do have. And, I do have so many beautiful things surrounding me.
Perhaps that is why President Uchtdorf’s recent talk meant so much to me: Grateful in Any Circumstances. He stated: “My dear brothers and sisters, the choice is ours. We can choose to limit our gratitude, based on the blessings we feel we lack. Or we can choose to be like Nephi, whose grateful heart never faltered. When his brothers tied him up on the ship–which he had built to take them to the promised land–his ankles and wrists were so sore “they had swollen exceedingly,” and a violent storm threatened to swallow him up in the depths of the sea. “Nevertheless,” Nephi said, “I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.”
I recently went to a funeral for my beautiful 89-year-old aunt. She was my father’s oldest sister. She lived a beautiful life filled with good things and bad, heartache and joy. The last several years of her life were filled with pain. She struggled with aging and physical pain that often comes with an 80+ year-old body. What stood out to me as I sat in that funeral was this: we are spiritual beings first. Before we came to this earth to receive our physical bodies, we were spirits first. My aunt was able to remember that. As a spiritual being first, she put spiritual things first. That spiritual preparation raised her up physically. Although her health was not always good, her spirit was. One year before she died, she was making her last wedding dress for her granddaughter. Her hands hurt. Her back hurt. It was a struggle. But, she was determined to make that beautiful dress for her granddaughter’s special day. As I think of that, it isn’t the wedding dress that was important. It was the act of service from one older, wiser spirit to another younger, less confident one. That granddaughter will always have a physical representation of her grandmother’s undying love.
My aunt had 10 children. She now has 117 grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She influenced every one of them with her beautiful, loving spirit. As I sat in that funeral, my heart became exceedingly grateful. I am grateful for my own loving parents. I am grateful for a kind, patient, and loving husband. And, I am oh-so-grateful for the two beautiful children I was graciously granted. I am grateful for five brothers, who have taught me so much about life. I am grateful for their life experiences, and how I see them work through their own heartaches, struggles, and challenges.
President Uchtdorf continued: “Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true. By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, “Not my will, but thin, be done.”” For me, gratitude is an act of faith. I can be terribly short-sighted. I easily forget and begin to focus on those things that I do not have. But, as I seek out my spiritual side, I find my heart prompting me to acknowledge how much I have truly been given. And, then I realize how much I take for granted. I must ask: Do I want my own way, or can I accept the will of the most glorious being in the universe, who is willing to invest His time, effort, and love in me?
“When we show gratitude, we open the windows of heaven.”
I have never liked funerals. I don’t like endings. President Uchtdorf made some comments on endings that I had never heard expressed in the same way. He stated: “There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings. Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without numbers. Endings are not our destiny. The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions–temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.”
I am grateful for each minute that I am granted. I am grateful that we lived before this life, and that we continue to live after this one. I am grateful for the knowledge of eternity–that eternal perspective–that can keep us going through the mortal trials, endings, and struggles we go through here on earth. It doesn’t mean we go through without pain. It doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes turn into a complaining “Laman”, but it means that I can keep going, with a little faith, and hope for a better time.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me. As you think of the things you are grateful for, reach out and share them with someone you love.