As I mentioned in my last post, I shared three books that I have read lately. I CANNOT recommend Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss enough. I think I was a pretty thankful, “Half-full” person before I read this book, but it has challenged and encouraged me even more so with the importance of gratitude. Here are a few quotes from the book that I highlighted (there are many more…but here are a few to whet your appetite):
“Truly, ingratitude is our first step away from God.” (pg 52)
She quotes Matthew Henry from his journal after he came home to find his house burglarized, ” Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” (pg 62)
“Gratitude changes things.” (pg 156)
She shares so many stories and encouraging Bible verses, but near the end of the book she reminds us to thank people in our life, whether in writing or in person. She lists all sorts of people to consider thanking including your auto mechanic and that older lady at church who always makes you feel special. She ends that section by saying, “Sure enough, their funeral will roll around one day – and if you are able to go – you’ll sign the book and stand with the floral arrangements, swapping stories with the survivors and recalling what this person meant to you throughout your life. But how much sweeter would it be to feel their hand in yours, pat them gently on the back and watch their eyes light up as you tell them face-to-face what their life has meant to you?” (pg 150)
After I reading that reminder, I began to think of people who had impacted my life. The first person to come to mind was my swim coach. When I began high school, her children had graduated and were away from home, but she still volunteered to coach the swim team so that we could have a swim team. (She may have gotten some monetary compensation, but I can ensure you that it was not enough!)
Here’s proof…I really was on the swim team! These sweats may have been handed down for twenty years …but they were ten types of comfortable!!!
So, I sat down one day last week to write Coach a handwritten letter to thank her for all the hours she put into coaching us in swimming and in life. I remembered her smile and the way she would throw her head back when she laughed and how she would even smile when she was ready to strangle the entire swim team!
When I was a senior, I swam for a few days, but then decided that my plate might be too full. I was trying to walk closely with the Lord and I just felt like I needed to quit the swim team because I had lots of church work to do (you know, church work is God’s only work, hardly!). After missing a few practices, I finally went to the pool office to give her my final farewells. My coach listened to me spill my heart and then simply replied (something to the effect of), “The Lord needs people in the swimming pool too. Your team needs to know Jesus, too.”
I went home and thought about her words. I had LOVED swimming. It was such a tremendous outlet for me and great exercise (I didn’t think of it as great exercise at the time…especially when she would give us 8×500 for a practice or when I got to jump in the pool at 5:30 AM when the pool heater was broken or when she made me swim the butterfly…that was torture…not exercise!).
The day after my conversation with the coach, I was back at practice, attempting to do the too many sit-ups and triangle push ups with the rest of the team. This was my team. And for some reason, the Lord let me co-captain it that year. Swimming definitely was a HUGE part of who I was.
So fast-forward to a week or so ago, and I sat down to write Coach a letter to thank her for her sacrifice of time and for her gifts of encouragement to us all. And when I googled her name to make sure I had the right address, I found her obituary. She had passed away just a few weeks before.
I sat at the computer stunned and just let the tears flow. I was upset because I had missed the opportunity to thank this woman, instrumental in my growing up and because once again, I was reminded of how short life is.
A few days later, I wrote to her daughter who actually taught me to swim in their backyard pool (or else I would have never made it onto the swim team). I had to thank her family for I knew that even though Coach (and often her son) were there daily, it was a family commitment of time. Coach’s daughter wrote back thanking me for my words…saying that this loss has been tremendously difficult.
I can imagine it is.
I share this story with you because I want to encourage you to “seize the day!” If there is someone you need to thank, THANK THEM! And if you have not ordered this book yet, ORDER IT! I get no compensation for your purchase, but I promise you that it will be a valuable resource for you! (You might even find yourself reading it as a reminder periodically!)
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1