We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan. … Since God is for us, who can be against us? [Romans 8:28,31b (NLV)]

crinium lilyAs I looked through my basket of Christmas cards, I thought of all the people who have passed through my life. Contained in that basket is a fair amount of sorrow and misfortune—divorce, heart failure, assorted diseases, surgeries (some successful and others not), heartbreak, disappointment, cancer, mental illness, addiction, paralysis, birth defects, financial difficulty, and loss. Yet, within that basket, I also find hope, faith, resilience, peace, joy, perseverance, strength and love. There are children who defied the odds, families facing tremendous challenges with great courage, people who’ve forgiven the unforgiveable, widows and widowers meeting their new normal with confidence, hurt people determined to heal, caregivers finding strength to continue when many would quit, parents prayerfully waiting for prodigals to return, and people who can still laugh in the face of adversity.

On its campus, our local hospital has a beautiful retreat, The Garden of Hope and Courage, with a one-acre lake surrounded by flowers, trees, benches, and lovely sculpture. My basket of cards is a mini garden of hope and courage and is no less beautiful. I am blessed that God brought people like these into my life—people who have inspired, encouraged, loved, challenged, and taught me.

I pick up one card from friends; it has several photos of their eight beautiful grandchildren. When we were neighbors forty-five years ago, they certainly never envisioned those eight smiling faces nor did we picture the faces of our five equally beautiful grands. Young parents then, we just were trying to get through the challenges of the week that lay ahead of us. We never pictured ourselves in our seventies and retired in Florida! Of course, we never envisioned the illnesses, challenges, pain, heartbreak and loss that lay ahead either. Nevertheless, just as I’d never want to erase the face of any of those grandchildren, I’d never want to erase one moment of the past, no matter how painful it was. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now without passing through those dark valleys.

Is my life perfect? Is yours? Of course not—yet it is the life God gave us and we are incredibly blessed by every moment of it. We have people to love and people who love us and, best of all, we have a God who loved us enough to send us His very best! Sometimes I think I should pinch myself to be sure it’s not a dream! Then again, if it’s all a dream, I have no desire to wake up!

Perhaps it’s the end of one year and the beginning of yet another that has me waxing so nostalgic or maybe it’s just the Christmas music playing in the background. I gather up the cards and wrap a band around them. They will be placed in my prayer basket. During this year, I’ll pull out a card or two each morning and offer prayers for the sender. This year, I’ll also remember to thank God for the part each one has played in my life.

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new. [Ralph Waldo Emerson]

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. [C.S. Lewis]

Be happy in your hope. Do not give up when trouble comes. Do not let anything stop you from praying. … Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. [Romans 12:12,15 (NLV)]

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