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Count Your Blessings

            While on a retreat with church women, I heard two helpful quotes during our Sunday morning devotion.  Love and trust are the solvents for worry and fret. Count your blessings.

Women are twice as likely as men to worry and feel anxious, but men worry too. We sometimes allow worry to take control of our daily lives although we know worry never solved anything.  

            Worry takes the mind to the worst of what might happen.  According to webmd.com, it can affect daily life and interferes with appetite, relationships, sleep and job performance.  Chronic worry affects physical health – most common are headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, high blood pressure, and heart disease.   

            In my research, I didn’t find one positive result of worrying.

            Since this topic sprang from a church retreat, we turned to scripture. Philippians 4:6 reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your request to God.”   Jesus is quoted in Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”

            Other scripture tells us to trust and have faith and be thankful in all circumstances.  Many of us struggle with how to move from worry to trust to thanksgiving to counting blessings.

            A few years ago, I read two books written by Ann Voscamp: One Thousand Gifts and 1000 Gifts Devotional.  Voscamp admits to being a worrier.  While complaining to friends, one challenged her to make a list of gifts.  Could she number blessings from God? Gifts she already had. Everyday gifts. During a conversation among good friends, Voscamp was challenged to make a list of 1000 gifts. 

            The beginning of her list included morning shadows across the old floors, mail in the mailbox, wool sweaters with turtle neck collars.   Eventually, she listed 1000 gifts and more. 

            I took the challenge.  First on my list are names – Husband, Children, Grands, Friends.  Through the years, I’ve counted cardinals at the birdfeeder, sunshine and shadows, a warm house, my Grand sitting on my lap, putting together a jigsaw puzzle with Husband, cherry ice cream, having good parents, daffodils.

            From One Thousand Gifts, I copied these words: You can feel only one emotion at a time.  I must feel hope, thankful, glad, happy, and kind.  So if I worry, I can’t feel hopeful and thankful and can’t count blessings. 

            Did anyone else grow up singing Count Your Blessings at church? I played the piano for Sunday morning services when I was in high school, and it wasn’t easy to keep up with our song leader, Willy, who sang in triple time, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your blessings; see what God hath done.”

            Worry doesn’t evaporate when counting blessings, but worry slowly dissolves.             The newspaper editor might print this on the weekend religion page – that’s okay.  I promised myself to always write about where we are and counting blessing is where I am.


Words Remembered

What are the quotes that bring you joy?  That keep you balanced, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? That have become family sayings? 

            I could fill this column and several more with quotes from a folder on my computer and a list in notes on my phone and a spiral notebook where I’ve scribbled and another notebook labeled “Our Grands Say….”  Most everyone has a list of quotes – maybe not written, but remembered – that you’ve collected through life’s experiences.  Hopefully, if you’ve written them, you have them in one place, and someday, I might get around to doing that.

            Last week I shared words from Dr. Suess’s book, The Cat in a Hat: Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.  And I thought about the many words I’ve read and heard and copied and remembered that have shaped my life.     

            Years ago, my dear friend Mary Jo who is now 96, told me that her Grandmother Hill often said, “Hope for the best.  Prepare for the worse and gratefully accept what the good Lord sends you.  Not just accept, but gratefully accept.”

            I’ve never tired of hearing Mary Jo repeat her grandmother’s words, over and over. Every time she pauses, tucks her chin, cocks her head, and opens her eyes wide before saying, “Not just accept, but gratefully accept.”  Then she takes a deep breath, draws herself up tall in her chair and smiles. 

            When I’ve told Mary Jo about my plans or disappointments, she’s reminded me of Grandmother Hill’s words and encouraged me to hope and prepare and accept.  Through the years, that advice has been a guide for everything:  Monday morning 6th grade math lessons and Daughter’s wedding and two knee replacements and vacations and even a two-hour playtime with Grands.

            Another favorite quote deals with my need to be more patient.  As a teacher, I forced myself, after asking a question, to count to sixty or watch the second hand (yes, there was an analog clock in my classroom).  Giving students time to think and formulate an answer was needed, but I wanted quick responses.  And now, I sometimes finish sentences for other people and then have to apologize for interrupting.

            I’m most impatient waiting for my body to heal.  A cold should be gone in a day.  Knee replacements should have healed within weeks.  A recent bout of Covid and flu a month later pushed my limits. My impatience while working hard to rehab after a knee replacement led me to copy Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: Adopt the patience of nature; her secret is patience. 

            From my notebook of my Grands’ sayings, I love what Henry said when he was 5 years old and saw an airplane in the sky. “Birds and planes and helicopters and magical reindeer – that’s all that can fly.”  That’s all.  Henry captured nature, science, and magic in a few words.

            During this year, I’ll pull out a few other favorite quotes to write about and hopefully you’ll share your favorites.