Saturday, February 6, 2016

Morning by Morning   
The Blessing Box 

It was 1996 and summer time. Brian and Jill drove their family from their home on the Olympic Peninsula to our home in Boise for some anticipated family togetherness and fun.  The trip was long, hot and arduous, especially in a mini-van with three kids six and under.  David and I were delighted when the van rolled up in the early evening and our three grandchildren tumbled out of the car, a bit rumpled and a lot weary and ready to stretch their legs. Greetings and hugs were passed around and the bags were lugged in. Then Brian and a very tired and not-too-sparkly Sarah, who was six at the time, headed with me for a look around our backyard.

I was feeling a bit sorry for Sarah since was she was hot, tired and travel-worn from having been trapped in the van all day, and trapped with two undoubtedly squirmy younger siblings.  Just then, and before I could do much coddling, Brian (our son who is a basketball coach) called out in an upbeat voice, “Sarah, how’s your attitude?” In what might be called a droopy reply, Sarah answered with the memorized script, “Boy, am I enthusiastic.”  Then the even more upbeat, insistent question came again, “Sarah, how’s your attitude?”  And now from Sarah a more emphatic answer, “BOY, AM I ENTHUSIASTIC!”

I can often identify with that travel-worn six-year old. I tumble out of bed in the morning and head for my coffee, my prayer chair and my time with the Lord.  Often my thoughts start going in a sagging direction.  Things like the cares of my world, the desire for other things and the lure of what I don’t have pull me down. Possibly my temperament tugs me in the wrong direction. But that is not an excuse to stay down. I remember our friend Howard Hendricks telling of a man who was asked how he was doing. The man answered, “I am doing alright, under the circumstances.” The questioner’s reply was “What in the world are you doing under there?” Of course a lifting-up is always a gift from God, another evidence of His grace as we seek His face. And the timing is His. 

These days I am using a box as an aid to starting my day with an enthusiastic outlook.  Some time ago, a friend gave me a gift in a beautiful, colorful box. I kept this  lovely box and in it I put three smaller boxes, each of which I marked. 

One is my Mystery Box, one is my Offering Box and one is my Blessing Box. I write on small pieces of paper what might come to mind, date it and put it in the box, after talking to my Father about each item.

In my Mystery Box I put theological paradoxes or personal things I just don’t understand in my life or the life of a friend. God’s thoughts are higher than my thoughts and some things are a mystery to me. I am comfortable with that. I am not supposed to be able to figure out everything.  However, I like what a friend calls Umbrella Theology. All of these mysteries are under the umbrella of His love. A God of covenant love is the God Scripture shows me from Genesis to Revelation and especially in the Cross—sacrificial love at it’s zenith.

In my Offering Box I put my attitudes or actions that are not consistent with a Jesus life. These are attitudes I want to offer Him in exchange for thinking His thoughts, in following in His footsteps. Again, by His grace. I might write down situations that are beyond my strength but ones I am called to enter into and give it my all. I might mention my brokenness as an offering. In essence, I offer Him my heart and life as He shows me in what ways He desires me to follow Him.

My two boxes mentioned above are “sometimes” boxes. I use them when the Lord nudges me in that direction. But for months now I have used my Blessing Box each morning before I do more praying or reading. It’s my “first-thing-to-think-box.” I take a small note pad, or a scrap of paper and write down things I am grateful for, gifts a good God has given me. As I write I pray and thank God for these things, simple and profound gifts I might overlook were I not intentional about noticing them. When done, I put the small papers in the box.

I might thank Him for my window that looks out on the gathering light, the eraser on my pencil (I make a lot of mistakes!), the ability to walk, the Costco Express (friends who often call and ask me if I need something as they head that way), the steam coming off my morning coffee, my many books (especially those that are "old friends"), my faithful and loving husband in the next room, the gift of a new day to “serve the Lord with gladness.” Wow! Even in my writing and certainly in my praying, I am humbled and grateful. Boy, am I enthusiastic!!!

This is not to say there are not times of profound sadness in my life and the lives of friends I care about deeply. However, I am learning it is not either/or (either sadness or joy) but it is both/and. Even in the extremes of loss and disappointment there will be gifts along the way to notice and acknowledge as blessings from God.

Our friends Rob and Teresa Zaklan are living reminders to me of this both/and truth. Rob is a pastor friend who is on hospice care at home and growing weaker rapidly.  The Zaklans have four sons, three still at home and the youngest is twelve.  Teresa has, by God’s grace she says, determined to be aware of the blessings along this way of sadness and letting go of her beloved husband. She and Rob have set small goals, and looked for God’s blessings as they move through this difficult journey together. Some are things any of us might take for granted or even grumble about along the way. One blessing she noted on their Caringbridge page describes the frigid night Teresa and the boys were able to bundle Rob up and somehow get him into their van to take a drive and see the Christmas lights together.  Teresa knows now is the time, even in the midst of their sadness, to notice the blessings God is giving them. What good memories these dear ones are making. 

You may not want a Blessing Box. There is no magic in the box. It just works for me. The box is a tool that gives me a way to remember first thing each morning to rejoice in God’s faithfulness as I both recount to Him and to myself my many blessings of the day and the blessings of many yesterdays.

When I hear God asking me, “Carolyn, how’s your attitude?” I know I have the opportunity to be enthusiastic about the day as each morning, first thing, “I count my many blessings, name them one by one.” Not random blessings mind you, but the blessings a loving God has graciously provided. Boy, am I enthusiastic!

Gratefully and enthusiastically,

Carolyn Roper

A word about Sarah—Sarah is in her 20s now, and is doing well as she finishes up an intensive one-year nursing program in Pittsburg. She is an enthusiastic hard worker with a great attitude. She and her husband Brad make a terrific pair.

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