I will readily admit that I have suffered through times of depression and worry over the years, but then it seems like God has a way of putting things in perspective for me. This post is not about anything dramatic that occurred, but rather it's an effort to put into words how blessed I really am.
I realize that it's not anywhere close to Thanksgiving (thankfully, since I have already put on a few pounds during my wife's pregnancy), but I do find myself thankful daily for the blessings that God has bestowed on me and my family.
Every night, when I am getting my kids to bed, we pray together, and we always make a point to be thankful FIRST.
I could make a really long list of things that make my life great, and so I will:
- I am alive and reasonably healthy.
- I have a family that loves me unconditionally, and I love them the same way. They know it because I TELL THEM.
- My wife is even more attractive to me today than when we met almost 18 years ago. Yes, even while nine months pregnant.
- My son is sensitive, compassionate, smart, friendly, talented, and hilarious.
- My older daughter is an artistic brainiac, and she creates some of the most interesting artwork I have seen in a child this age. She also likes to cuddle me. :)
- My younger daughter actually seems to prefer me over Mom sometimes. She is sweet and spirited and highly verbal.
- All of my kids are healthy.
- We are expecting our fourth child this month. I remember a time when we thought we were infertile.
- My mom loves me and she is one of my best friends (so is my wife).
- I have my own business, so I don't report to anyone but God.
- We have a nice home in a safe area and two cars that are paid for, even if they aren't luxury vehicles.
- I have more friends than I could ever count (both online and "in real life"), many of whom consider me to be their "best" friend.
I could go on, but I really just wanted to express my gratitude here. I have spent a lot of time with people that truly have reasons to complain, at least more than I do.
I have helped a single mom with four kids who lives in the projects of east Austin for over two years. When we first met, she was in danger of being evicted. Think about that for a second and let it sink in. Where do you go if you are evicted from the projects? You have two options - shelter or homelessness. She had also lost her previous place in a fire, and she was left with no birth certificate, job, drivers' license, car, child support.....well, you get the picture. Whenever I go there to visit, I am struck by how wealthy I am in comparison. I have probably spent far more money and time than I originally intended in my efforts to help, but things have actually improved for her. I am hopeful that she can figure out a way to get herself and her children out of the projects eventually
I have a friend that I have known for 14 years who lives here in the U.S. illegally. He works two jobs (sometimes three) in order to send money home to his wife, son, and parents. His wife makes $20/week cleaning houses in Mexico. My friend went SEVEN years without seeing his family in person. His son was nine when he left, then he returned to Mexico and his son was sixteen years old. I can't even imagine how that would feel. He is one of the strongest Christians that I have ever met, having memorized entire chapters of the Bible. This is despite the fact that he has lived in some truly miserable conditions. When we re-connected a few years ago, he was staying in a garage with no air or heat. He would love nothing better than to gain legal status here, but there is no path for him, according to the lawyers that we visited together. His faith shines through, despite his constant fear and sometimes extreme poverty.
I have another friend who struggled with mental illness for over 20 years, and for awhile, I was his ONLY friend. I talked him out of committing suicide at least 3 times that I can remember. Thankfully, he is doing MUCH better now, and it turns out that many of his issues were actually hormonal in nature (low testosterone). I remember the pain that I heard in his voice many times. My friends who didn't know him knew that I spent a lot of time counseling my friend, and they thought it was a waste of effort. Really? Looking back, I guess I could have blown him off, but I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. At one point, I counseled my friend AND his mother, because they had communication issues, and I was the sole person that they both trusted and respected enough to ask me for help.
I didn't really mean for this post to end up with so much detail, but I suppose I wanted to point out how thankful I really am at this stage of my life.
God has placed each of these people in my path for a reason.
Why am I really here in the first place? I don't mean here on ActiveRain, or here in the Austin area, or here in the upstairs office, but here on EARTH. According to biblical principles, I am here to glorify God through my actions and to care for others.
More specifically, Ephesians 2:10 says: "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Frankly, sometimes I do a really good job of this, and sometimes I just plain don't. At all.
One thing that I have told many people who feel hopeless is this: If you are here at all, you are here for a reason. I don't know that reason yet, but God wants you here, or you would already be gone.
This may sound a bit morose, but it's really not. The point is that life has real meaning. Make the most of yours, and if you spend time worrying and/or complaining, it's just wasting effort, in my humble opinion.