Gifts From 2021
By MARIANNE WOOD
Recently, a friend shared a long list of challenges from the past year. I know some of you could do likewise. I could, too. But while making lists of trials and disappointments can be cathartic, the optimist in me tries to live up to Greer Garson’s injunction to tilt the mirror up “toward the cheerful, the tender, the compassionate, the brave, the funny, the encouraging…” Look for what was true, noble, and right as Paul and Timothy direct in Philippians 4:8.
I offer this non-comprehensive gift list from 2021. Please add yours to the comment section or submit your whole list. I hope mine encourages you.
1. We breathed outward. Our daughter is cancer-free. Thanks be to God.
2. We enjoyed our friends. Reconnecting with old friends and making new ones continues to be one of the sweetest blessings of my lifetime.
3. We danced. Ballroom dancing and taking lessons from the amazing Sophia and Richard stimulates the brain, exercises muscles, and provides joy as we make new social connections.
4. We learned about the Silver Sneakers program for people 65 and over. I compare it to picking $100 bills off the floor–money that slipped from your billfold as you paid into Medicare all those many years. With many Medicare Advantage programs, you can pick them up at your nearest gym.
5. We marveled. Compassionate acts stimulate similar actions. Watch young children for lessons. I received many this year. Thanks, kiddos!
6. We valued technology. Chip your pet in case your furry canine or feline gets carried away by mistake or intent. The sound of the shelter worker’s voice asking if I would like to speak to the man who found Eddie (our cat) still sends me joy.
7. We found a shortcut. My iPhone works as a scanner in good (preferably north) light. I gave my Epson flatbed to a friend who teaches art. This easy method is truly a gift.
8. We saw what we could lose. Liberty in the world is rare. Cherish and defend it, but with judicious behavior.
(The next four might sound mundane, but they still constitute lovely gifts. Please accept the product placement as a gift from a former advertising agent.)
9. We cleaned up well. The only sponges I will ever need are the white ones made from melamine foam that make short work of the coffee stains and more. They are “the bomb.”
10. We cleaned up well, part two. Norwex towels make short work of my grimy windows and counters.
11. We keep using Windex. The product reminds me of Michael Constantine’s role as the bride’s father in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” So keep it handy, too. It makes you smile like Gus Portokalos.
12. We got outdoors this year. While painting, hiking, picnicking, camping, and just sitting–saturating ourselves in the sun (wearing sunglasses and sunscreen, of course), we soaked up many benefits.
13. We found a team to cheer. Patrick Mahomes has a gift he shares weekly in the fall and sometimes longer. He reminds me of Roger Federer with his laser-like focus and restraint until firing his perfectly timed missiles. What fun!
14. We continue to appreciate our tribes: groups of people with shared values. We find ours at a church and in civic organizations and affinity groups like Christians in the Visual Arts.
15. We accepted the gift of help. Do it, especially if a sibling asks.
16. We read good books and watched worthwhile programs. And some bad ones. Life is too short for less. We’ll try to do better in 2022.
17. We deepened in our faith. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” The gospel is straightforward. We will choose to quit trying to add stuff that is not there. It’s a big waste of time.
Along the lines of simplicity, author and pastor Skye Jethani recommends working to live life “with God,” not over, under, from, or even for God.
“The LIFE WITH GOD posture is predicated on the view that relationship is at the core of the cosmos: God the Father with God the Son with God the Holy Spirit. And so we should not be surprised to discover that when God desired to restore his broken relationship with people, he sent his Son to dwell with us.”
–With, “Chapter 6: Life With God”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” John 1:1-2, NIV
Now, it is your turn. Make that list of hardships, trials, and disappointments first if you want to or need to, then tilt your gaze in the direction of God’s many mercies. He is with you! And wants you with him!
Marianne Wood works as an editorial assistant and researcher for Bill Wright