It’s amazing the things a kid will learn while lying around doing nothing. When I was a youngster, my mother rocked my little brothers to sleep for their afternoon naps while singing hymns and gospel songs. I laid on the floor next to her rocking chair and listened intently. Some 65 years later I realize how much I learned while doing so.
One of the songs Mom sang was Count Your Blessings. The refrain begins: “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God has done!”
In the year since my mother’s passing I have often thought about how she lived a life of contentedness or contentment, if you will. By the world’s standards Mom had very little but she was content with what she had. Rather than yearning for what she didn’t have, she counted what she did have as blessings.
Some of this contentment must come with age. Now in retirement, I am more content than when I was younger. I no longer lust for a better paying job, the newest toys, a bigger house. Though I will never be as good at this as my mother, I’m content.
Contentment, I have learned, creates thankfulness. Thinking back to childhood, our parents taught us to be thankful for what we had. Sing-song prayers of thanks were offered before each meal and childish displays of greed were quickly squelched.
Looking back, I think I was a thankful person in my younger years. This I know: as I have grown older I am more thankful and have more for which to be thankful.
Case in point: after Cindy and I married 50 years ago I thanked God for her and my family. Our two children have grown into kind, caring and successful adults. I still thank God for them daily.
When Cindy died unexpectedly seven years ago I felt like I had lost half of me. I now thank God for the 43 years we had together.
Then, God brought Julie and me together and now I thank Him for her. In the time since we married I have come to love her children and their spouses and I thank God for them daily.
And those five beautiful grandchildren that Julie shares with me? I could not love them more. I thank God for them, too.
I am thankful for my siblings and their families. Our mother asked me several years ago to serve as the executor of her estate when the time came. I had heard so many sad stories of sibling conflict when a parent’s estate was settled; I agreed to my mother’s request with some reluctance.
Our mother passed in late November last year and except for the time-sensitive decisions that needed to be made immediately we delayed further work until after the holidays.
In early January we met at Mom’s house and began the heart wrenching task of dividing up her things. If anything, the task drew us closer together. The day passed with a few tears but without a discouraging word except a few “why in the world did Mom keep this?” questions. A sister and a brother worked many more days to get the house ready to sell.
When the estate was settled later in the year, I realized how smoothly things had gone and thanked God for parents who raised a brood of six kids who could do that without discord. And I thank God for that brood.
These years I am thankful, too, for decent health. I’m in good shape for the shape I’m in. A lot of friends and acquaintances have not been so fortunate.
I am particularly thankful for the faith that began forming while listening to my mother sing those spiritual lullabies to my little brothers. When my siblings and I were little pagans our parents made sure we were in Sunday school and church nearly every Sunday. While that in and of itself had no merit, what I learned there led me to decisions that have blessed my life in countless ways. And for that ̶ for God’s love, His grace and His mercy ̶ I will be eternally thankful.
Mom taught me to count my blessings one-by-one. I’m still counting and as Thanksgiving approaches I see more than ever all that God has done.
(Arvid Huisman can be contacted at email@example.com.)