The smell of smoke alerted me to yet another mishap in our morning mayhem. I wanted to provide some sort of breakfast to my eldest son as he returned to college after the holiday break. Each school morning begins with such chaos at our house. Between my daughter’s tangled hair and her brother’s missing socks, I realized I had burnt the cheese toast (the only thing I could find as some sort of parting breakfast for our firstborn). You know when cheese toast is the best you have to offer, you are already in dire straits. Not only was our pantry bare and our time quickly dwindling, but my heart was feeling empty as well. Just a few days ago, I was feeling richly blessed as we celebrated with genuine gratitude the abundance of the season. How quickly Monday morning turned all of my holiday joy upside down.
As my younger two and I loaded up the car and prepared to face the world, I rehashed the morning’s events in my head and tried to pull myself out of my pity party. I know better than this. I know to be grateful in all things. In my mind, I know I am truly blessed, but on mornings like this, my heart battles with feelings of despair. Why can’t I get it together? I need to be more organized or highly motivated or some other version of myself. Clearly, this mom fanning the kitchen smoke and ushering coughing children out the door is not cutting it.
Then my thoughts went to Jennifer.
Her children would be leaving for school this morning as well. They would be ushered out of the door by their father or grandmother, whoever was there to help. But Jennifer would not burn their toast or yank out their tangles, for this remarkable wife and mother had lost her battle with cancer the week before. Her children would not hear her voice or feel her warm touch until they embrace her again in heaven. My heart began to ache and my eyes welled up with tears as I grieved for Jennifer’s children and what was lost.
All of a sudden, I saw my problems as a privilege. I get to have this day. Even with all of its troubles, I get to be a part of it. I get to juggle my kids, my work, and my life. I get to be the mom who comforts her children, the wife who welcomes her husband home, the daughter who offers support.
This chaos is a blessing. A blessing of time and abundance.
None of us knows what the future holds, but I am thankful for the present. Jennifer’s life has changed mine and countless others. She has challenged me to be a better wife, mother, Christian, and friend. The life she lived was not in vain as she left a legacy in her three beautiful children. Now, I choose to view hardship as a privilege, not a problem. Having problems means I am still alive. I am present for this day and whatever it has to offer. I can choose to view things through a new lens.
Rushing out the door each morning means I have a job that allows me to provide for my family.
The umpteenth trip to the grocery store means I have money to buy food.
Doing laundry means I have clothes to wear and fresh linens for my home.
Cleaning house means I have reliable shelter and belongings for which to call my own.
Preparing meals means I have a family to nurture.
Ushering kids around town from one activity to the next means they have opportunities for enrichment.
Social commitments mean I have friends with whom to share my life.
Family obligations mean I have people to love.
Hardship means I have the opportunity to grow.
Daily troubles mean I have been granted another day.
The list could go on and on, but the perspective is the same. To have troubles is to be alive. As long as we have life on earth, we will have problems. The truth is that even as we solve one problem, there will always be another waiting in line to take its place. This is the reality of living in a broken world. The good news is that Christ has overcome the world and in Him there is eternal peace.
So in the meantime, it’s not as much about fixing our problems as it is about fixing ourselves. I choose (and by choose I mean sometimes it takes everything in me to rail against my human nature) to accept my problems as a privilege for me to solve. When the struggles of life overshadow my outlook, I pray for God’s help and thank Him for the privilege of time. I remember Jennifer and what she might have given to have my problems for today. To console a fussy child or tackle piles of laundry in the hamper might be just what she was fighting so hard to save. To feel tired, rushed, or overwhelmed means I have life. A life that I refuse to squander. I am here for this hour, whatever it may bring, and I will cherish it in honor of those who are not.