My husband has a pat response when asked how he is doing or feeling. “I’ve never had a better day!” Funny thing is, he means it. Sincerely. He truly sees each day as an unrepeatable gift from God. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow might not come. All we have is today. His optimistic approach to each day often startles people and he has witnessed to hundreds, if not thousands, of people with his upbeat response.
I am not my husband. I tend to have a more pessimistic view of life. In the last few years, I have ardently sought to improve my attitude and I recently read a book all about basing our hopes in God, in his promises found in scripture, and living a more hope-filled life. Part of my plan to live a hope-centered life included posting little signs around the house.
Of course the most efficient way to grow in a virtue, whether it is hope, faith, love, or any other, is to be tested in that virtue. I hate that! It’s the main reason why I stopped praying for more patience years ago. I realized in short order that every time I prayed to be more patient, my patience was immediately tested 10 times or more the next day! So God heard the desire of my heart to grow in hope, and yesterday I was sorely tempted.
The day began early, as usual, and an early morning conversation with a family member discouraged me greatly. I felt frustrated over a simple comment; angry at the implications; dismayed at the ignorance. I was deflated and it wasn’t even 7:30 a.m.! I plowed ahead with my responsibilities though, pushing my negative thoughts and emotions down, hoping they’d just go away. Yeah, I know. A bad idea.
The morning continued and I went for a walk with a friend. She parked on the street directly opposite our driveway. Immediately after our walk, I had to back our 15 passenger van out of the driveway to pick up my son. I noticed where her truck was and reminded myself to be careful – don’t hit it. But in the process of backing out, I was distracted by an irritating observation. The old refrigerator we had put on the curb, that I had paid $15 for a sticker to have it removed, had been salvaged! Why had I put the dumb sticker on right away? That thought and irritation over losing $15 was enough to distract me from the task at hand and crunch. Yep. Backed right into her truck and crunched a passenger door on it. And added a few nasty looking dents to our already dented van.
I won’t tell you what I said when it happened. I’m not particularly proud of my reaction. Hot angry tears flowed as I drove away to get my son. I berated myself in my mind for the fender bender, but the day marched forward.
Grumpy, but functioning, I continued homeschooling, making lunch, the usual tasks. After a quick trip to the grocery store I opened our large freezer to add some items when I saw blood dripping down from the top shelf. We bought a half a cow in March and hundreds of pounds of beef are in this freezer. About 40 pounds worth of ground beef was thawed, but still cold (praise God!) but needed to be removed and cooked. And of course I needed to discover why the freezer wasn’t working. In a short amount of time, I realized there was no power going to the outlet. An extension cord solved that problem and I began the 2 hour marathon of browning ground beef.
It was during that sweaty duration of cooking package after package of ground meat that I spied one of my notes about hope. “God is working my problems out for my good and I am expecting something good to happen to me.” Then it quoted Hebrews 11:1. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
It felt like a 2 by 4 across the head. My day had really gone down the tubes but how was I responding? Was I looking in expectation for how God was going to work my problems out for my good? Or was I focused on me, my emotions, my faults, my mistakes, my disappointment in myself and others?
A quick prayer later I started to look for what was good in my day. In the disappointing conversation I suddenly saw an opportunity to educate, to love even when hurt, to bring hope where someone else might have little. In the fender bender, I realized my husband had taken the news incredibly well, was supportive and kind, and my friend could not have been more of a rockstar to me through it all. This upsetting turn in my day actually gave me a chance to lean on their love for me and grow even closer to both of them.
And while I had to cancel other plans I had made, having 14 meals worth of ground beef cooked up has a lot of benefits! Last night was sloppy Joe’s – easy! I brought a meal to friend tonight who has a newborn baby, a toddler, and a five year old. Today was a crazy busy day and it really helped to have some meat cooked that I could simply add sauce, cook noodles, warm up a side dish and bake some brownies. And a dozen bags sit in my freezer now, ready to be reheated to be used in spaghetti, tacos, soup, whatever! In other great news, the vast majority of the meat had been so frozen solid and packed together that it did not thaw at all.
In the end, I went to bed counting my blessings. This is real life. Our days don’t go as we planned. Crummy things happen. But God is present. He calls to us, inviting us to not lose hope. You might wonder, how did today go? I never had a better day.