Thursday, September 08, 2011

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (I Thess. 5:16).

Our family landed in Holland on July 6th, our son’s fifth birthday, to begin our lives here. It was cold to us. We had been living in Phoenix for a little over a year and 60 degrees seemed quite cool. Presently on September 8th at 11:30 a.m., it is 59 degrees with light rain showers. Right now it is dry. Dry in Holland means rain is not falling from the sky. We always allowed our children to play out when it was dry.
In my latest sojourn in Holland, the past two days have been pretty blustery with highs around 60 and I’m feeling a bit cool. I’m wearing my turtle necks and at night my flannel PJs. Though it is mid-50s during the night and though the temps can climb into the mid 60s during the day, it is still too warm to begin heating the house. That July after we arrived in Holland for the first time, it was impossible to heat our host’s apartment. Central heating was controlled by others. Heat was turned on in October and turned off in April regardless of the weather conditions. That’s the Dutch way.
My kids tell me it’s been a terrible summer here – cool and constant rain. Last Saturday’s unusual heat seems to have been a gift. The summer we moved to Holland it was cool and rainy through July and August. A week into September the sun came out. We had huge picture windows in our apartment in Amsterdam and wide window sills. Our 18th month old, still clad in his blanket pajamas climbed up on the window sill one morning and pointed toward the East and said, ‘wha’s dat?’ I remember my astonishment and gasped, “That’s the sun! Have you forgotten what the sun looks like?”
There are some things you just can’t change. I learned early on that it’s much easier just to accept your circumstances and move on to what you can influence and change. One of things that goes along with acceptance, is acceptance with grace. What has helped me through the years to accept the dark nights that life, without permission, bestows upon us, is to find something – anything – for which I can be thankful. A Dutch woman, incarcerated at hated Ravensbruck for hiding Jews, Bep ten Boom, asked her sister, Corrie, to thank God for the fleas. Reluctantly, Corrie thanked God for the fleas and, as it turned out, the fleas that kept the guards out of their quarters. They were able to conduct Bible studies and prayer times. Thankfulness defeats the evil-one. (I refuse to grace him with capital letters).
Viktor Frankl, who wrote The Will to Meaning and much more, taught me the importance of finding meaning in life. Sometimes you have to search for it, but like ‘thankfulness,’ finding meaning in an unwanted or even wanted event enriches our lives. I think it also helps to look for beauty. Everything can be taken from us except our thoughts. We need to guard our thoughts well for they determine the bent of our life.
Today – on this dark, blustery, rainy day I am thankful for a granddaughter who will be home in moments for lunch, for the bread and cheese and chocolate that will grace our table, for her health, her intelligence, her beauty, for the person she is becoming and the meaning? Grateful for a daughter who is doing everything she can to promote the things the Dutch Bible Society wants to accomplish and for a son-in-love who volunteers weekly at the home for elderly in the village and keeps the house going while working full time. What a joy it is to see your children parent well – better than I ever did. What a gift to be with them again after so long an absence. What a great gift family is!