“This day just keeps getting better and better,” I muttered as I-5 traffic ground to a standstill. I was driving husband Chris home from the Seattle VA.* Both his hands were in splints.
Then we had a flat tire. In crush hour traffic. While the anesthetic was wearing off. Grumbling stomachs reminded us it was way past lunch. Was that thunder? AAA changed out the spare tire and we limped home. It took hours longer than usual.
A few days later, July spilled over the Olympic Peninsula like icing on a cake. Rhododenrons lit up fences like neon signs. I skipped around the house belting out I’m Proud to be an American as we prepared for Independence Day.
Those plans soon went up in smoke. Chris had July 4 off for the first time in over a decade. But his hands were still problematic. And our adult kids were either working or battling the flu. The sky spat mizzle. Gray clouds marched by like pachyderms on parade. A client had just stiffed me for a tidy sum (long, boring story).
“What a waste of a holiday,” I grumped, Eeyore-like, as my plans wilted like damp confetti.
“Let’s go to the lake for a picnic,” Chris suggested. “You drive. We’ll bring Kimber.” Kimber’s our three year-old border collie.
“Fine,” I sniffed, so not into the holiday.
We drove north to the Olympic Rain Forest and Lake Quinault. It’s a favorite local hiking site.
Upon arrival, Kimber raced to the lake and immediately went stick-scouting. She found a choice alder branch, picked it up and trotted over to me. Dropping the stick at my feet, Kimber cocked her head in that irresistible way dogs have like, “Well, you gonna throw that for me, or what?”
Kimber chased that stick most of the afternoon. Whenever I sat down, up she trotted with her stick, tail wagging like a windmill in a hurricane. Grinning from ear to ear.
Here I was grousing about a “wrecked” holiday and Kimber was having the time of her life.
My good dog was fully immersed in the moment, joyously chasing a waterlogged stick.
Then I remembered something that God has been teaching me this summer – it’s not what he isn’t giving but what he is giving. We can get so locked onto what we don’t have, what we think we want or need, that we miss the gifts God is giving. Really, though the river had proved to be everything I hoped the creek would be – solitude, beauty, wild fish on a dry fly – I sulked halfway back to the car because I didn’t get my creek.”
Like John, I was so focused on what God seemingly wasn’t giving over the holiday, I missed what He was giving. Until Kimber reminded me. With a simple stick.
Indeed, once I stopped sulking about what I thought I didn’t have and settled into enjoying what I did have, the Fourth turned out to be one of the most restful and relaxing holidays ever.
Along these lines, John writes:
“Father, forgive me. Forgive my demanding posture that life has to come to me on my terms. Oh Lord, how many gifts have I missed? Forgive me. That posture is ugly and narrow. I pray for a more gracious posture, to be open and grateful for what you are giving at any time. I pray to be yours.”
In other words: Don’t forget the stick.
*He was being treated for Dupuytren’s Contracture. The treatment is pretty painful, but necessary. If left untreated, hands become unusable.