A Lesson in Gratitude

Have you noticed that God never wastes an opportunity to make us more like Him?

My latest lesson was last week, on New Year’s Eve. I’d been in bed since the day after Christmas with some sort of cold or flu. I had a fever, complemented by a disgusting runny nose and a side order of aches and pains. My head felt as if I’d inhaled a buffalo, which was aggressively beating its huge head against the insides of my sinuses. My headache throbbed in time with my pulse. I had to squeeze my eyes shut against the pressure every time I cleared my throat.

Needless to say, there would be no parties for me that evening. Pete offered to stay home too, to feed me chicken soup and hot tea. What a sweetie.

I had intended to sleep in that morning, on the assumption that unconsciousness hurt less, but instead I opened my eyes in the dark. The bedside clock said 5:10 am. Why was I awake so early? At this point, my brain slowly registered how cold the room was. It was freezing! Even with my electric blanket turned up, my nose was numb and I was shivering. We normally let our house cool off to 60 at night, but it seemed much colder. Why wasn’t the heat on ?

52 degreesWe checked the thermostat—perhaps the batteries were dead. But no, the display was on. The problem was that it read 52 degrees! The cold wasn’t our imagination. Sure, 52 was much warmer than the outside temperature of 5°F, but something was clearly wrong. Pete headed downstairs and check on the furnace.

I shuffled back to the relative warmth of my bed while he banged around in the utility closet. It seemed to take a long time. The room grew colder.

Finally, he returned to tell me the furnace wouldn’t go on. He didn’t think he could fix it—unusual for Pete—and we’d better get a call into a repair place right away. After all, it was New Year’s Eve, and businesses would likely close early.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with a broken furnace. It took a lot of calling, but Pete finally found someone to come out that afternoon. While we waited, he closed off any unused rooms, turned on the oven with the door open to heat the kitchen, plugged in our space heater next to my bed, and went back downstairs to light a fire in our wood-burning stove. We were a bit short on firewood, having given most of it away last month in anticipation of our upcoming move.

Having seen our “brrrr” post on Facebook, friends began calling with offers of a warm place to hang out, but I didn’t want to bring my germs to anyone else’s house. Instead, I burrowed under the blankets and tried not to breathe. The cold air didn’t do much for my painful sinuses.

Late that afternoon, the repair guy finally arrived. After more banging around in the utility closet, we learned that an expensive part had failed. It wasn’t something they kept in stock, so they’d have to get it from Denver. It would take two or three days. After all, the next day was a holiday.

Oh joy. We would have a cold house for a while longer. And the forecast for the next few days was for cold and more cold—lows well below zero, and highs in the single digits.

At this point, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Here I was, sick, miserable, bundled in layers of sweats and blankets, and still cold. Didn’t God know this was a terrible time for the furnace to go out? What was He thinking?

It was as if He has turned on a TV in my head. I started remembering all those articles I’d read about refugees stranded in the middle of winter with no shelter and no coats. There were the earthquake victims in the Himalayas, trying to keep warm in a pile of rubble. I thought of the homeless here in Colorado Springs. We’d donated all my dad’s warm jackets to them.

I recalled our friends who spent a year in China as missionaries, back in the 1980’s. They said the government allowed them to heat their apartment to 40°F. They said it was so cold, the neighboring families never undressed their babies all winter!

In short, God gently but firmly fixed my attention on all the people who don’t expect to wake up to a comfortable 66 every morning, no matter how cold it got the night before. I’m sure that many of them are also sick—with colds, malnutrition (no one will ever accuse me of suffering from starvation!), and more. Many are little children, or elderly. Many don’t have enough blankets and coats, hats, and gloves, or even shoes.

What right do I have to complain?

We finally got our heat back on Friday evening, after two days. I was still sick—the cold hadn’t helped—but no worse than I had been. Saturday morning we woke to a warm house with a new sense of appreciation for all we have been given, and a desire to share our blessings with others. Now I’m online, searching for which ministries provide warm clothing to those in need. I’m getting a paycheck soon….

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