Years ago, when I was a young wife and mama, we were facing what seemed to me was a hopeless financial situation. I remember walking on the beach and crying out to God. In my desperation and, perhaps, my spiritual immaturity I asked God to let me find a whole sand dollar as a sign that He had heard my prayer. (I think I may have also mentally added the phrase, "and if you're going to answer my prayer in the way I want You to.") Well, I didn't find a whole sand dollar that day, and my prayer didn't get answered in the way I wanted God to. Instead, as I have found to be the usual way that He answers my prayers, rather than sweeping in and 'TA-DA!" having a big sum of money miraculously show up in our mailbox, He just provided bit by bit, one step at a time, until we made it through that particular struggle.
A few years later, my husband and I were on a little beach getaway, just the two of us. Walking along, there in a little inlet of water about a foot deep, we could see that under the water the sand was covered with sand dollars. My husband is not a fan of getting messy, but that day, in spite of the fact that he was all cleaned up and dressed for the day, he waded into that water and gathered a bunch of those whole, unbroken sand dollars for me. Because I knew that getting all sandy and wet was against his normal tendency, because he unexpectedly, without me asking, did what was temporarily unpleasant for himself in order to do something special for me, I've always fondly remembered it as a significant act of his love for me.
Why God withheld one simple sand dollar when I specifically asked Him for it, I don't really know. But what I do know is that since then, it's as if whole sand dollars have become this love note that God leaves for me on most every visit to the sea. On our most recent trip to the beach, the sand was littered with broken shells of all types, and many broken sand dollars. I walked quite a ways and didn't find any whole ones. "The beach has a lot of people on it today", I thought, "the whole ones have already been gathered up". And then I saw one, and another and another and another. I had one of those, "was that just a thought or a prayer" moments and thought, I'll collect eight, one sand dollar as a symbol of God's promises for each of my three daughters and for each of my five grandchildren. So, I gathered eight sand dollars, and stuffed them in my windbreaker pocket. On my walk back to where my husband was sitting in a lawn chair reading his book, I saw a couple coming towards me, looking down for shells. I heard the woman saying, "they're all broken". I knew she was looking for whole sand dollars, too. I took one out of my pocket and handed it to her, "no they're not", I said, and pointed to the stretch of sand up the beach where I had found the whole ones. As I continued to walk back to my husband, I had a fleeting thought about not having eight sand dollars anymore. I waved it off as ridiculous, even bordering on superstitious, knowing I didn't really need a physical sign of God's promises for my children and grandchildren. I had the written evidence of His Word, and that's really all that I needed.
When we got home, I took the sand dollars out of my jacket pocket. One, two, three, four....eight sand dollars! I'm not sure how that happened, perhaps I had actually miscounted and gathered nine sand dollars to begin with. It was unexpected, I hadn't asked for it, but I think it was just another of the many, many, many signs of God's love for me.
What does this story about sand dollars have to do with my gratitude post, with counting my blessings? Here's some lessons from the sand dollars, that apply to counting blessings, too.
1) Blessings don't always come when and how you want or expect them to.
2) Blessings can come in surprising, unexpected ways, and from surprising, unexpected sources.
3) When you give, and become a blessing to someone else, God blesses you in return.
4) You need to keep your eyes open and trained to look for and to see blessings.
5) Once you realize that blessings are all around you, you begin to live with hopeful expectation that blessings await you.
Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my little green journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)
-the richness of God's Word
-a run/walk before it got too hot
-an invitation from my son-in-law to come to their house for dinner
-playing "would you rather" with my youngest granddaughter
("Would you rather ride a horse or go on an airplane?"
"Hmmmm. Go on a "awapwane".
"Really" Where would you go?"
"I know! A "pwincess" golden castle!")
-riding bikes with my 6 year old granddaughter
-listening to her read "A Wig for a Pig"
-answered prayer when I just remember to leave things in God's hands
-my daughter taking my oldest granddaughter and some of her friends to high tea,
and getting text photos
-my new business venture!
-the hubs taking an extra day off
-a wonderful walk by the sea
-good talks on our car ride home
-my oldest daughter excited and spreading the word about me selling Keep
-reading 1st Chronicles and revisiting the prayer of Jabez
-seeing some of the kiddos, all grown up, that I used to work with when they were in third grade
-a great night of worship and prayer
-beautiful cello music with the worship team played by a 12 year old boy from our church
-our oldest granddaughter's golden birthday!
-brunch with friends
-some quiet time in the evening to write
-taking the morning slow and lazy after a migraine the night before
-"Nana, I wuved yo dinnah" from our three year old granddaughter
(It was grilled hot dogs and canned pork and beans!)
-the hub's help with the vacuuming,
(the one chore that seems to trigger flare-ups of myofascial pain syndrome)
-a good word
-encouragement from someone who couldn't be at church but watched the live stream of the message
-my daughter helping me in a counseling session