Count your blessings

Mom circa 1935

My mother circa 1935

I heard this saying from my mama so often that it seemed that she authored these words. “Count your blessings,” she would say no matter what the circumstances.

Hers was not an easy life. My mama, an only child born in Ukraine when it was under Polish rule, lost her mother to TB when she was just eight. What kind of blessing could that possibly be?

“I got to spend time with my father, a busy doctor. He took me on long walks and talks. Sometimes he took me with him on house calls.”

At nine, mama was shocked when her father brought home her “new mother” without telling her in advance that he was going to remarry.

“I had a stepmother to help me through puberty. She was not a bad person.” Mama admitted, however, that the long walks and talks with her father stopped.

When she was fourteen, mama’s dad was seized by the Germans to help treat the wounded in Germany. She and her stepmother and stepsister traveled across international borders during wartime looking for him.

“At one point, I got separated from my family,” said mama. “I was alone in a German town at night. They wouldn’t let me stay on the train or in the train station. I walked and walked all night because I had no place to sleep.”

“What blessings did you see in that?” I asked.

“No one abducted me or harmed me.”

Thanks to the Red Cross, my mother and her stepfamily were reunited with her father in Germany. And after the war, they ended up in a DP (displaced persons) camp in Munich.

“How was it in the DP camp?” I asked mama.

“We had it better than the Germans.”

I have not lost a parent in childhood nor lived through war or camps. But each life has its own challenges. Mine has been illness: being bedridden with lupus and having an aggressive form of breast cancer – fortunately not at the same time.

I counted my blessings.

When lying in bed with lupus for months with no strength to even cook a meal, I was blessed by family, friends, neighbors, and church members who brought my family food. I was blessed that I had taken a full-time job that paid me disability insurance while I could not work. I was blessed that I had time to read the Bible and that God spoke to me through the Word. I had many times of tearful prayers begging for healing, and I was blessed that God heard my prayers: He miraculously healed me, and my strength returned. And now I’m blessed because I have a testimony of God’s grace in my life.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

Cancer, though difficult, can also be a blessing. God told me to journal through my cancer journey, and the result is the book I wrote. I did not intend to journal or to write of my experiences during my illness. But God had a plan, and I was fortunate to hear His whisper of a voice. And through my cancer – which I still wouldn’t wish upon anyone – God blessed me.

Everyone has a story. In what ways has God blessed you?