I don't know if there is a gratitude quite like that which comes with facing the possibility of losing your life, or your quality of life, and then receiving it again. This is the gratitude that I've been experiencing since last week when I got my wonderful news. Every morning since then, I wake up and tell myself, "I was supposed to be in the hospital today, and I'm not! I'm here in my own bed, with a whole day before me!" It seems that the possibilities are endless. And the truth is that they pretty much are!
Last night, I laid in my hammock after dark, wrapped up in a blanket to ward off the chilly night air. I laid there for over an hour just gazing up at the stars. I am in awe of everything right now, just as though I'm seeing it all with new eyes...or at least with more appreciative ones. Looking at the stars took me back to Greece and to Italy, two places where I also laid and watched the stars. In Greece, we were on the beach with the waves of the Mediterranean sea lapping up at our feet. We faced south and the big dipper was just over my right shoulder. The stars were so amazingly clear that night. Sherri saw a shooting star. In Italy, we watched the stars from the roof terrace of our hotel. Again, we were facing south so we had much of the same view. From that vantage point, we stargazed for our two nights in Cinque Terre. The first night, I asked God if He would show me a shooting star like Sherri got to see when we were in Greece. After making my request, I saw two shooting stars. The following night, I saw two again. Last night, as I stared at the vast array above me, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of God's goodness to me. While I watched, yet another star shot across the sky. I have never in my life seen so many shooting stars, and now when I do, it is like I am receiving a special promise from God that He sees me and He knows me.
There is a song that I've been listening to since my doctor's appointment a week and a half ago. The song, by Selah, is called "All My Praise." The entire song voices for me the amazing journey that God has taken me on. One line in the song says "You made every star and You taught it how to shine. You knew my name before there was time. This is just part of Your glorious design." When I hear that line, I believe the truth in that thought, that God did know me before there was time. We are taught that because of the distance away that the stars are from the earth, and the time that it takes for light to travel, to see a shooting star means that it actually fell around hundreds or thousands of years ago for us to see its light now. Stars that we see shining in the night sky might not actually exist anymore, but their light is still traveling to us. When I asked God to show me a shooting star, it didn't just shoot across space that night, but God made that star shoot through space hundreds of years ago. He knew me then, even before I ever existed. And He knew my request, and cared enough about me, to direct those stars. This thought brings me to my knees every time I think it. I am humbled by it, and at the same time filled with such awe and adoration for a God who knows and loves me like that. A God who cares for me so, who is in control of everything, and who is so big yet cares about such small details.
This wonderful song has much meaning for me throughout the rest of it as well. The opening line alone brings me to such a place of worship. It begins "I will follow You through green pastures and sing 'Hallelujah' to Your name." When I hear it, I think of hiking through Switzerland, through the green pastures on the hills, through the lush mountain forests, through the grassy valley, the whole time singing praise songs to God with Sherri. It didn't matter that we didn't sing well...we sang...we couldn't help ourselves. We were surrounded with God's amazing beauty that we had to sing to Him. Not only that, but He took us on that trip. He worked out every detail so perfectly and blessed me so abundantly. My gratitude has been just dripping off of me, because I've been immersed in God's goodness.
The song continues after that line with, "I will follow You through dark disaster and sing 'Hallelujah' through the pain. Even in the shadow of death I will praise You. Even in the valley I will say 'Holy, my God, You are worthy of all my praise.'" Our trip, our walk through those green pastures in Switzerland, was in the fore shadow of death in that it was in the shadow of an upcoming hospitalization and stem cell transplant. For these last two years, I have followed God through dark disaster, and all the while I have been praising Him. The reason that I praise Him is that around every turn, no matter what the situation might be, His goodness is always bigger and more apparent. I can't help but to praise Him because all I see is Him, and He is so worthy of all my praise.
This song seems to have been written for me, for this time. I listen to other music also, but this particular song I keep coming back to and I've been listening to it over and over again on repeat. This feeling of gratitude that has overwhelmed me is nurtured when I listen to this song, and that is something that I want to nurture. So often, we go through life nurturing feelings of doubt or anger or hurt. We feed our minds with self talk of all the different events of the day and our take on them. I am thankful that right now I've gotten a reprieve from the cares of the world to just focus on this one thing, praising God. And right now, that is all I can focus on. Afterall, yesterday I was supposed to receive a stem cell transplant and I didn't. Instead I laid on my hammock beneath a sea of stars and a large moon, listened to the crickets chirping, and felt the cool night air turn my nose into a popsicle. And a star shot across the sky.