Brought Me, Prepared me and Pacified Me

20170729_084012It has been a while since I posted in my blog, even though there has been so much that has run thru my mind that I have been wanting to share with others and to express.

My last blog, “Giant Tiny Dancer” published in June was about the childhood memory I had of my mom and her love for dancing and how she taught me to love and appreciate that part of life as well.

It was weird for me to write that post about my mom, the inspiration was strong but it came out of nowhere and in a moment that I should have been thinking about my dad, not my mom.  However, as I look back at all of the events that have transpired since then, I can see the reason why it happened the way it did.

I was dancing at a Father’s Day celebration last June when I had an extremely vivid vision of a treasured memory that involved my mom. About a month after seeing this vision/memory, I got a call from my siblings to tell me that my mom was sick and I needed to go to her bedside, when I got there I was told she had Neoplastic syndrome, which is the first or most prominent manifestation of a cancer.  My Mami, my Giant Tiny Dancer passed away in September.

20170728_225015The vision I had about my mom and her death shortly afterward, gave me a deeper understanding of the type of connection I have to the people that I love, and more likely, we all have. I believe that vivid vision was a message from something bigger than me to my spirit. Something was telling me….warning me…that my sweet Mami was dying, even though at the moment no one knew it, including my mom.

In retrospect, I understand now that the vision was a message. The message was in a way a warning that my mom would shortly be gone from this world, but mostly that I needed to express my love and admiration to her. The fact that I wrote down what I was feeling with those strong emotions at the time, and that I expressed all of those feelings to my mom, was a blessing. I’m so thankful that I did not hold back.

20170729_084328My mom was a very active woman, full of energy, full of life and wanting to do and try everything! I used to call her sporadically to talk and tell her about my life, my boys or just to hear her voice, and there were many times when I called to speak to her to find out that she was not available because she was out helping people. Throughout her life Mami wasn’t the most healthy woman, but she refused to let her weaknesses or sicknesses slow her down. She stayed strong willed and wouldn’t let anything get in her way.  So even when she was feeling sick or weak, she was serving people and working hard. I always thought that she was invincible. However, my Mom…my Tiny Giant…quickly deteriorated and dimmed… absorbed and consumed by cancer.

Cancer is a mean monster.

My vision brought admiration for my mom and a perspective of her that I had never had before, and which I had never expressed to her, either. If I had ignored the feeling I had with the vision, I would have lost the opportunity to tell her how much I loved her, how much I admired her, and how much she meant to me. I am so glad I didn’t pass that opportunity, or that I didn’t dismiss the prompt.

20170728_223336What came to me the night while I was dancing, I quickly transferred to words and I published it. Shortly after I found myself at her bedside and I read it to her out loud the night I arrived at her beside to say my goodbye. It was just the two of us snuggled up together in her bed, while my siblings were having dinner. It was a private moment between me and my Mami…one that I will always treasure. She listened to me read her the blog that I had written about her.  As I spoke the light came up in her eyes and her beautiful smile appeared as she and I were transported back to our kitchen some 40 years ago. As she listened, the story brought back those special memories. and many others as well. We talked about how much she loved to dance, the way she was always dressed so beautifully, her beautiful clothes and her wonderful hats. Her smile got brighter and brighter. After my siblings finished their dinner they all returned to her bedside and we all sat around her bed. We played songs dedicated to her and our memories, we all took turns to choose which songs to play. There were a lot of tears and there was a lot of love.

20170729_083626What I bring from this experience, the vision and the prompt that I had, is that there is something bigger than me, guiding me and directing me. It is important that I follow those little or big feelings. It’s important that I “listen” to that prompt and to do what comes to me as an “instruction”. I need to ignore my pride, my worries, my limitations and weaknesses. I need to take full advantage of the guidance that I’m receiving.  Listening to that vision and expressing what I felt with it to the world thru my blog and especially that I was able to share it with my Mami, gives me a gratitude and a peace that I can’t describe.

The purpose of that greater thing for me… brought me, prepared me and pacified me.

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The pictures of the flowers in this post, are the ones that I took at my sister’s garden and brought to my mom’s bedside to show her with the hopes to cheer her up.  She would look at the pictures and would say: “Beautiful Mija… you need to make a book”… and then will tell me which other flowers I should go to photograph.. I would go and come back with a new shot.

I love you Mami… and I miss you. ♥♥♥

 

The Bull

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As I mentioned in my previous blog, The Egg, I served a mission with the K’ekchi in Guatemala. As a missionary, I was blessed to live many beautiful experiences that taught me in one way or another to live a better life and to appreciate everything that I have. Sometimes, the learning moment was so immediate and so visceral, that the wisdom I gained has come back to me later in my life. As I’ve been confronted by a problem or challenge, and life wants to remind me of the hard-won wisdom I’ve gained, it comes…naturally, magically…exactly when I need it.

My experience with The Bull has come to my mind many times since it originally happened, especially when I face a challenge that seems too big or too scary. When I recall this experience with the bull, the way he unexpectedly stormed into my life, charging me with such fierce determination to kill me, he has morphed into a metaphor for all of the biggest problems and challenges that I’ve faced in my life.

The hardest part of facing a challenge is that nobody can do it for me. I have to be the one dealing with it. Even though I am the one who has to “grab the bull by the horns”, it is a blessing to have someone who, like my missionary companion at the time, can help me with encouragement and support.

The following happened around the same time of my previous story “The Egg”, on the outskirts of Senahu. My companion and I met a K’ekchi family that lived in a tiny hut in the middle of a property that was used for pasture. We received a request to visit this family and check on them because the mom was sick and needed help.

The morning that we decided to go look for this family was a beautiful morning. The property,  which was within a short walk from our home, wasn’t hard to find and it seemed like it was taken out of a fairy tale story. The verdant vegetation of the area, plus the climate, the light of the day, everything was working together to make it look like an enchanted place.

A hut, a simple structure approximately 15’x15’ made of wood-stick walls, with a low roof made of straw and old rusted tin, sat squarely in the middle of about an acre of pasture with large trees surrounding it. A strong fence made of wood and barbed wire surrounded the property. Everything seemed so tidy, so perfect. I thought that this would be one of the easiest assignments on my mission. I was excited to go meet the family and help them with anything they needed. Piece of cake! How exciting!

Then we made the next move. We approached the gate and were about to open it, when I came face-to-face with one of my biggest fears, a bull. But not just any bull. He was The Bull.

I have always been scared of bulls. When my siblings and I were little, we all walked to school, along with all of the neighborhood kids. There was a dairy farm one block before our school. It was located on one of the back roads in our city, but was the road that we needed to walk every morning to get to school. Most of the time, we had no problem walking through that area, but once in awhile, the cows and bulls from the dairy farm would escape and wait for us in the road. Once they saw us coming, they would sense our fear and would chase us down the road. Of course, as any little kid would, we would scream, cry and run as fast as we could, all scared and traumatized by these animals.

So, as I stood looking at this angry stomping beast guarding the entrance to my mission for the day, it brought back all of the fear of those bulls of my childhood. I wanted to turn around and run as fast as I could.

This bull wasn’t by any means an ordinary bull.  Like the setting of the hut, the bull too, seemed conjured directly from a fairy tale. But whereas the hut and its surroundings was tranquil and idyllic, the Bull was the beast…the monster…the dragon of this fairy tale.

He looked huge when calmly eating pasture and standing next to the other cows. However you could tell that he was not Ferdinand the Bull of the fairy tale, who was the largest and strongest of the bulls, who would prefer to smell the flowers than to fight a matador. This bull was the complete opposite of Ferdinand. This bull loved to snort and stomp and to be seen as the fiercest of all. He would destroy not just the matador, but his entourage as well. It was the biggest bull that I have ever encountered in my life.

The Bull towered over his herd of cows. It was plain by his attitude that the surrounding20160708_120334 area was his kingdom. He diligently surveyed that kingdom with the intent that any intruder who would dare enter would meet swift retribution by his magnificent horns. He would completely destroy and crush the offender like a rag doll. His gigantic hooves pawing the ground created clouds of dust. He would whip his tail for the sole satisfaction of hearing it make the familiar sound of a sharp sword slicing through air, instilling fear. He would flare his large, round nostrils and blow gobs of snot to show his displeasure at our smell. Fixing his bloodshot devil eyes upon us, he would charge toward us seeming to spit fire and smoke, like a steaming locomotive or a big tornado. He was revolving darkness filled with lightning, thunder, and evil intent. This was The Bull from my nightmares.

We were not prepared for The Bull, as no one had told us about him. The moment we opened that gate though, we saw him coming. That giant came charging towards us at full speed, with no intention of slowing down. Of course he didn’t know that we were there to help his family, nor did he have any understanding that we were there for a good cause. He only saw us as invaders of his territory, only as “those who must be destroyed.”

The moment that the bull came charging and we were running back out of the gate, the man from the hut and his children came out running from the house to rescue us. The bull knew them and allowed them to live in his kingdom. Once they came out to rescue us, he glared, snorted, and turned haughtily away, looking sharply around for anything else upon whom he could vent his frustration and blood-lust.

When we walked into the hut to meet the whole family that day, we found the mother lying on a little mat. Smoke rose lazily from a smoldering fire pit in the center of the one room hut. Without proper ventilation, the room was nearly unbearable. The mom was coughing a lot and hardly able to move, talk or raise up. They all were happy and grateful that we were there to help them.

Within a week, we were able to get a doctor to see her. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Over the next few weeks, and together, with other members of the church and other missionaries, we worked to set up the fire pit with better ventilation. We also educated the family about how to live a healthier lifestyle with better hygiene and eating habits.

The doctor recommended that the mom receive a morning and evening injection of antibiotics over the course of several weeks, to control the TB. Since she was bedridden and unable to go to clinic, the task of administering the shots was given to me and my companion.

I’ve always wanted to help people. Ever since I was a little girl, I used to see the missionaries from all over the world coming into the communities around my country and doing such great service, with care and compassion. I admired them and wanted to be like them. I waited excitedly through all of my tender years to reach the age when I could sign up for a mission.

During that time of waiting, I never imagined that I would have to deal with a bull or with any of my other fears. And now, because this little K’ekchi lady was sick, and we needed to give her the shots, I would have to endure the torture of facing one of my worst childhood fears…twice a day. I wanted to help the lady, but I didn’t want to face this ugly, giant, monstrous bull.

20160707_184451Every morning and every night, we would walk to their home and face the Bull. Sometimes the father or the kids would be there to help us go through the gate. Other times they were gone and we would have to deal with the Bull alone. It took a lot of courage and a lot of pushing from my companion for me to open that gate and take the chance to be crushed by this bull, so that we could reach the lady and give her the shots.

We would wait for the bull to be distracted and away from the gate. The moment the bull realized we were on his turf, we could hear his hooves pounding towards us. For me, it was the drum of my destruction pounding in my ears. My courageous companion, bless her loving heart, would shoot through the gate at a dead run, her long wavy red hair flying all over that pasture, further enraging the Bull as he tried mightily to run down the object of his fury. Each time I had to face the Bull, she ran out ahead of me, slightly veering off course to distract and pull the beast away from the path that I took directly to the front door. Each time, she would come barreling through the door, her bright blue eyes shining with glee and adrenaline, her laughter bubbling uncontrollably from the excitement of besting the Bull and evading destruction once again.

She was so brave!  I was a big wimp compared to her!  Many times I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to face the Bull twice a day. It was so frightening to me. My companion refused to let me give up. She knew I would deeply regret not overcoming my fear to perform such a vital service for the sick woman in the hut. She would do everything possible to help me overcome my fear.

Once inside, we would administer the shots, make sure the lady had food and basic necessities that she needed for the day.  Then we would wait for the bull to forget we were inside. The leaving was as nerve-wracking for me as entering, except for the fact that I felt better knowing that I would be outside of the fence, and as far as possible from the Bull, as long as I made it that is. It never became easier with time. I dreaded returning. It was pure torture for me to know that as soon as I left, in only a few hours I would once again have to face the Bull.

After a few weeks of giving the shots to this lady, she was able to get up and do a few chores in the home. She was also able to attend church once in awhile. It was nice to see that our service was helping her heal, and helping her family. My companion and I visited this family for six months. After that, I was sent to open up a new area, further into the mountains. I went with a new companion, while my red-haired companion stayed there with another missionary.  A few months later, I received the sad news that the lady had passed away. I am glad she had a better quality of life for those months before she died. She was able to do some things with her family that she wouldn’t have had the chance to do if we hadn’t been there. We made a difference in their lives.

When I think back about this experience, the thing I remember the most is my fear of The Bull. I remember the many times I didn’t want to open that gate and do my job, not because I was lazy or incapable. Nor was it from a lack of love of service to others. It was because I was letting that fear take control of me. Sometimes I was able to talk myself into conquering that fear. Other times, it was the encouragement of my companion. It was her words. It was also the fact that she was running next to me. I didn’t feel alone in my fear. My beautiful companion helped me fight it and go through it with me.

Many times in my life I have been confronted by “bulls.” Not just the bulls from my childhood, or The Bull. Now I have fought tougher and even scarier bulls of life. I’ve dealt with my fears of failing in life. I’ve overcome tribulations that have confronted me that have threatened my survival.

Many times I have felt like quitting and just giving up. But I remember how I felt after seeing that K’ekchi woman getting up from her bed and walking with her family to church for the first time in years. My memories of her… the smile on her children’s faces, the love of her husband when they all were walking to church together, showering her with their love and affection, proudly showing everyone that their mom was there to join in the worship… this will always be a treasure in my heart. The gratitude that they felt and showed towards us and the satisfaction I had of being part of that miracle, will be a part of my soul forever.

There is an overwhelming joy that courses through me every time I realize that I have conquered a new challenge. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction of knowing that I did it! I didn’t give up! When I “Face the Bull” I feel stronger, wiser, better and then I think, “There is no bull big enough to stop me feeling that joy.” Especially if I know that friends and family are there on the sidelines to encourage me and even to “run with me”. They’re letting me know that though I may need to face The Bull by myself, I’m not alone. I have my companions.

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Photos by Sandi Gamblin

Editing by Randall Gamblin      (randallgamblin@gmail.com)

Beautiful.

2015-07-20 06.08.54In 2005, Justin, the youngest of my three sons, was 5 years old. Their dad and I had divorced in 2002 and we both were remarried. We had joint custody, so the boys would split their stays between their dad’s home and mine.

One of the hardest parts when going through the divorce was realizing that the boys were not going to be with me 24/7. As any parent would, I had a difficult time adapting to the constant goodbyes and separations. My boys were having the same difficulty since they were the ones that had to go back and forth between homes and adapt quickly to the change of dynamics between families.

I always wondered how much the boys missed me and how much they understood about parents having to compromise and to give-in, even if they wished they didn’t have to when a divorce happens.

One Friday as I picked them up from their dad’s place, Justin said that he had a song for me.  He told me that the day before, he and his brothers were riding in the van with their dad and their new family, when a song came on the radio and made him think of me. He was very excited to show me the song and could hardly wait to get home. As soon as we arrived, Justin got on the computer and searched for the song. He wanted to play it for me. He sat on my lap, held my face and sang along with the song. He knew the words by heart.

The song he was singing to me was the song “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. 2015-07-20 06.10.01It was brand new on the radio at that time.

The song lyrics tell the story of a man who sees a woman in a crowd from a distance. They made eye contact, smiled, but nothing else. He mentions that his love for her is pure, that she looks like an angel to him. In the song, he repeats that she is beautiful.

The song meant a lot to Justin, and from that point on, to me, as well. In many ways, it reflected a part of the life that Justin and I were living. The fact that a five year old could identify with the meaning was impressive and touching to me.

As Justin was singing this song, every time he sang the refrain of “You are beautiful”, he would hold my face and look directly into my eyes. He made sure that I was looking into his eyes as well. Listening to little Justin sing those words while looking at me with so much love in his eyes…I was overwhelmed with his demonstration of his love… I started crying. My tears were pouring down my face like a broken faucet!

Justin was shocked to see my reaction. He thought that his song had made me sad. I reassured him that his song and singing hadn’t made me sad. I explained to him that his actions had moved me deeply, that he made me so happy, and that what I was feeling was his intense love and gratitude. I gave him a storm of kisses and hugged him so tightly. As soon as I released him from my embrace, he assumed a proud satisfied attitude and was radiating a feeling of accomplishment… all so cute to me!

20160428_160729Justin realized, that his actions had created a beautiful emotion in me and it made him feel good. He liked it! In the weeks that followed, Justin would try to recreate that moment we had shared.

I would be vacuuming or sweeping the floors, while he and his brothers were playing. If the song started playing on the radio, within seconds of hearing the opening bars of “You’re Beautiful”, Justin would recognize the song, stop whatever he was doing, jump up and run to find me.

He would come to place himself right below my nose intently staring up at me with his big brown eyes looking straight into my eyes. Those two gorgeous and innocent brown eyes, as big as they could get, would dart back and forth between my right and my left eye…back and forth…back and forth. He was completely fixated and analyzing mine, waiting, looking, searching for my tears, hoping for my emotions to show again. It was so innocent and cute to see him looking for that moment in my eyes that gave my emotions away. I adored it.

For sure, every time that Justin did this, he gave me an emotion, although each time it was different: the first time there were abundant tears from experiencing his overwhelming love, the second time it was amazement and joy looking at his anxious face, the third time I would laugh and giggle to see him trying again. Regardless of how many times he tried and how different I reacted, the feeling of love was always present.

Because of this experience with Justin, I am more careful now with my actions and my words . I consciously do my best to use them to lift up friends and family. Just like Justin made me feel with “his” song, I want to make people feel valued, loved and beautiful.

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Photos by Sandi Gamblin

Editing by Randall Gamblin.  For editing info and work please email randallgamblin@gmail.com

The Egg

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In my early twenties, I had the great opportunity of serving a year and a half welfare mission among the K’ekchi. The K’ekchi are a Mayan tribe who live in north-central Guatemala. I was assigned a companion to go with me. She was a beautiful American woman,the same age as me. She was tall with fair skin, freckles, long wavy red hair and startling green eyes. Because of potential illnesses and political conflicts, there had not been female missionaries in the area in a long time. We were the first ones to return. So with this privilege, we felt a great responsibility, for which we were nervous and excited at the same time. During this journey, I was challenged, but I was also blessed. I was blessed to experience, what I felt, was the purest form of love.

Besides teaching families the essentials of reading and writing, my companion and I spent many hours instructing people on the basics of good hygiene and nutritional habits. We also delivered medicine, and taught scripture. To do that, we were constantly hiking and traveling through the 100 plus miles of mountains and villages along the Polochic River. 20140524_094543_LLS

The mountains in the area were impressively tall, with 50 degree slopes that were covered in rain forest and jungle vegetation like I’d only seen in movies…think 1984’s Romancing the Stone. The villages were spread through those mountains. Some of them were within walking distance from towns and main roads. Others were almost impossible to reach, even by horseback. It was in this gorgeous, but taxing setting, that I learned their beautiful Mayan language. I also learned to live without electricity and all other modern conveniences.

My companion and I were stationed for part of our mission in the beautiful community of Senahu, in Northern Polochic. Senahu is the name of the town, but also the name of a collection of 41 small villages surrounding it. The main plaza is located at the center of the town, with the municipal buildings, the main market and the Catholic church building surrounding the plaza. The town had no electricity except from 6pm to 8pm, when a small generator got turned on. The generator was able to provide energy to the center of the town and light that wasn’t much stronger than a candle, but good enough to help us get ready for the night. We rented a room in one of the best homes in town and we also paid for the cooking and laundry. A little K’ekchi boy, Puk, would fill a bucket of water for us in a tiny room where we “showered”. Taking a shower was not one of my favorite things to do, since I generally had to share this room with a few tarantulas.

One day, my companion and I decided to venture to a part of the mountains where we had never been before. This area seemed uninhabited to us and we had always ignored it, but this morning we decided to hike up hill and look for families anyway.

20140524_165920After hiking for many hours and not finding any homes or families, the temperature and humidity were sapping our strength, and it was getting late. The rules for all missionaries was to never be out of the main city or village after 5 PM. It was too dangerous to be out in the dark. There are too many wild animals and the K’ekchi are very protective of their territory. We didn’t want to break any rules or to get into any trouble, so we decided to head back to town. At that point, we realized that we had been wandering around, without paying attention to where we’d been. We had lost track of the way back. We could see the town from the top of the hill, but we were not able to find the trail that we needed to take to get back to it.

My companion and I were getting worried and frustrated. We were very hot, getting hungry and needed water. We didn’t know what to do. Then, we heard giggles coming from the trees and as we looked harder into the area where the giggles were coming from, we realized that there was a little hut inside a group of trees and the family that lived in that hut had been observing us. They thought it was so funny that we were lost.

The hut was a small, clean, 10’ x 10’ structure made out of sticks and tree branches, dirt floors and a fire-pit in the middle. It was hidden so well that it looked like it was just a big tree. The family included the mom and dad , two daughters and a son. The children who were about 11, 12 and 13 years old, seemed to be much smaller, more like 7-8 years-old. The parents were not that much taller. They all all had big black eyes, the biggest smiles and cute giggles. They all were happy and seemed to have no worries at all.

They welcomed us with so much love and attention. The two little girls, after inspecting us with their eyes, playing with our hair, holding our hands, and touching our clothes and all the ornaments we were wearing, ran out of the hut. They had been instructed by the mom to go pick the tips of some tender plants that were growing right outside of the hut. The mom placed the trimmings inside a pot of water and placed it on top of the fire. She also started to make corn tortillas. A few minutes later they handed us a bowl that contained broth and the tortillas for us to eat. Of course, we were grateful for the meal, but as welfare missionaries, we were analyzing the nutritional value of that meal and the impact of that type of diet on their health. After visiting with the family, they showed us the trail that would lead us back to the village and we said goodbye. The trail entrance at that point seemed so obvious. It was hard to believe that we couldn’t find it earlier. Like it had been hidden purposely, so that we could meet that family.

20140525_184058As a way to thank the family and to help them improve their nourishment, my companion and I decided to buy a couple of chicks and some chicken feed. We hiked a few days later to deliver our gift. It was very touching to see how happy, excited and grateful they were to have something that they’d never had before. I was humbled, realizing that there are people who had never eaten an egg. Up to this point in my life I had thought nothing of waking up every morning in my own comfy bed, with a soft mattress, warm blankets, with a bedroom to myself that even included my own bathroom. I thought that a warm, steamy and delicious breakfast of eggs, beans, bread, cheese, coffee, cream, sugar, fruit was the norm and my right. I had always taken those simple blessings for granted. Many times, I had complained because something was not cooked exactly the way I liked it. How different it was for this family. They had little, and yet they were absolutely happy.

We kept on visiting and checking on them through the following months. As time went by, we got other assignments, other villages to visit and we didn’t see the family for a while. With time, they went out of our mind and I’d forgotten all about the gift of the baby chicks…until one morning.

As we were leaving our home to go do our service projects for that day, we noticed that the family was waiting for us outside. The moment they saw us coming out of our house, their smiles became so big, their big black eyes sparkling with excitement, joy and happiness. One of the little girls had a piece of cloth in her hands. It seemed like she was guarding a treasure. The little girl came towards me and placed the little packet in my hands. I carefully unfolded the corners of the cloth…an egg!

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As they explained to us, one of the chickens had lain her first egg early that morning, and they wanted us to have it. They had walked since dawn, waited outside our home to show us their treasure and more special … to give it to us!!!

It was just an egg, but it was the first egg they’d ever “owned.” Instead of eating it themselves, they gave it to us. They had big smiles on their faces. They had a light and a glow that showed pride in their precious offering. They were giving away something so precious, and all I saw was gratitude radiating from this beautiful family towards us.

They eagerly watched for our reaction. I can’t tell you what my companion was feeling or thinking. I can only tell you what I felt.

I felt a love so powerful radiating towards me, that no words can describe it. There was a sense of humility, a deep love and so much gratitude. With the simple gift of an egg, I experienced a moment in my life that awakened me. That wonderful family gave me much more than an egg. They gave me a deep sense of what the truly valuable gifts are in this world..the feeling of being valued, cared for and loved.

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Photos by Sandi Gamblin

Edited by Randall Gamblin (randallgamblin@gmail.com)

 

Gratitude.

 Gratitude:

The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. (Wikipedia)

Looking bac2015-08-08 12.16.02k on my life experiences to pinpoint the exact moment when having gratitude as my first thought of the day has been difficult.  My siblings and I were taught politeness and culture by expressing gratitude to everyone.  Many times,  if I wasn’t showing my gratitude or saying “Thank You’, I received a strong pinch from my mother.  There is a big difference between learning to express gratitude because you have to, and expressing gratitude because you feel it.

At one particular point in my life, I learned the true meaning of gratitude through a personal and powerful experience of my own. It happened when I was 17 years old, the day my beautiful Dad died.

My father was my best friend.  He taught me to box, the basics of fixing a car, to dance, and to be calm in the midst of conflict.  I loved him so much.  He became sick and passed away when he was 52.  I remember walking into the hospital with my best friend, her sister and my two younger siblings.  Before we got to his room, the nurse came out and without any warning, love, or concern, she announced, “Oh, your father just died.”  I remember running to him and hugging his dead body so, so tight, crying and hurting so much!

I turned around and saw my little brother and  sister with pain and devastation on their faces that was equal to mine.  I realized that my dad’s body was dead, but his spirit and memories would continue forever.  At that exact moment an overwhelming feeling of gratitude washed over me.  I felt so grateful for the few years that I had him as my dad.  I felt like a miracle happened to me when an extremely painful moment was transformed into a loving, peaceful one.  I turned to my siblings and shared my feelings with them.  I asked them to kneel, we held hands and said a loving prayer of thanks for the blessing that he had been to us.  Tears of loss were exchanged for tears of love and gratitude. Gratitude filled us and helped get us through those sad days.  I could actually feel the love of my dad surrounding us.   His big smile came to my mind and took over my heart and I felt his comfort.

The memory of this moment is the one that I use as a powerful tool to transform my life.  I use it to turn bad and difficult moments into positive experiences.  I do my best to make gratitude my first thought of everyday.  That alone, helps me to have a great day, regardless of any  situation or any problem.

Sometimes, I succeed.  Other days, I forget and it doesn’t come to me until later in the morning, but my gratitude is always with me.  It’s not always easy to make it my first thought of the day.

It is not easy to train ourselves to wake up giving thanks or having thoughts of gratitude.  It has taken me time, patience and practice to get to the point where I am now.  More likely, our first thoughts are along the lines of, “I need more sleep!”, or “I don’t want to get up to do all the things I have to do today!”  Sometimes, there is excitement about a new day, other times fear of what the day may bring, or complete indifference to the upcoming day, with no more interest in it than to get through it..mechanically…because it is something to do..like a job.  Regardless of the expectations of the day, if gratitude is at the start of it, life becomes more meaningful and rich in a spiritual way.

If gratitude is not your first thought, it could always be the second, or the third, or the fourth.  What is important is to have that thought at some point in the morning routine.  As times goes by, it becomes easier to remember and eventually becomes a habit.  Then it becomes part of the soul.  One day, I hope to realize that waking up with gratitude is as natural as the sunrise…..every morning.

I don’t look for a big list of amazing things happening, to be able to give thanks. The little things are the ones that matter the most.  Each morning I feel gratitude for waking up; for seeing a new sunrise, or maybe a rainy day; for calling a place my home;  for my family, pets, friends.  I’m simply grateful for being alive!

Feel the gratitude and see the transformation.

If time is taken every morning to feel grateful… for pretty much anything in life, the day will be brighter, smiles will be bigger, and by the end of the day, there will be even more reason to close the day with a feeling of complete gratitude for just being.

Now, let’s close our eyes, breathe deep and exhale with a smile…  Time to start the gratitude journey!2015-07-19 15.26.32

  • Photos by Sandi Gamblin
  • Editing by Randall Gamblin (randallgamblin@gmail.com)