I’ve been thinking a lot about blessings lately. When people say, Count your many blessings, I’ve always interpreted that as counting, like, 1,2,3. But after years of being told that everything is just a coincidence or to disregard blessings from Heaven as just luck, I am persuaded to use a different meaning of the word count. Today I want to use count like, make it count, or it counts.
This year when I don’t get to be with my children for the first Thanksgiving of my life, it counts that I was able to have 5 beautiful children at all. Right? That counts. This year I got divorced and it’s been hard. It’s not where I ever imagined I’d be at almost 47 years old. But it counts that I was able to spend so many years in love with a man who loved me back. It counts that although we had rough times and it didn’t end the way we would have wished when we started that journey together, it counts that we were able to share so much love and raise 5 beautiful children.
This year I get to be in Alabama with my sister and her husband’s family. It counts that they have been so sweet to me and I haven’t spent one minute thinking that I wasn’t a Stroud, because they’ve treated me just like family the whole time.
It counts that I was born into a family with awesome parents and siblings that bless my life and make me laugh. And although we lost our dad far too young, it counts that we were able to have the best dad ever for the short time we did. It counts that he made me feel like I could do anything and had so much worth. I feel the waves of his encouragement, counsel, and love to this day; and he’s been gone 24 years.
It counts that my mom is the most amazing woman and even before my dad died she went forward with unwavering faith and humility and courage and ended up raising six kids on her own from 49 years of age. I don’t remember seeing her ever breakdown. I didn’t ever see her shake her fist at God or ever even question, “Why me?”. She cheered us all on and made all of us feel we were the best at everything we tried. I always knew she was in my corner, praying for me, clapping for me, and bragging to all her friends about how wonderful I was. My mom is a great example of unconditional love. She doesn’t judge the choices people make, she just loves them. Her arms are open wide to everyone within her sphere of influence. That counts for so much!
And this year especially, the fact that I was born into that family with parents who taught us not only in formal ways but by the examples and goodness of their lives that there IS a God and that He loves us counts the very most. The fact that the babe in the manger we will celebrate next month is real and that he grew into the man who hasn’t left my side this last year counts the most. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so glad that I know him, that he loves me and that he strengthens me when I’m sad or weak. I’m so grateful I have had a place to turn in my trials or in my loneliness when my kids are not with me. This year I have learned that when I feel I’m about to sink completely into my sadness, I can immediately think of Peter on the water and know the Savior is there, ready to pull me out before I get any deeper. It’s a beautiful truth. I don’t have to get so sad or so low. I can stop the plummet by looking up sooner and reaching out quicker. He is always there and that counts!
I got a note from a mother about something her 10-year-old son said to her when they were listening to the podcast this week. He said, ” She’s a big fan of Heavenly Father, isn’t she? You can tell. It’s kind of obvious.” It was the greatest compliment I’ve had this year. The fact that a ten-year-old can feel my love and enthusiasm for my Heavenly Father in a different state, over the radio in his car, is a miracle. It counts for so much. The fact that I’ve found a way to share my testimony with the world is a miracle to me. It’s a blessing I count every day.
So maybe this year if you look around and feel that life hasn’t dealt you the number of blessings you had hoped for or maybe you don’t see anything to be grateful for, I would ask you to count the blessings you have. See the beauty around you. Look in the faces of those that love you and count that. Let the fact that people offered to have you spend Thanksgiving with them even if you decided not to go count. Let the love you have had in your life, even if you don’t currently feel it count. Remember the day that gift arrived on your door or the phone call that came at just the right time? It counts! Count the man who opened the door for you or smiled at you today. Count the sacrifice of the Savior, the love of your Heavenly Father, and the gift of the Holy Ghost as your biggest blessing this holiday season. Believe that they love you and are cheering you on! Believe that you are always in their thoughts because you are!! Even on the days when you feel you have nothing to count, you will always have that. Always.
I hope today I will remember not only to number my blessings, but to let all the beauty and blessings around me count. It’s so important.