counting my blessings

The NACC is full of blessings. A squeeze on the arm from a woman who has known my mother since before I was born. The moment when, as I happened to pass the stage area, Ben asked me to talk with a woman who came forward after the service and requested prayer. Dinner with dear friends who live too many states away and the delight of getting to know their young daughters a bit more each year. (“Miss Jen, I like your necklace. Miss Jen, what’s your favorite food? Miss Jen, I like soccer and reading and singing and I can make every letter in cursive and our dog is named Vito.”)

This afternoon I experienced another blessing at the special women’s event with Carol Kent. For one thing, the 600 women gathered in the Hyatt ballroom did not come to be entertained. Although they enjoyed the food and the door prizes and the giveaways, they also worshiped, standing spontaneously at the round tables and raising their hands.

And they shed tears as Ms. Kent shared the story of her son who killed his wife’s ex in a parking lot several years ago and is now serving a life sentence in a Florida prison. Although he leads Bible studies and counseling classes among the inmates, he will never be released alive. She will never have grandchildren or a Norman Rockwell Christmas.  She’ll never even have a National Lampoon Christmas—she and her husband spend every holiday in the visitor room of the jail. She can never “fix it” and it will never be okay.

So she spoke with credibility and power to these hundreds of women, all of whom have their own scars and struggles. (In one of my favorite moments, she asked, “How many of you have had life turn out differently than you expected?” Every hand raised. “How many of you had life turn out better than you expected?” A few hands. “We’re happy for the two of you.”)

She shared simple, simple but hard, hard ways to “move beyond surviving to thriving” when life takes an unexpected turn:

–Choose life instead of emotional, physical, and spiritual death

–Choose to trust

–Choose vulnerability; don’t live in your secrets

–Choose gratitude

–Choose forgiveness

–Choose purpose

Could you choose vulnerability when the entire community is discussing your darkest moment? Could you choose gratitude when your son has been beaten by other inmates?

Carol Kent does—I suspect on a daily, if not hourly, basis—and this hard-won maturity gives her words extra impact. My lunch is eaten and I didn’t win a door prize, but these words have stayed with me. In a world where every person experiences disappointment and hurt, her example is the real blessing.

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