The gift of today

Frontlines: What about the gifts—from others and God—that we don't want?

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Tracy Gowling and her Gramma.

When my husband, Jeff, and I were first married, we received some memorable wedding gifts. Some gifts were part of a registry that we had selected, and others were not. One gift I remember well was from my grandmother. She gave us handmade tea towels to use in our new apartment.

She had cut a towel in half, crocheted a new top half and added a button so it could be attached to the oven door. The towels would not have been on the registry nor would they have been something we sought out to buy. The colors she used didn’t match my other items. The geese on the towels were not part of my décor, and they just weren’t my style.

I had a choice. I could politely thank her and never use the towels because they didn’t meet the vision I had for my kitchen. Or, I could use them because Gramma had spent time making them.

The lesson I learned was that not all gifts given and received need to be gifts that I would choose. Sometimes the heart of the giver is more important than the gift itself. I loved what, and who, that gift represented, so I used the towels. In fact, the next time we were able to visit Gramma, I asked her to teach me how to make them, and she did. That time learning from her is still one of my favorite memories.

In January 2019, Jeff was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. That spring he underwent intensive chemotherapy treatments followed by a stem cell transplant and then radiation. These were difficult days for Jeff, me and our two college-aged children, but they were also days of great learning as we saw God work in amazing ways. A major lesson we are learning throughout this journey is to appreciate each day as a gift that God gives us.

Recently, there have been some harder days that I would not choose or have asked for, and yet I believe that they are still a gift from God. It seems that in these hard days, God tenderly reminds me of his character as he sets the standard for how I am to respond and react.

There is a sharp contrast between a God-honoring response and a reaction that does not bring him glory. I must choose what to do with each day God gives me. And I know I am accountable to the Gift Giver for my choices. Will I give it back to him and say, “I didn’t ask for this?” Or will I choose to use this day to bring him glory in my thoughts, deeds and words?

Several months ago, I wrote this in a post on social media: “My Gramma passed away over 20 years ago and I would do almost anything for one of her tea towels right now. That towel, though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, was a treasure because it represented the heart behind the person who created it.”

About a month after I posted those words, and the day before Jeff was to go in for a follow-up PET scan, I received a package in the mail. My sister Brenda, who lives in Canada, had read my story and remembered that she had one of Gramma’s crocheted towels stored inside her hope chest. She carefully wrapped it, wrote a note of encouragement reminding me to value the gift of today and sent it on its way.

As I opened the package, I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness and my sister’s sacrifice in giving me the family keepsake. I was also struck by the reminder of what and who that towel represented. Even in the hardest of days, God is good. He is faithful, and my heart’s desire is to honor him.

God, thank you for the gift of today. In the easy and in the hard days, I choose to trust your heart and keep my eyes on you as the giver and creator of this treasured gift. I pray that I use each day you give as an opportunity to give you glory. And God, when I fail, I pray that you will quickly remind me of your grace and allow me to appreciate the value of your gift to me.

Tracy Gowling
Tracy Gowling is a pastor's wife and mother of two college-aged children. A small-town girl from Saskatchewan, Canada, who married her high school sweetheart, Gowling has lived and ministered in Dallas, New York City and for the last 17 years at The Bridge Bible Church in Bakersfield, California. Sharing the love of God with those he puts in her path is a true privilege. She loves thrift shopping, sewing drinking tea and baking scones.

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