Learning (And Failing) To Be Thankful

It has become apparent to me that God hates trampolines. Or, at least, He hates our trampoline.

Twice now since my mom bought a 12-foot trampoline for our kids this summer, we’ve had winds strong enough to pick it up and heave it several feet away from our house and into the field across the road. Apparently, the enclosure on the trampoline makes a wonderful sail. The first time it happened we were able to bend it back into usable shape. I remember thinking at the time that I should really try and secure the frame to the ground somehow, but I also reasoned that surely the wind wouldn’t be strong enough this year to blow it away twice.

And then yesterday happened. I’ve been sort of out of commission this week with an ear infection (more on that later), so I was around the house yesterday to eat breakfast with Laura and the kids. We knew there was a chance of rain, but we really hadn’t paid much attention to the weather that morning. Suddenly, we looked outside and a major thunderstorm had rolled in, complete with – you guessed it – very high winds. Next thing you know, our trampoline is lying at the edge of the aforementioned field in a crumpled heap. Someone (other than myself – remember, ear infection) had to basically disassemble the thing just to get it back to our yard, where it now lies in a pile of twisted metal and torn netting.

I am not ashamed to admit to you that the first time this happened, I was openly angry with God. “Why on Earth,” I asked Him, “would You who controls the wind and the seas find any useful purpose in destroying the toys of my children?” I was only mildly pleased with the repaired version then, mainly because it was still missing a couple of spring and now squeaked like crazy whenever anybody jumped on it. You can only imagine, then, in the midst of a week that had already featured some costly truck repairs and the first ear infection I’ve actually been old enough to remember having, how I felt yesterday. Dazed, confused, hurt, betrayed, angry, depressed – you can pretty keep going down that path of adjectives and peg my state of mind.

But, then, as I was sitting at the table eating my breakfast in what could only be described as a stunned stupor, I heard something on the television that turned the whole situation around. In the midst of what we thought was just a bad thunderstorm, a tornado had actually been spotted just to the northeast of where we live. All of a sudden, the situation went from “How am I going to replace this trampoline the kids loved so much?” to “Holy crap, we could have all died!”

Now, I’d like to end this on a happy note and say that I learned my lesson in that moment, how I realized what was really important in life and adopted an attitude of thanksgiving that will last me all of my days.

Eh, well, that didn’t really happen.

I didn’t think much more about the trampoline yesterday, but I did get a pretty sick feeling in my stomach as a drove past it today. And, why, I’m surely you’re asking, would I be driving anywhere in the midst of having an ear infection. Well, I had lined up a telephone interview for my job that was supposed to take place at 10:30 this morning, and it was with someone I was really looking forward to getting to talk to (I won’t say who because some of you may recognize him.). So I drove in to work this morning – only to have this person not answer his cell or office number for a half hour. I finally gave up and decided to go back home.

Except … I didn’t go home immediately. I stopped by Office Depot to pick up some paper – and the first cash register I went to messed up. For some reason, the radio in my truck hasn’t worked since I had the repairs done on it, so I decided to stop in somewhere for an expert opinion on what could be wrong. Long story short, I got a couple of recommendations, neither of which have worked at the point of writing this. And my squealing brakes on the truck? Yeah, didn’t get any answers to that problem either, except for maybe getting even more repairs done.

And, waiting for me at home after all this – the crumpled, disassembled, and (apparently) cursed trampoline.

Now, I can pretty easily find the silver lining in all of this. I mean, at least I have a vehicle that gets me where I want to go, and even though the squealing is annoying it does actually stop when I hit the brakes. I now at least have an idea of what’s wrong with my stereo, and I didn’t have to pay anything to get the info I got on it today. I had a chance to check the hundred or so e-mails that accumulated for me at work when I went in today. And, of course, my family is awesome and intact today, just like they were yesterday after the storm.

So why don’t I feel any better? And, worse than that, why am not in any type of mood to be thankful for any of this?

I have this analogy I use when I want to describe how my mind works on things like this. Say you come home one day and there’s a check for $800 in your mailbox. Then, a couple of hours after you find the check, your car breaks down to the tune of about $800 in repair work. Now, the thankful person would probably say, “Wow, I guess I got that money right on time.” The pessimistic mind, however, would probably formulate a response more like this: “Hey, thanks for dangling that $800 carrot in front of my nose today. You know, that money could have really helped me out. I don’t know why I can’t get ahead, just once, without something coming along and knocking me down again.”

You can probably guess, by the length of the responses, which side of the fence I have a tendency to fall on. It’s a trait about myself I’m growing to hate for several reasons, but it seems like it’s been my automated response for so long now, I’m not exactly sure how to reset it. There are days when I honestly feel like I’m cursed or something, even though there are things all around me that people all over the world would not only consider blessings, but would probably kill or die to have for them or their families. Just this Sunday in Paducah, I saw a couple outside the mall with signs begging for money. From the looks on their faces, I think they were legit, and if I’d had any cash on me I probably would have given it to them. I’d have to think my trampoline dilemma probably wouldn’t mean a whole lot to them.

So this is going to require a measure of grace and a whole lot of determination on my part to renew my mind on this. I’m starting to finally realize the negative effects of living this way, and I’m desperate to change it. I’m still trying to figure out exactly where to start. Any comments or advice would be useful.

Oh, and by the way, the Texas Rangers – the team I’m rooting for in this year’s World Series – are down 8-2 to the San Francisco Giants right now. Ah, yes, the end to a perfect day. At least I’ve got a TV to watch it on…

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