About That Half-Empty Glass

“But one little piece of these thoughts — one aspect of what I’m trying to get my hands on as I chase these elusive ideas through my brain — is the reality of just how many beautiful moments I never see; how many opportunities I lose to be a light to those around me; how many chances I miss to drink in joy, simply because I’m looking at the negative side of life.” 

My friend died.

It was too soon. She should’ve had many years here, still. A husband to grow old with. Grandchildren to meet. Lives to impact. Work to do for the God she loved so much.

Her passing has made me think — not for the first time — about the uncertainty of life. Its brevity, even when we make it to “old age and gray hairs” (Isaiah 46:4) before being called to our Home.

I can’t stop pondering how fleeting are the moments we have in which to discover our mark and then leave it on the world; to touch the lives of others around us; to positively impact the lives of those who come in contact with us; to leave the world a better place in some small way.

I can’t even put all of my thoughts and feelings into words. And if I could, I wouldn’t have time to write all of those millions of words down. And if did, no one would have time to read them.

But one little piece of these thoughts — one aspect of what I’m trying to get my hands on as I chase these elusive ideas through my brain — is the reality of just how many beautiful moments I never see; how many opportunities I lose to be a light to those around me; how many chances I miss to drink in joy, simply because I’m looking at the negative side of life. 

Have you noticed that some people are just born with positive attitudes? My husband is one of them. Our oldest daughter is another.

I’m not one of these people. In fact, I once heard my husband very lovingly describe me as a “the glass is half empty and leaking kind of a gal. Wow. Not very flattering, but I have to admit that it’s true. That is my natural state.

I so long to be a sunshiny person, and I thank God for placing many of these naturally positive people in my life. One of my favorite light-up-the-world people is our little seven-year-old Ethan.

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Ethan is pretty well-known for his motto, “Today is a weally good day.”

No matter what kind of day it is, Ethan just somehow, almost invariably, sees it through a different lens than most of us. To him, life is just a great open-ended story, full of potential and excitement. The “eternal optimist” and a “the glass is constantly overflowing” kind of a guy.

Ethan was born with schizencephaly, the same type of brain damage as Kathryn’s, but a mild form as compared to her very severe version. He has the potential for seizures, but has only had one, so far — as an infant, in Guatemala before we adopted him. He had some left-side weakness when he came home, but that was mostly corrected through occupational therapy. His coordination isn’t top-notch, and his little brain seems to process more slowly than ours in the area of language. We see this mostly with word retrieval, and as he works to construct sentences. You can’t rush him as he tries to find the right words and the right order in which to put these words together to express some of the very awesome thoughts in his head. And there is always the possibility that his disability will worsen as he grows.

But Ethan lives in the “now.” He doesn’t bother worrying about what might happen someday or let his current challenges block out the sun that seems to shine over his little head everywhere he goes.

He’s incredibly creative. And happy. So, so happy. His days are filled with adventures involving two of his best buds, Lambie and Tigger. He delights in building elaborate costumes for them out of Trio Blocks . . .

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. . . or even paper.

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He dreams up the most exciting escapades for the two of them and has made them part of the family. They both regularly join us for movies or game night or family prayer time in our family room . . .

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. . . and Lambie was even given the job of guarding our bowl of Halloween candy this year . . .

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. . . (but then ate all of it!)

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One of Ethan’s favorite Christmas presents this year was a pair of pajamas for each of them.

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He draws pictures of them.

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And one night when Tigger was inadvertently left upstairs on Ethan’s bed during our family reading time, he (Tigger) sneaked out of bed and turned on Ethan’s CD player full volume, blasting the whole house with Pixar tunes. (True story.)

Recently we were having one of those days at our house that just can’t be described in any way other than, “bad.”  Never mind the details; it just seemed like everything had gone wrong from the very beginning of the day. After lunch, Scott had taken Owen to Children’s Hospital for a minor surgery, only to be told that the doctor was running behind in the OR.

The afternoon wore on, and nurses just kept popping in to tell Scott that the doctor was running further and further behind.

After waiting for about three hours, Scott and I finally decided through a quick texting conversation, that this day called for some drastic measures to end it on a positive note. Plans were thrown together for ordering pizza and choosing a fun movie to watch whenever he and Owen finally got home. And still we all waited as the afternoon dragged on through dinner time.

After five hours, Owen was finally taken into surgery for his quick half-hour procedure, but it was very late and the two of them still had a 40-minute drive home even after Owen was released from the Recovery Room.

I was way past grumpy by this point and had given up any hope of ending this day on a positive note when Ethan slipped into the room. He gave me one of his famous smiles and said softly, “This is a weally good day because I’m getting to stay up late to wait for Daddy and Owen, and when I go to bed late I have weally good dweams and long dweams.“

Wow. I was suddenly so struck by the startling difference between Ethan’s view of the day and my own. Were we really talking about the same day? Absolutely! He was just looking at it through his Ethan-colored glasses. (Where can I get me some of those???)

Sadness flowed through me as I realized that I had thrown away a whole day. Lost a precious opportunity to be an example to my watching kids. Once again, God had spoken through one of my little ones, gently reproved me, and taught me a lesson.

It’s happened before. I suddenly see myself as I really am — hear what really comes out of my mouth as I whine and complain; I determine to change my ways; and then I fail — again.

But life is so short. Time is so precious.

I will try again. I will strive even more to squish myself down and crawl inside the skin of a seven-year-old so I can look out at the world through his eyes.

I will try to stop when I feel my day falling apart and ask myself, “What would Ethan see in this situation?” knowing that he would definitely find something great and wonderful — even magical, exciting, adventurous.

Most of all, I will pledge, again, to look at each disappointment in the way in which my grown-up knowledge and experience should enable me to. Searching for glimpses of God’s sovereign Hand, knowing that anything that passes through my day has been given His permission to enter my life. It has His stamp of approval. Is part of His beautifully designed plan.

I will ask for His help in learning to somehow combine child-like joy and innocence with the grown-up experiences that prove God is worthy of our trust and our joy.

I will fail again. I know this. But I’ll keep trying.

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark.”  ~ Charles Spurgeon

Too many days, hours, minutes have already been wasted. Shame, shame on me!

I can’t get those back. I can only try to avoid losing any more precious seconds of my oh-so-short time here, thanking God that He is a Father of second chances and fresh starts and great mercy. A Father that loves me enough to bless me with children just packed full of so many things to teach me.

 “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.” ~ Francis de Sales

10 thoughts on “About That Half-Empty Glass

  1. Oh, this is so beautiful, Kathy! I forwarded it on to some of my mommy friends. God just shines right through Ethan, doesn’t He? What a sweet soul. I get hung up on carefully laid out plans all too often, and when something goes wrong, it is really hard to pull myself out of my inner tantrum. Kate is certainly teaching me to let go, but I still struggle to hang onto the false sense of control I possess. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Miss you!

    Abby

  2. Kathy–not only am I often a ‘glass half empty’ person, sometimes, I can’t even find the glass!! What a blessing to have such a joyful reminder to constantly look for the “weally good” stuff in each and every day!

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