When the Present Is Not A Gift


“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”  Bill Keane

I believe you may be familiar with this quote, although it is widely misattributed.  No, Justin Timberlake was not the first person to say, or sing, these words (at least the history/mystery portion).  Even the ever-quotable Eleanor Roosevelt was not the one to actually speak them.  It is even stated that we may never truly know who first said this quote, or any of its similar cousins.  Over time, though, we all seem to have found this sentence very quotable.  As it should be for it’s wisdom.

I cannot go back and change the history of yesterday, or any day before it.  I have no idea what tomorrow or, God-willing, a long future of tomorrows may hold in store for me.  What I do have, however, is the present day.  What a gift to wake up this morning and know God has blessed me with another day of life.  This day could become anything I want it to be, right?  In one simple act, I can change the course of my entire future.  With one choice, made today, I could experience a lifetime of joy and peace.  Or, I can use this day to make someone else’s life better.  We can change the world one day at a time.  But can every day be a gift?

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Food For Thought  When I think of the words “gift” and “present,” I think of excitement.  I think of getting something I want.  I think of wonderful surprises, wrapped in beautiful packages.  I think of objects that invite me into a world of curiosity and exploration.  “Come on, let’s open presents!”  Let’s get to the fun part, already.

You may be thinking these statements are reserved for youth, the 16-and-under crowd, but seriously!  You know adults get just as pumped up about presents as kids do.  Our presents have just gotten monstrously more expensive.  But the excitement of the moment is still there.  With this mentality, it’s no wonder we like to philosophically ponder each day as a gift.  That makes it sound special and wonderful and enjoyable.

I hope you have more wonderful, special, enjoyable days in your life than not, believe me.  I also realize that a lot of our days are lived the way we make them.  I can make my day special, even in the simplest ways.  Or I can have days filled with empty sadness or dreadful disappointment.  But we’re going to put our mental state aside for the moment.

I want to stop and think, and pray for, all of the people that, for them, today is not a gift.  The family that just received the diagnosis that their child has cancer.  The family that had to make the decision to turn off the life support.  The family that just watched their home and possessions be reduced to nothing but ashes.  The military wife that just received the call, he won’t be coming home.  The husband that lost his job, without warning or backup plan.  The married couple that just put the word “divorce” on the table.  This sad list could go on and on, not because I want to be the downer of the party, but because these stories, and stories like them, play out all of the world, every minute of every day.  In these moments, the present is NOT a gift.  At least not in the sense that we think of as a gift.

I cannot imagine being in any one of these horrible situations.  To say they are devastating is a drastic understatement.  But I believe we each have moments in our own life, the days when we think, “This is terrible.  It can’t get any worse than this.”  I have definitely had a “This is the worst day of my life” experience and it was impossible for me to think, in that moment, “Geez, I’m miserable, but what a gift to experience.  I hope it lasts!”

We don’t think like that.  Once we hit “worst day ever” mode, we are strictly in survival mode.  Physiology has to take over.  The body has to carry us through.  We are walking and breathing and even speaking, but it’s movement without consciousness.  In these moments we cannot even see how it will get better.  It’s often hard to make rational decisions to propel us forward.

Sometimes, though, we can look back and see the hidden gift.  Sometimes, like that “ugly” sweater that turned out to be your favorite, you realize that unwanted gift was exactly what you needed.  Sometimes our daily gifts aren’t about what we want so much, as what we need.  Every day’s gift can’t be a shiny new bike or the latest craze in high-end fashion.  Every now and then we received today’s present as practicality, hard lessons, or a chance to show others what makes our character and faith so strong.  These are the days when my present isn’t just my gift, but a gift to share with others.

Today’s Scripture 

Today’s Prayer  My Dear Heavenly Father, I know there are people in the world, right now, experiencing a time of struggle in their lives, feeling like today is the exact opposite of a gift.  My Lord, I ask you to bring them comfort and peace.  May they see sooner, rather than later, that even through these hard times, You are with them.  You feel their pain and see their grief.  I pray they will seek Your shelter during their storm.

I also pray, Heavenly Father, that I will indeed treat each day of my life as a gift.  I am not always good at this thinking, but I know that each day You give me exactly what I need, even if I don’t fully understand it all.  I thank You for Your infinite blessings.  In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

Today’s Encouragement  Even though some days do not feel very “gift-y,” we really should treat each day as a gift.  Our life is a gift that will eventually expire, like those gift cards you drop in the bottom of your purse and forget about.  Once I hit my forties, I have become keenly aware of this fact.  So, I try to spend a little time each day doing something I love.  It may be reading or painting or yoga or time in nature.  Whatever it is, I want to be sure, even during the not-so-enjoyable days, to enjoy sweet moments of my regular ol’ life.  Please do the same!  Find something you are passionate about, or at the very least brings you moments of joy amid life’s challenges and routines.

Last week, I painted another picture.  Waterfalls are my passion, outside of faith, family, and food, so I do a lot of waterfall paintings.  This is acrylic on canvas.  The original idea was for a waterfall and stream with lots of rocks and a distant mountain range.  The spirit of fall took over, so I added colored leaves to the trees.  More interestingly, for me at least, is this is my first attempt at a moonlit sky rather than daytime.  My full moon breaking through the clouds is my family’s favorite feature of this painting.

Full Moon at the Falls painting
Well, this is how the painting was starting out…
Full Moon at the Falls finished painting
And then we ended up here; Full Moon at the Falls finished painting
daughter painting
Not a good quality picture, but my daughter also enjoys painting, using acrylics on canvas. I’m glad she understands about hobbies.

Here are some of the products I used for this painting, available from Amazon:

Liquitex Basics Acrylic Paints

Academy Art Supply Stretched Canvas Value Pack

US Art Supply Table Top H-Frame Easel

Artists’ Paint Brush Set