I’m a worrier.
I worry about our country, my kids, my half-written books, my friends, my mother, money and time. I even worry that I won’t have time to do all the worrying I’ve already scheduled for 2014.
A few nights ago, with the house fast asleep and the only sound my snoring goldendoodle, I stared at the ceiling and considered the year that now slips into the night, soon to be replaced by the bright dawn of 2014.
It’s been a challenging year, more than most in my life might realize. Two long-awaited film projects — “Christmas Jars” and “The Wednesday Letters” — that finally seemed poised for takeoff, fizzled. One publisher declined to work with me because they feared my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would scare away Christian bookstores. Other exciting projects were put on hold over legal concerns or technology challenges. Dear friends have died too soon. Others have divorced or separated.
Those thoughts and many more marched slowly through my mind, like anxious soldiers heading to a battle they know they can’t win.
Then, without warning, I seemed to find a long-lost thought hidden in the clutter of my head. It was like that one missing present, wrapped and hidden for Christmas, but misplaced until after the day has come and gone.
I didn’t hear these three words; I felt them. “Count your blessings.”
And, so I did.
Before I drifted into the gray space between restlessness and REM, I challenged myself to count six blessings that filled 2013. When I was done, when I had measured them against the trials, bad luck and heartache, it was no contest.
First, my mother had a health scare that could have ended very differently. Instead, she’s happier and healthier than she’s been in ages. The year nearly began another era of a parent fighting cancer. Instead, 2013 became the year my mother finally learned to use Facebook.
Second, after a challenging late winter and early spring, my daughter began to overcome anxiety. She learned that leaning on Mom and Dad’s faith in God isn’t enough anymore; she needs to trust and rely on the Lord. After six months of, “Can I do this?” she’s now saying, “Is there anything I can’t do?”
Third, my sister, her husband and their six children had their Maryland home invaded and burglarized while they slept. During the cleanup the next morning, they discovered a large, missing butcher knife the criminals dropped on the floor before leaving. Had one of them awakened during the crime, they might have lost much more than a laptop, television and some jewelry.
Fourth, in 2013, I saw more friends and family called to serve missions than at any point since my own mission in 1990. All have served honorably and with distinction. Dearest among them is my niece, called to serve a Spanish-speaking mission for the church in Tucson, Ariz. Her righteous service has lit a fire in her immediate and extended family and weekly emails and letters home are a gift that keeps on giving — each and every Monday.
Fifth, though financing for “Christmas Jars-The Movie” fell through yet again, the tradition itself continues to grow. We received more accounts of jars being given and received than ever before, in many cases as direct answers to urgent prayers. The movement is alive and well and 2013 reminded me just how much the story has touched my family.
Sixth, perhaps the greatest blessing of all is my increased faith that God knows me, loves me and wants me to return home. Through prayer, study and action, I’ve learned so much about my relationship with my Savior. I have miles to go in understanding his divine role in my life, but I count chief among my blessings the indisputable fact that my Father in heaven hears my prayers, even on the nights I worry he can’t.
I wonder now, with my six blessings having moved from mind to paper, how many more I could count. Even in the worst of times, even when the day seems to have been lost to bad decisions, misfortune or the ill will of others, are there not blessings to be found? Do those blessings not predict a brighter day, month and year ahead?
As you ponder your year over your own shoulder, as you worry about the things gone wrong and the opportunities missed, why not take a moment to marvel at all that went right? And any point along the way, feel free to borrow number six from my own list. I promise he loves you, too.
Are you up to the 6 Blessings Challenge?
Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and his latest, "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, applevalleybarndance.com or jasonfwright.com