I lost my momma when I was a little girl. She was 27 years, 11 months, and 13 days old.

She was strong. She was courageous. She was nurturing and loving. Full of grace. She was an encourager... even when she was so sick. Her faith was active and unwavering... even in the face of death. Her example instilled and inspired a fierce faith in me.

When my momma realized her battle on this earth was not going to have the outcome she hoped for, she somehow prepared me for her death.

She spoke candidly with me about going to heaven and how I would see her there someday. She confidently shared that she wouldn't be sick anymore. And she even told me I would need to help daddy find a new mommy for me and my baby brother.

I asked if I could take my dolly with me when I went to visit her in heaven and I inquired if she was going to show Jesus her bald head? These seemed like "normal" conversations because she said things in such a way that somehow "that little girl" had a sense of peace and understanding.

I don't know how she did it. As a mother myself, I honestly can't quite fathom it now. But my momma helped me see good things in the midst of an awful situation. She was my first example of gratitude in the midst of grief.

From that early age, I think I believed I would have a short life too. And somehow that was okay. It wasn't a scary feeling. I wasn't sad about it or worried by it. And I didn't dwell on it. It's just the way it was going to be... in my mind anyway.

But then, one day, something happened... I reached 27 years, 11 months, and FOURTEEN days old.

It's so interesting, looking back, how something clicked in me on that day. Suddenly I began believing I could live to be as old as my great-grandmother, who was happy, cheerful, and absolutely darling right up to the moment she went to meet Jesus at 103 years old. Wow, an epiphany! I could live to be One-Hundredand-Three!

In retrospect, I wish I had taken that revelation and thoroughly grasped how precious all my time is... whether I had a short life or a much longer one. I wish I had fully realized then that every moment matters.

But, I was juggling 3 littles, a floundering marriage, and all the busyness life brings... too busy to stop and reflect on how precious those moments really were. Too caught up in the day-to-day routine, trying to be all the things to all the people, chasing the perception of perfection.

Through the years life brought more challenges, trials, and heartbreak. In my brokenness, I always found myself asking God "Why?" I didn't see the purpose in my pain. I didn't understand. But, even though I couldn't see it, somehow I believed there was a reason for it all.

One day, when I was mourning the loss of my marriage and facing the reality that I had failed to keep my family "whole", I ran across the scripture in James 1:

"Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result doing a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing"

What the heck? Does that mean God basically wants me to be grateful for my trials?

It was in that moment that I thought back to my momma's example. I found myself believing I would see something good on the other side of the pain. I began choosing to look for things that were "true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse" like Philippians 4:9 talks about.

The scripture I began clinging to was Jeremiah 29:11-13. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Guess what? With that scripture as my daily affirmation, constant inspiration, and optimistic expectation... my perspective changed.

Gratitude and hope took over my thoughts. My life began to change. God started showing me that His Plan was way better than the one I had for myself. He started revealing the purpose in all the pain. And I started seeing the beautiful life I had and the even more beautiful one He was leading me to.

In Oola, we like to use an analogy about life (and our time here on earth) with two jars of marbles. For me, I have a total of 103 marbles (my great-grandma inspired my number). One jar is filled with 48 marbles representing the past... the years I've already lived. The other jar still has 54 marbles in it, representing the years I still have to live. And my "Live Oola" marble sits on a stand, featuring the year I'm living right now.

Sometimes I catch myself looking back and regretting the "marbles" I wasted. But not for long. Life has shown me that every year holds value in my journey. Every hurt, heartache, mistake, misstep, every tear, and every trial... they all brought me here. And they all helped me become who I am today.

I'm grateful for all of it. I'm grateful for every chapter in my book, every bump in my road, and all the beautiful things I've learned to see along this journey.

Tomorrow, October 14, 2020, is my birthday. I’ll take another marble from my "future" jar and place it in my "past" jar. The "Live Oola" marble will begin to represent fifty years.

It's funny how fifty used to be "old", but now it simply feels like "half-time"! Another awesome epiphany life has provided.

I can't wait to see what God has in store for me in the second half of my life. I'm excited about every marble I have left in my "future" jar, but mostly I'm excited about the one that represents today!

When I reflect on my momma's handful of marbles, I no longer see too few because she made each of them count. Her marbles had purpose and left a positive impact. Her example still inspires me today. It inspires me to look at life through a lens of Gratitude. And it inspires me to make today count!

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