Today is the last day that I have to give my horse, Marcy, her antibiotic. I am relieved. She does NOT like it. Even though I carefully mix the medicine with applesauce, she does everything she can to spit it back out of her mouth and avoid letting it her mouth to begin with. Then, she proceeds to not eat anything for an hour or two after I give her the medicine. She stands there looking pathetic, even drooling as she tries to avoid swallowing the medicine.
Initially this behavior made me worry. Horses love to eat. They do not really have a “full” sensor, so they would literally eat themselves to death if you let them. This is why horse owners have to be careful to keep the grain locked up tight. If a horse is not eating, it is a sign of a problem.
Marcy endured so much trauma that it was (still is) difficult to determine the extent of the damage. Having her not eat, added extra concern until I realized that the medicine gave her a bad taste in her mouth. To her, the medicine is no good, but I know that the medicine is necessary to help her heal. The medicine is good.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
Throughout this whole ordeal (Marcy getting hurt), I have done a good share of worrying. I have worried about whether or not I was making the right decision to help her heal, instead of putting her down so she does not have to suffer. I have worried that her eye will not heal (if her eye does not heal, I will have to put her down). I have worried that she is not behaving right at times (not eating). I worried about a lot more things, but I will spare you from the long list.
I did not want to worry, it is what happened if I was not actively fighting against it. Thankfully, whenever I would become consciously aware that I was worrying, the Holy Spirit would remind me of the verse:
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (Luke 12:25).
In other words, God was saying to me: What can you actually accomplish by worrying? What good can come from worrying? Worrying does not help you. Worrying can not change the situation. Worrying is a waste of time and energy.
A cheerful or joyful heart, on the other hand, is good medicine. However, having a cheerful heart when life stinks can be difficult. Thankfully, I read a book called “One Thousand Gifts,” by Ann Voskamp. In the book, she challenges readers to practice thankfulness by being careful and intentional to list things that we are thankful for. By taking the time to specifically thank God for things, big and small, we are acknowledging these things as gifts from God. Ann was challenged to record things she is thankful for until she could reach 1,000.
I began her challenge a few summers ago and, like Ann, decided to make it a life-long journey, not just a journey to 1,000. Choosing thankfulness, especially when life stinks, is good medicine. Thankfulness has a way of transforming our hearts from worry and despair to joy and hope. A few of my recent entries in my thankfulness journal pertaining to this difficult situation are: “cloud cover on ridiculously hot days,” “friends who are willing to help,” “Marcy letting me put ointment in her eye,” “Marcy’s eye moving and closing a little,” and “getting extra time with the horses and in the barn.”
When I take the time to look for and be thankful for things, my heart is moved in a good direction – even when my circumstances have not changed. It can be tempting to add the “but” to the end of the item we are thankful for, but we have to fight that urge. I could look at the 3+ hours of time I spend in the barn taking care of Marcy every day as something I HAVE to do, or I can choose to be thankful for the opportunity to spend extra time being around an animal I dearly love. Thankfulness takes practice and intentionality, especially when times are tough.
When Marcy finally decides to consider eating, she takes a bite of hay or grass and stands there with the bite half in her mouth and half hanging out. She stands like that for a good 10 minutes. I am not sure what she thinks she is accomplishing – maybe she thinks the bite of food will magically soak up all the bad taste from the medicine. After a while, she spits out the bite and eventually, tentatively starts eating.
Practicing thankfulness (and the joyful heart that accompanies thankfulness) can sometimes feel like Marcy holding a bite of hay in her mouth. You are taking a step in the right direction, but you are not ready to dig right in. The only way to truly benefit from the “food” is to chew on it and swallow it.
Join me today in taking some time to “chew on” the things that you have to be thankful for. Make a list. Consider starting a journal that you set aside to specifically list things you have to be thankful for. I bet you could list 5, or 10, or even 50. Take the time to do it. You, like a horse, will never get “full” when you ponder the things you have to be thankful for. And while a horse filling up on food can produce death, you filling up on thankfulness will produce more and more life, the more you eat. It is good medicine.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).