Have you read the book Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter? I grew up watching the 1960 film adaptation of the novel. It's a charming story and it teaches about finding happiness from a young orphan's perspective.
In the story, Pollyanna is an orphan who goes to live with her stern aunt. Pollyanna's aunt puts her in an attic room and punishes her for being late to dinner and other trivial things.
Pollyanna remains optimistic by playing the glad game, a game her father taught her when she didn't receive the doll she wanted for Christmas from the missionary barrel - only a pair of crutches. He said they should find something to be glad about. "If the dear Lord told us eight hundred times to rejoice and be glad, He must have wanted us to do it!" They decided that the crutches made them glad 'cause they didn't need 'em! (Watch a clip of the 1920 silent film adaption of Pollyanna's glad game here.)
Pollyanna cheers her aunt and other people she encounters in the book by teaching them to find reasons to be glad.Did you know that the scriptures teach us to "thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7), not just the things that seem to bring happiness?
It's easy enough to be grateful for loving family, kind friends, and uplifting experiences, but do I really have to be thankful for unkind people, unfairness, and unhappy moments? Pollyanna was able to find reasons to be glad for crutches, because she didn't need them. But what if she did? What is she had a terrible, crippling accident that left her unable to walk?
The jury is still out on my own baby's ability to walk. He was diagnosed with meyelomeningocele (spina bifida) and hydrocephalus before he was even born. But...I am thankful for his spina bifida. Wow, that is hard to say. Actually, it seems wrong to say. I wouldn't wish this on my son, not in a million years. But because this is what God wants for us, I can be thankful for it, I'm sure. Maybe if I write it out, I can convince myself.
Let's play the glad game.
I can be glad for Jacob's condition, because I have personally witnessed the power of prayer and fasting and the priesthood. The works of God have truly been made manifest in Him, like the man who was born blind:
Jesus' disciples asked, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither,” Jesus answered. The man was born blind “that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:2–3). What a wonderful gift Jacob's condition is, when thought of this way. His condition isn't a curse, but a blessing to all who know him.
I can be glad for Jacob's condition, because I have changed. I have developed a special place in my soul. It's like a little pocket of love especially for parents who have experienced grieving and mourning and sadness for their babies. I truly grieved when I learned that my son would have physical restrictions and would require multiple brain surgeries. But that grief has been turned into empathy. For this, I am so thankful.
I can be glad because I have become closer to my family.
I can be glad because I have gained some of the most loving, loyal, and kind friends.
I can be glad because I have learned how to be more Christlike from the many loving people who offered their help to us.
I can be glad, because I've learned so much. I've learned about fetal surgery - something I never knew was possible - and I've been part of a nationwide study to see if fetal surgery helps babies diagnosed with spina bifida in-utero. I have learned how difficult it can be to be apart from my husband for weeks at a time, as I recovered from fetal surgery 800 miles away from him, and waited, on bed rest, for Jacob's birth.
I've learned all about spina bifida and other children with spina bifida. I've learned about hydrocephalus and how the brain works. I've learned to believe that all things are possible, with the Lord.
I've learned about trials and sadness and gratitude and how gratitude brings joy, no matter what you're going through.
Elder Oaks said, "When we give thanks in all things, we see hardships and adversities in the context of the purpose of life. We are sent here to be tested. There must be opposition in all things. We are meant to learn and grow through that opposition, through meeting our challenges, and through teaching others to do the same." (Give Thanks in All Things)
This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for all the gifts I've received from the Lord, even the gifts that are disguised as trials. They are the most life-changing and priceless blessings in my life.
Here's the pie recipe. It doesn't compare to Nicole's expressions of gratitude but here goes anyway!
Eggnog Chiffon Pie
Source: Newspaper Clipping from Salt Lake Reader (Grandma's recipe box)
1 baked 9-inch pastry shell or 1 baked 9-inch graham cracker crust
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
Prepare pie crust and set aside.
Blend gelatin, sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan. Stir milk in gradually. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil one minute. Remove from heat.
Stir small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks, then stir egg yolk mixture into hot mixture in saucepan. Return to heat adn bring just to boiling stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add flavoring. Place pan in cold water.
Cool until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from spoon. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into baked shell. Sprinkle with nutmeg and chill. Makes one 9-inch pie.