I can’t believe Thanksgiving is next week.
In fact, when I got off the plane last night in Newport News, there were Christmas decorations up in the terminal that weren’t there when I flew out on Monday. I don’t know why, but they caught me by surprise.
Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK. Wow.
There is much wonderful about Thanksgiving. There is time to spend with family. There is–hopefully–a day off of work for many. There is pumpkin pie and turkey with dressing. And, there is “Thanks”.
So, what is “Thanksgiving”, really? There is all sorts of fascinating Thanksgiving information over at History.com. Check it out; you’ll find everything from really cool infographics to Thanksgiving videos. But, what does it mean to give thanks?
Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who died in 1968 wrote this:
“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
I love this—“every moment of existence is a grace…”
And this—“For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience.”
And, I know these things to be truth.
I know God is good. I know He is good not because of the prayer “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food,” although that is truth. I know He is good, not because I have been told He is good through sermons–though those sermons have reinforced this truth in my mind and soul. I know He is good, not because someone echoed back “All the time!” when greeted with the words “God is good!”
I know God is good, through experience. Through joyful, awe-inspiring experiences. And through gut-wrenching, grief-producing experiences. He is good.
It is why I use as a banner across the top of this website the quote by John Greenleaf Whittier: “Before me, even as behind, God is and all is well.” In His very being, He is good. I know He is good.
It has become customary to share things you are thankful for at Thanksgiving–the holiday naturally issues an invitation to review the past year and to name these things. A very good thing. And, of course I could list dozens of things that I am thankful for. Dozens upon dozens. But, I thought I’d take a bit of an unusual slant this year:
Shelly’s Not Typical Thanksgiving List
Words make up much of my daily life. Words, in the form of Scripture, teach me who God is. Words help me reason out all there is in my brain and soul. Words in books teach and entertain me–they are my friends. I use words all day long in the writing I do for my employer–I provide a living for my family through words. I am grateful for words.
Parenting is not for cowards. It’s not. You bring home this tiny little fragile bundle and you worry about germs and food and childhood illnesses. And then they get bigger, and you worry about their driving, their minds and their souls. Parenting doesn’t get easier as they get older, it just gets different. Harder in some ways. And, it’s not easy. When the decisions and challenges come in parenting, it can be overwhelming. But in those decisions and challenges, we are given opportunities to love our kiddos in ways that may be absent if there were no challenges. Also, we are pushed to place our parenting before God and ask for His help, because often it is beyond us. So completely beyond us. I am grateful for parenting challenges.
There is a loneliness that comes with being a divorced, single parent. A sort of dark pallor. Yes, my children and near and I absolutely cherish my time with them, but there is still an isolated loneliness. There is much missing. Much. Yet, while I would never wish this loneliness on anyone, I am thankful for it. I am thankful for the empty silence loneliness, because it forces me to be more keenly aware of God in some ways. More aware of His presence, because my heart aches for that presence. I am thankful for loneliness.
As I’ve re-learned this year the discipline of healthy eating and exercise, I’ve come to appreciate calories in a whole new light. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with calories. I loved them, because they provided comfort. And then I hated them, because I was afraid of them. Now I respect them, because they are fuel. They provide the energy I need to do the things I need to do. When viewed correctly and treated accordingly (making wise choices), they work as they were designed to. I am thankful for calories.
Christian Rap/Hip Hop Music
I don’t like rap music, but I’m thankful for it. I tried liking it; I did. I bought a couple of Lacrae and Shai Linne tracks. I hugely appreciate the truth that they proclaim. But I just can’t acquire a taste for it. Classic rock, yes. Hard rock, yes. Classical music, yes. Bluegrass, yes. But Hip Hop/Rap? Not so much. This white girl can’t break it down. That said, Rap/Hip Hop is still music, and I am grateful for music. I am grateful for Christian Rap/Hip Hop Music.
This one is very specific to tonight–we have no heat in our house tonight. The repairman left a couple of hours ago–the house heater is broken. We rent our home from a wonderful church, and I know they will be working hard to get us a heater. I have no doubts about that. But, goodness, it is cold tonight. I am thankful for this chilliness, though. It reminds me that not everyone has shelter or warmth tonight. My heart aches tonight for the homeless, or for those with inadequate heating, or the inability to pay their heating costs. I am thankful for the reminder to take nothing–absolutely nothing–for granted. Nothing. I am grateful for no heat.
I used to really, really not like spiders. I’m still a bit creeped out by our 8 legged-friends, but I’m slowly learning to tolerate the little (or big) buggers. They eat other bugs. They are good for gardens. For the most part, they are harmless. They are creepy, but they aren’t out to get me. Spiders remind me of the creativity of God. I am thankful for spiders.
This is crazy, I know. Just today, I repaired one car only to have another car go into the shop. And, today, I found out that my auto insurance for 2015 will double. DOUBLE. I’ve had to re-do my budget yet again. But those terrifying envelopes that come in the mail demanding payment for goods and services–they play an important role. They hold us accountable to the choices we make with our finances. They represent things we need that we have access to–like heat and medical care, all things we should be grateful for. They force me to budget and to be disciplined with what God has gifted me. I am grateful for bills.
Sharpies. Good pens. Notebooks. Label Makers. Folders and binders. Organizational tools. External hard drives. Post-It Flags. Enough said.
This life has brought some hard things. Some evil things. There are things that I have experienced, that I simply can not say “That was hard, but I’m glad it happened.” There are things that I am not glad happened. At all. And never will be. But those things do not mean that God is not good. He is good. And, the things I have learned about God’s goodness even in the horrifyingly ugly, are immense. Life changing immense. I am thankful–not for the difficult things, but for who God is in those difficult things.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18