Monday, November 16, 2009


“How’s your house going?”  A friend asked me at our last MOPS.

“Stalled,” I returned, then added frankly, “In fact, everything feels stalled right now.”

And it does.  House.  Baby.  Body.  Moving.  Church.  It’s all stalled.  Waiting for something?  A jump start?  New spark plugs?  Just more time?  I don’t know, and it’s a tough place to live.

Suddenly here comes November.  November:  The season we remind ourselves to remember to be thankful.  Allow me to be painfully honest when I state that this season of life may very well be one of my hardest seasons ever in which to remember to be thankful.

There you go.

I said it.

It’s out there.

I’ll say it again:  Life right now makes being thankful very, very hard.

I won’t run down a list detailing the current and past hardships that have visited us this past year; those close to us know them all too well.  Those who don’t know might possibly begin searching old posts or calling me - or instead begin warming up to send me a well-intentioned message exhorting me on to thankfulness.  And yes, all my training and upbringing shout at me and quote scriptures and teachings as to why, in spite of everything, I should still be thankful. Be thankful in EVERYTHING!  In EVERYTHING give thanks!

But here’s where I live:

Sometimes the cloud of a heavy heart can turn the natural sunshine of thankfulness to cold shadow. 

Sometimes thankfulness can feel like a mockery to a heart that has days of burning sorrow. 

Sometimes when I remember to be thankful, it turns on me; at some unknown point – today, tomorrow, months from now – everything will change, and these things for which I’m thankful now will then undergo a profound adjustment.  Some will stretch.  Some will break.  Some will simply go away.  But all will be changed.

It can be very hard to be thankful; to purely and simply “give thanks.”

But yet somehow, deep inside, I acknowledge that it’s still important.  I still push myself to do it.  Why?

I find the term “give thanks” woven throughout the Bible.  Sometimes God’s people were told to request things of God in order that, once those requests were granted, they might then give thanks (1 Chronicles 16:35).  Sometimes God’s people first had to give thanks in order that God may then grant their requests (2 Chronicles 20:20-22).  Sometimes God’s people gave thanks spontaneously when things were good; sometimes they just gave thanks because they knew they should. 

Jonah gave thanks after the whale spit him back onto dry land.

Daniel still gave thanks, even when it meant the lions’ den awaited him.

Even David, throughout all of Psalms, gives thanks in all manners and circumstances –sometimes in joy, sometimes in tears.

In Romans, the Word also talks about those who do not give thanks – “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:21-22, emphasis added.)

All through His Word, God encourages, reminds, and requires us to give thanks because, to put it one way, that seems to be what’s best for us.

It’s easy to rattle off a list of the things in my life that I love.  I always love them, even when I’m crying for the things I still yearn for and the things lost in this life. 

But I think being thankful and giving thanks goes deeper than merely regurgitating happy lists.

I’m called to be thankful and to give thanks to God so my heart and life are released from my own desperate grip and God can move more freely.  I’m also called to be thankful so my thinking does not become futile; so my heart does not become foolish and darkened.  This can easily happen when I’m only focused on the shadowy, heartbreaking things of life.  When I do not make the choice to give thanks – to remember all the things God has done, all that He will do, and all that I continue to ask and believe Him to do –  I tighten my grip on my heart and my life, and I spiral down into futility, foolishness, and, ultimately, darkness.

This doesn’t mean that, even after making the difficult choice to give thanks, life is suddenly all sunshiny and rosy again.

God knows that.  It’s why the Word sometimes terms it to “sacrifice thank offerings” (Psalm 50:14, 50:23, 107:22, emphasis added).  Of course, this idea can get very theological and detailed – areas I tend to avoid – but what this tells me, very simply put, is that God knew that giving thanks wasn’t always going to be a joy.  Sometimes it would hurt.  Sometimes it would cost us.  Sometimes giving thanks would be a sacrifice. 

That’s where I live today.    

So here are a few of my thank offerings, a small list of goodness and blessings, which God has poured out onto this foolish heart:

My wonderful, beautiful little family – remarkable husband, marvelous daughter, the promise of children to come and those that await me in Heaven.

My loving, supportive, treasured-beyond-value mother and brothers; my closer-than-a-sister sister-in-law Anne and precious nieces and nephew and those that await me in Heaven.

My godly in-laws, aunts and uncles-in-laws, and fabulous cousins-in-law from whom Jason and I and our children are blessed with a beautiful heritage and who were very important reasons I said yes.

My beautiful home, for as long as it remains mine.  The adventure and promise of another wonderful home down the road.

The kindred spirits I’ve met and whose friendships continue to bloom and grow and bring beauty to my life; the promise of new ones in another plot of earth down the road.

The sweet friends of old who continue to mature and blossom and fill my life with spiritual fruit and loveliness and those who return from time away to bless my life now and then.

The small talents God placed in me that have found root and nourishment in this chapter of my life.  May they grow on!

This is just a small list which, when I read it, inspires more thankfulness and gratefulness than I can include in one already-sprawling blog post. 

I’ll likely read it again and again though, perhaps making another – a private – list to remind me that, though life may feel stalled right now, that's not all there is.  And I'm thankful for that.


Jen Rouse said...

Jess, a beautiful post, as usual. I think you've hit the nail on the head: that sometimes we choose to give thanks because we know it's the right thing to do, whether we feel like it or not. And, I think it's perfectly acceptable to admit that you don't feel like it. God knows us. He knows we're not little joy-robots who can spout happiness all the time. I admire the way you are choosing to continue in thankfulness and trust.

Rebekah said...

That was so good. You fed my soul!

Staci said...

What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing your heart...and for being able to put into words what many of us feel but don't know how to say.

Mom said...

I am crying now. You bless me so much sweet girl...and always have.
Love, Mom.