It seems impossible that another Thanksgiving Day has come and gone but I’m still basking in the afterglow. Our gathering was a smallish one this time; just eighteen of us for dinner. We were blessed to have our entire family, my husband’s parents, our kids and all our grandkids. Four generations gathered at the table, what a privilege. A dear friend joined us as did my nephew, his wife and their precocious two year old daughter.
The youngsters are getting tall; bony and leggy as young horses. They range in age from almost 6 to barely 16 and they’re beginning to EAT like horses, too! It was noisy, messy and joyful pandemonium, just the way I love it. Later in the day the fifteen “youngest” of us went to a Disney movie and took up two whole rows! I looked at all those precious faces in the dim light, illuminated by the flickering movie screen and I was flooded, overcome and overflowing with gratitude. (A little bit of it even leaked out of my eyes.)
The year is almost over; the busy days are zipping by so quickly it takes my breath away. I want to press pause for just a bit so I can take it all in. I want to take a step back and replay some of the moments of our lives in 2014 before I hit the resume button and it all whizzes by. The days can’t be paused, so I have to still myself. My mind and my emotions must slow down sometimes, something extremely tough for me to do.
There were some hard times, disappointments and setbacks this year. Thankfully, nothing as bad as what I see others experience. But you know, I’ve had a personal epiphany. I have read this and heard this over and over again but I finally understand it, embrace it and believe it! We should give thanks for everything! (1 Thessalonians 5:18) And everything means everything, even the hard, the hurtful and the heartbreaking. It’s easy to be thankful for golden, precious moments like I had this week.
Here is the kernel of wisdom I finally understand. I always knew it but never wanted to embrace it. It is only by the trails we grow stronger, kinder, wiser and more patient. Comfort and ease do not contribute to compassion, gratitude or endurance. Who wants to accept that? It’s the original tough love. God in His infinite wisdom knows what we really need to grow closer to him and to become more Christ-like.
I am humbled and touched by some young friends I know. For months they have struggled with a painful, mysterious medical problem that has made it impossible for the husband to work. They have been seeking medical treatment requiring them to be far away from home for long stretches of time and have experienced lots of frustration in finding answers. But do you what she posted on Thanksgiving? “I am thankful for the test this year, for without it, we wouldn’t have the testimony and we wouldn’t be able to give all thanksgiving and praise to God for moments like this…moments that last year, we simply took for granted.”
Hundreds of people have been impacted by observing the strong, trusting faith this couple has shown through a difficult time. Their journey has truly become a testimony. Intentionally or not, the way we live is our personal sermon to everyone who sees how we handle life’s disappointments as well as our blessings. Another wise young friend of mine tells her religious ed students that sometimes watching what we say and what we do is the closest to a Bible some people ever get.
The book of James is one of my favorites and here is what he had to say on the subject; James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (It will take a lot more work and effort on my part to reach that level of acceptance but I will keep trying!)
For now, here is something a beautiful Christian friend shared with me. “Only GOD can turn a MESS into a MESSage, a TEST into a TESTimony, a TRIal into a TRIumph, a VICTim into a VICTory. GOD is GOOD… all the time!