Friends. I’m thankful for you. And I always write from my heart. And trust me when I say, the last few weeks, my heart hasn’t had much beautiful to write from.
I don’t like change. Just packing for a change of living space for a short vacation gets me into a tizzy. I don’t like change. Goodness knows we’ve seen enough changes in our family – many recently weren’t pretty ones. And here we are at another holiday season. After a survival-mode one last year. Another Thanksgiving Day when I have to find something to be thankful for in the midst of turmoil.
And the thankfulness tree I was planning to do with my kids again this year remains undone in the closet because I just couldn’t manage the energy or time to figure out so many thankful things.
Sure, we’re supposed to be thankful in all things, but does that mean I have to be full of thanks for the kiwi sized brain tumor in my husband’s head? Or what about the injured blood vessel in his cerebellum that caused a stroke 2 days after his super successful surgery that left his entire dominant left side so “weak” (the doctors call it), “paralyzed” (we call it), that he couldn’t swallow, walk, talk, type, or write?
“Dear Jesus, Thank you for the stroke. Amen.” is just not something that’s been spoken in this house. That hurts too much. “Thank you for the skilled surgeons.” sure. But not “Thank you for the brain tumor.”
In fact a few weeks ago, when a close friend’s husband was dealing with a possible cancer diagnosis near his lungs said she was thanking God for the cancer, I corrected her. “Don’t thank Him for that cancer!!! Thank Him for what He’s doing because of that cancer maybe, but not the cancer!”
Being thankful for such things would be such a death to me. I want to fight to hold on to those things – my husband’s quality of life, his job, my security, our dreams, our plans. Being thankful would be saying “I accept. What God has given us, I accept.”
Or, I didn’t.
I used to think (like, yesterday) “In everything, give thanks.” meant being thankful for something in every circumstance. Surely you can always find something good to be thankful for, right? “I’m thankful the tumor wasn’t the size of a cantaloupe.” Or, “I’m thankful the stroke didn’t affect my husband mentally.” But no matter how many ways I look at that verse in so many translations and so many languages – I come up with the same thing. Be thankful. For Everything. For the tumor. For the stroke. For my friend’s cancer. For the faulty DNA that kept my son from seeing my eyes.
Then, I read a few chapters in Hebrews the day before this big day of giving thanks.
A sacrifice of praise. A sacrifice. So something has to die in a sacrifice.
Perhaps a dream. Perhaps a plan. Perhaps a wish. But to sacrifice something, it has to die. To be thankful for something that seems awful, something I’m tightly holding has to die.
And who says thankfulness is a state of being? It’s not. You can’t be thankful until you do thankful. It’s an action.
(willingly) Giving thanks.
In order to give thanks continually, in all things, I have to willingly offer something up to be sacrificed.
It’s not called Thanks-taken Day. If thanks is being taken from you, it’ll look something like this:
“Day 17: Today I’m thankful for my job. Because without it I would probably be back at the bank yelling at the teller who told me my account was over drafted.”
“Day 24: Today I’m thankful for my mom. Because of her I learned what *not* to be to my kids.”
And the month of November ends and the bitterness, the anger, the hurt is all still there. Because we aren’t giving up those frustrations of small bank accounts or giving up some ideal wish of a perfect mother. The irony is, the tighter we hold on to those things, the easier it is for true thanks to be taken away from us.
To give thanks is something different entirely.
To let go of those things – to offer them to an altar of death. To sacrifice those dreams, desires, rights, entitlements, wishes.
Yeah, it hurts. It would look something like this:
“Day 17: Today I’m thankful for my job.”
“Day 24: Today I’m thankful for my mom. Yeah, you know the one. But today, truly, I’m thankful for her.”
Giving thanks for the divorce, for the cruddy father, for the untimely death of a loved one, for the good, the bad, and the oh-so-very ugly.
Not the surgery outcome, not the divorce, not the death of my son, not a different dad, not a different bank account, not a different teacher.
It’s asking for nothing to change because we have God. And He’s enough.
Is it easy? No. That’s why it’s a sacrifice.
But, ironically, until you sacrifice – until you give up those things to their deaths – you will never really live.
“How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can’t I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in.”
― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
For a special Thanksgiving Message from my friend, Ann, herself, watch this:
Thanks to Rebecca Cerasani from www.leighandbecca.com for the family photos the week before surgery. They mean the world to all of us, and give us all something to shoot for on this long recovery road ahead of us.