Every day ought to be Thanksgiving Day. A grateful heart is good medicine for the soul; in fact it is the key to a healthy soul. It took me over 50 years to realize this and it took me that long to realize that every day is so full of His grace that even when I try and capture it all I fail utterly and completely. Some days I fail in even attempting to capture the blessings.
A few years ago, God used a little book and a wonderful lady from Washington State, to teach me about gratitude, or at least to start me on the journey of learning about gratitude. Times were hard then, it had been a long dark night of the soul with no end in sight. My little family had sent a loved one to war twice, had spent near two years holding our breath and trying to be normal while a dear one fought in faraway lands. We were also dealing with a dark and painful mental illness here at home, one we did not understand and often could not make sense of. One that took a heavy toll from me, and from both my sons. Then my husband’s company closed their doors and money became extremely tight forcing him to seek work out of state. For two long years we lived apart, seeing each other one weekend out of the month and talking on the phone each evening. Then at last the war was over for us, the husband found work here, and it seemed that things were looking up. But the dark mental illness continued and to add to it, the son we had held our breath for was now trying to deal with the aftermath of war and loss. Then we had the first suicide, my beautiful daughter in law who had struggled so hard against the darkness of mental illness. Her death hit like a wrecking ball, a wave of pain so intense, so awful that it just cannot be described. I had just a few weeks to try and breathe try and make some sense of that which cannot be made sense of, try and keep my son alive and then came the second suicide, my handsome nephew, husband and father of two. A few weeks after flying home from that funeral, a little book arrived in my mailbox, sent by a kind lady in Washington who had ministered to my daughter in law.
“One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are”, by Ann Voskamp. It was almost an affront to receive such a thing at such a time. After all, what did I have to be thankful for? And yet in reading it I began to see, I began to notice, I began to count the blessings. There were days when all I could come up with were the little things, “thank You Lord for coffee, thank You Lord for dogs” but as I practiced daily this art of counting the gifts I began to notice how blind I had been, and how wonderful it was to finally be able to see. To really see the beauty of life, the beauty of creation, the beauty of souls. My situation was still the same, nothing had changed about it, family members were still struggling hard in absolute darkness, and there were many times when we feared we would lose them to the darkness, feared yet another funeral, and yet something within me had changed.
Giving thanks changes you, and the more you practice it the more you will be changed. There are ALWAYS the gifts He gives. There is beauty in the hard places, but we so often miss it completely because our lack of gratitude blinds our eyes to all the grace being poured out.
So today, this Thanksgiving 2015, I give thanks to God most high, for the love, the intense and beautiful love that holds on no matter what, the love that just will not let go, the love that saves and redeems. I give thanks for family, a family that looks out for each other, sacrifices for each other, and a family that has known pain and become all the stronger from it. I give thanks for beauty, the beauty of creation and the beauty of the human soul in all its suffering and in all its joy. I give thanks for sacrifice, for in sacrificing for others true love becomes known and understood. Love is pouring out your all for others. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, love hurts, your fur gets rubbed off, you get a bit ragged and worn, but oh how worth it is to truly love! And last, but by no means least, I give thanks for the grace, grace poured out without measure, grace that falls like rain, grace that has sustained me and the ones I so love, grace that has saved and redeemed, grace that has blessed, marvelous outrageous grace.
My prayer for us all is that the Lord most high would open our eyes to the gifts He gives, that we might always be a people of Thanksgiving, and that He would open our hearts that we might love with a measure of His love, and that we would be people of grace, giving it out to each other, as He gives it out to us.
May your Thanksgiving Day be blessed. Remember our imperfections as you go about your day. No matter how hard you try, it will not be perfect. So give grace to the loved one that drinks a little more than they should, and grace to the one who arrives late to the table, and grace to the one that is loud and brash and ungrateful, and grace to the one who weeps and disrupts attempts to be happy, and grace to all the other disruptions and mistakes that might somehow mar your attempts for the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. For it is by grace that we are saved, and He has poured it out on us, so let us pour it out today on each other.
Remember those with an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table, whether it be those deployed in harm's way, or those deployed to heaven.