It was November of 2012. The fog and endless winter rain that comes upon the Pacific Northwest had settled over our valley. Days upon days of cold gray weather were a physical expression of the heaviness and dreariness that permeated my own soul.
Six months prior we had buried my dad. A man who loved the Lord and was an anchor for our family. This would be the first holiday season without him. I was still raw with grief and frustrated in seeking my own understanding of the reasons God had taken him so soon.
I have always been an avid reader and God, over the years, has often brought books to speak to my heart and heal me. Outside of His words in Scripture, I see others thoughtful, perceptive writing as a gift. It will come to me in the times I need it most and is like a familiar voice on the other end of the phone.
This particular season I picked up a book on gratitude. I will be honest, I was looking for joy. I was looking for hope. I was seeking a tiny bit of relief from the constant cries of my heart. I didn’t feel like giving thanks. To be honest I was afraid to heal.
Would healing mean I didn’t care?
Would accepting mean I would forget?
Have you experienced this? Have you been in a place of such inner turmoil, or just frustration that you seem to be “going through the motions”? You are looking for something to ease the hurt and calm the seas that want to overwhelm, but you are afraid to let go of the hurt because you aren’t sure what that might mean?
As Jesus does for each of us, His words spoke life back into my being that November. The book on gratitude, coupled with my intentional seeking, brought me to a much needed place of renewal.
Sometimes, in the midst of our muck, we can find our way out by looking at what is in our midst.
That November, I got out a small green journal. I was tired of circling around the “what I don’t have”. So everyday I spent 5 minutes writing down as many things as I could that I was thankful for. Here are some of the things I reflected on.
It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t even fun some days. But it was simple and it brought me small smiles. It was a reminder that God calls us to
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
God wants us to be thankful. It is is his will for us. As painful as it can be, this thanks brings about a discovery.
Just as a little kid learning to ride their bike for the first time, discovery in gratitude has the end result of joy. The delight and excitement that a seven year old finds as they pedal that bike down the road for the very first time is the same feeling we experience as we slowly and deliberately find gratitude in our lives and focus on praising our Creator.
As the days wore on, my sadness remained, but my heart took on a new sense of peace. I was able to get my own kids involved in this process. Their precious writing of our family’s gratitude brings tears to my eyes almost 8 years later.
What they saw as areas of gratitude that hard winter are physical reminders to me that God wants us to be ever mindful of the good He does in our lives.
God never promised an easy road. As a matter of fact, He came to this earth BECAUSE it isn’t an easy road. He is the HOPE and the JOY that this groaning world is looking for.
I pulled out this journal the other day and realized for whatever reason we had stopped at about 200 things we were thankful for. Since then, I have added another 100.
Gratitude isn’t just for when we feel sad, or when we feel lost or overwhelmed. Gratitude should be a state of the heart as posture to our King. He gave everything to create a bridge for us to be able to access Him.
I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them and give them gladness for sorrow. Jeremiah 31:13
I am certain you have stories you could tell of all of the circumstances you have walked through or are currently facing.
I know that these stories would make us laugh and cry together. If we had the luxury of sitting together by a warm fire with a cup of hot cider this season and talking them over we would each learn something from one another. We would be able to remind each other that Jesus brings joy when we praise Him despite the mud and the muck.
Trust in him at all times O people, pour out your hearts before him, God is a refuge for us! Psalm 62:8