I think Thankfulness may have become a bit trendy lately. I don’t mean that as a criticism. If there is a trend I’m glad is on the rise, it’s thankfulness. If anything, it’s a nice break from things like, the Selfie. Truthfully, I’m a little late to the party. Maybe this attention to thankfulness has been brewing for a while. Ann Voskamp’s book, 1000 Gifts, was a mouthpiece for the movement a few years ago.
Her book came out on the heels of my deepest wound and I couldn’t connect to the demeanor of thankfulness. If I were asked, I could name things I was thankful for and genuinely mean them. My son, my new daughter, an invested and ever-connected husband, friends, a home. But the posture of thankfulness. The feeling of sincere, deep gratefulness. The awareness of grace and mercy and gifts all around. That would have been a hard fought searching for me then. And I didn’t seem to have it in me. I was fighting for so many other things in that season. Namely, a day without raw sadness and longing, and a knowing of the Jesus who seemed suddenly unfamiliar. That took up so much space for me.
But, I wonder, had I fought for thankfulness, for awareness of goodness and grace- even in the small things, if I wouldn’t have had to fight so hard for peace and for God’s face.
Now, as I see more of myself (both my weakness and my strength) in the face of my children I wonder more about the battle for thankfulness that I surrendered. I see in my kids a struggle with being satisfied with the good things we give them. Things, both tangible and intangible. The gifts we pour out are unnoticed. Maybe so expected they do not register as things to be thankful for.
I see this unfolding in their brief elation with a gift, or a treat, or our attention. How quickly it isn’t enough. The call for more. Or better. Or quicker.
So, we respond. With teaching. Explaining what a gift is. What thankfulness is. And this is good. The teaching and explaining. That’s a large part of our job. But, it is exposing my own heart. Exposing what they might be learning from me that I’m not saying, not actively teaching. Exposing my own thankfulness. Or, sadly, the blatant absence of it.
I’m consumed with the demands of the moments, or the planning or wishing for what is next. The unending need from little people. The potential for the next season of life. The up at night, sick kids, school to do’s, house projects, church growing needs. The hard in the world. The loss and sadness and brokenness. All of that seems to win in my heart.
I’ve recently come across a book and blog by a woman named Kara Tippetts. She is coming to the end of her long, hard fought cancer battle. A wife and a mom of four sweet, young children. She fought, lived well and passionately, but it is on the way to over for her here. And now she has to stumble through the ending. The leaving. If there were ever a time to be consumed with the hard and the loss and the sad. But her joy. Her grip on the gifts of the moments with her people. The thankfulness that washes over her broken heart and body.
I am moved and challenged and astounded by it, and her. And I’m grieved. For her, this woman I will never meet in this life. But, also for what I’ve been missing that she has found. For what joy could have been mine all this while. For seeing the grace of the moments instead of seeing them overshadowed by either the hard or the mundane. For the gift that is the curious and tender hearted 5 year old version of Pearce that will last about a minute more. For the way Loah wants to play with me all of the hours of the day, because of course that won’t be true for all that much longer. For the way Stone runs to me as fast as his little legs can carry him when I walk in the door. For a husband who is also a best friend. For the things I can laugh with only him about. For the lifetime of conversation and companionship we have been given in each other. For the cloud of underserved friendship that has come around me in my joy and in my suffering.
These assumed gifts of mine that Kara longs to have for another forty years instead of the few months she has left. Even so, she lives thankfully in the face of her death. Able to see the gifts of her husband and children and friends. But also able to see the grace in the smallest of gifts in her remaining moments.
What I’m discovering as I watch people like the Kara Tippets of the world, who in their darkest hour are still able to see the grace in even little things, is that they have found the secret to joy, whatever the season. Heavy or light. Despairing or rejoicing. Ordinary or extraordinary.
The secret is thankfulness. And they were practicing it long before the days of their greatest suffering. They were already learned at seeing the grace in the ordinary, the plenty, or the want. And it has made them more aware of the nearness of Jesus, in every season.
It has given them more peace, more joy, more hope. They see Jesus always; in all of the different kinds of moments of their lifetime. They see and experience both the comfort of God’s care in their despair and also the gladness of his gifts in their ordinary days. They see him and know him because of thankfulness.
This was what I was desperate for when I couldn't connect to thankfulness. And this is what I’m desperate for now. Peace, Hope, Joy. Jesus. So, now that I’ve been let in on the secret, now that I’ve been given a glimpse of what it can look like to be sustained by Jesus in the grace he extends, I want to fight hard for thankfulness.