Monday, November 17, 2014

Ramblings on the messy side of Gratitude

So this month as a family we are focusing our conversations around gratitude. We have all memorized "In this house we will giggle"'s cute, catchy definitions and verses about it. But as I "teach" my kids about gratitude, the more I really dig in, I realize gratitude is getting messier as I grow deeper in my faith. We made a gratitude tree and each night we clip a clothespin on it with something we are thankful for. There is a lot in the surface of my life I am grateful for: our church, my husband's job, 4 amazing kids, a growing and caring marriage, family close by, etc. But the more I really think about the moments in my life where it was the most impactful and thus I am the most grateful, I realize those moments at the time were the deepest valleys, the heaviest weights, the sharpest of pains. God is taking me to a place in my walk with him that I am most thankful for my moments of suffering. It wasn't something that could've been muttered in the moment, in the moment, on the contrary, I was shouting at him, clawing to get out of the pit, or empty and angry. But as he brings me out of different challenges, I see looking back that in my suffering I am so near to him. In my hardest times I am clinging to him with desperation and dependency. I am drinking in the Word like it is my only water source. Then when life gets "easy" again, I tend to go on autopilot or coast through my relationship with him without recognizing that level of dependence still should exist.
I thought on my drive home last night, what were some of the moments I felt most alive with God and thus so grateful for, I came up with a tough list... clinging to the leg of my best friend of 10 years as he took his last breath, walking the streets of a country hostile to Christians and feeling the physical weight press on my chest for God's love for them, praying over my new child with my husband as she was just a shell of a girl overcome by trauma and grief, the impossible weeks that followed in a violent country where I was being tested from every direction, the days where my marks of motherhood were spit in my face, claw marks on my chest, and a child that ran from me. Those are the glory days of my faith. Not when I felt like I had it all together and health, wealth and happiness all lined up in a pretty package for me.
So as we clip our moments of gratitude on our tree I see it is not just me that is thankful for the messier things in life: my son has clipped on God cleaning out the yuck in his heart, our daughter that we are made creatively unique, our other daughter wrote her birth mother and that God gives us joy when we are sad. Our tree from the outside is not a pretty picture of words like money, health, and happiness; although we are deeply grateful for such things. Yet, I find myself increasingly more appreciative for the times where he strips me of "self strength" and I land in a place where nothing makes sense but him. I can taste him more in that place, I need to breathe him in there, and he shows up, maybe not in the way I was asking him to or how the world would think looks like an answer to prayer, but he is there. So this all leads to a shift in the outlook on my life. Instead of spending my days anxious over future suffering or avoiding it at all costs, I am finding a new level of trust and peace in what he has for me. As I wrote a letter to a friend who is struggling to belong, fighting identity in Christ, wrestling with the pain of her adoption, I thanked God for giving me a space to prepare myself. It will most likely be my daughter in that place, he could be preparing my heart to walk through this with my child. As John and I have walked several couples through affair and divorce, where I used to be overcome with anxiety hoping it doesn't happen to me, I have traded it for a quiet trust, a trust that knows my circumstance is not at the root of my joy, a Good God is. A God who works all things together for my good, even if that means suffering. It is a freeing place. And although I still selfishly desire an easy, comfortable life, I know deeper that may not be the way God wants to draw me to himself. I am reminded of sitting in a church in Kenya as a man stood up to say "I just need to thank God for AIDS, getting HIV was like gold to me, otherwise I would not know Jesus how I do now." This is the life I want. Grateful in ALL things. Having a new lens and a new perspective to see the pain and hardship we will walk through. So come what may, it is well. I believe He knows, I believe He is good... to me, I believe he works all things for my good and his glory.  Like the words of Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the wardrobe, "Safe? said Mr. Beaver; "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king I tell you."

I've been reading "Every bitter thing is sweet", she challenges a question to my heart, do I simply believe God is good, or do I believe he is me? Even in my suffering? 
post signatureWhere are you at in your gratitude journey with God? When have the deepest times in your walk been? How is the theme of gratitude shifting in your journey?

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