If I am completely honest, I have to tell you that negativity is something I have struggled with. God used a long period of grief to teach me that gratitude is a key to freedom. Gratitude is the road to joy. He used the grief to undo me.
Being undone isn’t worth anything unless we’re re-done. Transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1) to be more Christ-like. God heals our hearts and he heals our minds. Sometimes it’s supernaturally instantaneous. Often times it’s supernaturally slow! Being re-made in Christ’s image is this process of becoming.
God used Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts to teach me to focus on my blessings instead of the hurt and the hard.
If you haven’t read this wonderful book, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I so recommend taking the time to read it. Her style is poetic and her experience is one many can relate to on one level or another. A habit I adopted was the challenge she posed: record 3 blessings a day. They can be big or small, spiritual or physical… anything that gives you joy. Not only did I adopt the habit, but I made it part of our family home-school journey.
Three blessings a day=1000 blessings a year.
Isn’t that amazing? When each child is old enough, we start a “Thankful List” in a spiral notebook with their name on it. The first page begins, “I am thankful for…” and the rest of the lines are numbered with the conclusion of the sentence.
I love it. I help the young ones write their list and the older kids write their own. I get to check them. I get to see how they notice God’s hand. Sometimes their thoughts are so profound. They teach me. They make me thankful. And they love looking back and remembering. The older girls have gone through several notebooks. They often record more than 3 blessings a day too.
Then there is the spelling list. 🙂 I often clue into vocabulary and spelling that we need to work on!!
Toward the end of March I sat down with my 7 year old and his notebook. “Tell me what you’re thankful for.” I motioned for him to share.
“Well,” he began, “the thing is, I don’t really have anything to be thankful for today.”
“How can that be?” I asked him.
“Well, you know,” he began… “the Corona Virus.”
And thus opened a door. A flood door. I can’t even remember half of what we discussed to be able to share with you. But what I do want to share is that trials are opportunities to see God’s touch in even bigger ways. This thing has made me aware of so much good that I have taken for granted. Blessings that were there all along. I just didn’t see them. And that’s what I shared with my son. We wrote almost a page of blessings instead of only 3. Half a page of blessings that have actually come into view through the inconvenience.
Like toilet paper. Right? Who knew it could be so hard to buy when you need it? So the fact that I bought a case of toilet paper simply because we needed it, and I was completely ignorant of the fact that store shelves would be completely empty the next day, is a blessing!!
I’m thankful that I get to see my oldest daughter, and sit to talk with her every evening, just like we used to do. What a disappointing inconvenience for her that her first year away at a Christian college where she was loving her routine was interrupted, and she had to move home to finish school online. Try to do piano and voice lessons through Zoom! But it is a blessing to have her here. A special gift to be able to extend this precious time together because she is grown and will not always be here.
The next two daughters have been at the community college this year, and all state schools moved online. I’m so thankful that we have enough good computers to allow all three of our college students to have the online time they need to complete their classwork. It’s a lot of computer hours and we were not equipped last year. God provided before we knew this would be an issue.
I am so, SO thankful that the younger children and I were already homeschooling and we did not have to experience an interruption to our school year. We can continue to do what we were already doing, and their summer will not be shortened. In fact, some of them will finish their required course work early.
That farmer from over at the Hillman church who gave us a freezer full of pork back in December? I was thankful for him then. Now I see God’s forethought in providing meat for our family during a time when the stores are imposing limits that are challenging for very large families, and shelves have been empty of chicken and other affordable meats. I am thankful that my menu plan has plenty of protein for these growing kids.
And that case of eggs that showed up on my cold garage shelf this week? I have no idea where it came from, but with the difficulty I’ve had in finding eggs to feed a family of 11 who eat a lot of low carb dishes, that mysterious 5 dozen eggs is a love letter from my Provider.
We bought a cheap economy car to save money on gas and insurance, but the DMV has been CLOSED so we couldn’t transfer the title to drive it. On a tip that they were going to have a drop box last week, I called over there… and called… and called… and when they finally answered, this precious woman walked me through filling out all their office work on the title so we could come up with a fee total. I was able to put the signed title and check in an envelope in the drop box, and they mailed me plates and tabs. Never would I have been so grateful for completing that task under normal circumstances.
I’m thankful for our acreage where the kids can spread out and explore, collect maple sap that we’ll turn into syrup this weekend, and just get sunshine. They don’t have to worry about social distancing in the yard!
As of midnight last Friday, we in Minnesota were told by state government to shelter in place. Thankfully, groceries are still okay to buy, we can take walks, and pastors can still travel to minister to those who need them. It’s an inconvenience, but it can also be an adventure. God has placed so many people on my heart to lift up in prayer. The lonely, the sick, the bereaved, and those who are losing jobs. It is certain there are unseen consequences in many arenas. Yet, I am so aware of God’s sovereignty, even in this.
Especially in this.
“Be still and know that I am God,” He said.
Slow down and know. He is seated on His throne. Satan may have plans to kill, steal and destroy, but he can’t win. God is always one step ahead. God is always good. He always turns the tables and uses the crud for good. For our good, when we love and trust Him. For the good of those we come in contact with when we share why we’re not afraid. No matter what hard things happen, the story isn’t over for those whose lives are hidden in Christ.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
So MUCH to be thankful for!