When you become a parent, it seems you think a lot more about what you're going to leave behind. You wonder if you're teaching the right lessons; the most important lessons. You wonder what kind of legacy will be left in the hearts of your children. You're curious as to whether or not what you're insisting on is the right thing. You analyze your life and actions and think, "Am I a good example?" And we think the big things as we are in the middle of it all; as we demand that they not throw toys in anger or kick furniture and beat their small foreheads on the kitchen floor in a torrential rain of toddler angst.
There are many moments in my life that have shaped who I am. Who I am with God. There are people who have done things, said things (good and less good) that have molded, pushed, challenged, hurt, healed. Some I know, some I only read their words in books and on blogs. But their walks with the Lord - their transparency of their own struggles, their own search to the full life - has shaped mine. And in turn, it shapes my children.
Earlier this year I wasn't in a good place. Outwardly I was still there, doing the right things, but inwardly I was not in a good place. I was not in a place of peace or joy. It was all fear and anxiety and overwhelming, crippling fear. It was sadness and grief, despair and broken pieces in my bleeding hands. But all that changed when I began to learn the art... the very Biblical act... of giving thanks. For everything.
Someone, from their experience, dug a well that drowned my thirsty, aching, hot soul. I came along and it was cool on my face and my hands dipped low and lifted high. My life did not change. Circumstances remained what they were and in fact, harder things came along the way. But I stood at the well and peered in and the depths were infinite and whether I knelt to cry or knelt to praise, I was grateful for all the pieces that I had been given - whether seemingly deserved or not. And the more I gave thanks, the less I thought about what I was owed... I was just plain grateful that I had anything at all in the first place.
I began writing points, every day, in a journal. One by one, every little thing that made me pause or think, "Wow, this is remarkable when
you think of it." I wrote it down. I wrote about birds and cool air. I wrote down iced coffees and quiet times and baby naps that lasted longer than I had hoped, giving me a break I didn't know I had needed until it was given to me. I wrote and smiled as I logged moments with my son and I would watch him and his Daddy wrestle and I would write that down, too. The blessings all mine.
I've said before that I think it's so very important for all of us to tell our stories. To tell the hard ones and the easy ones. To talk about the messy, to not pretend. To put to death the proud, got-it-all-together and dig toes into sand and thrust arms elbow deep into unknown waters to sift and search and mine. To walk through the waters and know He is there. And to talk about it. To walk through the fire and know He is there. And to talk about it. The nights when the babies won't sleep and the days when the phone call comes and drops our knees and drives our heart into our throats. All of it.
And all is grace.
A few weeks or more ago our Pastor said that grace is receiving what we don't deserve. If you started making a list, do you think it would be hard to fill? If you recognize that you deserve nothing that you have, that all is a gift, how would that change you? Would you dig a hole and drill a well of your own? Would you open up the wide mouth to receive from God whatever, whenever, because all is grace? Would the throat smooth and stretch to accept, to swallow, to whisper, "Thank you." ? Would your well fill and brim and would it be there, standing, blessed water to refresh and feed another heart who has given up or bitten their nails down to skin or cried until they are bone dry?
Mornings ago I read in Charles Spurgeon's well loved devotional, Morning & Evening, that we should not despair when there are hard times. For one, if we do that, how are we different than those who do not profess Jesus as Lord? How are we, in those moments of complaint, doing service to the grace and power we claim we have been given? Do we mumble and thrash against God? Do we kick the legs of the coffee table or slam our head down onto our plate when it's not what we want (like my son does)? Why? Why do we do that when we know the God that we have? The unbelief give up, but they don't have our God.
Giving thanks for the small may feel like child's play. When you're giving thanks for warm showers and afternoons at the park and Friday night pizza. But is He not our Father? And are we not His children? Is there ever a time when "thank you" is not appreciated? Ever a time when an accepting, "I'll take whatever You give." spirit isn't welcomed and blessed?
When I was a kid, my sister and I would often go with my Dad to go visit my grandfather on Sunday afternoons. My Grandfather had Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and there weren't many toys at the house, but we gladly went. We would play with the half-door in the kitchen, marveling at it being just our size and enjoying those black and orange wrapped peanut butter candies. It seemed they were specifically for Halloween and yet there were always in that dish on the shelf by the door. When we would leave, we would sit in the backseat and whisper and nudge, "You ask! No, you!" and say quietly, earnestly, down-right-hopefully, "Daddy? Can we go to Dairy Queen?" Sometimes he would look at us in the rearview mirror, smile and take us directly there for Blizzards. Other times he would say, "Not tonight." and we would go home with non-sweetened tongues.
But we quickly learned that if we accepted Dad's, "No." with a good attitude and didn't throw a fit or beg or kick the back of the seat, that he would many times drive us straight to where we wanted so much to go. Sometimes we accepted his "No." with hope that our sweet dispositions would get us what we wanted. That wasn't always the case. Sometime we went straight home anyway. But sometimes? Sometimes we got that Blizzard and went home in pure delight. Little hearts brimming; tummies happy.
I've learned that it's not even about the end, anymore. It's not about whether we get the ice cream or the job or the dream we can't give up. It's about our response. Biblically, God-glorifying, it is about our response to what He gives... good, bad, big, small.
When it comes to what we leave behind... whether it's lessons instilled or good, sound doctrine or Biblical knowledge... I want to leave a well. I want them to know where to go when they are thirsty. I want them to know that giving thanks every time is what they, as God's, should be doing. Giving thanks enlarges your life. The realm of everything grows out of your reach when you recognize how blessed you truly are. It's no longer about what is or isn't. It's about what you have been given, right now and it's a lot. It's worth noting.
It's worth saying, "Thanks." for. Or better, simply, "Amen."
"Give thanks in all
c i r c u m s t a n c e s,
for this is
God's will for you."
~ I T h e s s a l o n i a n s 5 : 1 8