November 28, 2013

in all circumstances

Thanksgiving is a popular time of year to declare all the good things in our lives, the things and experiences and people who make life sweet and good. This is much easier to do when life is, in fact, sweet and good. But what about when things aren't going so well? How do we cultivate hearts of gratitude when our plans go awry, our dreams unmet?

The past 13 weeks, 14 really if you include my week of labor (another story for another time), have been like riding a wave of emotion. Holding my sweet Pete in my arms, watching his long eyelashes float to sleep, seeing him take in all this big beautiful world, watching my husband become a father before my eyes-- it doesn't get much better than this. It is all so much more, so much bigger, so much more beautiful than I ever imagined. In these moments, gratitude comes easily and prayers of thanksgiving slip easily from my mouth. 

But, but... when labor pains come each night, keeping me awake and gripping the sofa, wondering if this is it, but fading to nothing at sunrise, how then? When my sweet boy can only sleep in contact with my body and my body hurts from so much rocking, so much sitting, and the dishes pile up, how then? When I fall hard and the boy is crying and I'm crying and it is a fracture in my fibula and I can't leave the couch for weeks, and my own healing is put on hold for every diaper change, every rocking to sleep time, every single nighttime nursing, how can I give thanks? 

I am learning things I never knew I needed to learn. In only three months of parenthood, my heart has been turned inside out, wrung out and hung up to dry. In the wringing, in the anxiety, in the pain, the Lord has been whispering, see? This is how much I love you. And He has shown me through tiny baby toes, and friends gathering round to wash and feed and carry and care. He has shown me through a baby who sleeps sweetly until morning and smiles at my voice and laughs at a very silly octopus toy. I'm beginning to see that one doesn't happen without the other, and the greatest joys also sometimes come with the greatest pain. 

Paul's charge in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is the cry of my heart and the measuring stick of my days. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." So simple... and so difficult. But this is God's will. This year I am deeply thankful for a God who gives and loves so abundantly, and has unending grace for this ungrateful creature who constantly forgets to turn it back to Him in praise.

happy thanksgiving, Katie

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