I was planning to write on Thanksgiving evening, but then life happened. Barnes came down with pneumonia so writing had to wait. But now he is actually in his own bed (for the moment), and there is a window of peace, so....
A friend once told me a story passed on to her by another mom. This mom would explain light and God and truth and love to her children in this way: imagine the darkest room possible. If you turn on a tiny flashlight in that dark, dark room, can you see it? Yes, of course. No matter how dark the room is, you can see the light. The light is always stronger than the darkness.
I have held on to and loved this for a long time. And this year, in contemplating Thanksgiving, this story kept coming to mind. On Thanksgiving morning this year, I immediately began crying. I looked at Andrew, my amazing teammate and life partner, listened to the playroom full of kids, thought about the new life growing, and said to him, "I feel like I have everything I ever wanted." We have so much. Truly. I have a million reasons to be thankful. But not every year has felt this way. And even this year, there are some crazy hard things going on. People I love that are hurting. Uncertainty on so many fronts. There are lots of reasons for the room to be dark. And so many people's rooms are so much darker than I can even imagine. But we have access to a light. When we turn our hearts toward gratefulness, even in the hardest moments, even if for just a split second, we find some light. You see, I believe that stopping to give thanks, intentionally choosing gratefulness, ignites that flashlight. And the flashlight, no matter how small, can always be seen in the darkness.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." My friends, that is quite a challenge. How many times do I feel more like cursing my situation than finding words of thanks? But I'm beginning to think that Paul doesn't say this as a simple platitude. Instead, maybe he is giving us advice on how to get through even the rough times. You see, while I know it is good and right to thank God, I don't think he really "needs" to hear our thank yous. I think, perhaps, the recommended gratefulness is far more beneficial to the thanker than the thankee. We give thanks in the good. We give thanks in the terrible. And either way, our grateful hearts shine in whatever darkness we find ourselves. Our thanks lights our way and lightens our burden. And the light is always stronger than the darkness.