It's late here and the end of another Thanksgiving, but before I settle in with a book to read, I had a few thoughts to share. I've spent a lot of time this year searching for gratitude and an attitude of thanksgiving, so this year's celebration was one that kind of capped that search. One thing I've discovered in the middle of struggle is that remembering God loves me and praising Him and thanking Him makes all of the struggles seem small by comparison. If you look at a sunset or stand at the edge of the vast ocean or look down from the heights of clouds out of the window of an airplane, you get a sense of how very small you are. But I think that sometimes, in the grand scheme of life, we tend to forget those moments and start to imagine that life revolves around us. Life becomes very small when it involves only our little world.
I had a few of those melancholy thoughts today because our little corner of life is so much smaller than it once was. When our kids were young, life was crazy busy, holidays chaotic, shopping and baking and party planning took time and energy and we tended to rush through it, even as we hurried to capture the moments before the blur ended. If not for pictures, my memory might not be so good because as soon as January turned the corner, it was off to the next birthday or school schedule or planned activity or this-is-supposed-to-be-fun vacation.
But now, life is a little slower. And the kids don't rush down the stairs to eat that big turkey dinner with the extra stuffing and at least two kinds of pie. While we weren't alone for the Thanksgiving meal, things weren't the same. Life isn't the same.
But this year I can guarantee life changed in some way or another for every person on this planet. I don't always notice that in my work-from-home office. But as I've gotten to know more people at church or out in the world this year, I've seen that beneath the veneer of cheerfulness, we all struggle. We all have bad days, difficult weeks, frustrating circumstances, challenging relationships, upsetting health issues. Some of us just hide our struggles better than others do.
Some of us are standing on the shores of life feeling very small. We wonder if things will ever get better. We battle emotions we don't know what to do with. And we don't know where to turn.
I've felt that way this past year. There was a point at which I was not sure I could take any more stuff. My world had become very small and wrapped around me.
But God...don't you love those words?
God has taught me so much in those moments. And when pain increased, so did prayer. I started to fight my way out of despair and took a big risk. I began to truly praise the Lord in the middle of those storms. While I was seeking a hand to pull me up, I found it in gratitude and praise and thanksgiving for what God had already done for me, what He is still going to do through me, and with all those things I've entrusted to Him. Sometimes my only words are "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come."
And yet those words--words of Scripture spoken back to the One who first uttered them, are filled with such grace. And grace brings gratitude. Grace is a treasure, a pearl of great price, a reason for thanks giving.
Were there good times this year? Absolutely! But there were a lot of changes too, and that's when my world seems small because adjusting to new phases of life takes me a bit of time. And yet, in light of eternity, I don't have to think the world revolves around me. My world expands and grows, explodes with joy and wonder as I gaze heavenward and watch the sunset or toward the things God has made that are so much bigger, grander than me.
The heavens declare the glory of God. They're shouting His praises just by being!
On this Thanksgiving, I can do the same.