When I was growing up, we would travel 3 hours to Norfolk a couple times a year to see my great Aunt Dorothy. Some things she did have stuck with me for a lifetime — she let us have bubble baths every night, try on her fancy earrings, and eat hot dogs for breakfast. Years later, one tiny memory about her helped me find my lost thankfulness. Whenever we ate she would give thanks and pray…
“Come Lord Jesus be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed…
Now that’s where my sister and I would stop. But Great Aunt Dorothy would continue the prayer with words we didn’t know…
“Oh give thanks unto the Lord for he is GOOD and his mercy endures forever. Amen.”
My sister and I always thought it was a funny way to end the prayer, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized she was quoting a psalm.
Psalm 100 titled “A psalm. For giving thanks.”says,
“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his,
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100 NIV emphasis mine)
The thing is, scripture is not to be read only when times are good. This psalm is not true only when my circumstances are hunky dory. Sometimes the sweetest joy and thankfulness in my life has come during or after deep pain and loss because my joy is not surface level– it is God’s joy digging deep into my broken heart.
Sometimes the sweetest joy and thankfulness in my life has come during or after deep pain and loss because my joy is not surface level– it is God’s joy digging deep into my broken heart.
Last year at this time I was driving once a week to visit my sweet Grandma Irene Johnson in her hospice room. Her husband, children and grand children had decked her room out with so many photos and plants and Christmas decorations you could almost pretend we were meeting in her living room. Still, I had to pump myself up to get there. To face the reality that she was slipping away and I couldn’t keep her here much longer.
It’s hard to be thankful when that’s your reality during the holidays. Most of us have had pain creep in stealing memories and time from family. But God is so good to step into our pain and comfort our hearts.
On the way from Gretna to Bellevue I listened to my favorite gospel song with my hands in the air, begging God to show up in our few precious moments. And on the way home I would do the same. Hands up praising him, tears down my hot red cheeks, thanking him for blessing our time.
I thanked Him for the chance He gave my oldest son to read one of His first books to her.
I thanked Him for the silliness and joy my two littles provided to make her smile.
I thanked Him for the chance to ask her questions and and talk about flowers.
And I thanked Him for one more hug. One more afternoon. One more goodbye.
I found that praising God came easy in those moments when I was uncertain and not in control, and I found my thankfulness and comfort and peace and even joy in the wisdom of scripture like Psalm 100.
That season gave me a new appreciation that ‘the Lord is God’ in hard moments and ‘we are His’.
That season gave me a new appreciation that ‘the Lord is God’ in hard moments and ‘we are His’. That not even death can take us from him. That He is always good no matter what and that His love and faithfulness go on past this life and these struggles. Mostly I was thankful that I got to know Jesus’ love and comfort more and that He was simply with me in my pain.
This Thanksgiving, a year later, is still sprinkled with a mixture of sadness and thankfulness. Life goes on living, but a piece of my heart is in the ground with her. Still, I will put my hands up the rest of my life, praising the Lord who is our God, thankful that He is good, and that His love breaks through to the other side of eternity.