I think of things for which I am thankful. (See what I did there? How I avoided ending my sentence with a preposition? It was tempting. Sometimes, I just WANT to. Like that. Because, I know it will annoy all of the grammar nerds out there over 30, who actually take offense at such careless oversight! …But I digress.)
I think of things for which I am THANKFUL. The list is pretty long. It’s getting longer by the hour, actually. You see, a lot of people are thankful for THINGS. And, well, I am too, but it’s not really the THINGS, it’s the people behind them. It’s what the THINGS represent, to me, the love they hold, the memories. (Yes, I am about to break out in the song from CATS, sung best by Barbara Streisand and imitated poorly by me with my hairbrush in front of my bedroom mirror. “Memories….of the moments of my life…Little something colored memories… of the way we were.” I can NEVER remember lyrics. When I sang in high school, my absolute, number one, most horrible FEAR was standing on stage with a microphone in hand, starring dumbfounded at a completely, still audience with NO words to sing. It’s kind of like that dream which repeats itself, where someone is chasing you and you are running to get away, all the while you are screaming at the top of your lungs, “Aaaaaaahhhhhh!”, but there’s no sound. Nothing. Just your mouth hanging open,… Yeah, just like that. But, I digress. Again, sorry. It’s all of theses medications. I blame them.)
I think of things I’m thankful for. (Ha ha! I did it. Such a rebel.) There are so many things God has given me through the kindness of people who love me. I call them “friends” because that’s the word people use to describe people who aren’t related to you, but who care about you, as if you WERE, actually, biologically connected, but I don’t like it. It seems…lacking, at least for the amazing people in MY life. I wish there was a better word. I will make one up someday when I can put all of the fullness of love and kindness I have been shown into one, single word. Wow. That’s quite the challenge! For now though, can I just tell you about them? They are pretty awesome and I am so very thankful.
My friend gave me this couch and a side chair to go with it. Do you know WHY she did that? She wanted me to have something new, which was mine. I had a couch. It was a good couch- comfortable, pretty. But, it belonged to a person in my life who was quite toxic and controlling. The couch, although a good couch, brought with it, bad memories, and the lingering presence of this past, unhealthy relationship. God has healed me from these memories and the wounds, but the couch was STILL in my living room. I had nowhere close to the amount of money one would need to buy a new couch. So, along came my friend. She drove me to a furniture store and let me pick out whatever couch I liked. I got to choose! Do you know how very cool that was? To be able to decide for myself what piece of furniture would be the focal point of my home? Well, it was amazing! So, I am thankful for my couch. But, I am more thankful for my sweet friend, who searched deeper into our friendship and saw a gap in my heart. She decided to give a gift to fill a gap, which Jesus had restored and made ready. Now, when I see my couch, I think of her and her love for me. I think of how she loved well and sacrificed much to give me back my dignity, my value, ownership over my space. I think of how she was sensitive to my feelings and noticed, on her own, something she could change. I am thankful for my couch because it reminds me of the way Jesus loves me. And for THAT kind of love, the word “friend” is just not enough!
This is my bed. It’s the absolute BEST bed ever! I am not trying to shove this in your faces, but I cannot deny the truth. So, I speak it in LOVE. I have the BEST bed in the ENTIRE world!!! There. Know why it’s so awesome? Well, besides the fact that it’s comfortable, it’s covered in love. Now, that probably sounds a little weird, but it’s the truth! (And again, I speak it in love.) See those sheets?…the cream ones hiding under the sage quilt? Those are MY sheets. They were a gift from another precious friend. She was over for a visit one day when I couldn’t move from pain and weakness. She offered to make my bed and saw that the sheets I had were quite worn, ripped in a few places and stained from a bad accident with an overly full bottle of bleach. She made my bed and said nothing. Then, at Christmas, I opened new sheets! They. Are. The. Softest. Sheets. On the planet. Period! They are London Fog sheets that I think have, like a bazillion thread count or something like that, and they are amazing!
When I slide into bed at night, and my body hurts so much, I am so deeply grateful for my friend, who saw past the menial task of making a bed, and beyond a simple thing like bed sheets and blessed me, a survivor of childhood abuse, where beds were never a safe place. She blessed me with new, cream, clean, soft, girly, shiny, sheets. They are healing for me. They make me feel loved, cherished, caressed, and valuable because I know they are expensive. It’s the smallest things that matter so very much. Don’t you think? I love my friend and her incredible ability to see the details in my life, the ones that matter most. By the way, she also gave me the beautiful, sage quilt on top! My old one was quite tattered as well. Hmm. The simple things… She is a friend whose blessings never end…Just like Jesus. No matter what, we cannot out give the Ultimate Giver!
I have another friend. I know. I know. You’re probably shocked that one person could have more than just a couple of incredible friends. But, I do! It has been one of the ways the Lord has “turned ashes into beauty” and has “restored what the locust have eaten.” (These are Biblical references, but I am horrible at remembering which chapter and verse. So forgive me. My mind just doesn’t work that way. I see the page in my head. I know where it is in my Bible. That’s enough for me. But, if you want to, I guess you could copy and paste these phrases into a Google search and find the references for yourself. J) There are even more stories, like these that I could share with you, but the pages would multiply and my post would suddenly become a book. Which may be a great idea! Anyway, this friend is a special one. I met her more than 10 years ago, soon after becoming a Christian. I visited a small church in a rural town. The church only had about 100 members, including children, but I believed the Lord had called me to it and so I attended regularly for 5 years. This friend was a tall, tower of strength. In her later years, she was absolutely beautiful! She carried herself with grace and class and Scripture sprung off her tongue in regular conversation. I had observed her from a far for a while when one Sunday she asked me, “Honey, What has the Lord been teaching you?” Oh dear. I quietly explained He had been convicting me about the sin of grumbling. “Oh Honey!”, she said. “The Lord HATES grumbling!” She went on to talk about the children of Israel and other things. And, I just stood and soaked up every minute. (Even now, I can hear her words and they cut just like they did that day. Such a gift her words have been, to remind me to be thankful and not grumble as it grieves the Lord deeply.) A year or so later, I was in a serious situation where I needed good, solid counsel. I called her and asked for help. She was gracious in lending an ear and giving me firm, straight direction. She offered a peaceful, biblical solution and her advice poured water on a very, dry soul. Many years have passed since that long conversation, me- sitting on the counter top crying, 3 states away from her- soaking in a tub, listening patiently. A year ago, I became even more ill than before and am no longer able to work. This friend wrote me around Mother’s Day to share that the Lord had told her she should, “help me like her dear Mama had helped her.” She said, “That’s what mothers do.” (Wow. That’s what mothers do. Can I tell you what those words meant to me? So much.) She began sending financial gifts each month. She doesn’t ever ask what I do with the money. Unknowingly, she buys my groceries, my medication, pays for parking when I go to the doctor, and co-pays at the counter. And, each time, I spend some of her generous gift, I am thankful. I am thankful that God would give me a spiritual Mother, who loves me so much, who cares that I have the things I need. She is more than just a “friend”, as are the others, which is why I really need to come up with a better word. J
See this chair? It was a gift too. I sit it in every day for hours. I hurt so much. Where I sit, and how I sit matter. The wrong seat can dislocate my joints and cause more pain. My precious friend asked about my comfort on the phone one night. (WHO does that?) She was concerned that I didn’t have a place to rest during the day that was comfortable and helpful for my body. I told her my current chair, although beautiful and comfortable, was not good for long periods of sitting. A week or so passed and there was a card in my mail box which a check inside for, well, a lot of money. Included was a simple note which said, “Please buy yourself a recliner.” (WHO does that?) God does that. He is in the business of lavishing us with more love than we can ever imagine! I knew when I saw the check, that God had a purpose for this money. He did. Two weeks later I was in the hospital and unable to return to my job. I lived off that money for 5 months. This gift, this offer of a piece of paper with an amount written upon it, was more than just that. It has been my comfort, my pain relief, my rent payment, my utilities, the money to buy medicine and pay medical bills. The Lord has stretched it like the 5 fishes to cover so many needs. So, I am thankful. My friend is a precious, beautiful lady, who loves Jesus, loves to laugh and loves life! She stirs me on to “love and good works!” She sees a need and gives with no hesitation because she believes, like I do, that all we have belongs to the Lord and should be used to show love and bless others. Her gifts are full of many lessons. They teach kindness, generosity, humility, the God-given gift of being a gracious receiver and a generous giver, faithfulness, steadfastness, patience. These are the things for which I am thankful. They are like shining jewels, which speak to me from simple, everyday things made of cotton and wood.
There is one last friend I just must tell you about. She is dear to me in so many ways as she teaches me much about putting God first, acting like a lady, praying fervently, serving furiously, working diligently and trusting God to fill her hand each day with what she needs. Since I have known her, she has had very little money. You would never know it. Her home is glorious, with specifically chosen pieces, which work so well together, and remind me of what I imagine God’s temple would look like, if it were here on Earth, nothing extravagant, but perfectly elegant. Her outside is as beautiful as her inside and, for some reason, the Lord moved her heart to let me in to her sacred sanctuary. We were given a treasure when we met years ago in that we both love words. Our friendship began with reading books to each other over voice mail. That was in the days when we had answering machines which could record for 30 minutes or longer. We would each enjoy the other’s chosen story, listening at night, as we would drift off to sleep. It was wonderful to have someone read to me. I never had that as a child. What a gift! Over the years, she has given me the gift of her time. It is her most precious commodity, like the woman who threw her pennies into the offering and Jesus knew it was all she had to give. (It reminds me of the perfume the forgiven girl poured over Jesus before He died. It was a precious, valuable gift that only He understood at the time. There was more purpose in her actions than just causing Jesus to smell good. She was preparing His body for burial as the Passover Lamb.) Like this, my friend’s time has had more purpose than she may realize, as her kindness and love over the years have nurtured the wounded child in me, tenderly leading me along, overlooking my stumbling and seeing me as Christ sees me, whole and complete. Recently, she saved up her pennies and purchased a material gift she hoped would help me to have a healthier diet. Her gift was a blender for smoothies. I use it almost every day. And, each time I pull it out of the cabinet, I think of her. I think of her love, her wisdom, her loyalty, her strength and her passion to see others come to know Jesus. What a gift she is and how thankful I am for her.
And so, day after day, I sit in my home. Hour after hour, I am surrounded by love. There is so much more I haven’t even told you about, more friends, more mothers, more sisters, more fathers the Lord has given, dear, precious Saints who have loved me well and have been pleasing to the Lord in their sacrifices not just to me, but to those around them. They are Saints who give when no one is looking, who would prefer to stay unnoticed, who practice cheerful giving in private and who are more than willing to “sit at the rear of the banquet table.” They give out of hearts full of lovingkindness. (Isn’t that a wonderfully unique word? “Lovingkindness.” I have never seen it anywhere except in the Bible. I think that’s the perfect place for it, as I don’t know of any other Love which is so perfect except that of God’s love.)
I have learned one thing through these long days of illness. God has taught me to be thankful. He has proven to me that it is essential for living every hour with hope, for fighting off the shadows of despair and discouragement, for refocusing my mind on things which are “good and pure and holy.” Being thankful can lift me out of my decaying body, up into a heavenly place of peace and love and stillness, a place where all of my anxious thoughts disappear and I am resolved to rest and wait for the Lord. Being thankful opens my heart and my ears to hear what God has to say to me in that designated moment. Being thankful enables me to encourage others who may also sit in dark places, needing a hug or word of confirmation. So, I am thankful for my Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful for my God-given friends who are “closer than a brother.” I am thankful for simple things which bless me during the day- clean water, a hot shower, a cool bath, electricity to cook my food and wash my clothes, maintenance men who think of me and come without being asked to take my trash to the dumpster and deliver packages, the warm sunshine that pours into my living room in the morning and the birds that sing and sing. I am thankful I can join them. The Lord gave me a singing voice and I have found, time and time again, that using it to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving literally heals my soul, soothes my physical body and fills me up with the Holy Spirit as my heart speaks His Word. God is good! He commands us in the Bible to, “Give thanks!” So do it! Give thanks! Give a lot of it! And don’t stop, ever. It will change your life, no matter if you are reading this in a hospital bed, caring for a sick child, worrying about paying bills, or enduring great physical and emotional suffering. Just give thanks. Be thankful. I promise, you will thank me.