Friday, December 21, 2012

The act of giving thanks


What does that mean?

This is a new word for me. I've been reading this book (by Ann Voskamp) for several months in which she talks about daily eucharisteo. Giving thanks. Giving thanks in all things. As I read through her struggle of learning how to give thanks in all things, I realized my own struggle with it. I haven't been very thankful lately. Far from it, actually. And what does it really mean to give thanks in all things? It's easy to be thankful when you are comfortable. But what about when you're not comfortable? How easy is it then, to be thankful? Can it even be done authentically, not something we fake, but real thanksgiving and joy when we face hard times?

These are questions that have been looming in my head the past few months. This year has been weird. While we, as a family, haven't faced anything that would be considered a major crisis or even terrible suffering this year, there's been a lot of change. A lot of uncomfortable change. Change that I haven't really cared for. I normally like change, but this time, not so much. In the midst of all this uncomfortableness, I've found myself wondering where is the grace? I haven't been able to see it. We have been met with a lot of opposition since the move. With every letter from the mortgage company, every collection letter for bills gone unpaid, every bump we've faced in this road  has left me wondering where is God in the midst of all the hopes that were crushed, dreams that seemed to be snatched away, where was He in the myriad of disappointments that seemed to continue to build?

Since I didn't think I could find him, I grew bitter. Not good. I know we are not guaranteed a problem-free life and I never thought I would covet comfort as much as I did. I guess I just thought that since this was God's plan for us, to move, then it would go smoothly.

But that's not always the case. The Bible says there will be trouble in this life. So, are we left on our own when things seem to be going wrong?

I've often wondered this in light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut also. (I'm not comparing my measly trials to those in Connecticut by any means, but the principle still applies. The issues I'm working through with this devastating event is another post for another day.) But in my life, I've felt left on my own. Devoid of grace. Alone in the darkness. But as I surface from the darkness, I've come to the conclusion that answer is a resounding no. We are most definitely not left alone. I'm finally starting to see the light, the grace in my life. Jesus has been there, where He's always been. His grace has always been there, even when I chose not to see it.

Voskamp says ALL is grace. Really? Everything? This is a hard pill to swallow. "All is grace because all can transfigure, take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness." She calls it the hard eucharisteo. "The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty." I haven't been doing that. I've been focused on the things that have been taken away from me and letting my anger fester, because, I don't know, maybe I thought I deserved a different life. One that I wanted. Which is silly, because I am learning something that I've always known, but not experienced quite like this: that His plans are different than mine most of the time, but are always most definitely better than mine.

And as I think about the birth of Christ this Christmas season, how He was born in that little town in the darkness of night, in the quiet, with just a few people there to witness it, in the lowliest of conditions I can imagine, I've been thinking about what that means to me and for me.

That Light can shine bright, right into the darkness of my (seemingly) crappy circumstances, right where I least expect it, right into the dark parts of my heart where I need it most. "The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace." Even though my life isn't at all what I thought it would be, grace is here. Even though this year, things have looked quite different than I ever pictured, there is eucharisteo.

Eucharisteo that includes new family holiday traditions, fun kids who make me laugh on a daily basis, a new community of great people that have warmly welcomed us and who love Jesus, a part time job that enables me to still be able to stay home, great teachers at Jude's school that he loves, a cute little library with a wonderful story time for us to attend, a park nearby, our health and physical well-being, family members that call us frequently and skype us (and even visit!) so that we can stay connected, and many more things that have gone unnamed but not unnoticed.

Merry Christmas to you all, my friends. May you truly experience joy and eucharisteo this holiday season.

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