Many of us, I suppose, have Thanksgiving traditions we do each year. I’m not just talking about the kind of stuffing you fix or whether you have pumpkin or sweet potato pie for dessert or that you always go to grandma’s house for dinner.
I’m thinking more about how we acknowledge the blessings we receive and how we give thanks to God for them.
Last year I wrote about my Joy List that started in 1995 and how it has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition for me. I need to mention another tradition at this time of year that holds much meaning for me.
It began in 2005 when I attended a Faces of Christ retreat sponsored by Southeast Christian Church at their beautiful County Lake retreat facility. I had pondered this for over a year, but it was the Lord’s timing to send me that spring.
I was a mess and I was going to get messier before 2005 was over. By the end of the four-day retreat, I had experienced Christ and His cross in a life changing way, and I had met some precious Christian women.
Out of the 40 or 50 women who attended, I still maintain contact with two of them. One of them was my table mate during the retreat, Margie. She and I have shared lots of phone conversations and prayer requests about job changes, moving to new locations, car breakdowns, family crises, sickness of people we love, venting frustrations, and more. Margie has become the kind of friend I can call when I need help, and she will come. She has provided meals for Sweet William and me on at least three occasions this year when he came home from the hospital. And she was one of those friends I wrote about who pulled together to make my Dad’s birthday celebration such a joyful event.
Out of the messiness of our lives in 2005, God has forged an amazing friendship that has blessed the socks off me. I give Him thanks for that.
There was another young woman who attended the Faces retreat that spring. We did not even meet each other that weekend. We sat at different tables, and our assignments and interaction did not bring us together. It was at a follow-up Bible study at one of the leader’s homes where we became acquainted and “just happened” to be paired together for an exercise on prayer.
We were instructed to call our partner for the next week and pray for each other. Julie was my designated partner for the week. We set a time to meet over the phone, 6:30 am. I did not that Julie was not a morning person back then. But she did not balk. Bless her heart, she willingly agreed, and that week we called each other every day and prayed for one another and the concerns on our hearts.
I was still such a mess. This young woman had no idea what she was getting herself into when she became my prayer partner. There were mornings I could barely function or talk on the phone in that early hour. After I would share my needs and my prayer requests, she would pray. And I would feel myself being lifted up and strengthened by the Spirit of the living God so that I was able to move forward and make it through the day. Don’t ask me how that works because I am not theologian enough to explain it. I only know it happened.
Well, here it is 2011 and Julie and I still call each other twice a week at 6:30 am to share our praises and our concerns. I wish I had an explanation for this too, how we two flawed, struggling, imperfect women have managed to hold onto this prayer discipline for six years. The only answer can be the Faithful God who imparts His very being into us at the new birth, has lavishly grown the Fruit of the Spirit in us and made us faithful. Julie will tell you, like I do here, this is not because of us but because of God!
So the week before Thanksgiving, we make our prayer time a remembering time to give thanks. We look back over our lists of prayer requests (I keep mine in a notebook) and see how God has answered time after time after time. I am amazed at God’s goodness every single year we have done this. Yesterday was our call day. Julie began with her praises first, and I was nodding my head in affirmation remembering the prayers we had prayed and the answers that had come. Oh how good God has been!
Then I began my list as I cried through most of it:
- for my Dad, still alive and stronger than he was a year ago and Esther who has cared for him and been strengthened to do it.
- for Bill who has come through three surgeries this year, still has the fight to get well, thanking God for His goodness.
- that we have managed to pay for many unexpected household and vehicle expenses this year.
- for work that brings me joy and respite and for my boss who has been so supportive though my erratic and unpredictable work schedule because of being in the hospital with Bill or at home during recuperation time.
- for people who brought food and brought food and brought food to feed us. They have no idea how very much it was needed on so many days when I had no more strength left.
- for the staff at Caretenders who have tenderly and professionally provided nursing care and assistance with daily needs.
- that my own body and mind have been strengthened to do much more than I thought possible.
- for family who have loved me and supported me.
- for friends who have sent cards and called us, who have told us they are praying for us.
- for the weekly prayer calls with Julie which has been a life line to Heaven for me.
- for being able to communicate by Facebook and cell phone, keeping me in touch with loved ones far away.
- for my son, his sweet wife, and my three precious grandchildren being settled in Tulsa where he has work he enjoys and a home to shelter them.
Some things on my list have been difficult to deal with this year. I feel like I have come through 2011 kicking and screaming, while being dragged along into the will of God. I have looked to Him often and said, “I know you must have a plan for all of this even though I don’t like it and it hurts a lot.”
Yet, He has been more faithful than I, faithful when I was not, faithful in spite of me.
The Lord is good. His love is everlasting. His mercies are new each morning. He pours out grace upon grace. And He is such a faithful God.
I need to give Him thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It puts my life in better perspective, reminding me that I am not in charge here, that He is working all things – all things – for my good and for His purpose which is far greater than I can understand.
Giving Him thanks on purpose should not be just a yearly tradition. It should be my daily practice. He is God, and He will do what He wants to do. Mine is not to understand. Mine is to trust, to believe, to pray, to give thanks to my Father Who does all things well.