There seemingly aren’t more formidable tasks than writing about gratitude while enduring the worst storms life has ever thrown my way. And yet, here I sit with this very assignment.
In 2017, I haven’t experienced much sunshine nor seen many rainbows. I can’t imagine a year worse than this. I keep getting knocked by one wave after another – each subsequent wave stronger than the last. I will say I’m not surprised though. In March, God came to me in a dream. I know that might sound kooky, but it’s true. To keep things brief, in my dream, my husband and I were catapulted into the air when God’s hands reached out and caught us. He set us in some nasty pond water which we had to navigate, but we only felt peace because not only was God with us, He kept us safe. I woke up with an overwhelming peace, however, I also recognized that things were about to be extremely difficult.
Fast forward eight months: the nasty pond water we are navigating is still swirling all around. My father died in August; family challenges are pervasive; other friends and family have passed as well. I’m not going to lie; some days have been the most difficult of my life. Through this, I’m so grateful for the gift of perspective. For being able to recognize what is happening and to see the beauty despite (or maybe because of) my heart being broken.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. (Ecclesiastes 7:3 NLT)
Growth happens here in the sorrow. Yep, I’m finding this to be my experience and I’m (usually) grateful for this process. Google defines refine as to remove impurities or unwanted elements from (a substance), typically as part of an industrial process.” Also, to “improve (something) by making small changes, in particular make (an idea, theory or method) more subtle and accurate.”
Life looks different after the death of someone who shared a piece of your heart. The lenses with which I see the world have changed – as if I’ve put on a new pair of glasses. Seemingly, everything needs to be reevaluated and reexamined. I’m learning to look forward to this new normal. I’m kind of eager to see what changes I will undergo and who I will become – how I will be refined.
It’s important for me to remember, however, that before everything started, I’d been asking God to mold me into what He needed me to be. Hindsight being what it is, I’m also grateful I didn’t play the tape out before my request because I’m not sure I would have been so bold.
But God always knows what He’s doing, doesn’t He? His vision is perfect. He sees far beyond what we can only imagine.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do His work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve Him. (1 Timothy 1:12 NLT)
I’m humbled thinking that I am trustworthy in the eyes of the Lord.
In this valley I’ve become acutely aware of the beautiful. I’m also learning to redefine what beautiful is. Sometimes even sadness can be beautiful.
I’m grateful that I can empathize with the brokenhearted and see what a process grieving is. How everyone is affected so differently. And that even though the pain can be unbearable, getting through it and feeling it is the only way in which to navigate that pain. Sorrow can be a beautiful tribute to those we love and a wonderful reminder of how much that person meant to us.
I feel like throughout this process, I’ve had to learn to create my own sunshine and rainbows. I’m learning to search for them and find them in places that aren’t obvious.
Just last week I was driving home from work. I noticed a young lady sitting in pine straw near a sidewalk wearing running gear. The fact that she was sitting initially got my attention, but upon closer look, she was crying and visibly upset. I turned the car around to check on her. Turns out that while she was running her mom called to tell her that her father had just died. I stayed until her friend arrived.
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. (Ecclesiastes 4:10 NLT)
While this experience reopened my heart, I’m so grateful I was paying attention and took the time to stop.
I’m also grateful for every day privileges I can use to ease the process. I’ve rekindled my friendship with music. In so doing, it has provided me with solace and comfort and has helped me through some tough moments. The Bible even points to music as a way toward healing.
Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again. (1 Samuel 16:16 NLT)
Old favorites will always tug at my heart, but I’ve added new favorites like Even If (MercyMe); Different (Micah Tyler); The Beautiful Things We Miss (Matthew West); Still (Hillary Scott); and God Help Me (Plumb) just to name a few.
Ultimately, I’ve learned that there truly is always something to be grateful for. It’s just that occasionally, it’s not always easy to find. Sometimes we must choose to search for it and look around us instead of focusing within. It’s also crucial to remember we’re all doing the best we can during any given moment. When life is stormy and turbulent, we must dig deep into God’s word, strengthen our relationship with our Him and sometimes make our own sunshine and rainbows. Often, it’s the only way to find the beautiful around us.
Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:7 NLT)
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Make it be filled with sunshine and rainbows!