This time of year, we spend a lot of time expressing our happiness about the blessings we have been given in life. Our homes, our jobs, our perfectly beautiful kids and grandkids. When we start listing good things, our cup runneth over.
But what about the times when circumstances are less than perfect? When life seems to be giving us more lemons than anyone needs to make a good batch of lemonade? Can we really be thankful in those difficult times as well?
I spent thirty five years working for the State of Arkansas. Though not always paid as well as comparable employees in the private sector, I did have an attractive retirement plan, so I began marking off my calendar when I was in my forties, planning for that magical date when I could stay at home and start drawing a retirement check.
My husband worked very hard as well, in a job that he was extremely good at , but that was hard on him physically. Suddenly, our whole world was rocked when the sagging housing industry caused his long time employers to lay him off. Though quite a shock to both our systems; things eventually worked out quite well. He now has another job that he loves, and is not as damaging to his health. I retired for a short time, and then returned to work, in a less stressful position that allows a little more time to concentrate on my writing. Looking back, we are both thankful for that particular economic down-turn.
As an avowed aficionado of social media, I am following a family with a much more dramatic story. This young couple received devastating news very early in their first pregnancy. Advised by physicians that their unborn child was severely handicapped, and would most likely not survive to be born alive, terminating the pregnancy seemed to be the best option. Because of their belief that God has a better plan, they decided to continue, and prepared to love this child for as long as they were allowed.
The mother of the baby started posting on the day their daughter was born, and survived, to the surprise of all of the medical experts. You can get the medical details on their Facebook page entitled “ Prayers for the Pragels,” but the bottom line is that eight months later, this little miracle brings all of us the most amazing smiles anyone can imagine. With an under developed brain, each milestone in her life is totally unexpected, and cause for immediate rejoicing.
It might be hard for the immediate family to be thankful for this sweetheart’s diagnosis, but I know that the medical world must be. They are learning so much from her, and she is so inspiring to others who are going through similar issues. We are all thankful that her brave parents are sharing their journey.
We frequently worship with a congregation of Christians that has continued to thrive beyond all expectations. Their beginnings came about because of a disagreement between their minister and the congregation he was serving. Feeling that he had no choice, he and a few close friends decided to worship together in any space that was available. That first place turned out to be the city hall of a small town in our region. Borrowing song books, chairs, communion supplies, they pressed on, and actually thrived.
Their next meeting place was in an old service station/convenience store. This “cozy” space was often filled to capacity, and the excitement with which they approach their weekly services was palpable. As we speak, the congregation of around 70 and sometimes many more has moved to a new building, built for the most part through the love and labor of the members. No one would have ever expected to be thankful for a painful division with other believers, but one day, when the origins of this group are discussed, that may not be such a strange idea.
Once, a little girl in Southeast Kansas was devastated when her parents divorced. The next few years were a struggle on many fronts, but eventually her mother met and married a man from Arkansas. They moved to Saline County just before the girl’s senior year in High School, and the rest, as they say, is history. If I could speak to that little girl today, would I tell her that one day she would be thankful for the intense pain she felt? Of course not. But with the benefit of many years of hindsight, I would have to admit that even that experience was one that I would never trade.
Let us be Thankful.