I Thessalonians 5:18 is a well-known verse: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…”
This verse arrives in the chapter right after we are instructed to rejoice always, and pray without ceasing. All of which God must have known we humans would struggle with, and struggle with aplenty, especially in this fallen, sin-riddled world.
It seems then, that during a season of Thanksgiving, I should not be surprised when my ability to give thanks is tested. Such was the case this year, though nothing we struggled with was nearly as challenging as some of the very, very hard circumstances many in this world are faced with each day. This blog entry will feel a bit long and tedious and I don’t expect many to read it all the way through, but I want to get it down in writing for my own remembrance. Because we truly have so very much to give thanks for this year.
The Monday night before Thanksgiving, our oldest child began experiencing very sharp chest pain which continued through the night. Any sharp intake of breath also caused pain, and she was unable to lie down, and could only get relief while sitting propped up with pillows. We got her comfortable in the recliner in the living room and there she spent a fitful night. These were scary hours for her, and for us, and a morning call to the pediatrician didn’t offer any answers except the directive to go straight to the ER and get a chest x-ray. Jay accompanied Abigail so that I could stay home with the rest of our children, and hours later we learned that our daughter had a nasty case of bacterial pneumonia which had resulted in fluid accumulating in her left lung, thereby causing the excruciating pain. We were shocked at the diagnosis, but actually quite relieved it was “only” pneumonia, given some of the other possibilities chest pain presents. But we called my family immediately to tell them we could no longer spend Thanksgiving weekend with them as planned, and this was terribly disappointing for all of us, because we all get together once a year at best due to one of my siblings living in the Northeast now. My mother had planned a professionally-photographed family portrait for Friday morning since there were two new babies in the family since we had last taken a picture together, and I hated to be the one to ruin her wonderful photograph, but of course it couldn’t be helped.
And yet, here was an opportunity to give thanks: for incredible medical care not five miles from our home, for relief from pain for my precious daughter, for antibiotics to combat the infection in her lungs, for the ability to bring her home and put her to bed in a warm, comfortable place where she could rest and recuperate. For all the family and friends who prayed for us during that day while we waited for news, and loved us enough to keep calling/texting/emailing for updates.
While Jay was with Abigail at the ER, I had to accompany our second oldest to the surgeon’s office to have some pins removed from his arm that had been placed there during surgery several weeks before. The pin removal was done with no anesthesia, and our boy, who has some sensory issues combined with quite a bit of anxiety was rather undone by the procedure. It was not only painful, but a highly stressful ordeal for him, and all this was going on while we continued to wait for results on Abigail’s situation. To say I felt a bit of stress myself puts it mildly. If they’d offered me a margarita to suck down before they began the procedure, I’d have gladly accepted, and shared half with Jonathan.
But here was another opportunity to give thanks: that despite his very real struggles, Jonathan made it through the procedure without fully “losing it”, and had that little victory to be proud of. That after a bad break, and surgery, that his arm was nicely healed, and that we enjoyed care from one of the best orthopedic surgeons in Dallas who tended to his injury. That I had not one but at least five offers of childcare for my younger two while I took him for his pin removal, again for family, friends, and neighbors who care for us so well.
Thanksgiving Day we spent at home; due to the somewhat last minute nature of our holiday plans, we opted not to cook a turkey feast, but Jay kindly offered to try his hand at a prime rib roast, which it turns out he will now be asked to prepare for each and every family holiday because it was so. incredibly. delicious!! While the lovely roast was cooking, and we were cleaning up the kitchen from some of the meal preparations, we noticed the sink starting to back up, not just in the kitchen, but the laundry room as well…and yes, of course, we ended up with a plumbing backup on Thanksgiving Day, when it turns out, no plumbers will call you back even if you offer to pay them a premium to do so. After a couple of hours of effort to dislodge the leak himself to no avail, Jay spent the last hours of the evening on his hands and knees doing dishes in the stand-up shower near the kitchen. Sigh…
So…thankfulness here?? Well…honestly I wasn’t feeling all that thankful. I was actually leaning more toward fretful, because after delaying their visit to us due to the pneumonia, my sister and her family were due to arrive on Friday, and here we were without ability to clean dishes or laundry, and the mess was right in the area of the house where they would have to stay. But I was reminded that I take for granted our constant access to clean, running, hot and cold water, and the reality that we have machines that will wash our dishes while we sleep, and clean our clothes while we take a trip to the grocery store. Amazing. How thankful we should always be for these admitted luxuries.
We figured after the plumbing backup was cleared on Friday morning that the worst of this weekend was behind us, and we could concentrate on preparing to welcome our beloved houseguests who were soon to arrive from Austin. But before they could get here we were greeted by houseguests of another kind, and I don’t mean the human kind. During a trip to the garage to grab something out of the fridge in there, I heard the tiniest movement near the wall, and reported my suspicions to the man of the house, who quickly confirmed that yes, there was a critter hiding out behind the refrigerator, likely having come in from out of the cold to take refuge under the warmth of the nice garage appliance. Sigh. Over the next 48 hours, the man of the house and his eldest son trapped 9 of these critters and as I write this, they are still waging war on the uninvited houseguests, much to the dismay of yours truly. I hate critters. Despise them. Get all yucky feeling just imagining them…so let’s just say that knowing they are trying to take advantage of and stake claim to my warm garage is quite upsetting to me. And what’s even worse: I have had the unfortunate experience of being in the garage while a trap goes off loudly, mere feet from where I am standing, accompanied by awful squeaking sounds…and well, this was almost more than I could handle.
I’m still working on giving thanks in this circumstance; the best I can come up with is this: if I have to have critters in my garage, I am so glad I have a brave husband and son who are willing to handle the nasty task of disposing of them. And at least for now, I am very, very thankful that the vermin are out there and not in here…and I pray it stays that way.
I told a friend at church yesterday that I’m waiting for things to settle down to normal around here…that I’m really and truly ready for normal, whatever in the world that looks like. Admittedly, I’d love to experience “normal” before we get that call for a referral for a precious little girlie in Ethiopia who we are dying to meet. I’d like to be able to fantasize about bringing our girl home to a more “normal” household and family. Wouldn’t that be best for her, anyway? Doesn’t God think maybe she could use some “normal” after all she will have been through in her short life? And it is with this thought that it hits me that no, I don’t think I need to be looking around the corner for “normal”…because didn’t that verse back in Thessalonians talk about rejoicing always and giving thanks in every circumstance (even, and especially when life isn’t “normal”?). Because how much more incredible is it that God sees fit to use me, to use us, our family, in all our imperfection and with all our various “issues”, to accomplish his will in this world?!
I don’t really know if I will be any better at giving thanks in all circumstances from here on out. However, I’m quite sure our family will never forget this rather odd Thanksgiving week where we were faced with a little collection of opportunities in which we could choose to rejoice and give thanks, or throw up our hands and pout about life. May God give us all the grace and ability to see his hand at work in each of our lives, so that we can give thanks in both the good and the bad that comes our way. And now it is only fitting that I tell you, dear Reader, that if you have managed to hang with me all the way to the end of this long entry, that I am very thankful for you and your patience!!