pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)
There's a saying that I keep seeing around the Internet lately that I've been contemplating.
"What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"
It gets your attention doesn't it? It sure got the attention of my flesh. In the form of a flinch. Followed by a sigh. And intense panic. And then condemnation.
I can honestly admit that my initial thoughts, sadly, were entirely selfish. While I love camping for a full week every Summer, there are certain creature comforts that I would never want to live without. Those were the first "things" that came to mind.
A few seconds later, however, I tossed condemnation aside and got real. With myself and more importantly, with God.
And I remembered who He is. As well as who He's not.
While I can sometimes fall for the trap of expecting my children to say "Thank you," if I do something nice for them, I honestly prefer a heartfelt thanks that comes naturally and without obligation. Or conditions. You know - without strings attached.
True giving is like that. Simple. Pure. From the heart. Derived from love. Without expectations.
And so it is with my Heavenly Father. He delights in showering abundant gifts upon me. Regardless of whether I thank Him. Or if I even stop to notice that it was from His loving hand the gifts came from.
That doesn't mean, however, that my thankfulness doesn't warm His heart. It just means that He graciously bestows good blessings upon me because He loves me.
So, with condemnation out of the way, I felt the Holy Spirit bring His sweet and ever-so-gentle conviction. Ah, that's where the real teaching begins. When pride, selfishness and guilt are gone, the eyes (and ears) of our hearts are open.
With my flesh thankfully silenced, I was able to dig a little deeper. And you know what? I actually liked what I saw.
I wish I could say that my initial reaction was pleasing to my God - and to myself - but it wasn't. I'm human. And I'm still learning and growing. But I'm thankful that I have a patient Creator who knows me fully and is ever-so-gracious with me - and my annoying flesh. :-)
Which brings me back to the original question. What am I thankful for today? After all, it's the perfect day to consider such things, isn't it?
As I reflect over the past year, I can obviously thank God for the flowers of blessings. Beautiful, colorful, many of which have popped up in unexpected places. Extravagant love full of mercy and goodness.
But that's not all.
In the very same thought, the very same breath, I utter heartfelt thanks for the painful thorns and thistles I've encountered as well. Especially the ones embedded deep in my heart with wounds still fresh and bleeding.
As crazy as that sounds, I'm especially thankful for pain I've endured.
The tears fall silently down my face as I thank my Father for the thorns.
Without the thorns, the beauty of the flowers grow pale.
Without the sadness, the joy falls flat.
Without loss, that which we still hold loses it's value.
My heart still physically aches on a daily basis because of the burdens I carry of loss, grief, trauma, betrayal and pain. However, it's those very things that tell me my heart is still soft, beating and alive.
I refuse to give up.
I refuse to give in.
One day my hope will be fulfilled.
And there will be a glorious resurrection and unbelievable redemption.
We will experience new life through this season of loss.
Our hearts are being refined. Our joy is being purified.
It's a painful, painful process. But it is going to be worth it all. I have no doubt.
And so, today, I thank my Daddy first and foremost for who He is - awesome, faithful, generous and kind. Good to the core.
And I thank Him for my best friend and husband, Geoff.
I thank Him for my firstborn daughter, Chelsea.
I thank Him for my firstborn son, Liam.
I thank Him for my youngest daughter, born in my heart, half-a-world-away, Sara.
And, I thank Him for my Ethiopian son, Luke, who taught me how to embrace the thorns and thistles.
As my Savior taught me, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 KJV)
As I come full circle in my thinking, I can't help but laugh at my weak flesh. It's forever bound to this temporary place I call home. Thankfully, I'll get to leave it behind, along with all of my other earthly possessions.
What I'm most thankful for today is Love.
And all that He is.
And all that He has given me.
And those things, my Friend, are eternal.
And so, while loss is a part of my life today, I can be wholeheartedly thankful for it, because one day it will all be made right.
And the thorns and thistles will be transformed.
And my wounds will stop bleeding.
And my heart will be made whole.
And so will yours.
I am also thankful today for you, my Precious Friend.
And, because of that, I pass on the gift of a question that brought me bitter tears and a heart refined.
What are you thanking God for today?
Don't be afraid of what your flesh reveals.
Just make sure you don't stop there.
True growth comes in being honest with yourself and your Creator.
Push past the junk and shove aside the trap of condemnation.
The Maker of this universe loves you.
He knows you fully. And He loves you. All of you.
Keep pressing into LOVE and KEEP LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!
Thankful beyond words,
P.S. I'm also thankful for the Guide Dog pup, Jeremiah, we helped raise this year. a.k.a. "Big Jer" or "Clifford the Big Red Dog!" Oh, how we miss him...
Geoffrey D. Ivey - Flowers & Thorns, David Hill Winery;Liam, Rockaway Beach, OR;Jeremiah, Portland, OR
CLI - Bro & Dad, Rockaway Beach, OR
Amy J. Ivey - Geoff, Shimanek Bridge; Chelsea, Hannah Bridge; Sara, Larwood Bridge