When approached to write for this blog for the month of November, I immediately replied, “No, it is just not a good time for me…maybe after the first of the year.” I couldn’t possibly do it right now… I work full time, my family’s schedule is busy, I am taking care of extended family business matters, I’m getting ready to host a shower, Missional Community is starting up again soon, and my house needs a deep cleaning!
How could I possibly find time to write? Oh, and let me not forget to include that I am a perfectionist, highly critical of myself, and couldn’t bear the thought of being so vulnerable as to let other women read what I have written. “What if they don’t like what I write? What if it all sounds cliché? …AND, will they notice that I use the “ellipsis” far too often… of course they will…!!” BUT, God had a different plan.
I woke up the next morning already stressed about the idea of writing after the first of the year. I began to brainstorm things I could write about, when I clearly heard God speak one word to me…“Thankful.” Seriously!?! That means November, because of course “thankful” means November, right? But, I went down stairs to have my morning coffee and ideas started flowing. I knew right then, busy or not, I was writing for November. I buckled up, tuned my “self-talk” out, listened to Him, and here it goes!…
Fall of 2016 a dear friend at work shared a wonderful idea with me. She and her family had been keeping a “thankful jar”.
I loved the idea, so I immediately searched Pinterest for cute “thankful jar” ideas and began to create my own. This, by the way, took way longer than it should because I couldn’t get the writing on my little black board label to look just right, after the sixteenth attempt. When the label was finally complete, I created decorative paper slips and put them in a cute little basket next to the jar. My family and I would start this new journey together on January 1, 2017. Throughout the year we would write things we are thankful for (big and small) and put them in the jar. On New Year’s Eve 2017, we would sit down together with a full jar (I was sure of this!) and read about all of the wonderful things that we were thankful for in 2017.
As we entered 2017 life was busy, as usual. After winter break we were back to work and school and the thankful jar sat waiting to be filled.
Monday evening, January 9th the phone rang and we received the news that my father had passed away unexpectedly. I was completely taken by surprise. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I had not seen my father for over four years. We had spoken on the phone, but that is all.
This began a chain of difficult events in our family…
After my father’s passing, I was notified that I was the executor to his estate. Not only that, but since my mother had preceded him in death, I was also the trustee of her estate. I was now responsible for taking care of all of their “business” and had to sell a house and two cars from 3,000 miles away.
Two weeks later I received an unexpected call that my uncle had passed away. In March my mother-in-law, who was like a second mother to me, also passed away, and in May her mother left us as well. Soon after this, another uncle was hospitalized and underwent major surgery. Not long after this my father-in-law’s health worsened. Then, my brother called with the news that his marriage was in trouble and headed for divorce.
I felt as though my world was caving in around me.
“Really God, how much more can our family endure?” This was supposed to the year of the Thankful Jar! The Enemy had me where he wanted me…totally overwhelmed, feeling helpless, lost and inadequate. What was there to be thankful for?
The enemy was feeding me lies, BUT my God, my Savior, my Redeemer reminded me of the truth…
Lie #1: You are now officially an “orphan”. Family you held dear, the ones who kept the family together are gone and even the homes you considered comforting and “home base” will soon be gone.
Truth: God is my father and my identity is in Him. He is a Good, Good Father!…
2 Corinthians 6:18, “ And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Isaiah 43:1-3,“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
I am thankful for the time I had with my loved ones here on earth and even more thankful that we will spend eternity together. I am thankful that they are in the loving arms of Jesus and they are at perfect peace in His presence.
Lie #2: You are going to crack under the pressure of the responsibility that is being placed on you. You can’t possibly do everything that is expected of you, and can’t possibly be all that you need to be for everyone who is counting on you.
Truth: I can’t do this and I will crack under the pressure (IF I try to do it alone), BUT,…
Philippians 4:13, “I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I am thankful for His grace and the strength that helps me through each day. When you can’t handle thinking about tomorrow, don’t! Keep your eyes on today and get through it with His grace, whatever that may look like, hour by hour, minute by minute… doesn’t matter…just stay focused on His strength not your own!
Lie #3: There is nothing to be thankful for. Things couldn’t possibly get worse, nothing good is happening and no one cares.
Truth: There is much to be thankful for…the big things, the small things, the good, and yes, the “bad” things… and My heavenly Father cares for me…
Lamentations 3:22-24, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
As I approach 2018, my Thankful Jar still sits empty on the shelf in the hall, but my heart is full of thankfulness to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who carried me through 2017! (Not to mention the past 47 years!) He has been good through it all…
Psalm 104:3 “He makes the storm cloud his chariot…”
Through the storms he has made my faith in Him is stronger, and my love for Him deeper.
Each day I am beyond thankful for His love and grace.
So, in those moments (maybe days, maybe weeks, months, years….) when it is difficult to find things to be thankful for, I pray that we will be generous in our gratitude and give praise to the One who works behind the scenes for our good!
Diane Combs is a wife, mother and public school teacher. She has one daughter, three grown step-children and six grand-children. Diane, her husband Trent, and their youngest daughter have attended Grace Chapel since 2009.