Throughout the last highly chaotic, and shall we call it adventurous year, the verse "in everything give thanks", has taken on a drastically different light in my life. We all know that giving thanks is commanded, it's good, but this year I have learned its VITAL to surviving trials. "Giving thanks" is worship, but as all good and true worship it not only glorifies the Father, but it forever changes who you are. And it's the life raft that pulls you from the rapids of despair and frustration, when the waves of life become more than you can bare.
Have you been there?
When every day becomes a time where you question everything in life. When everyday you wake to more developing problems. When everyday you struggle with Gods plan and wonder if you are still in his plan at all. When your grace and patience is tested everyday like an elephant sitting on a mouse. When you've become overwhelmed by the negatives and the broken dreams at your feet. When you realize Satan has convinced you that nothing in your life is good at all.
In the last 12 months, we have experienced a 7.8 earthquake, lost our house, lived through hundreds of aftershocks, went through a 6 month blockade of goods from our countries vital resource of gasoline, cooking gas and food, and I've had an appendectomy and pneumonia. Sounds pretty....bleak, yeah? That is the line the devil feeds us too.
I'll not lie, when this story started to unfold and we were shaken to our core literally and figuratively, I did feel very much that way. But after about the first month, when the unanswered questions and stress became something that really left me feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, I knew something had to change. I went to the Lord for help. He showed me the story of Noah during a bed time story one night with my daughter. Just as Noah and his family, floated for 40 days awaiting Gods new plan, I was awaiting Gods new direction. They were not forgotten but were sitting in a safe, however quiet place, awaiting Gods next step. Maybe a little stir crazy at times but provision was always plentiful. He assured me, I had also not been forgotten. My life was confusing and I was in a sense floating through unchartered waters but NOT forgotten and NOT un-blessed. This is when I realized I had forgotten my obligation to give thanks. I had allowed the struggles to crowd out any sight of the blessings God was daily flooding in my life. I felt the challenge, to every time I wanted to whine, complain or question Gods plan, to make myself give thanks for one thing.
This was a turning point for me. This took a confused young momma from daily limping through the day, to living with grace. It's so simple. It's not life-shattering. Even now, writing it down it sounds so small and insignificant. But it's affect on me was far from insignificant. Before, all I saw were the events that had happened, and how confused and scared we were by the future. Then I started to see this.
1. Me and my husband and my children lived through an earthquake that took over 10,000 lives. I was alive to see the blessings and trials that would come my way that coming year. I was afforded the opportunity to spend another year holding my husbands hand, to talk with him for hours, to jump on his bike with him as we headed on some mission together, to love him. I was blessed with another year to rock my babies, to hold their tiny hands, to read to them and laugh and giggle, to just be their momma. By Gods grace, I lived.
2. We were housed during the entire time, while millions slept in tents. While so many homeless or terrified people huddled in tents, God provided a way that everyday we had a roof over our heads.
3. We never one time needed for money or food. Our supporting churches love and support for us during this time was so intensely felt. They were so generous and loving. While there were so many other stresses, money was never one of them.
4. Our opportunities to witness to our friends and neighbors were prevalent. In a place where 1% of the population claims some form of Christianity, we rejoice in every chance to share the gospel. During this time, many who would never darken the church door were witnessed to, due to open air meetings that were held during the churches displacement.
5. Soon after, a man my husband witnessed to for years came to know Christ. For 3 years, this man sat in church and was witnessed to. His salvation and subsequent growth and relationship that blossomed with my husband was one of the biggest blessings and encouragements of the year.
6. We received a lovely new home to rent. God met our needs and opened doors for us to find a new home when the supply and demand scale for housing was extremely uneven. A place that has been a wonderful place of joy and refreshment.
7. Our Church blossomed in the trial; members weekly praising God for his provisions and my husband began preaching in the language 3x a week, and members after 5 years began taking over ministries in the church. The country where we serve, people worship gods who they have no expectation of hearing their prayer or answering it. So to see believers grow to where they see the need, pray, see the answer and praise God for it, is wonderful growth. In a country where the language is far from easy, to see God enable my husband to do what he felt was unable to do in his own strength is miraculous. And to see our young people, step up and be faithful and desire to serve in the church as a dependable leader is monumentous.
8. My wealth in friends was made evident. When your life is turned topsy turvy, and ladies that love and serve with you come to help and lend a hand, you realize how blessed and rich you are to call them friends. When your sick and your mission church rallies around you in prayer and support and rejoices when your well, your heart floods with joy for the true church family he has given you despite the differences in your skin color or culture. This is our home and we are blessed beyond measure with the spiritual family and friends God has given us.
9. Gods grace and peace was miraculous. When people throughout the city turned to alcohol and desperation Gods people walked with a sense of peace they didn't understand. They spoke with boldness about his provision and were a light to the community in a way they had never seen. The only reason we could live with a smile and serve with joy was the never ending supply of grace that God shoveled down in heaps everyday. When I was faced with having an emergency surgery in a 3rd world country where medical can be frightening, Gods provision and grace so enveloped me I can't explain it. Unexplainable peace is the only explanation.
10. I learned the importance of giving thanks.
There were hundreds more blessings through the past year, but I hope you can see even in this small list how the blessings far outweighed the trials. I pray as you read this, you don't see the trials but the blessings and the power of GIVING THANKS as God commands. As this began to help me, I realized how I wanted this to remain a part of my life. When serving in a spiritually dark land, where the devil fights on a daily basis I realized the importance of fighting back with "thanks". So many times thousands of blessings come and go through our lives and we never even glimpse at them as they pass. When if we would just take the time to stop and rejoice in them, not only would we see Gods love for us, but we would be so overwhelmed by it that we have a fighting chance at having victory over defeat and discouragement.
So....for me a chalkboard was the answer. It's been in the planning stage for months and now I have it!! Mounted in my kitchen where my family spends so much time is my "give thanks" board. And around breakfast time we as a family choose a blessing to be thankful for on our board. I love it!!! I love seeing the good. I love teaching my daughter that God loves her so immensely that he blesses her everyday. I love to see the reminder of those blessings every time I walk past. I love giving thanks!
I encourage you in whatever way works for you to daily take the time to see the blessings God sends your way. A day will come when seeing those blessings will be the thing that gets you through.