Category: Brokenness

When It’s Hard to Give Thanks at Thanksgiving

 

The first rays of morning sunlight stretch through the frosted windowpane, and I open my laptop to more bad news. There are faces of grieving families and quotes about the way strangers rose up to lend helping hands, but I find my heart hardening.  I don’t want to read the stories about the kindness of strangers or the way they prayed for the dying man as his wife held him in her arms.  I’m angered by the brokenness of the world today, and I just want it all to stop.

This is my knee-jerk reaction to the latest news of tragedy in our nation. I know my heart should be soft and broken and thankful for the kindness of strangers, but I’m so overwhelmed by the frustrating fact that bad news has become our reality.

Ten years ago, I remember quoting Scripture and telling a friend that all the wars, bombings, and natural disasters are simply the signs that the end is near. I remember telling her that I was doing alright with it all, because it meant the Lord was coming soon.  And now, a decade and dozens of tragedies later, I so deeply want it all to end.

Today’s post is for anyone who is struggling to give thanks this Thanksgiving. It’s for those who are grieved from afar by the tragedies in our nation, and it’s for the families who are directly walking through their own personal tragedies.  I don’t pretend to know how it feels to be in any shoes but my own; and so, I offer these words for myself, if for no one else.

Become Someone Else’s Reason to Give Thanks

There’s a promise that he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. When it’s hard to find a reason to be thankful, break the chains of discouragement by becoming someone else’s reason to give thanks.  In her book, A Case for Kindness, Lisa Barrickman offers hundreds of suggestions.  Here are a few of my favorites: Visit Colorasmile.org and invite the kids to color a picture for a soldier overseas; put an encouraging note in a sports bag; let someone else pick the movie; show up with coffee; carry an extra umbrella for a stranger on a rainy day; compliment a stranger.

Find One Thing That’s Good

The kids and I found ourselves caught in a torrential downpour a half-mile from the house this summer. Sitting in the double stroller with the puppy, a downpour began, and it literally could not have rained harder.  I took to running as fast as possible while water pounded us in white sheets that tore in from the north.  Caleb screamed in terror, and Bekah yelled something I couldn’t quite understand in the pounding rain.  When we finally found shelter in the garage, I realized Bekah was cheering in sheer joy.  “That was awesome!” she yelled.  “I’ll never forget it in my whole life!”

Some situations are far more dire than getting caught in a summer rain shower, but Bekah’s attitude was an important reminder to me that day: In every hard situation, there’s something that’s good. It’s exactly what the bystanders interviewed on the news are doing when they comment on the kindness of strangers amidst crisis moments.

Find a Place to Plug in

A sense of isolation makes a dark season seem even darker. It’s often most difficult to reach out to others when we’re going through hard times, but this is exactly when we most need the support of caring community.  When it’s hard to give thanks for anything at all, it’s probably time to pick up the phone and text a friend, get in the car and drive to visit a relative, or jump online and look for a group that might offer support within the community.

Bring Your Burdens to the One Who Can Handle Them

Because I know that God is already aware of my burdens, I sometimes neglect praying about my needs, my pain, and my desires. God calls us to ask, seek, and knock.  He wants us to bring our burdens to him and unload.  He can handle the heaviest burden.

Not long ago, we were in a sort of a financial season of fasting in an attempt to stay within our budget. If it wasn’t an absolute necessity, we weren’t buying it.  Sadly, this financial fast fell at around the time when everyone else in the neighborhood was decorating their doorsteps with colorful mums and plump pumpkins.  Deeming these decorations luxuries, I committed to abstain from spending even a few dollars.

It was after Bekah begged me to find some pumpkins for the front stoop that I decided I should simply bring this desire before the Lord in prayer. Praying for pumpkins felt too small when families across the world have gone days without food, but I prayed for free pumpkins anyway.

Not an hour later, my mom called to tell me that they had grown pumpkins in the garden and had pumpkins waiting for us at the house. An hour later.  I’d been wishing for a pumpkin for weeks.  There just aren’t coincidences.

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If you’re reading today with a heavy heart, my prayer is that you’ll lift your face to the One who made you and find hope for the journey. He promises to go with us, even in the darkest valleys – even when we have no sense of his presence.  When I can find little else for which to give thanks, I give thanks for this: for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Special thanks to the following link-ups this week:

Counting My Blessings

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Faith on Fire

Susan B. Mead

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Don’t Fear the Brokenness

 

I’m rushing like a mad woman to get it all done before slipping out the door to meet with a friend. It’s a haze of furious productivity, all so that I can be fully prepared to stand before the throne of God and tell him that my dishes are washed, the floors are swept, and the toilets are scrubbed.  It seems I can’t stop the frenzy of hurry that’s overtaken my body.

I hurriedly shove a white porcelain cup on top of a clumsy stack of plastic children’s dishes, and then it happens. It slides straight out of the cabinet, onto the countertop with a sort of bounce, and onto the kitchen floor.  It breaks into a handful of tiny pieces – white shards that threaten soft  little feet.  I hear the feet patter toward the commotion, and I bark a sharp command about staying in the living room.

Picking up the pieces with the ferocity of a woman on a life-saving mission, I double-bag them in the garbage and race to the basement for the vacuum cleaner. When I ascend the stares, Caleb’s standing in the center of the kitchen, staring at the shards.  His little bare feet are literally inches from the razor-like pieces of porcelain.

I yell. It’s all in the name of protection, but there’s no denying I’m yelling.  Instead of obeying my shouted command, he folds onto the floor in a million pieces, just like the cup that’s shattered on the floor.  And suddenly, the cup and the prayer meeting, and the million pressing things that need done don’t seem so important after all.  I crumble with him, scoop him up, and carry him to the safety of the living room.  We sit on the carpet in all our human brokenness, hold onto one another, and watch robins search for worms on the lawn.

I tell him I’m sorry and don’t try to justify the fact that I was only trying to protect him. We sit long and watch the robins.  The shards rest quietly on the kitchen floor.  Broken and undisturbed.

By the time Darrell and Bekah wander in from the garage, the kitchen floor is safe again, and there’s no evidence of the small disaster. I’m fifteen minutes late for my meeting, but everyone understands and smiles with grace.

Driving home from the meeting, the moon rises low and white over the horizon, and I find myself pondering all the brokenness of the day. It seemed to be anything but broken in the moments before that cup shattered, but as I look more closely, it’s as clear as the moon rising white.  It was all broken, long before the shattered cup.

It was the bad kind of brokenness that looks like a frenzied, striving woman – trying to keep all the pieces together, but coming unglued with every frenzied motion. It wasn’t until the cup shattered and Caleb crumbled and I fell with him that good brokenness came.  King David wrote: My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17, NIV).

Godly brokenness comes when we let ourselves fall dependently into his arms and give up our striving efforts to accomplish and perform in our own strength. Good brokenness comes when we let others see our vulnerabilities and don’t hide the things we haven’t figured out.  Good brokenness comes when we go lower and offer our broken hearts to God, trusting that he won’t throw them away, but that he’ll piece them back together with greater beauty.

 M.R. DeHann says it well: “God used two broken stones tablets to cause the Israelites to repent of their disobedience.

God used broken earthen vessels to give the impression of an enormous army accompanying Gideon.

God used a broken heart to return King David to Himself. . .

God used broken loaves to feed five thousand and then some.

God used broken fishing nest to challenge the disciple to depend on him rather than their own efforts for their needs.

God used a broken ship to steer Paul to the island of Malta to reveal the gospel to the natives there.

God used a broken body, pierced for our sins, to provide salvation for all humankind.”

 

I walk into a still house after the meeting and turn on the hallway light. There on the floor, a small shard of white greets me at the entryway, flung fifteen feet from the site of the fallen cup.  I pick it up and hold it on the tip of my finger.  It seems we’re sweetly broken together tonight.

purposefulfaith.com

Thanks to the Kelly Balarie link-up for including this post!

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