“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
As November is about to turn to December, I created a playlist of favorite Christmas songs that can accompany any car travel, housework, and even bible study as I prepare my heart for a Jesus-centered holiday ….
A handful of songs rose above the rest. More than atmosphere setters, they’ve become part of the illumination of the season for me. I hit replay over and over and let the Holy Spirit use the music to pry my heart open wider for the celebration of Christ’s birth. However, one of those songs has a title not instantly connected with Christmas classics: “It Is Well” … but in some ways, it defines the message of Christmas: Gratitude
This year, I most appreciate this song, because everything seemed anything but “well” in my household. There’s been messages from friends telling of family chaos and various crises, and my own family heartbreak from lost relationships with my children, isolation and prevailing lonliness, there’s been rough disappointments, and most definitely breath-stealing challenges ….
Against that backdrop came the song “It Is Well.” As soon as the last note ended, I hit “replay.” I needed to hear it again, and then again, as if to reassure and reaffirm myself ….
It turned into a prayer of thankfulness and gratitude that Jesus came to our messy world to let us know it would get even messier, but we could still know deeply embedded peace. The poetry of the lyrics found their footing in my soul, and in the truth foretold in ancient times in anticipation of the arrival of Jesus on the scene ….
Circumstances have no power against the relentless unstoppable presence of Jesus, the Light of the world. Because of His sacrifice I have reason to be thankful; because in Him, and through Him “all can be well” with my soul …
Today, I’m aware of the fact that life is better than I deserve, which is saying something these days. The world is full of pain and suffering, hardship and turmoil, disappointment and regret. So the fact that I can be thankful, and mean it is, in its own way, a small miracle ….
I’m learning there is a responsibility that comes with privilege. That I am blessed to bless, and gifted to give. I am not lucky, fortunate, or merely disciplined; I am blessed, and expected to do something with the grace I’ve been given. And so are you ….
When I was younger, I didn’t understand gratitude. In a universe that seemed to hurt for no reason, giving thanks felt disingenuous. Living in a world where children are horribly abused, die of hunger every day, and tragedy occurs to innocents without reason or regard; it just didn’t make sense. But now I understand more. Being grateful is a CHOICE ….
So today, I chose to make a list. A gratitude list; which helps me re-focus, as well as bring clarity in the midst of heartache, and which enables me to regain perspective as to why I can and should be thankful in all circumstances …..
Gratitude is not always my natural disposition, especially when you are feeling the weight of traumatic memories, enduring unexpected flashbacks and feeling great sadness; so this took some time and effort. It was a discipline to remind myself of the many reasons I have to be grateful. But it was an exercise well worth the discomfort ….
Here’s my challenge to you: Take some time today, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, to come up with a gratitude list. If it doesn’t come naturally, don’t let that stop you from still giving thanks. There is still much to be thankful for, if we only have eyes to see ….
And in case you were wondering, here are my 10 reasons to give thanks today:
1.) I am thankful for my health, for being able to walk without the use of my cane today, and the strength I have to be able to walk ….
2.) I am thankful for my beloveds pets; my loyal companions and fierce protectors. They love me unconditionally, without judgment, comfort me when sad, miss me when I’m gone, and always welcome me exuberantly when I return ….
3.) I am thankful for a stove to cook on, a fridge to keep food cold, and cabinets with food in them. Though not full, they are not empty either. I am thankful for the local food pantry’s that provide for me month to month that I can always have food to eat. I may not always have what I might like, but I do not have that unforgettable ache in my belly from going days without eating ….
4.) I am thankful for my online community of friends who have made an impact in my life with their daily encouragement, and who, like me are desirous of making a difference in the world. You guys inspire me daily …..
5.) I am thankful for sobriety today. After nearly 45 years of serious active addiction, and not merely being an addict — but a severe junkie; today, I have almost 3 years clean and sober, and only by God’s grace, with not one single relapse ….
6.) I am thankful for my little home. For many years of the biggest portion of my life, beginning from the early age of 14, I have been homeless and experienced unspeakable traumas from living in the streets. From sleeping under bridges, and behind dumpsters in dark alleys, scavenging in trash cans for a scrap of food, and facing day to day hopelessness, today; I am warm, safe, and secure in a little place I can call my home ….
7.) I am thankful for music; for the words and lyrics that inspire me and give me hope …
8.) I am thankful for my church: Jesus Christ Alive, which saved my life. I was told about a little church that fed the homeless, of which I found myself once again in 2014; and I went for a hot meal, and one meal led to another meal, which brought me back week after week; all the while sitting through a sermon; not even realizing of how I was truly being fed. And 7 weeks later, I gave my heart to a God that I never knew had loved me and been waiting for me all these years. That’s right —
I am but a mere 3 years old, almost — Praise God!! ….
9.) I am thankful for the gift and work of the Holy Ghost in my life, which is one of the utmost reasons to be thankful, because only by His indwelling power have I been changed and my life transformed. As an incest/ trauma survivor from age 6; I endured things too grotesque to even speak of, which left indelible scars upon my soul. I have lived broken my entire life, yet, because of the mending of my Lord and the power of the Holy Ghost, I am being restored, renewed, and healed daily ….
And I am most thankful for my beloved pastors; who are my family in the truest sense of the word. God has given me these spiritual parents, who have taught me to trust again, have shown me what real love looks like, who saw me as God sees me and have taught me and encouraged me to see myself in the same manner. Who has heard the worst of my painful degradation and horrific childhood, and yet, never shunned me, never rejected me, and certainly never ceased to love me ….
10.) And I am thankful for Grace ~ for love that cannot be explained; only surrendered to, for a loving Saviour that redeems, restores, and inspires me to be better than I was; that patiently waited on me for a purpose and a hope that there is more to the story than I could see. Who for His sacrifice — given just for me, that today, by His blood, His love, His grace, I can stand forgiven, redeemed, beautifully broken in the light of any and all storms and proclaim, “It is well” with my soul ….
As I reflect on these things in my list, my current struggles dim in the light of Jesus’ love which is shed abroad in my heart. It warms me and burns away the sorrows I feel, it fills me with His presence which drives away the demons of lonliness and isolation. He envelopes me with His warm embrace and under His strong arms I find peace, love and joy unspeakable. Glory to God. He assures me I am not alone, I am loved, I am beautiful to Him, and I am valued and cherished. He whispers, “It is well, I will never leave you, I am with you always” …..
Looking for a way to be thankful? Make a list. Ponder and dig deep, and you will find there is always cause to be thankful and reason to be grateful; always ….
Let us pray ~
How I praise You my Lord for every day of my life; for my family and friends and all the good things that You have provided for me in Your love and grace. Lord, You have blessed all those that trust in Your Son with every spiritual blessing; for You have saved us by His blood and clothed us in His own perfect righteousness. You have poured out Your grace into our laps in great abundance….
I thank You Lord for every day of this life, and for every single hour which has been given to us by grace.
I know that I could not ever draw another breath unless YOU gave me the power. How can I ever thank You enough, my God and my Saviour? Lord, I know that there is nothing that I have done to deserve this favour from You, nor is there anything that I can ever do to repay You for all your loving-kindness and merciful blessings which are new every single day. I pray that I may give my life as a living sacrifice of praise to You, that You would make me a vessel of honor, for You alone are worthy ~ You alone are the Lord ~ You alone deserve ALL honour and glory, ALL praise and worship, not only today but in the eternal ages to come. Hallelujah!
I thank You Jesus for each and every trial, every struggle, every tear and each storm, for I know it is by these that you are preparing me to come home to You. In Your precious name do I pray,