You see, these two holiday months-November and December- don’t create warm fuzzy feelings in me. I am not thankful this time of year. I have whole lists (and probably lists upon lists if I am honest) of what I am missing in my life, places that have come up dry and hard, painful and sore. Missing holes that I’ve asked the Lord to fill, but for now He has chosen not to. It’s a hard season to swallow for me. It’s a hard season for me to be thankful.
Holes and wounds and brokenness- they just aren’t things we associate with thankfulness. But this season is about thankfulness isn’t it? Isn’t it about “1000 gifts”, prayers of thankfulness, and acknowledging those we love?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s about those things, or maybe it’s a season in the year to just endure. I can keep my lists of all the things I don’t have that seem profoundly long this time of the year and grow frustrated and lonely. But then there’s this concept of gratefulness that I do have.
Gratefulness: warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received.
Gratefulness reveals a deep warmth of appreciation. It indicates something much deeper than thankfulness. It expresses the generosity of God in his Personhood (good, warm, loving, receptive, attentive, available). Gratefulness is receiving all the things I never knew I wanted but God gave me. I didn’t ask for them. I never prayed for them, but He gave them to me anyways.
Rather than listing all the things I am thankful for (don’t get me wrong, that is a good practice of the heart too!), I want to reflect on all the ways God gave me things I hold so dear now, that I never knew I wanted and never asked for in a few installments over the next few weeks. Here’s the first:
God gave me a desire for children, and not just any children, but the really hurt ones, the ones we’d rather forget.
I thought I hated kids. I used to say to myself and friends growing up, “I will never have kids. I don’t want to screw them up. I have no idea how to parent.” I babysat often because it was easy and I wanted money. The truth was I never enjoyed kids. I liked teens or young adults or the elderly. I even said when we started a church 5 years ago that the ONLY thing I would not do was participate, organize, etc. a children’s program of any sort.
I had an idea a year or two into that church plant to start a weekend kids outreach because I thought it was needed (that’s what I do… I see needs and how to build bridges of needs and resources). I planned it, organized it, recruited for it. I NEVER intended to participate in it. Somehow I ended up overseeing it and loving it. We would have 10-35 kids on a Saturday morning listening to bible stories, games, activities, and field trips; all elementary students from our local low income housing complex, several who came from non-english speaking families. We had staff that volunteered to tutor or mentor the students additionally. I had a couple of other women working alongside me in it who grew to become dear friends. I started helping out in our Sunday morning kids program at church, first out of need (because what church ever has enough Sunday school teachers) and then because I liked it, eventually better than sitting in the sermon! Some kids from our saturday outreach came on Sundays regulary. I would even pick some up! I’d hang out with them after and discuss what they learned, listen to their questions, pray for the things they asked prayer for.
When the monthly order magazine for kids crafts came in the mail, I got all excited looking through all the potential options and prizes. I spent countless hours making hand made bible verse puzzles and “model” crafts. I even would go by the park where the students lived to hang out with them on my free time. These weren’t 16 year olds. They were 5 and 7 and 8 year olds.
Fast forward 5 years. That then 5 year old is now 10 years old and doesn’t remember a time in her life when I wasn’t there. It’s a precious thing to partner with parents in raising their kids.It’s a beautiful thing to love someone ONLY because Christ loves you, to build bridges racially and socioeconomically. Learning to love your neighbor as yourself is hard work, but it’s the only work worth doing. It’s eternal.
I want to be a foster parent, a mom. It is the greatest desire in my heart, but not just any mom. I want to be a temporary mom who gives children back to their family of origin. I want to aid in restoring families through caring for kids.
I never saw that one coming. Shocker.