Over Easter I reached #1000 in my thankfulness journal. Around #800 - I found myself contemplating what would go in that future significant slot. I had a dog-eared journal filled with many precious moments and memories over the past year but this one number seemed significant. 1000.
The challenge from Ann Voskamp was attempting to write 1000 things I was thankful for and now here I was - one year later- in sight of that goal. What was I most thankful for in this past year? It was a year filled with many significant moments. And yet, as I contemplated what to put in this weighty slot, the answer was right in front of me. Thankfulness. #1000 would need to be thankfulness. And so it was. I was thankful for thankfulness.
I supposed it seems sort of funny to say but it's the honest truth. I am thankful for the discipline of thankfulness. I am thankful for all the ways God is using this small act to change my heart, my mind, and my outlook. In August of last year I wrote that through the act of thankfulness God had unexpectedly lead me to the restoration to the joy I had lost. And a few weeks ago I had an experience where I realized that thankfulness is also deepening my trust in Him.
In my last post I mentioned that we have been attempting to both incubate and hatch chicks in our home. And the process has made for fantastic photo ops and stories and family memories. But somehow, welcoming these tiny eggs into my home, unleashed my inner brooding hen. I fussed over those 12 little eggs like nothing I had known before...except my children I suppose.
I was up in the night checking temperature and humidity levels. Wrapping the incubator in a towel to ensure a consistent temperature. Opening and closing the blinds nearby so as to not disturb the perfect conditions required to hatch the eggs. Shining a flashlight on them to see if they were pipping or not, checking in the night on the newborn chicks, sneaking peaks when no one was looking to ensure their safety. I thought about them, cared for them, and went to bed hoping they would be fine for a few hours while I slept. And then they were out of their shells and there was the heat lamp and brooder temperature and making sure they survived a very fragile stage of life in the first four days.
Life is such a precious thing and I did not want anyone dying on my watch...if I could help it.
One night while I was trying to go to sleep, I started thinking about the eggs and worrying about whether or not they were going to live. And bemoaning the fact that I was unable to control the outcome, unable to control whether or not they hatched. This little troubled line of thinking got me thinking about my children and feeling at a loss of how I was going to have to care for them in the next unknown, unexperienced stages - my brain went into overload. I had too many lives in my hands to care for, too much responsibility.
How could I do this on my own? How could I ensure everyone made it and no one died? How can I ensure my kids can navigate this tricky world that is losing its identity and one that is increasingly hostile to Christianity? How can I pass on my faith to them? How can I keep them from making terrible choices when I'm not there to make the decisions for them? How can I keep them from getting addicted to drugs or alcohol, greed, approval from others? How can I raise these kids in an oversexualized culture? How can I show them how to engage culture without losing their sense of truth? And, also, how can I ensure that these chickens stay alive? How can I do all of this?
And while these thoughts were swirling in my head and heart, the Holy Spirit graciously reached out and reminded me of all the ways that God had taken care of me over my life, all the ways He had cared for me over this past year, all the things I had written in my journal. And this little prayer arose out of my heart:
"God - I give you my children, their lives, their futures. And I give these tiny chicks to you. You have guided and watched over me. Will you do the same for my children? Will you watch over these tiny chicks? Take all this and lead me and them. We are yours."
And I fell immediately to sleep.
The weight I had been carrying, the worry I had been worrying was lifted in such a significant way that it brought deep peace and rest to my soul. The surrender was so sweet because surrender had actually happened more tangibly than I have ever felt before.
In 1 Samuel 7, God conquered the Philistines for the Israelites and Samuel sets up a stone and calls it Ebenezer which means "a stone of help". And Samuel made a tiny but profound speech about the Ebenezer, "The Lord has taken care of us thus far." At first glance you might think that this is a statement about the battle with the Philistines. But it is so much more. It is a statement about the past, the present, and the future.
God's faithfulness to Israel has stretched back far beyond their own experience, back to a clear starry night and a man named Abraham. The Lord has taken care of us thus far.
God had helped them defeat their enemies that very day. The Lord has taken care of us thus far.
God will help us in the future. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. How infinitely more true is that of God. The Lord has taken care of us thus far.
And in that moment, in my bed, in my worrying about my chicks and my children - I had a moment of real trust. I had an Ebenezer moment - all the moments of help flooded my mind and I felt as though I could truly trust God. Unbeknownst to me, that trust had been growing as I sat down every day and wrote out three little things I was thankful for. Every little thing I had written in my journal was building a deeper assurance of God's goodness to me and His trustworthiness.
Taking His goodness into daily account made a way forward for me through my fear and uncertainty. It opened up a way to trust Him because He has been faithful to me and I have it on paper!
I have only been doing this for a year and God has been taking care of me for much longer than that. But the more I practice thankfulness, the more I can see His hand of guidance and care over my past, over the good and hard memories, over both the dark and light moments, and the regular days in between. For years I knew I was untrusting of God and yet had no idea how I could become more trusting. It was not something that I could force. But it seems that thankfulness plays a role in it. The more I am thankful, the more my knowledge of God's goodness grows and the more I am able to trust. And for that I am thankful. It's a wonderful life giving circle of which I am only at the beginning. Perhaps you would like to join me.