“With Thanksgiving?”

26 Nov

We were in the middle of a major home remodel, living in a rented house in a nearby neighborhood. The boys were in 5th and 8th grade (the “senior years” of elementary and middle school), and had scores of practices, lessons, meetings and hockey or baseball (or both) games every week. I was relishing the stay-home mom life, and was active in PTA, Education Foundation, art programs at both schools, church service, home-making. Life was full.

Well, we thought it was full. Meaning, we can’t add in a single other thing.

And then, half way through the 7-month remodel, along came a single other thing: a cancer diagnosis for me.

Sorry, God. No time for this!

As we adjusted to the news, learning everything we could about papillary thyroid cancer, I relied heavily on God to make it through every day, specifically, Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The italics are mine in that verse. With Thanksgiving. Paul’s exhortation to the people of Philippi, acknowledges that there will be rough times in this life — real challenges that produce anxiety. In the midst of those, as you turn to God for help, however, he instructs us to include gratitude.

Gratitude in the midst of struggle? What’s this you say?

We know so much about the brain these days, with research proving what the Bible proposed two thousand years ago: we can renew our minds by changing our thinking. (I highly recommend Jennie Allen’s “Get Out of Your Head” to dig deeper). The impact of gratitude is huge in redirecting our thoughts. It literally alters your brain and produces lots of feel-good chemicals that you don’t have to “Break Bad” to get!

Honestly, we didn’t have to look too deeply to find things to be grateful for during that challenging half year. With Jesus as our anchor, and overwhelming help from a loving community of family, church family, friends (nothing says love like volunteering to substitute teach art to 8th graders or to moderate an elementary school Student Council meeting!), brilliant doctors and a compassionate contractor, we navigated that time period like champs despite the many challenges. We were so thankful in the midst of it!

As I reflect back on that winter-to-spring of 2007, I view it fondly, with a sweetness. With my mind focused on the Lord during that crazy era, and that daily intention of seeking graditude as I laid out my heart’s desires to Him, my perspective shifted. Some days it was deep — thank you Lord your forgiveness and a promise of eternal life with You. Thank you for the doctor that discovered my cancer and for those who cured it. Other days it was a little less, uh, profound: I am so grateful that the orange marker the dog chewed up on the carpet was water soluble (it was a rental, remember?)….I am so grateful that the contractor team was able to rectify my measuring mistake in the master bath….I am so thankful for my new jammies so I don’t have to expose my backside in a hospital gown as I scuff my way to the bathroom whilst dragging an IV pole. 

Today, as we turn our attention toward this Thanksgiving holiday in a time that may be our most challenging yet as a nation, there are plenty of very real things that can produce anxiety, fear, worry and doubt. Where can we find the gratitude in this? Let us take a cue from Paul’s wisdom, and offer up our prayers of thanksgiving, and turn our attention to his very next verse:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”

That sounds like good advice, yes? I’m in!

At the top of my thankful list today: family — unconditional love despite trial, mishaps, differences of opinion, distance. That gets me started!

May your day be filled with deep gratitude that strengthens your faith and gives you the resilience to press on with a peace that truly defies comprehension.

God bless!

—Cindy, 11.26.2020

2 Responses to ““With Thanksgiving?””

  1. Denise Norden November 26, 2020 at 10:41 am #

    Cindy, once again you put things into perspective with your gift of writing! You’re a blessing to me and I thank God for you :). I pray that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

  2. miriamkook November 26, 2020 at 8:36 pm #

    Beautiful, Cindy! Thank you for sharing your life and insights with us!

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