I have several drafts of posts saved in blogger that consist of a title and some notes on what I intend to write. This particular one, “Thankfulness,” was drafted more than two months ago, but I just couldn’t pin it down. It’s connected to an entire spider web of ideas in my mind that center around our hospital experience. But the story truly begins two years before during Thanksgiving 2012. Greg and I were driving to Galveston for a beach house vacation with his extended family. We were very excited to see everyone and relax by the ocean. I was looking forward particularly to the peaceful, pensive effect the ocean has on me. I had lost a loved one early that year as well as quit my job for stay-at-home-dom, and I was still so [SO] very restless. I felt like my prayers for comfort, understanding, direction, and peace were not being answered. During the drive to Galveston, Greg and I listened to the podcast of a recent sermon we had missed at church. It really “spoke to” me or “struck” me or “resonated with” me or some other verb that doesn’t sound like cheesy Christian speak. It was perfect for me at the time, and it remains one of my favorite sermons. Listen to it here:
While the sermon as a whole was about the Holy Spirit, what really stuck with me in my situation was an emphasis on thankfulness. I realized that I was so focused on my restlessness and discontentment that I was not appreciating many things in my current situation. That is to say, I was both not grateful for them and not enjoying them as much as I could have with an outlook of gratitude. To be clear, I don’t think that discontentment and gratitude are completely mutually exclusive. In fact, I was still discontent with my general lack of answers and direction even after I started to cultivate thankfulness. But my focus changed from bad to good. I saw first-hand why this verse from Philippians is wise advice:
Philippians 4.8 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.
But the reason it is wise goes beyond pop psychology and “the power of positive thinking.” I realized that when I looked through a lens of gratitude, I could see the ways God *was* answering my prayers and providing for me the whole time. It was amazing, and this habit of thankfulness has stuck with me.
I think focusing on gratitude helped a lot when June was in the NICU because the good continuously counterbalanced the bad from this perspective. I often saw our needs being met completely unexpectedly within minutes of the need arising. Also, very early in the pregnancy I had finally acted on the nudge to address some unhealthy relationships in my life, and it resulted in the loss of several former close friends. Yet even with those significant relationships gone, the support that we received through family and friends was so over abundant, it felt extravagant (along the lines of God’s “extravagant love” from 1 John 3). It was like the fish and loaves of support systems…..that’s the last analogy I’ll throw in…..
Truly- as overwhelming as June’s NICU experience was, I was more overwhelmed by the way God was working in that situation, usually through other people. And I can point to this sermon from two years ago which helped shape the frame of mind that allowed me to see how God was working in that difficult NICU situation. In hindsight, I see a thread of God’s provision throughout all of these events that, to my great frustration, made no sense at the time.