When Thankful Changes the AtmosphereOct 04, 2015 02:26AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
She had just put a huge meal on for tourists and was about to reload the table for her family of 9. It was almost 8 PM, and they were coming in from the harvest. The corn had to be collected before the rains came. Her youngest child, a boy of 7, had helped late into the evening the night before, but they still had some work to do. She had a twinkle in her eye, but there was a shot of weary and concern as well as she turned her bonneted head toward me and chirped happily in her heavy accent:
“I have so much to be thankful for. God has given me many blessings.”
Her words grew feet and scurried right into the center of my heart.
It was the Amish way, and yet, as tired mothers: one the “worldly English” and one with the “plain life,” the only thing separating us in our common mama sighs was our lifestyles. Otherwise, the weightiness of our hearts beat to the same sound. We shared the same God. We each wanted to express love into the other’s world, if only for a few hours, without making her world become fully ours.
And yet those penetrating words. Despite the fact setting the table for her six-course meal was on its second round, she was grateful.
Counting blessings—with another sinkload of dishes in the almost-dark.
I grew up not far from this community. We regularly came “up the country” to Lancaster County from Chester County, Pennsylvania. Horses and buggies were part of my childhood tapestry. But now, with my parents living amidst the Amish community in surrounding farms, I have come to pay greater attention to my Christian brothers and sisters in solid, dark colors.
And as I left her house that day, this 39 year old mother of 7, with worn hands from many years of caring for her family, gave me a gift I can never exercise enough.
She offered me thankful.
Have you met "thankful” yet? It passes itself around like a big meal offered family style.
It soothes the broken heart.
Softens the sharp edges of pessimism.
Whittles at pride.
All of a sudden I started telling those around me how thankful I was for my husband, my children, and the blessings from the trials.
It took me a few days to even realize I was doing it—and I was spreading it to those around me. I was sharing the hard parts of my life, when folks would ask, but I was also making sure I ended with the good that emerged from the bad.
I was looking, well,
—all because one fellow sojourner who understands grace and how all good things come from our Father in Heaven, spoke appreciation and a full heart. Out loud.
James 1:17, ESV, James, Brother of Jesus, speaking
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow
due to change.
My burdens didn’t disappear, but the curse that I felt was on them melted into the cracks where I had pet and cuddled it.
A grateful heart does that. It evicts negative thinking because where we thank the Father of lights there isn’t room for pity parties and piercing fears.
1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
In all circumstances?
A sick child?
A difficult teenager?
That sounds like a tall order. Some pain cuts so deep and some situations so seemingly impossible, thankful is furthest from our minds.
But what if?
What if we laid it all bare before God, letting ourselves be real, raw, honest, talking to Him about our pain, disappointments, and frustrations like David did in the Psalms—but then ended it with a plea for more thankful?
Something like this:
“Lord, I really don’t understand or even like why this XYZ situation has happened to me or that I have to carry this pain. I am weary and did not plan for this circumstance in my life. But You knew I would walk through it, and I need You. I need You to help me find my thankful. I can’t find it, Lord. Help me to be able to thank You even when my heart is shattered in a thousand pieces, and I can’t see beyond it.”
I guarantee that if you ask for His help, you will start finding treasures in the dark. It may start small. Initially, you may repeatedly trip over the cinder blocks you feel hold you down in your sorrow or struggle. It won’t be easy at first.
But thankful catches the slightest whisper and rides the wind with stronger and more powerful gusts. Before you know it, it lifts your spirit and rushes in to lift other heads around you.
It’s not a new idea, but it is one we need refreshed and renewed in our minds and hearts daily. Thankful isn’t our flesh. It’s our transformed heart led by the Holy Spirit.
I do not know the deeper expanses of this Amish mother’s heart. With a long marriage and many parenting years, the loss of her mother, and the demands on her time, I am very sure there were unspoken woes of various depths over the years.
I sat at her table one evening, for just a few hours, with a heart trapped between the generations on either side of me: my father’s ongoing cancer war and a child with special needs. I brought my heaviness in and ushered it out with thankful.
I don’t like the color gone from my father’s face, but I am grateful there is a chemical that launches missiles at cancer and that he is currently strong enough to host it.
On any given day, I could completely thrash at the roadblocks in my son’s ability to learn, but I am gifted with experts both inside and outside the school to target each specialized area of concern.
I serve a mighty God. He can handle my pain, but He also wants to strip the deadened wood around my heart and replace it with the vibrant life of defeated death on a cross for me.
He knows what I carry around and wants me to live in spite of it.
To change the atmosphere with my thankful.
To be alive, trusting in His love and goodness.
Whatever you face today, can you take a small step toward thankful? Perhaps today it was merely getting back and forth in your vehicle safely. Tomorrow it might be a little bigger…that prayer on your heart is seeing breakthrough.
How can you change the world around you, one trusting glance toward heaven at a time?
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.