For many years my mother worked very hard to get us to be thankful people on Thanksgiving Day. I imagine she had this Norman Rockwell fantasy that we would go around the table, each of us listing the five things we were thankful for in moving and compelling ways. But in reality she had a lot of trouble getting us to cooperate. She tried everything. One year she even held dessert hostage until we listed the five things, but most of us just decided to forego dessert, altogether. In looking back, I’m not sure why it became such a struggle, but the more pressure I felt to be grateful, the less grateful I became.
So one year I prepared my list in advance, hoping it would put an end to this dreadful exercise. I was grateful the whales made it out from under the ice okay. (Do you remember that?) I was grateful that Elvis was still alive, from what some were saying. (I could hear my cousin’s grandmother whispering, “Elvis. Elvis is still alive?!”) My third thing was some derogatory comment about the women my brother had dated that year. And I’m too ashamed to list the last two.
Needless to say, my five things were not received with quite the humor I thought they deserved. They bombed, actually. And immediately after reciting the five things I was thankful for, my dear, sweet aunt tearfully described how thankful she was for her successful cancer surgery. That’s when I realized, yep, it’s official. I’m a terrible person. If I were going through a 12-step program today, I’m sure this incident would be included in my moral inventory.
Well, a lot has changed since then because I’m so thankful today, it would be impossible to list only five. I suppose my mother is grateful I finally grew up, so I’m certainly thankful for her patience and tolerance. In fact, I could spend the rest of the day listing how thankful I am for my family - especially my husband and daughter who have supported me in this Blue Monarch venture and faithfully held me up through the years.
But we just finished Thanksgiving Dinner at Blue Monarch today and I am completely overwhelmed at all God’s blessings. Honestly, as I look around at all the women and children we serve, as I scan the room and recall the specific experiences of each woman and child and what led them here, when I look at the amazing staff members who dedicate their lives to this ministry – well, it literally takes my breath away.
I mean this literally. There are many times when the enormity of God’s goodness is so overwhelming, it causes me to lose my breath for a moment and get all teary with no warning. I often have these moments when I’m alone in my car, when I really allow myself to take it all in and feel such huge emotion.
So if I could get a do-over for being such a smarty-pants all those years ago, I think my new list would look something like this:
1. I am thankful for all the precious, little children who show up at Blue Monarch tired, angry, and wounded but still have a willingness to give their moms another chance to earn their trust. Their remarkable resilience and capacity to forgive amazes me.
2. I am thankful for the women who were once those same children, who desperately want to provide a happier and healthier future for their kids, despite the fact they never had a childhood of their own. Their courage to smile after a lifetime of atrocious traumas and hardships is truly an inspiration to me.
3. I am thankful for my loving family’s support, our gifted and dedicated staff, our courageous board members, and all the many, many volunteers and donors who make Blue Monarch possible for so many hurting women and children. I can’t even count the number of times individuals have described to me the way God placed Blue Monarch on their hearts to help us. I am grateful they listened and were obedient.
4. I am thankful for my precious granddaughter, who despite the daily challenges of her special needs, greets each new day with nothing less than complete joy and tremendous courage. She never fails to put my world into proper perspective – and always makes me laugh. I have watched her little body fight some fierce battles but what I have never seen is the first shred of discouragement. She is by far the happiest person I know and has taught me volumes about endurance.
5. Most of all, I am thankful for the huge and amazing God we serve. My word. It’s impossible to describe. Often when I leave my office, I have the great pleasure of seeing a breathtaking sunset that I’m convinced has been put there for the benefit of our women and children. Sometimes I drag them from the dinner table to see it because it’s a gift especially for them! I get to hear our precious children say the blessing before they eat. I get to hear the women laugh among themselves as they reflect on their activities that day. I get to see women caring for babies that may have been born addicted if they had not come to Blue Monarch. And as I walk out the door, I always catch a glimpse of something, even something as insignificant as this row of infant seats, that reminds me of how enormous God’s plan was for Blue Monarch and yes, it takes my breath away and puts tears in my eyes with no warning. So for all of that – I am thankful beyond words – and now I think I will rush to my car for some alone time.
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom, which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.Hebrews 12:28-29