does gratitude drip from your lips?

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

November 20, 2012

 

All moments funnel into one, swirl faster in eye-blurring fury and collide, shatter in slow motion.

Metal against metal.

I see the bike spin and slide across the concrete. D slams the car to a stop in the middle of the road and leaps out. I freeze in my seat, nauseous, gasping for air, head down and hands over face, folded on myself. Rocking, rocking. Back and forth. Back and forth.

“Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”

Shock probably. And words only.

But sometimes words alone are a start.

The officer parked in front of Publix is there in an instant.

“I saw the whole thing.” The woman glares at and points to my husband as he stoops over the broken. “He ran a red light.”

Not so.

We both traveled with the light we’d been given. But now here we are in the middle of an intersection while one bleeds from scrapes and cuts and a deep puncture wound to the leg and the other bends low.

It happens like that sometimes, doesn’t it? You’ve got a green light in life and you know you’re riding right. But suddenly you’re doubled over and broken and you can’t catch your breath.

We’re supposed to give thanks for all things, but how do we do that when we’re in the midst of a mangled mess through no fault of our own?

What if the officer had actually directed traffic at that intersection instead of simply parked and watched and waited for a crew to fix the malfunctioning light?

Or what if we had gone straight home from church instead of visiting a friend in the hospital?

What if he’d worn long pants and heavy shoes instead of shorts and sandals? If he hadn’t gone helmetless on an uninsured motorcycle just to grab a Sunday paper?

The melding of those moments could have had a much different flavor.

But we never know.

Do we still offer a sacrifice of praise, greet granite with gratitude? Do we fall on the Rock knowing we can trust where His light leads, trust that He works all for good in those who love and follow Him?

Do we give thanks when we don’t know how we’ll ever extricate ourselves from tomorrow’s tangles?

Even when life spins out of control, do we still count it all joy because we can count on Life?

This week when we count the good gifts, can we also breathe a bit of thanks for the brittle and the bitter?

Can we reflect grace even in life’s grit?

For how we can grow through it?

For what He can make from it?

Does gratitude drip from our lips in all circumstances?

So… what hard thing will you choose to give thanks for today?

I’ll go first. I’m thankful for this awful cold. Yes, I am. I choose to be grateful. Because though I pray it’ll be gone sooner than soon, it’s reminded me again of the importance of taking care of myself and keeping my home in daily order so I’m not sideswiped by setbacks.

Your turn.

 

30 Comments

  1. Lorretta Stembridge

    I am grateful beyond understanding for the deep pain that caused me to finally begin writing again…and which brought me to these sorts of doorsteps and thresholds where inside I’d find Jesus and His Spirit residing in the flesh of blood of others, like you, who’s hearts are broken by and for His as well.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Oh, Lorretta. Thank you for sharing deep. When I started writing for real many moons ago (on an IBM Selectric with carbon paper), I wrote sermony stuff about things I had no real knowledge of. (I even refused to submit to nonpaying markets.) There was no emotion. It’s not until we walk in those dark places that our words can really ring true and touch hearts. I’m so, so glad that the hard stuff has brought you to this place.

      Reply
  2. Nancy Franson

    Oh goodness. I held my breath while reading your description of the accident! I’m walking through some hard days myself and can find some ways to give thanks despite the circumstances. It’s hard, very hard, to give thanks for the circumstances themselves. I can do it in my head, trusting that God has purpose in the road he’s put us on. The thanksgiving has yet to travel from my head to my heart, however. But I keep walking, keep trusting that God will move the gratitude from head to heart with each step I take.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      And yet scripture tells us to give thanks in the midst–and even for–knowing that for whatever reason, He’s allowed the pain. That we only see from our small perspective, from one side of the mountain, that we’re still in the midst of the story. I still struggle hard with some of the things our family has come through, is still coming through. They make no sense in my pea brain. But sometimes we just have to keep walking step by step through what Shelly calls that pudding, trusting that there’s a plan we might never see in our lifetime.

      I know you’re walking a hard road, Nancy. I’m glad to walk beside you.

      Reply
  3. Megan Willome

    This idea of an accident happening when you had the green light and did nothing wrong–that really speaks to me and where I am. Green light. All wrong. Amen.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I driven through a few green lights that in my mind should have been red with gates and lights and someone screaming, “Stop!” I still have no answers. I just have to trust.

      Reply
  4. Lynn Mosher

    Oh, dear! How’s your hubby doing? How’s the young man doing? Praying the outcome is good for all.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      This was years and years ago, Lynn. Like 30. But still fresh. I’m always careful when I enter an intersection. D has always been probably the safest driver ever and takes a lot of flack for never exceeding the speed limit (except when he demanded I do the Night of the Kidney Stone.) The young man left via ambulance and was in hospital for a couple days. We went up to visit him. His bike was totaled. I don’t remember our damage. Our insurance company collected from the City of Tampa.

      Reply
  5. Ro elliott

    “You’ve got a green light in life and you know you’re riding right. But suddenly you’re doubled over and broken and you can’t catch your breath.” oh have just come out of this kind of season in life…the Lord brought Ann across my path right about this time…I was like a field that had been tilled up…and now I could learn to plant new seeds of life…seeds of thanksgiving…and how it has changed my life…not the circumstances…but how I now can process and walk through them. Great story…have a wonderful Thanksgiving~

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      He seems to do that, doesn’t He? Brings the right person or the right word into our life at just the right time–and what we see and learn when we pay attention? Learning to plant those seeds has made a big difference for me, too. And Happy Thanksgiving right back atcha.

      Reply
  6. sheila @ LongingsEnd.com

    “Can we reflect grace even in life’s grit?”

    LOVED that line, Sandra. And the answer is YES, but sometimes it is so hard. And yet in the hard places– the times of loss and sorrow and hurt — when I was lowest, He was there to pick me up and extend grace. And slowly He taught me how to move on always holding His hand –my one little light still burning– and reflecting His grace.

    Thanks for this post! HAPPY THANKGIVING

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      It’s so much easier to give thanks in the soft spots. But now I’m thinking about how we reflect light in the light… Seems like we need to be standing in the dark…

      Hope you have a beautiful Thanksgiving, too, Sheila. Thanks for sharing in the conversation.

      Reply
  7. Marilyn Yocum

    We wait to learn outcomes of a terrible situation. But I choose this Thanksgiving – right now – to give thanks for those outcomes, not even waiting to know what it will mean for us, what adjustment they may require.

    This came to me in church on Sunday, as we looked at 1 Thess. 5:18 (the very verse you featured). Usually at Thanksgiving I look around my feet to see what I have been given already or in the past, but what about the future? Can I give thanks now for the future, not knowing what the future is, not waiting to assess it?

    Excellent post!

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Oh, Marilyn. To give thanks for the future though not knowing. I often pray, “Thank you for what you’ll do through this situation.” I think I’m assuming I’ll like the outcome, where instead it really might be very painful in the shortrun. Thanks for giving me a new slant to think about. And I’m lifting a prayer right now for your situation.

      Reply
    • David Rupert

      I really like your approach Marilyn. We always want to see ‘the good’ in bad situations. And sometimes, we really streeeetch to see the blessing. I think we should just give the praise, regardless of our vision of how God is working

      Reply
  8. Marcus Goodyear

    I’m thankful for the past three years. They sucked. But I’ve grown as a result. I don’t want to blame God for my failings during those times, but God has taught me a lot about himself in the process.

    Reply
    • David Rupert

      Marcus, i’m with you. First inclination is to blame God, but the truth is…there’s no one to blame but me

      Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Looking back is sometimes easier than going through. There are times I’ve only been able to go step by step. The whole picture would have been overwhelming. Then in the looking back, I think yikes. How did I ever survive. But those are the only times I’ve grown, the only times I’ve had heart knowledge rather than just head knowledge. Praying this next year will not suck. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Sharon O

    wow. I am not able to be thankful for everything tonight, but I will get there.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      It’s a process, I think, Sharon. Some things are a lot harder than others.

      Reply
  10. pastordt

    Wow, Sandy. Tough questions. I guess I’m not where you are on this one – and that’s a first! Yes, I will say (and do) say thank you IN the hard places. But no, I will not thank God FOR the dreadful, life-sucking disfigurement and slow dying that took my grandsons’ father from them. I will not thank God FOR the half a heart my friend’s baby was born with that has seriously compromised his life and forever changed their family. YES, God can and does redeem any and all situations. But there is not enough good in this world to fill the hole left by the death of an innocent young child. I do thank God that my brother was released from this life at the point when his suffering would have begun anew – yet I cannot thank God for his life-long suffering up to that point. I believe there is something dynamic going on in creation that I do not understand fully and never will, this side of heaven. But I have learned to hold in tension two apparently contrasting truths: God is sovereign AND things happen in this life, in this universe, that God did not choose/plan/intend. This is the extraordinarily high cost of the great gift of free will. And if we believe God gave us that gift, then somehow, we have to make room for that dynamism at work in our lives. Gerald Sittser’s fine book “A Grace Disguised:How the Soul Grows Through Loss,” has helped me and a whole lot of others to wrestle hard with these realities. I can thank God for being present to my daughter and her boys through the hands and arms and meals of her church. I can thank God for the deep things those boys have learned through this hard, hard, process. I can thank God that God is not done yet in any of their lives. But thank God FOR it? Thank God that Mark died a horrible death that took a very long time? I don’t think so. It is true that the way of suffering is clearly the way of salvation, the way of grace, and when we suffer for the sake of the Gospel (which I believe is what 1 Peter is talking about), that is a very different thing from the suffering that comes because we are broken creatures living in a broken creation.I will thank God for being God until the day I die and can say it before the throne. Maybe then, I will be able to see it all well enough to say thank you for the horrors of this world. But somehow, I doubt it. (I really hate to disagree with you – but this one is a real toughie for me. Still in process, but not likely to change on that key preposition. . . I’ll go with “in” but not “for.”)

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Leave it to you, Diana, to weigh in with thoughtful and wise words. My heart aches for you and your pain and your brother’s suffering and all that you’re walking through now.

      When I think of what we’ve gone through in the last 15 years or so years (some you know, not all), I still get sick to my stomach when I wonder why God didn’t intervene when He’s intervened for others. Why miracles for them and not me? Not her? Not us? He can and has stepped in and performed wonders for others. Why did He allow us to make choices that led to so much anguish for another when all we were doing was trying to work toward good? It seems foolish now, but at the time we were desperate. And we prayed. How we prayed for closed doors–that stayed wide open. How do we know that as awful as it was, it prevented something worse?

      There were poor choices all around, but He allowed them, and He allowed consequences that hurt many. He could stop the bad stuff if He chose. He allowed evil to triumph–or so it seems.

      All I can rest in is that my pain is a blip on on eternity’s screen. That He hurts with us but sees from a much broader perspective. All I can do is crawl into His sovereign lap and trust that He has a better plan, that He is writing a bigger story with a glorious ending that I may never see in my life time. I need to believe that His ways are higher and wiser and way beyond me.

      That. He. Is. Good.

      Or I would give it up. I still remember the day I sat in the car and told my husband I just wanted to die. And I meant it. It would have been so much easier.

      Giving thanks *in* the midst is way easier than *for* it at the time, I think. But because He’s proved Himself worthy, because I have seen good come from, I can look back and give thanks *for.* At least for most of it at this point–maybe all down the road. But that also gives me the courage to dare to thank Him *for* in the now and for the future. Even if it’s just *choosing* to say the words though I don’t feel them.

      And for a perpetrator of unspeakable acts, I still struggle to forgive. And I struggle to forgive myself. So though I’m not there yet… I haven’t chosen to say the words…

      (I may read this whole comment and change my mind tomorrow…)

      Love you, friend. I wish we lived closer.

      Reply
  11. David Rupert

    The ‘What Ifs’ haunt me. We had a dog run out and get killed — and it was on a normally placid street. What are the odds?

    And every accident is a strange mix of timing. Is it fate? Is it destiny? Is it bad luck?

    Good questions here — And glad to see God is the Answer

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I hate those “what ifs.” But then there are the good ones–like what if I hadn’t connected with all of you here. My life would be poorer, I’m sure.

      The thing about this hard stuff, if nothing else, it’s given me a much greater sensitivity to those who suffer and a much less judgmental spirit.

      Reply
  12. soulstops

    Thank you for sharing, Sandra…Thanking God for my cold…on the tail end, but it reminded me that I forgot to be thankful for being able to breathe through my nose and for no sinus pain before the cold…I have “heavier” thanks, but it would take too long…but God has drawn me closer to His heart because of it. He is gracious and faithful.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I’m still dealing with this cold, Dolly. Not sleeping well because of coughing. But “this, too, shall pass.” Now my husband has caught it, and I can give thanks that we’re close enough for that to happen. 😉

      I hope you’re feeling better.

      Reply
      • soulstops

        oh, so sorry, Sandra…praying for you today and hubby’s healing…my allergist prescribed an inhaler, which helps with the cough, and Mucinex, over the counter…giving thanks for you and hubby’s closeness… I caught mine from my hubby 🙂

        Reply
  13. Carol J. Garvin

    I’m with Diana when it comes to not being thankful for certain events in my life. I can “pray without ceasing and give thanks IN all circumstances” but not necessarily FOR all circumstances. I trust in God’s greater plan and his desire for my welfare, and accept that in allowing all of his creation to have freedom, he doesn’t often choose to intervene in the consequences, but I’m definitely not filled with thanks for some of them. Instead, I will redirect my prayers to find something else to be thankful for amidst the heartache and/or pain. Sometimes it may simply be the comfort I gain from being able to draw close to him in prayer during the difficult time(s).

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Agreed.

      But then I’m left with James’ words to consider/count it *all* joy. That says to me it’s not just what I consider good. That it’s not all about feeling. And so whether I feel it or not, I can thank Him in for allowing whatever the circumstance because of the good He will work from it.

      Reply

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  1. Does Gratitude Drip from Your Lips? « Sandra Heska King - [...] be continued over at bibledude.net where I’m asking what hard things you can give thanks [...]
  2. the 7 best PRAY posts of 2012 by Dan King - BibleDude.net - [...] We’re supposed to give thanks for all things, but how do we do that when we’re in the midst…

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does gratitude drip from your lips?

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min
32