Give thanks, with courage.

...and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

-Romans 5:5

This life is HARD. H-A-R-D. I’m writing on this Thanksgiving Eve while thousands are without homes in California and south of the border.

An extended family member is grappling with the recent news of a resurgence of cancer, and a colleague is battling 3 forms of the disease simultaneously.

A neighbor is grieving the loss of her forty-something-year-old sister.

A friend is having mysterious pain in his foot that keeps him from walking.

Another friend is living through a spouse’s infidelity and a family that feels like it’s falling apart.

And yet, I am thankful.

Writing that I’m thankful feels almost treacherous in light of all the other things I told you first. I am thankful, but not in a cheesy interior-decor-sign sort of way. Rather, I’m thankful-with-courage today.

Christian thankfulness is a kind of thankfulness that does require our profound courage. It’s a form of gratitude that looks cancer in the face and says, “Cancer, you’re not the definer of my ultimate reality--because a Greater Reality overshadows you.” That greater reality is Hope.

The apostle Paul, who was the biggest spreader of the story of Jesus in the first century, said that Hope was incapable of disappointing us. But he wasn’t talking about Hobby-Lobby-decor-sign Hope, either. He was talking about Hope that is rooted in who Jesus said he was and who God says God is.

And if Jesus really is the Savior and if God really is a good Father who wants to pick us up and pull us into an embrace for all eternity, then that means the HARD, gritty stuff we must pick through in this life is not the end of the story. And not only is it not the end of the story, but it doesn’t define the story as it plays out.

Oh dear reader, this is when I’m supposed to tell you what does define the story. I’m afraid the moment is ripe for a “big reveal,” as the home-makeover gurus would say. But, dear ones, my reveal won’t shock you. You’ve probably heard it before, if not once then a thousand times.

It’s simple.

Love defines the story.

For example:

One of my daughters turned 14 this fall. Two weeks before her birthday, I caught her at the table one evening and said, “Do you know what today is? It’s the anniversary of your due date! You were two weeks late!” And then I reminded this daughter of how we had waited for her for so long. Waited and prayed and waited some more. And I told her how exactly one year to the day before her due date, I had had a dream that I woke up 40 weeks pregnant, “wondering when the baby would come out.”

“And then, guess what?” I told her. “One year exactly from the date of that dream, I did wake up 40 weeks pregnant--on your due date!”

That year of waiting--from the dream to her due date and then two weeks more--was a year of love defining the story.

“Girl, God was thinking of you and loving you before you were even born!”

Some other time, I’ll tell her: “Girl, God was loving me and comforting me in my heart with that dream before you were even born.”

It was true: I hadn’t had Hope-for-having-a-baby, but I had had Hope-that-God-was-with-me and Hope-that-God-saw-me. And it was Presence and Love and Comfort from the Holy Spirit poured out in my heart through those long, long months that ended with this Girl-Gift.

Before that Girl-Gift were a lot of hard and gritty years of losses and sorrows. But always, there was Love. There it was--when I turned my attention to its presence. There was Hope, when I paid attention, that told me sorrow was not the end nor the definition of my story.

I don’t know what your day is like, friend. I don’t know if it’s a gritty day or a sweet day for you. Whichever it is, why not let your attention drift over to this Love, which announces itself in the sweet and cloaks itself in comfort for our sorrows?

From this place of attention, give thanks. If necessary, with courage.

Peace, Heather

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