What does it mean to give thanks in every situation?
I’ve been asking myself this question lately. For the past year, my family has lived above neighbors who cannot understand or live happily beneath the noise we make. Their frustration and hostility has added layers of stress to our daily lives. And in that stress, I have watched my son grow more anxious. I have lived out my own fear in front of and within his small life and he has paid the price. He has seen my tears, received my threatening screams, and watched me hyperventilate while my husband held me till I breathed again.
Our apartment was so beautiful when we moved into it. All that light and space, that updated kitchen and those shiny countertops. It was full of possibility, a place we could stay for years, a home to settle into. Now that space holds mostly fear when I walk into it. My chest twists in on itself when the boys and I enter. My ears tune in for any movement of the neighbor below us to tell me if we’re safe right now, if we can play right now. Most of the time, home is the place is where I least want to be.
We need to leave this situation, where my kids run and I shoot sharp words at them to move in a way completely counter to their instincts. Where their attempts at quiet are never quiet enough, and my patience burns thin when below us someone is slamming a broomstick against the floor under our feet while my son screams and cries over the things children scream and cry about.
It’s hurting us all. But still. Still. Last Sunday at church I had this sudden sense of the gift God has given me this past year, a gift braided into the pain. This year has allowed me to discover the deep troubles in my own spirit, layers of fear and anxiety that would have taken years to uncover otherwise. I’ve learned how I carry that stress and how I pour it out onto my children.
That’s why there is so much hope here. I’m seeing this now, as a 34-year-old. Look at the time I have ahead of me! Look at my children, young and capable of loving me in my own brokenness. There is time still to learn gentleness. There is still time to learn that I cannot define my worth through the lens of any one else, no matter how closely they listen to my life.
This apartment, this year of anxiety, has been a mirror for me. I’m beginning to understand myself so that God can remake me.
“Thanks be to Thee, Jesu Christ,
For the many gifts Thou has bestowed on me…
Each weather fair, each calm, each wild…
I am giving Thee worship with my whole life,
I am giving Thee assent with my whole power…
I am giving Thee kneeling with my whole desire,
I am giving Thee love with my whole heart…
I am giving Thee my soul, O God of all gods.”
-from the Carmina Gadelica, found in , by Esther De Waal
It’s Thanksgiving. And I can’t help but consider how the giving of thanks is, in reality, the giving of ourselves. Each weather fair, each calm, each wild, this ancient Celtic prayer says. In every situation, we are allowed to give from what we have been given.
There is always some calm, some wild in everything. And in that wild, we give. Thanks looks like so many different responses. It’s okay if it begins with only half a heart, because God knows how to take our half offerings and make them whole…
Worship with my whole life.
Love with my whole heart.
Affection with my whole sense.
I long for ease, and I’m going to get it in one sense. This year’s Thanksgiving gift is the promise of a new home where I feel emotionally safe, where my children can scream out in the night without being gathered and taken to the other side of the house. Soon I will pack my apartment and we will try for a new home, again, the eighth move in ten years of marriage. And even then, though one situation will heal, pain is always bound to come again. I know this. This is the way of a wounded world.
The question becomes, will I offer a kneeling [of] my whole desire? Will I give thanks in every story I live, no matter what it reveals about me, about the world around me?
Will I live a life of searching for the gift woven within the pain? Right here, in this moment, where the calm waits and the wild churns?
We always give from what is broken. Even our thanksgiving. We worship a God who takes our half-hearts and makes them whole.
Photo Credit: on Flickr
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