Thursday, November 24, 2011

seeds of blessing in broken soil

thanksgiving comes at us hard sometimes.  most of us have lived lives from january to november with some kind of trial, some kind of pain, some kind of something other than sweet and easy. and we arrive in this 11th month knowing it is time to pull out our cornucopias of praise and gratitude, but it is possible, some years, our hearts just might feel more thank-empty, than thank-full.  of course there is blessing and bounty all around -- we know this.  and yet, undoubtedly, we have walked in recent sharp places. perhaps some of us this year have wrapped our arms around disappointment or disease or maybe even disaster. 
we can count the blessings of goodness:  the crunch of green apples.  the smell of spring rain. the feel of sand in our toes. the sound of laughter in our kitchens. an unexpected hug from our teen.  the clean of a bath.  the touch of a child.  the love of our spouse.  a soft hand on our shoulder.  a fire in the hearth. the snuggle of family.  fat pumpkins and golden trees and blue skies and sweet words... all beauty.  all goodness.

but can we count the blessings of hard?  the stack of dishes in sink. the whine of small toddler.  the flood at our feet.  the wayward walk of a brother.  the rejection of spouse. the dwindling bank account.  the pain of depression.  the loss of a job. the cancer. the failure. the disappointment. the struggle. the tears. the incredible crush of life... is it really all goodness? 
how might job have handled thanksgiving?  his table empty, his skin scarred, his life spinning out of control.  would he be able to speak the blessings of november after the months of mayhem and the days of pain?  even job’s oh-so encouraging wife tells him to “curse God and die!”  his friends and neighbors would surely have understood, but instead job responds, “shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (job 2:10).   really? i read this, and honestly,  i am baffled. how does he even find the breath to give shape to these words?  i know the wallowing pit i would have crawled into, had i been job.  but job holds true to the thanksgiving in his heart, despite the disaster in his house.  he knows God’s goodness. “i will come forth as gold” he declares. (job 23:10). how did this man who had lost everything...this man weeping and wailing...this man sitting alone and bereft in sack cloth and ashes... declare gold? 

in the past year, we have walked a bit on this kind of road. i am not sure i could even imagine a year with such high highs and such low lows.  a year ago last summer, we brought our bella home.  we were completely expecting a challenging transition and immediate medical care.  we knew her heart condition was complicated and we fully anticipated additional surgery.  but instead, 16 months ago,  we met a healthy and incredibly joyful little girl in guangzhou city china.  this little girl who had been abandoned as a baby because of her heart defects and who had been left to live 2 years in an orphanage of 3000 children...this little girl who at 18 months of age spent 4 weeks alone in a hospital recovering from life saving surgery....this little girl melted right into the hearts of our family.    we celebrated wildly in the beauty and blessing of it all.  it seemed too good to be true.  a fairytale blessing hand delivered from our gracious God.  and from our mountaintop, oh how we praised Him for His goodness.

but nine months later i was diagnosed with breast cancer.   it almost seemed too big a swing. how could this be?  within one year we experienced the breath-taking joy of adoption and the breath-stealing blaze of cancer. great good and great grief all tumbled together in a mere year.  we accepted the blessing, could we accept the hard?  that was the question which rolled around inside my head in the days of dealing with my diagnosis. 

but in this place of wondering-wandering, God began to show me how closely trouble and blessing are linked.  He used this time in my life, in my family, in our fear, to lead me to the understanding of how they go hand in hand.  for a while we felt everything in our world was turning upside down.  we felt the sharp dig of blade as He began to break up the hard ground of our comfort--and we didn’t like it. not one bit.  the crumbling hurt.  but, little by little, we began to see, though God was digging deeply into each of us, He was all the while planting seeds of beauty in the turned soil of our pain.  

many came around us.  many brought meals and encouragement and prayers.  some came to cry with us or to just be quiet with us. to love us.  blessing was growing right before our eyes.   tender.  fragile.  but clearly taking root.  life certainly isn't always gentle, but we know with certainty, God is always good and His gifts are good.  this november my family has much for which to be thankful.  it has only been a few months since that april day when we were given the earth-breaking words of breast cancer, but already there is abundant blessing and great harvest in our lives.  the true beauty of thanksgiving is in seeing both.  when we are able to acknowledge the hard stuff and yet watch God working and wonderful through it all.   He brings both for His glory.  good and hard mixing together.  and how much more rich the bounty when first our dirty hands are full of broken ground.  seeds of beauty planted in the broken soil of our lives -- evidence of God digging deep, assurance of God loving us deeply.  thanksgiving.

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