looking through me

Tag: gratitude

gifts received

It’s December—mid-December—and I haven’t so much as made a shopping list. I’ve thought a lot about gifts, but those thoughts aren’t falling into place by person and item.

So today I’m making a different list—a list of gifts I’ve received in the last year:
An invitation to a grief group.
A new niece.
A freedom to let go of my perceived place at the table.
A glimpse of glory driving into the sunrise morning after morning.
A powerful word of affirmation from one of my writing mentors.
A week with extended family in Michigan.
An unexpected job offer.
An understanding of sacred space . . . in a cemetery.
A greeting of “Welcome Home!” on my first day at the new job.
A long weekend in one of my favorite places.
A series of new opportunities to work and serve out of my giftings.
A spiritual director.
A community blended of older and newer connections.
A good conversation amongst introverts about being an introvert in the church.
A chance to teach and remember what I love about it.
A long-distance session of peekaboo over Skype with an eleven-month old.

This list is laughable in its incompleteness, which says so much about how rich I am and what good gifts I regularly receive.

And it’s reframing my thoughts on that list of gifts to give . . .



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sacrifice of thanksgiving

I walked out of a meeting feeling overwhelmed and agitated. I knew the endpoint of the project, but I had no idea how to get there. I wasn’t even sure where to start. I felt fear building inside me, so I took a deep breath and walked outside.

My racing mind tripped on these words: “I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Ps. 116:17a).

Huh. A sacrifice is costly. It doesn’t happen effortlessly. It’s purposefully done. And it seemed an odd pairing with “thanksgiving.”

But it made me wonder if I—feeling inadequate and anxious—could offer thanks for the exact circumstances stressing me.

After a few more deep breaths, I thanked God for my job. I thanked Him for this project I couldn’t possibly do on my own, for having to admit I needed help, for colleagues who were willing to share information, for not knowing the right questions to ask but asking anyway, for a boss who trusted and supported me, for the discomfort of being stretched. I thanked my way through every aspect of the job.

Walking back to my office, it occurred to me I had entirely misconstrued the psalmist’s words. In the sacrificial system there was an actual sacrifice of thanksgiving, as in specific offerings to be made in gratitude for deliverance from trouble or for a blessing received. The act of giving thanks was not the sacrifice.

Yet, in giving thanks for the sources of my anxiety, I exchanged my desperation to know all the answers for willingness to trust God’s sufficiency. So . . . perhaps my unorthodox interpretation of the sacrifice of thanksgiving wasn’t completely wrong—because it hurts in all the right ways to give thanks for what doesn’t feel like a blessing.

It didn’t change the tasks, but it changed me.


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