When I was a teacher, I posted a gratitude chart and invited students to write down things they were grateful for. The list grew longer and longer as the blessings of family, friends, shelter and good food expanded to include more specific items like cousins, classmates, a warm bed, and nachos with cheese. As I recall they only wrote pleasant things, with an occasional fifth grader oddity.
Thanksgiving Day is a bit the same. Timed at harvest to coincide with abundance, people share turkey, stuffing, pies, and games. People talk about all the blessings in their lives, and I suppose barely religious people thank God on that day for the good things. The pleasant things.
Just to be clear, I think it’s great that we have a Thanksgiving Day, because if anyone else in the world is like me, gratitude isn’t a sixth sense. It’s good to be reminded. However, more recently, I’ve realized that perhaps I’ve been skimming over parts of life that I should have been giving thanks for and haven’t.
By the way, I’ve decide that there is a problem with getting wiser. It’s really quite uncomfortable to see that something you’ve been doing most of your life was less-than wise. It seems that every time I learn something new, it reinforces how little I knew even when I thought I knew things. Getting old is not for the faint of heart.
But back to the things I’ve failed to give thanks for.
There are a lot of things I’ve been thankful for my whole life that I’m still thankful for, like a perfectly orange maple tree in the fall. I’m really not sure that there is anything more splendid than such a tree, standing like royalty against a stone-cold blue-gray sky.
But the reality is that the glory of the orange maple lasts only two weeks out of the 52 weeks of the year. Here in the Midwest, I’ll venture to guess that nearly 25 of those weeks are spent in the poverty of bare branches silhouetted against a drab, cloudy sky.
Is there anything to thank God for in a bare, cold maple tree?
I think in my own life I used to assume that a person should give thanks for the moments of splendor, like the two weeks of a maple’s glory, and avoid discomfort and ugliness at all cost.
But, like maple trees, humans aren’t splendid all the time. Even those we think are on top of the world, likely have more weeks of winter than we know.
Perhaps I should be equally thankful when I feel bare, exposed, unproductive, cold, or ugly, like the winter maple.
I’d rather run to find a safe place where I won’t feel “bad.” Or a place that feels safe for the moment, even though I know it’s probably not.
The other day, I read Psalm 23, and a phrase jumped off the page. (Isn’t this the glory of God’s Word that you can read it fifty times and still hear something new?)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
When the enemy is discomfort, or stress, or disagreement or uncertainty, I would like to just turn and run. To the nearest Martin’s Grocery store for a large cream-filled donut. But this verse promises God’s help in the presence of the enemy. Not as I’m running away.
I’m slowly learning that it’s much more healing and productive to present the ugliness to God and ask him to prepare a table in the presence of my enemies, which in this case are destructive thoughts or temptations.
The scary thing with God’s grace is that we aren’t in control, and we don’t know what His table will look like. It probably won’t include a cream-filled donut, but maybe it could.
The beauty of God’s grace is that we aren’t in control, and His table will far exceed the drug of choice we might have found when we turn and ran.
And, only in the dreariest part of winter, that muddy grayness that will never end, does a maple tree give humanity something delicious for their tables. Maple Syrup. It doesn’t happen when the tree is glorious. It happens when the tree is ugly and exposed and cold.
This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for discomfort in a way I’ve never been before. I want to learn to grow through rather than run. Perhaps only in this ugliness can we see God’s grace with perfect clarity, spread before us on a table of His design.
Thank you for purchasing items from the online shop, especially now with the Early Black Friday Sale, which helps me focus time on my family and friends next week. It’s a lot more work to buy from small shops than from, say, Amazon. Even though I don’t like the idea of buying things from Amazon all the time, I still do it a lot because of the convenience. So I have a genuine appreciation when people take the time to buy direct.
Everything is still 25% off for the rest of today, November 20, 2021, with the coupon code. I have run out of a few items, but most are still in stock.
UPDATE: This is both good and bad, but I just ran out of my inventory of Book 2, Facing the Fugitive. I underestimated how many would sell. If you order today, the system will give you a backorder message and you can still get the sale price, but I won’t be able to ship until re-stock, probably the end of next week.
If you need a copy by Thanksgiving, order from (gulp!) Amazon. I know that’s bad, but they should be able to get them to you in good time, even if the quality might not be quite as high.
Highlights of the Sale
- Use the coupon code 25OFF to get 25% off everything in your cart.
- Sets are marked “SALE” because their normal price is less than regular retail since you are buying several items together. However, they will be eligible for the 25% off code in addition.
- If your total is $30 or more, the free shipping option will pop up on checkout and you just need to select it.
Save with Sets (A New Category in the Store Menu)
- Combo Set – one calendar and one each of Trapped in the Tunnel and Facing the Fugitive: $35.99 (normally $37.99), less with the coupon code!
- From the White House to the Amish audio CD and book set for $35.99 instead of $39.99 if you buy them separately. Use the code to get the set for even less during this sale.
- Set of 2: Book 1, Trapped in the Tunnel and Book 2, Facing the Fugitive – $17.
- 5 Copies of Trapped in the Tunnel, first edition. Help other people find out about the new series by giving the book as gifts with this discounted price. Book One is a great way to decide if someone will like the rest of the series. Buy a set of 5 for $39.99 ($49.99 if purchased individually.) Yes, this set will also be eligible for the 25% off sale, so if you use the code they will be even less. Limit 2.
- Set of Two Biographical fiction books, From the White House to the Amish and Captain Garrison.