Our Unexpected Journey

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In recent weeks Floyd has not been very alert or responsive - in fact he's slept through some of the carer's visits.  So I wasn't sure what to expect for my time with him last weekend on our anniversary.

Much to my sweet surprise - I had the BEST time with him.  As soon as I wished him happy anniversary, he gave me such a HUGE smile.  It's one of the biggest smiles I've ever gotten from him.  And he kept smiling.  He was the most alert and responsive that he's been in months!  He smiled, cried, and gave me lots of blinks - all in response to what I had shared.  It was so precious.  I hated to leave him when I had to go.

Afterwards as we drove back - there was a huge, bright colored rainbow in the sky.  I received that as a special gift to my heart - a sweet "kiss" from the Lord!  I’ve used it as the picture for this post.  The visit and the rainbow were gifts to me for our anniversary.  God is so good, so faithful.  He knew what my heart needed, and what would be special and meaningful to me.

I was so thankful.  There are so many lessons I've learned on this journey, but thankfulness has to be right close to the top.  There is so much power in expressing thankfulness and gratitude.  I know I've shared about it before, but I keep learning more and more about what a wonderful gift thankfulness is to us.

Sarah Young says in one of her devotionals - "Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity."  What an awesome statement, and so very true.  I have seen that, lived that on this unexpected journey.  However hard the day - however much "sting" there is in the circumstances.....when I turn my heart to thankfulness (which includes worship and praise), it changes the painful situation.

I started making a list of some of the "fruit" of thankfulness, some of the things I've learned.

-  Thankfulness releases hope.  The gloomiest situation looks different and brighter when we are thankful in the midst of it.  And there are always, always, always things to be thankful for!  Ask God to help you see them.  You'll be amazed.

- Thankfulness is not dependent on how I feel or on the circumstances in my life.  Thankfulness is something I can choose to do at my weakest moment, when I'm tired, when I'm discouraged, when I'm overwhelmed. I can choose to be thankful - even for a few things......and suddenly the focus changes.

-  Thankfulness may, as I mentioned above, be hard in some situations.  But God helps us because He loves for us to have thankful hearts.  When our hearts are filled with gratitude, it opens things up for us to see from His perspective.

- Thankfulness produces joy!  I love this one.  In the midst of some of the hardest days, I have felt deep joy by choosing to thank the Lord for His goodness in the hardness.  And the joy of the Lord is our strength to get through the hard days.  He never gets tired of our giving thanks.  There's no such thing as "too much" thankfulness.  The more we thank Him, the lighter the burdens become.

- If I focus on thankfulness, my problems look smaller.  If I focus on the problems, they grow.  When I'm thankful - my focus becomes on God and His goodness.  I can acknowledge who He is in my problems.  By being thankful my eyes are opened to see the good that was right there in front of me.

-  Thankfulness may be a "sacrifice of praise" as it talks about in Hebrews 13:15.  But that sacrifice helps us overcome any trial that comes our way.  I've learned that if I can't make declarations of thankfulness.....I can start with "whispers."  Thank you Lord for my family.  Thank you Lord for my home.  Thank you Lord for food to eat.  Thank you Lord for the beauty of your creation that I'm looking at.  Thank you Lord for clothes to wear.  Those whispered sacrifices of praise on a hard day begin to build us up and change our perspective.  Then we can go on to thank Him for who He is in our hard situation.  He's faithful.  He gives us grace to keep going.  He's our Rock.  He holds our hand.  We're in His grip.  The list is endless!

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  His faithful love endures forever."  1 Chronicles 16:34

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.  Therefore my heart rejoices, and I will thank Him with my song."  Psalm 28:7

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done."  Philippians 4:6

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:18

I am convinced that thankfulness is one of the greatest "tools" that God has put into our hands for overcoming the trials of life.  It has become my lifeline for survival.  When the "sting" of adversity comes my way, I've learned that I need to immediately focus on Him with thankfulness.  Thank you Lord for this gift you've given us to make it through the rough spots!

There are promises in the Word that have become so special to me on this unexpected journey.  Deuteronomy 33:25 is a verse that makes me feel especially secure.  It says "as your days, so shall your strength be."

I don't know about you, but many days I feel like David with a slingshot compared to the Goliath of my day.  I feel I lack strength, wisdom, and even ability to face the tasks before me.  And yet that promise from Deuteronomy is clear.  I often find myself grabbing hold of it in my heart as I face what the day has in store.

Just as thankfulness takes the "sting" out of adversity, so declaring the promise of that verse in Deuteronomy brings strength.  I have had a number of "stings" to deal with recently.  Some are ongoing ones, others are new - all of them have great impact on my days.  I find myself declaring Deuteronomy 33:25 in faith.  He will give me the strength I need for the day!!  Thank you Lord.

I think all of us will face suffering at one time or another in our lives.  I read how one person described this.  "There are three things that can happen to us in life:  Things that we bring upon ourselves.  Things that others do to us.  And meteorites that hit us from afar."  I have felt blasted by some meteorites the last couple years!

And yet, there has been the strength that I've needed for each day.  There has been the joy of the Lord in the midst of the pain.  There has been abundant grace for each need.  There has been wisdom for making impossible decisions.  There has been comfort for my hurting heart.  I've not been left alone to pick up the pieces from the meteorite.  God has held my hand, and kept me firmly in His grip!

Ecclesiastes 7:3 says "sorrow is better than laugher, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad."  At first reading, that verse seems like a contradiction.  And yet, I've found I have learned such profound lessons in the midst of sorrow - perhaps more than I learned in laughter.  It's easy to "coast" when things are going well.  In sorrow I've had to dig deep into the resources of our wonderful God.

Suffering, trials, and pain soften the heart.  We become oh so aware that we can't make it on our own.  They bring humility into our lives in ways that nothing else can.  Looking at life with tears in our eyes gives new perspective.  

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.  My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him."  Psalm 28:7

"The Sovereign Lord is my strength!  He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights."  Habakkuk 3:19

"He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength."  Isaiah 40:29

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you.  Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

I have felt humbled in my weakness over all these long months - and yet I have found unimagined strength for my days as I've called out to Him.  I can genuinely thank the Lord for what He has brought into my life through this season of suffering.