Pumpkins, Head Colds, and Fleas

"Cutting the Pumpkin," Franck-Antoine Bail, 1910
"Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea." 
"'Give thanks in all circumstances,'" she quoted. "It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us."
-Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place 
This week is probably number one out of fifty-two in which Americans remember to count their blessings. And though I've spent my whole life hearing from the pulpit that a state of thanksgiving should be an everyday occurrence for the Christian, I admit that gratitude and thanksgiving tend to be more on my mind in November than any other month. 

Today I am home sick from work. This seems to be a theme in many posts here, but don't let the bias of these posts fool you - it isn't that I'm sick all the time, but rather that one of the few times I have the leisure to sit down and write a blog post is when I'm curled up with hot tea, Advil, and my laptop. Complaining was primarily on my mind this morning, but the more I thought about it (having uninterrupted time to spend in the Word and a warm blanket to snuggle under can help with contemplative thought) the more I realized that every bit of negativity in my mind today had a silver side that could reflect thankfulness.

Today, I am thankful for this nasty cold that has kept me under the weather for three days and counting now. I'm thankful for the opportunity to rest that it's brought me - the reminder that I am not indispensable, that the sun will keep rising and setting whether I'm at work or not. I'm thankful for an office manager who is willing to cover for me, for an employment policy that allows for sick days, and for the saved up PTO that allowed me to stay home yesterday and today without losing pay. Not everyone is so lucky. I'm thankful.

Today, I am thankful for the frustrations and stress that surround our living situation. Our lease will be up in February, and with some potential job transfers for Rob (hopefully!) and our desire for a little more space, we are hoping to find a new place to rent while we save up for a house sometime in the future. Looking at townhome and apartment listings can be overwhelming, figuring out work commutes and when we'll have time to actually move and how we can possibly manage to avoid paying two rents while we move (it looks unlikely) have caused strain for both of us. But I'm thankful for the fact that we are working through this together, that the place we will be living has already been picked out for us by the God who plans our steps. I'm thankful for the reason and intelligence He gave both of us, and the teamwork He is teaching us to use in making responsible choices for our family. (insert quick pet peeve: we ARE a family, right now, just the two of us - our family-ness does not depend on future kids and will not magically begin the day a third person joins our party. We became a family when we joined our lives together and we will always be a family. End quick rant.) And I'm thankful for the advent of the Internet which allows us to house-hunt without having to leave our apartment until we're actually ready to tour some places! 

Today, I am thankful for the mess in our house that I have no energy to tidy. I'm thankful for a kind and caring husband, whose oblivion in the state of disarray often irritates me but is a blessing in disguise (he is NEVER the type to walk through the door and say, "why is nothing clean around here?") I'm thankful for all the Stuff we've accumulated in fourteen months of marriage, which - while annoying to pick up - is still a reminder of how much we've been blessed with. Not being able to fit a grocery haul into our small cabinets is not a chore (though it seems like one), it's a gift. We have been given abundance, both in our ability to purchase what we need and our opportunity to do so. I am thankful. (I am also thankful for our 400 books. And the bookshelves that we put them on. I need to stop buying more books, but that is beside the point.)

Today, I am thankful for unanswered prayers, for the uncertainty that God allows us to feel sometimes in not giving us what we want immediately when we want it. I am thankful for the faith He is slowly and surely shaping in us, for His gentle "no" at times when we don't want to hear it. I am thankful for His providence when we least expect it, for His reminder that He will make everything beautiful in HIS time, not mine. Impatience and petulance on my part will not change His plan, which is a good thing, because I would not do a good job of being in sovereign control of my life. That is His job. I'm thankful. 

I don't share these things to be twee or to present a false front of "keep on the sunny side!" that has no depth or meaning. But if you're in a similar situation, facing frustration in large or small ways, maybe this can help you not feel quite so alone. Maybe it will help you remember with me that gratitude does not need to be reserved for an around-the-dinner-table, hand-holding, say-your-perfunctory-line-and-get-it-over-with-so-you-can-eat. That gratitude is a choice. That we have nothing that we did not receive. That the righteousness of God is shown to us by faith and produces faith. That Thanksgiving can be every day for us, but the one special day we set aside to celebrate it is a gift

Rob and I recently finished reading The Hiding Place out loud together. I had read it quite a few times on my own already, but it was his first experience, and seeing it through his fresh eyes made it much more meaningful for me. The portion quoted at the beginning of this post takes place when Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie are imprisoned in a German concentration camp for the crime of hiding Jews in their home in Holland. Betsie, who seems at times to be superhuman, is willing to thank God for every circumstance they find themselves in, including the disgusting fleas that infest the barracks. Corrie protests, but she eventually gives in, grudgingly thanks God for fleas, and thinks no more of it - until the day when they find out that the reason their barracks are undisturbed by the guards when they have their nightly prayer meetings is that the guards won't come near the fleas. Betsie is triumphant, even a little smug (okay, at times she IS human!) and Corrie concedes that God uses even the worst circumstances for His good. 

Perhaps right now you are in a circumstance that does not show His goodness, at least not that you can see. I can think of a few of my own, a little too personal to write about publicly on the internet, where I have a hard time thanking God for His purposes because His purposes don't make any sense to me. But we aren't promised that we'll see the reason behind each problem and frustration and parasite here on earth - only that He does have a purpose. There are many other trials described in The Hiding Place that don't have a pat solution at the end, many other situations in which Corrie has a hard time seeing the light of Jesus. She wrote The Hiding Place in 1971, at which time she'd clearly seen the hand of God in many difficult times. She died in 1983, and now she sees God without any dark glass obscuring her vision. The things she thanked Him for in faith, unseeing on earth, are revealed in heaven. 

Today, I am thankful that someday I will see His purpose in everything. 

"Woman in an Autumn Landscape," William John Hennessy, 1868

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