Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanks For Nothing

This article was printed in the November/December 1999 issue of Plain Truth magazine.

***Edited to add Barbara's blog and personal webpage: www.barbaracurtis.com and www.mommylife.net ***

=Happy Thanksgiving=

Thanks for nothing

This year I'm not giving thanks for all my blessings. But rest assured I'm not ungrateful. It's just that after years of thanksgiving for all I've had, I think it's time to be grateful for all I haven't:

I'm grateful for the full refrigerator we never had in my childhood, grateful for the meals we missed the last few days before my mother's paycheck. I'm grateful my tummy wasn't always full. I hope I never forget it. Though the memory makes it exquisitely difficult to listen to my well-fed children complaining that they're starving an hour after a meal, it makes it extraordinarily easy to give some poor stranger behind a cardboard sign enough to buy a meal -- no strings or expectations attached.

I'm grateful for the full refrigerator we never had in my childhood, grateful for the meals we missed the last few days before my mother's paycheck. I'm grateful my tummy wasn't always full. I hope I never forget it.

I'm grateful for the nice house, the perfect family, the right clothes I never had. No matter where I live, how "together" my family is or what I'm wearing now, there's almost no one I couldn't consider a friend. After years of never feeling good enough, I'd never do anything to make someone else feel that way.

I'm grateful for the stability I never had. Divorce, foster homes, frequent moves and family separations were hard on me as a little girl, but blessed me with resiliency and endurance. They also make me appreciate the roots my husband Tripp and I have put down now.

The father I didn't have gives me the special privilege of having only one Father -- "the father to the fatherless." With no earthly model to shape my perception of God, the love and warmth I feel from my Heavenly Father seem even more of a miracle. I will never take him for granted.

I'm grateful for the productive early adulthood I missed while, like a ricocheting pinball, I hit all the dead-ends of the counterculture. As a new Christian I often wondered why God didn't help me reach him sooner. Now I see in God's economy, no time is wasted. My own "lost" years have made it easy for me to love my brothers and sisters still lost, to understand the emptiness that energizes them, to work a little harder at seeking common ground.

I'm grateful for the perfect wedding Tripp and I didn't have. Finding I was pregnant, we ran away and got married six days later -- a miracle that takes my breath away. Neither of us had the wherewithal or character to make a commitment, and yet with the grace of a God we didn't yet know, somehow we did. Now Tripp says, half-joking, "God pulled a shotgun wedding."

I'm grateful for our very imperfect marriage. As New Agers, Tripp believing wholeheartedly in his deity, and I believing in mine, living together was impossible -- causing us to seek help at a Christian marriage conference where we finally learned who Jesus really was and committed our lives to him.

I'm grateful for the "perfect" baby we didn't have fifteen years ago. Anyone who has met Jonathan (number eight of our eleven children) can see he is perfect just the way God made him -- with an extra chromosome. He has opened parts of our hearts we never knew were there. I couldn't imagine having lived without him.

But now I couldn't imagine having lived without any of the parts of my life -- even those that seemed unbearable as I was living through them. In fact, I have embraced every part -- the good, the bad and the ugly. For every part, I give thanks.

The point is this: It's not the adversities in our lives that determine who we are -- it's our response to them. When bad things happen, we can choose to be bitter or better. Like Joseph, we can trust that even when harm is intended, God will use it for good to accomplish his purpose in our lives.

Martin Luther puts it this way: "For whoever believes, everything is beneficial and nothing is harmful. For those who do not believe, everything is harmful and nothing beneficial."

After the first Thanksgiving feast, the Pilgrims suffered more adversity than they had the year before. Their food supplies were so low that each one's daily ration was just five kernels of corn. They did not give into bitterness, but continued -- as they always had -- to trust God.

Now on Thanksgiving, our family follows the tradition of placing five kernels of dried corn by each plate.

During the meal, we pass a cup around the table. Each person drops a kernel into the cup while sharing something for which he, or she is grateful.

This year I've so much to be grateful for -- all the things I never had.

Barbara Curtis
It's a large Thanksgiving table at which the thirteen-member Curtis family celebrates! Visit her on the web:
www.barbaracurtis.com and www.mommylife.net

Until next time...