Ahh…the good ole 30 Day Thankfulness Challenge. Let’s see just how much “thankfulness” we can publicly cram into a single month’s worth of Facebook statuses. I actually love reading these posts. While some folks are as sincere as the day is long, there are some folks who run out of thanks fairly early and start praising Jesus for ridiculousness somewhere around Day 4. That, or they turn their “thankfulness” into passive aggressive ways to air their dirty laundry.

“I’m thankful today that my baby daddy got arrested. He got exactly what he deserved.”
That’s a little extra, but you get the point.

Sometimes our view of gratitude and all it encompasses gets a little skewed. Ann Voskamp challenged me a few years ago as I read her book, One Thousand Gifts, to dig deep for the gratitude. It’s not always in the obvious.

Early on in life I set out for the American dream – the perfect (dysfunctional) family, the white picket (chain-link) fence , two perfect (nothing funny here-my kids are perfect😉) kids, a (slobbery, allergy-proned) dog, a nice (extremely used) car and a (lean) 401K that was being built while I stood back and did all the things I loved – raising babies, making music and making a home.

Absolute perfection (fiction).

My years of pursuit actually lended themselves to some form of that delusion, so my thankfulness looked something like this:

Thank you for this beautiful life you’ve given me. Everything looks exactly like I saw it going in my dreams (minus the happiness and the fence). I really appreciate that. Also, I would greatly appreciate you keeping it this way from here on out until I enter into Your gates with thanksgiving and into Your courts with praise. P.S. – You’re doing a great job, Lord! Keep up the good work!”

Being completely ignorant in and of my idealistic life (that was not really idealistic at all), this sounded completely acceptable in my head. It’s all I knew. Thank Him for the obvious (even if you are failing miserably and sustaining a disguise). Make everybody think you’ve got it all together, Heather. Pretend. And while you’re at it, throw some “thankfulness” in during the month of November for good measure. After all, it’s not called Thanksgiving for nothing.

I guess somewhere along the way, in the Lord’s fabulous sense of humor, He decided to call my bluff. “Thanks for the yearly shout-out, sweet girl. (This is Jesus talking for all you slow learners). Some not-so-holly jolly Christmases are headed your way. Let’s see what you got…”

Years of perfecting the facade – it was a pretty good run, don’t you think? I mean, the diligence, y’all… Little did I know the real Thankfulness Challenge was on it’s way. Straight out of divorce, I was faced with something nightmares are made of – no home, no money, no job, no direction, no stability. I was over a thousand miles from my hometown. All I had was all the homemade crap I had conjured up with burlap, buttons and a glue gun over the years (which was a lot), but that wasn’t gonna do me much good right then.

What would we do? Where would we live? Would we be ok? Would we survive?

Would this hurt forever?

Life was about to get messier than I ever imagined. One day I will sit down and tell you all the crazy, amazing stories that you just can’t make up – all the things the Lord did along the way. For now just let me say this:

He used all of those things that were stripped away to show me all the “things” that actually mattered. As my journey progressed, my mindset changed from “Thanks for all the stuff, God”, to:

“Thank you that I get to hold my babies every night. Thank you that we are ok. Thank you for friends who gave us a place to stay. Thank you for peace in the middle of turmoil. Thank you for support – people who didn’t leave when things got messy – who gave me a job and money and a U-Haul and a listening ear…even Christmas.  Thank you that we are surviving. And most importantly, thank you for the hurt that has lead me back to the cross. Thank you for the loss so that I could know what true wealth really looks like. Thank you for the mess and the uncertainty and the not-knowing so that I could watch You work and move and lead and do what You do best. Thank you loving me more than I ever thought possible. And thank you for the broken things, because I would’ve never known just how beautifully you can put them all back together.”

And I meant it – every word. I remember on more than one occasion saying, “God, if this is what it takes for me to feel close to you, I’ll stay in this place forever.” I’m really grateful He didn’t listen to me on that one.

Life has it’s way, doesn’t it, of bringing out the worst and the best – the blame or the gratitude? Trust me when I say, I’ve had my days full of anger and self-pity. But I also found Jesus while I was at the bottom, and I hung onto Him for dear life. He showed me the beauty in the ugly and brought me more joy in the upset than I ever knew possible.  He took my 30 Day Thankfulness Challenge and turned that sucker into a minute-by-minute practicality.  He has given me more good comedic material through all my bad choices and life experiences than I could’ve ever hoped or dreamed. (Sometimes we have to laugh or we’ll cry. Am I right?) He taken the chaos and turn it into delight. And for that, Lord, I am forever grateful. Perspective is everything, isn’t it?

Life is full of hard seasons. Know that it is ok to be where you are in your season – unashamed, unapologetically. Just know that somewhere in all that wreckage, there is a little piece of treasure begging to be held up and recognized as beautiful. Beautiful wreckage.                                                                                                                   It’s there, in whatever situation you are facing, and I just bet you won’t have to dig too deep to find it.  I challenge us all to let the 30 Day Thankfulness Challenge turn into a routine benediction. And if you’re the one with the baby daddy in prison and that’s the best you can come up with, then you go girl. You gotta start somewhere….