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How to Be Thankful

Three years ago, I should have been in a dark place. Maybe I was actually in a dark place, but there was a light in the darkness.  And light overcomes darkness. As long as I knew the light was there, even if it seemed dim, I knew I could go on.


2015 started with a startling surprise that left me questioning my life and marriage and set us up financially to lose everything.  Only by God’s grace did we make it through that, and without once failing to pay a major bill or even damaging our credit. I won’t go into details, but none of it made any sense on paper. It was truly a miracle. Then as the year came to a close, we found out we would lose the little girl who had been the biggest part of the light we’d had through all that. The girl we had never known we needed, and now didn’t know how we could could live without, would be taken from us. And if we weren’t careful, we may never see her again.

I was living through a nightmare, so deep in stress and heartache I sometimes had trouble breathing, and I was on the verge of tears at all times. Nothing in my life had ever felt so difficult before. I can’t even remember all the details anymore- maybe I blocked them out- but I know we faced car issues, emergencies around the house, and any number of financial and emotional surprises during this time that made me feel like I was down and getting kicked in the ribs every time I struggled to get up.

But then I took a look at all we had made it through and all the people who had been there to love and support us. I began to actually see where God had been, even in the middle of the worst year of my life. I could not make it through this on my own. I knew that. I just wasn’t strong enough in my own power.

And that’s ok. I wasn’t supposed to be. God wasn’t bringing these things into my life and standing above me laughing. He was allowing them because He knew I would reach out to Him in this time and that He would be the strength I needed to make it through. Even as some new calamity would strike, it always seemed there was something equally good that would happen, often in unexpected ways. He was letting me know He was there, and though I could not see why I was experiencing these hurts or how they would turn out, He had the big picture and was making it all work for my good.  I even began laughing when disaster would strike. What else could I do?

I prayed so hard for our girl to stay with us, but in the middle of 2016, she had to leave. We had done all we could to prepare for that, but I had still been in denial. I thought God would come in with some crazy miracle at the last minute. He didn’t. I was angry about that at first. I couldn’t understand, and still often don’t, how her new situation was a better place for her. But maybe that’s not what it’s about. She loves God, and maybe she needs to learn how to trust Him in the difficult times too. Maybe this is the building of her character, because while I was praying for God to make a way for her to stay with us, I also prayed that if that was not part of His plan, that she would be given the strength she needed and it would make her a better person. It is also a reminder that though she had been placed with us for a time, and we cared for her as our own, ultimately, she is a child of God and He will care for her. I had to give her to Him in that time.

It has been hard. The blessing is that we do still get to be part of her life and she spends every other weekend, and some extra time here and there, with us. To others, she refers to us as her aunt and uncle, but when she’s with us, we are still Mommy and Daddy, and I think it will always be that way. She has been out of our direct care now longer than she was with us, but the bond remains. It’s hard having her less than part time. Our lives had to “go back to normal” to some extent, so weekends with her turn our routines and our “normal” upside down. The disruption can be difficult emotionally, because our lives are on hold at those times… but having that time is precious. She’s still a light. She is our sunshine.

If it had been up to me, I would have wanted to eventually adopt her and to never have experienced most of 2015 and 2016, but then I would not have been able to grow. Neither would she, or my husband. It was awful, and we are still in a constant state of recovery from all of it, but we were blessed through it too.

I’ve realized that bad things happen to everybody. Some people just dwell on the bad more than others. Perspective and optimism go a long way. Everything I went through in that time changed my overall perspective and helped me find HOPE. Sometimes I still have to react emotionally, and even cry it out. But then I remind myself to look to God and all that He has done to take care of us.

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.


Uninhibited Airplanes (with sound effects)

One unmistakable truth in life is that when you were a child, running was more fun if you held your arms straight out from your sides as if you were an airplane, and even better than that was making sound effects as you did it.  You don’t see many adults doing that.  Why not?  Are we too mature, or are we too jaded and scared of what others will think? There are so many “little things” in life kids are not afraid to do, but adults over-think the whole process and can’t get past themselves.

I’m not just lecturing everyone else, but I’m speaking from experience.  Going on a mission trip to Costa Rica was a step out of my comfort zone, but I’m usually up for travel, as long as I don’t have to do it alone.  All the plans were in place and I just had to show up.  Then I knew God would also show up and guide me through the rest of what I was to do there. That part worked out well, and I had an amazing experience.  I felt I was faithful through all of that and I got so much out of it (more than I gave, I’m sure).  Oddly, the most frightening part of the trip came on our day to relax (a day off was worked into our schedule for reflection, team building,  and just to keep us from being too overwhelmed by everything else we would see and do).  The first item on the agenda that day was a zipline tour over the canopy of the rainforest.  I’m not a big fan of heights, but I had paid the extra money and decided this was an opportunity I would probably not have again and I would regret it if I didn’t do it.

I was terrified.

The guy who had to help me into all my gear asked me how I was that morning, and I told him I was nervous.  “Me too,” he said.  “It’s my first day.”  Now, I knew he was teasing, and the fact that he could be so nonchalant about it helped me see this was a routine thing there and I didn’t have anything to worry about.  Then a group picture was snapped and we all climbed into a truck that would take us up to the top.  Ascending felt like it took forever, and the further up we went, to more nervous I was becoming. I was waiting to put my sweaty hands into those thick, reinforced leather gloves because it would be a sauna in there with all the sweat.

All ready to go- yes, you will stand and walk funny with all that gear

Then we were lined up and hooked to a cable.  One by one, each member of my team flew off on a cable towards the next platform, but not before we requested our pastor say a prayer for all of us.  The closer I got, the more I was shaking.  A few of my teammates were a bit worried about me.  I was a bit worried about me.  What would happen if I passed out on my way to the next platform? I wondered if that had ever happened.  There was an “emergency brake” system at each platform, and lots of padding…  Then it was my turn.  “Place your strong arm on the cable behind you and the other hand here,” said an oddly muted voice somehow attached to the guy pointing to the place where all the hooks were holding me to the cable I would soon be riding.  It was hard to hear him over my heart beating.

And then I was flying down a cable over the tops of trees!  Oh, and I could clearly hear myself screaming.  Then I began to rise again, and slow down as I arrived at the next platform.  I was still shaking when I was getting hooked onto the next cable.  The guy at that station tried to point out a toucan to me, but I would have to lean over to see it and I wasn’t steady enough to do that.  I figured I’d see it once I got going, but I forgot to look, only focusing my eyes directly in front of me as I again was launched down the cable.  When I arrived at the next platform, I wasn’t shaking so much.  Part of me was starting to enjoy it a bit.

This is a serious matter- notice the intensity of survival on my face

Then came a true test of letting go of inhibitions.  At the sixth platform we were supposed to be given a choice to either go backwards or upside down (which was also backwards, btw).  Apparently this was a “slow” cable and we needed to be more aerodynamic.  I had thought I would just do the backwards thing, but somehow I missed the part where we were given a choice and I was flipped upside down, my feet adjusted at the top of the cable, told to leave my arms loose, and shoved off the platform!

At first, I was disoriented and a bit angry at my surprise sendoff.  Then, I had a truly surreal experience as I looked to the side and saw the mountains hanging over the sky in the distance.  And here I was flying over the top of God’s beautiful creation, with my arms held out to the sides, making sound effects.  He had made all of that.  He made me.  And I was perfectly safe in His hands.

Doing the airplane

That’s how I feel so often.  As an adult, I over-think and over-analyze too much.  Sometimes I need to be more like a child and just let go of all my inhibitions.  I need to trust that God has me, as long as I am careful to follow Him.  Sure, we need to take precautions, like strapping into safety gear, but then we need to let the cable take us to the next platform.  I know my life is going to start changing very soon.  I’ve known that for a while now.  I don’t know the details yet, but when I’m at each platform on the way down the mountain, I’m going to trust God, and jump.