It’s November which means everyone on social media is writing about all the things they are grateful for. Now I am not a cynical person and I will admit it is refreshing to see positive affirmations being sent out into the universe rather than gripes. Lord knows we really need hope for our tomorrows. (Need I remind you our nation’s election is just around the corner.) But I will admit I have always (to some extent) wondered why don’t we ever express our gratitude each and every day? Why relegate thanks to the month in which we celebrate a day of giving thanks?
Why can’t we be grateful all the time? Because there really is something to praise God for all the time. There is. I know that for a fact.
I sit here this morning looking out my kitchen window of my little old house in Vermont. Locals call it the oldest house in the hamlet, which brings a big smile to my face because I adore old houses and I am grateful for them even when the plumbing fails and the roof leaks.
I sit here after a long three-year journey of sorts has ended. It was a journey which led me on winding roads to other places, filled with many twists and turns, potholes and challenges, dark times and cloudy days.
Three years ago, I made a decision to leave a place where I knew in my heart was home and where God had originally called me to serve. But temptation to see other places took hold of me. Perhaps there was greener grass and larger pastures that were even better than the grass and pastures in Vermont?
The day my husband and I were leaving Vermont, I remember gazing at the Green Mountains that were quickly becoming little hills fading into the background as the car drove on, and I heard myself say, “I am really going to miss that view.” And I did.
Three years I wrestled with God. I grappled with God. I asked God, where was he in my life? Silence…so it seemed to my ears that were not ready to listen. I even wondered if God really wanted me in ministry. Who was I? Why didn’t things work out? And where were the green pastures that were healing balm to my soul and spirit?
Three years of being away from home in foreign places (no, nothing exotic, they were all located in the United States, but still felt foreign to me), and I finally realized I was in way living in exile. And like God’s children who found themselves away from home, they were in exile for reason. They had lessons to learn. They had to learn to put God first. To trust God always. To love and live no matter where life took them. They had to find the joy of the Lord even when they didn’t find green pastures. They had to learn, like I had to learn, to give thanks and be grateful in all circumstances. For God is still our loving God in all circumstances.
It was during this time in my life that a woman from the community who heard about “the new pastor,” came by the church to give me a gift. Now she didn’t know me. She didn’t know my struggles. She didn’t know that I was a Vermonter living in exile. All she knew is she wanted to meet me and give me a gift. There in the package was a coffee mug with the words, “It’s all good” on it. I smiled and realized it was all good—exile or not—because of God who is always with me.
And so my time in “exile” was a turned into a time of growing stronger in faith, learning more about God’s mysterious ways and trusting God—and drinking a lot of coffee from that mug. Little by little, day by day, as I fixed my eyes on God life became beautiful again and I began to see how God was indeed using me and leading me.
Now in this month of November in which we will gather with loved ones in our homes and pause just long enough to think about all we have, I find myself home. Truly home. Not just in my beloved Vermont house with green grass and beautiful pastures that heal my soul and spirit. I find myself at home in a way I have never felt before. I find myself at home with God. Content, renewed, refreshed and committed to singing God’s praises and sharing the good news with all. I find myself knowing now the importance of being grateful in all circumstances and giving thanks each and every day I have breath in which to give thanks. I know the beauty that comes to your life and the life of others around you when you give thanks even when there seems to be nothing to be thankful for. For I am thankful—even now as I look at all the moving boxes that need to be unpacked and wonder why the water pipe is making that strange noise. Yes, it’s all good. God is with me.
What about you? Where are you in your life? Are there greener pastures tempting you? Are there moving boxes to pack or unpack? Are there water pipes making strange noises? Can you be thankful this day and every day?
You can. Because it is indeed all good.