Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Filled to Overflowing

Whenever I think about Thanksgiving, I always think about the different settings of the holiday and how one particular activity is repeated in nearly every environment-- you go around the room and say what you’re thankful for. I’m sure you’ve participated in this before. It happens in classrooms, in homes, in churches, at the Thanksgiving table. I’ve never been one to grow tired of that activity. I’d like to think I’m a semi-reflective person, so I enjoy looking back over the year and finding true gratitude inside this life I’ve been given. I also like doing it because it forces me to put my mind on those things, tangible and intangible, that the Lord has graciously poured out. I have such a tendency to get caught up in the stresses of the day, simple frustrations, and I forget to be grateful for the things that are signified by my complaints. Endless laundry, a dishwasher that is overflowing, racing from one commitment to the next-- symbols of a full home and a life filled with people. So, in light of that, and of the many things I have been given, here is my thankful list….

1.      1.  My husband. Tommy is a man of quiet strength, silly humor, and great conviction. He is humble, gracious, generous to others, and has high integrity.  In many ways, he is what I aspire to be like. We dated for 4 years before getting married, and I am so thankful for that time. It gave us the privilege of countless memories together but more importantly it allowed us to move easily and communicate rightly within our marriage. He knows my heart and my struggles, usually without my having to explain them-- but he listens to them just the same.  He is compassionate and tender towards me and towards our daughter. I haven’t always been appreciative of this, and part of that is my naivety. I have assumed that most men are this way with their wives, but I know better now than I did at age 20. Our love is truly precious and our friendship is priceless. He is the first one I need to tell things too-- even dumb things like, “Hey! Guess what I just found on the sidewalk?! A blue ladybug!”  He’s even nice when I call him and bother him about those dumb things ;) His heart is steadfast and soft towards the things of the Lord. I used to tell him when we were dating that when I read Psalm 1 it always reminded me of him. It does even more so now. I can’t talk much about the depth of his love for Abi Kate without becoming just a complete ball of mush. His love for her is exquisite. She is a blessed child to have him. He is selfless towards me and Abi Kate. He longs to be more like the Lord. At our wedding reception, I distinctly remember his brother saying that Tommy was a “man among men.” He is. I am thankful for his leadership, his character, his provision, and his love. I am thankful for the beautiful marriage that Christ has cultivated between us-- that we have the privilege to sort through struggles, to challenge each other, to share in the joys of this life together. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  I am thankful for the hand of God upon us, upon our mutual love, that He has seen fit to make our marriage ‘beautiful in its time.’

2.      2. My precious daughter. Last year at Thanksgiving, I was thinking about what this year would be like. I was grateful for the life within me, for her kicks and contractions, even for the stretch marks that showed up about this time a year ago (and yet they haven’t left ... what’s that about?!!?) I didn’t fall in love with Abi Kate the moment I saw her-- it started long before that. I loved her from the minute I picked up that pregnancy test, hands trembling, praying it would say yes. I loved her from the minute I felt her move at 14 weeks but couldn’t be sure, at 15 weeks pumping gas after school when I knew that it was her moving and not my imagination, at 18 weeks when we heard “It’s a girl!”, at every appointment  when we heard her heart beating strongly. I loved her the night I went into labor, in the hours before it began when I looked at Tommy and told him I felt sure labor was imminent and I wasn’t sure I could do it, that I wouldn’t be strong enough for her. I loved her on my knees in labor asking Jesus out loud to please help me. I loved her when I heard her first cry--the one she let out before she was even completely out of me. And when I saw her, it simply sealed the deal. My heart was hers, and I am so thankful.This time last year, I couldn’t imagine how grateful I would truly be for this little life. For the change she has spurred in me, that she has ushered me on to the things of Christ, that she moved our number from 2 to 3, for the wholeness she brought when we didn’t even know we were missing something without her. Tommy & I have talked so many times late at night after putting her to bed wondering how we could’ve possibly lived without Abi Kate for so long. I’ve heard that saying many times, “A child is the tangible proof that your love exists.” And I feel this so strongly about her. She is physical, living proof, that the love Tommy & I share is real and true. She is an overflow of our love. Watching her grow and learn, forming our small family unit, has been the greatest joy of my life. Pslam 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Carrying her & parenting her--It really does feel like a reward. I am so thankful for her life, that the Lord saw fit to give this specific child to us. I am thankful for her sweet demeanor, that she giggles easily, that she’s pensive when learning something new,  that she has definite likes (and dislikes…ahh!!), and that we have the high calling of leading her to and showing her the cross of Christ. Tommy & I both believe that raising children is Kingdom work and try to gauge our parenting after that idea. I am grateful simply to have the opportunity. She is priceless.

3.       3. Christ’s continued work. This is a harder one in some ways. I’ve shared a good bit of what the Lord has been doing in my heart and life in the last 9 months. It is a good work, but it is hard. Hard for me, anyway. I have often felt in the last few months that as soon as the Lord starts working on my heart in one area and I become receptive to it, He starts in on another area. And my flesh just wants to say, “One thing at a time, Lord!” But I am thankful for the pruning. Thankful that he has orchestrated the moments and people in my life to bring me into a closer walk with Him. I am thankful that the depth of His love for me will not leave me as I am, that He has called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light in every way. I am thankful that salvation doesn’t just stop at the foot of the cross but that He pursues us through sanctification, even when that means leaving things of this life behind.  I am thankful for the cross of Jesus Christ, for His willingness to take my sin, to offer forgiveness and the reward of eternal life. I am thankful that the Creator loved His creation enough to extend that to us-- to make a way for us to be in right standing with Him.
      Ever since Abi Kate was first born, we’ve tried to pour the gospel into her life. One of the ways we’ve done that is through music. We are big fans of PraiseBaby over here (we have some friends who call it “Baby Crack” which I actually think is a more appropriate title and what we’ve taken to calling it, but I thought you might not know what I was talking about then….I also thought you might be concerned about our parenting skills….).  My favorite song on all of the albums is called “Oh My Soul”. I have rocked her many times listening to it, driven down the road with the music playing, and tears just pouring. I rarely listen to it without crying and it is because it convicts me-- a child’s song brings conviction. Doesn’t take much for me, huh?! One of the lines says, “Oh my soul, from head to toe, bless God.”  This is my prayer and what I am striving for-- that every aspect and action of my life would bless God in accordance to how He has blessed me. That the condition of my soul would bring Him great delight. And that the gratitude I feel at the multitude of blessings He has poured into my life would overflow into the lives of others, would touch them, and would draw them near to the Savior. 

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