From the outside, it would appear that life is going well in the house of Jess and Brett. And for the most part, it is. But there is one thing missing—a thing that has left a gaping hole in my heart that makes it all too easy to fall into the “wo is me” trap. It’s all I can think about. It’s all I want. I keep telling myself that life will be perfect when this blessing finally graces my life, and I really do believe it. Not in the “I’ll be happy when…” kind of way, because thankfully, I’m pretty good at being happy even when things aren’t quite perfect. It’s just that I know this particular blessing will bring more joy to my life than I can currently imagine, and I. can’t. wait.
But what am I missing when I convince myself that life isn’t perfect right now, the way that it is? Do I not have much to be thankful for? Is this not exactly where I’m supposed to be? Exactly the life God wants me to be living? If I am following Him and obeying His counsel, surely this is the life He has designed for me, and that means it is perfect. God doesn’t do things imperfectly.
When I was a child, my mother read me a book called Linnea in Monet’s Garden. In it, our young protagonist can’t quite understand what the big deal is with Monet’s work. “It just looks like a bunch of messy brush strokes!” she says. Her mentor (grandfather?) tells her to take a step backwards. Only then can she see the whole painting, and she gains an appreciation for Monet’s incredible talent.
Even as a child, I could see the allegorical potential of Linnea’s lesson. If we’re too close, we can’t see the big picture. We can only see the individual brushstrokes that make up individual moments. But those moments—messy as they often are—are all part the perfect painting of our lives. Only when we take a step back can we see what God sees: each brushstroke in its place, each detail just so, each leaf and ripple and water lily exactly where the Master Painter needs it to be to create the masterpiece He knows He can make of us.
So this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for those brushstrokes, the good and the bad. I’m grateful for the divine push I received to go into business for myself, even though it was terrifying. I’m grateful for the clients that have been placed in my path, and for the vibrant new friendships that has brought into my life. I’m grateful that Brett’s new job gives him time for school, allows him to worship with me more regularly, and provides excellent benefits for both of us. I’m grateful for our comfortable home, and for heaters and blankets to keep us cozy as the weather turns chilly. I’m grateful that we had a container garden on the back deck this summer, and that even though it did not thrive, the Lord blessed us with plenty of food and the promise of a better garden next year. I’m grateful for a loving family—both my biological family and my in-laws. I’m grateful for the opportunity to feel the pinch of paying tithing when we didn’t know how we’d pay for rent, and for seeing the windows of Heaven open so very, very wide to pour out blessings that we literally didn’t have room for. I’m grateful for a park that’s close enough for me to walk to, so that even while we only have one working vehicle, I can still get outside and enjoy nature. I’m grateful for anonymous friends who leave 15lb turkeys on our front step. I’m grateful for a $65 washing machine and a $55 dryer that don’t match or even fit in our W/D closet but get our clothes clean anyways. I’m grateful for good neighbors, for stray cats who befriend me in the parking lot, and for the pot bellied pigs across the street. I’m grateful for a bed that’s too small for two people because it means I get to snuggle extra close to my dearest.
And I’m grateful for my husband, who is the most perfect brush stroke ever painted on my canvas.
I know that longed-for blessing will come, one way or another. Maybe the daubs of paint don’t look like much to my mortal eyes just yet, but I know that He who holds the paint brush knows what He’s doing, and that this spot where I sit right now is perfect because He made it just for me.
And that’s something to be grateful for, indeed.
When was the last time you took time to reflect on the things you have to be grateful for? You might try one of these suggestions for feeling and expressing that gratitude.
- Take ten minutes to write down as many things as you can think of to be grateful for. Write for the full ten minutes. If you run out of obvious choices, think about how current challenges might be turned into benefits.
- Write a thank you note to someone who has made a difference in your life.
- As you interact with people, think of genuine ways to thank them. Don’t forget to thank retail staff, family members, coworkers, etc.
- Leave a treat in your mailbox or on your front step to thank delivery drivers for working extra hard during the holidays.
- Give back to your community by finding a service opportunity on justserve.org.
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