This Thanksgiving and holiday season have extra meaning to me. I am a very sentimental person about holidays and traditions. I hold memories as treasures in my mind and love pulling them out and fondly reflecting on them. But there is a gaping hole in my memory treasure chest. As it turns out, I have absolutely no recollection of Thanksgiving and Christmas from last year. I know I cooked, but I can't remember what we had. I know I decorated, but I don't remember doing it. I am certain I purchased gifts, but have no idea what I bought. I know full well that my calendar was filled with Hanging of the Green, parties, and church activities, but for the life of me I don't remember celebrating. It as if my body went through the motions, but my mind was elsewhere. It was a dark season in my life as I began sorting through the debris of an imploding life. The cancer bomb dropped and my mind apparently took shelter. The only thing I remember is sitting in rooms crowded with people and feeling very alone as I tried to sift through all the thoughts associated with a new diagnosis, surgery, and the great unknown.
Now if you're thinking, "Oh great, Anna. I was reading this for a little uplifting, not to get depressed." then hang in there, it's coming! You see, gratefully the story didn't end there in the rubble and for that I am so very thankful. I learned that when I felt the most alone, I was never by myself. As I dug through that debris that was intended to destroy me, I found God in a way I had never known him before. People say that it is easy to trust God when things are good. I am telling you that it is easier to trust God when things are bad. Strange, I know, but it is true. There is something about being powerless that allows you to truly experience HIS power. For that, I give thanks for the year that knocked me to my knees.
In the disaster zone, I discovered new truths about the human condition. I learned the true depths of my family's love for me. I watched my parents desperately wish to trade places with me. (Something that I wouldn't have allowed, even if possible.) They stood so strong for me in the face of fear. That made me stronger. For that I am thankful. I found my sisters rushing to my defense just like we always bonded together when we faced struggles as kids. They stood in the gap for me. For that I am thankful. My nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins and in-laws rallied around me; prayed for me; shaved their heads for me (not my aunts, wink, wink); gave me gifts as physical reminders that they were with me all the way. For that I am thankful. And then there was my sweet husband. Early in our relationship, Rodney lost his father and then his mother to cancer. I remember a short time later that one of our dogs had to be put to sleep because of cancer and Rod stood in the yard brokenhearted; sad that even his dogs got cancer. I begged God at that moment that I would never have to put him through more of that, but God works in mysterious ways. I know this year was so hard on him, but we learned cancer can have a different ending, and for that I am thankful. It was clearly proven that I could count on him and that he meant it when he said in sickness and health. In the debris, I found my marriage to be strong. For that I am so thankful. My boys had to walk a path every parent dreads, but along the way they learned some lessons. They learned that God answers prayers. For that I am thankful. They learned lessons about perseverance, kindness of others, joy in sadness, and the power of faith. For that I am thankful. In the refuse, I found the blessing of friends and community. As you prayed for us, fed us, gave to us is so many ways, we were blessed beyond all measure. The kindness and generosity of people was absolutely overwhelming and humbling. For that I am thankful.
As I write all this, I am choking back tears, but they are not the tears of memories lost, they are tears about the memories made. You see, the past year was not the destruction of a life, but the remodeling of a new one. It is a life built up by an amazing God, a wonderful family, and the blessing of friends and strangers who are willing to help a girl along. It has been a hard row to hoe, but I was blessed in every moment of it. And for that I am thankful!
I pray that you are reflecting on all that you have to be thankful for today. Don't overlook the blessings that are hidden in the refuse of hardship. They are there to be found in your life, just as they have been in mine. Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, said, "Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity...There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). I bear witness to the power of that exchange.
I never thought that I would be thankful for the nuisance, but it was a backhanded blessing! For that I am thankful. For God I am thankful. For you, I am thankful! Now I better get to cooking. I have some celebrating to do!