Thanks. Sometimes it’s not fun getting to that.

gratitude

GIving thanks for a trial and difficult time in life? Nope! I’m not that spiritually mature, and not sure that I ever will be. I’m a regular person who runs like a maniac to avoid any pain at all cost.  The last two and a half years have been the most difficult years of my adult life, and I couldn’t run from them as I have gone through some intense health challenges. However, I can definitely say that I learned to give thanks in the trial and in the painful circumstance.

If you’ve never had a loved one go through a medical difficulty, there is not a place in your heart or brain to understand it. I’m generally a compassionate and caring person. But as far as knowing someone going through infertility, cancer, diabetes, or any chronic or terminal illness, I just didn’t know what it felt like to go through something like that. To be perfectly honest, I was really quite glib about my questions and conversations with someone going through these things. Mind you, at the time, I felt sincere. Looking back, I think, what a clueless wonder I can be. Even with my own son, who has narcolepsy, a disease that affects him every day, I didn’t have a clue.

I am thankful that in the trial of this difficult medical journey, I have learned a deeper compassion for those who are hurting and looking for answers. I can empathize more with the anxiety of not knowing and waiting for a diagnosis, the fear of what diagnosis you may get, your family’s fear of the unknown, doctor visit after doctor visit, blood work, CT scans, MRI’s, medical bills you didn’t expect, the desperation to find answers, questions from people, no questions from people, and well-meaning things people say that through you for a loop.

My brain MRI at the Mayo Clinic last year

My brain MRI at the Mayo Clinic

Most of all, I am thankful in the trial for the constant God who doesn’t ever change. He walks with us through the valley when it’s dark and scary and unknown, and He is always there.

The sad truth is, that if I had read something like this before my own medical trial, I would have skimmed right over it. And that’s just the point. God taught me some really hard and good things through this difficulty that I only could have learned by going through it. So I’m being real and saying that I don’t like this trial and I would have rather fast-forwarded past it. But I’m thankful in it. And thankful for the God who has walked with me and never left my side.

(In case you were wondering what my medical issue is: For the first year and a half of my mysterious and sometimes debilitating symptoms, we suspected I had MS, with no conclusive diagnosis. After many, many tests, and doctor visits, we have learned that I have unusual complex migraines. They usually present themselves without a headache, but with double vision and other neurological symptoms. That’s why it was so hard to figure out that they’re migraines, because of the usual absence of headaches. I am in the process of getting the right medications and feel better than I have in the last two and half years.)

During my most difficult times of this health scare, the first year and a half, when I was so afraid of the unknown, I often recited the verse James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The importance of thank you

gratitude

If you ever read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, then you remember the fill in the blank thank you notes that Greg writes after receiving lots of presents. He decided that it would be easiest to write the same basic form of note to all of his relatives, only changing their names and a couple other details. Unfortunately, some of the notes came out a little awkward. For example:

“Dear Aunt Loretta, Thank you so much for the awesome pants! How did you know I wanted that for Christmas? I love the way the pants looks on my legs! All my friends will be so jealous that I have my very own pants.”

Call me immature, but this part of the book makes me tickled inside and it makes me laugh out loud every time I think of it! Scratch that, the entire book makes me laugh out loud. Who hasn’t been guilty of doing some variation of this when we want to crank out several thank you notes in one sitting? (If you’re not guilty, please don’t judge me. I am sorry and am changing my ways.)

I can’t help but think of Luke 17 when Jesus heals ten men with leprosy. The Scripture points out that only one came back to say thank you, and that one was a Samaritan. Samaritans didn’t associate with Jewish people. Since Jesus was Jewish, it makes the Samaritan’s thank you even more significant. Jesus comments, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

Today I had a new insight on thank you notes. Thank you is polite and kind. Saying thank you is what people do if they have decent manners. But I think there’s something even deeper than that. “Thank you” and a thankful heart matters to Jesus. Today I practiced being deliberately thankful as I wrote several notes. I paused to think of the gift from the giver’s perspective and their intentionality in giving it. It actually felt great to do that and it made me realize how thankful I should be as a result. It was then that I actually felt gratefulTry it and let me know what you think!

photo by ehow.com