A fog stretches quietly across the horizon, lazily stealing fields and houses and roads from view.
You don’t get fog most places like you get it here. Mizzle, the Cornish call it.
It can wrap the skyline up for whole days at a time. That damp and fine mist spray rain that drenches deeper than it looks.
I sit and look at my screen.
A few words scratched quietly across a page, and I feel them scratch themselves too just a little more into my heart.
I don’t know how I am going to get through it this year.
Just a quiet status update. A few words tapped out in grief. A question hanging in the air.
We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK, but I knew the answer before the question had even formed into words in my head:
Should there ever be a day that we don’t give thanks?
Don’t we all have a million little things – if we could just lift our eyes and really see – that we could all be thankful for?
It’s easy when all’s well. Easy to number our gifts and count them out loud and give thanks. To breathe in sunshine and lazy days and call it all blessing. Thankfulness can surge through our veins on days like that and make us feel right alive.
But what do we do when we can’t? When thankfulness sticks in our throat and grief instead threatens to choke us, stubbornly refusing to let us past.
This time of year, my eyes are already turning towards Advent. The coming, the waiting – with baited breath and quiet heart – for the celebration of a babe in a manger. When the God of Heaven reached down to earth and put all he was and all he is into human form. A tiny baby, born into scandal and poverty that we might know.
Know that whatever we face, he’s faced it too.
Whatever we feel, he’s felt it too.
All our humanness. All our hope. All our fear. All our disappointment and anger and bitterness and hurt and shame.
When the world around us illuminates and sings it can make the ache in our heart thrum so loud it drowns out everything else. When the parties and the pastries and the presents make us feel more alone than we’ve ever felt, how do we give thanks then?
How do we be grateful for what we have, when all we can see is what has been lost? How do we look forward to what is to come when looking back is all that we can do? How do we look past the pain and take hold of the healing?
I heard some-one say once that ‘it becomes real when we give it a name’. Sometimes we have to name a thing to really see it.
But what when all we see is mist, and the fog of pain obscures our view like that fog that clings to the cliff edge for days and days and flat-set refuses to budge? The tinsel and the tree and the decorations and the dinners go on around us… and we see it all misty. Blurry-edged and soft-focused. It can be hard to break clear sometimes. To fight our way out of the the fog that clings, to breath deep the clean crisp air and see the view in sharp-focus once more. To notice the detail.
Because it’s in the detail that we often find the joy. The thanksgiving. In the little and the everyday and the seemingly insignificant;
Flowers in a jar
Soup on the stove
Warm carpet underfoot
The kindness of a friend
Winter twilight sunsets and birds swooping low
In the mess of a kitchen that has fed a brood of hungry children. In the chaos of a hall strewn with coats and boots and mittens and hats. In the untidiness of a room that bears the marks of playtime and friendtime and bathtime like battle scars.
Because hope springs in many places. And sometimes we need to look for hope. To name it. To choose to focus on the detail and to give thanks for the little and the everyday. To see the good even whilst still feeling the bad.
Giving thanks doesn’t mean forgetting the hurts and pains. It doesn’t mean the disappointments and heartaches are erased. But it does mean choosing not to let them be the end of the story. Our destination. Or our waiting place. It means choosing not to let them be more than the good things around us.
Pain never heals a heart. Love does. Pain- given it’s way – nails us to the floor. Keeps us where we are, head down and heart weary. Trapped in a haze where we cannot see the little things, where love cannot break in.
But thanksgiving? Thanksgiving always comes as grace.
We don’t give thanks because we have to. We give thanks because we need to. Because in the thanksgiving is the grace – the light breaking through in the darkest of nights. Bringing hope, bringing healing.
Because giving thanks gives life to our soul. It’s the greatest gift we could give ourselves.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances (Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Hail! The heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail! The Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wing
For more on thanksgiving and grace, head over to the wonderful Ann Voskamp’s blog: A Holy Experience. Her book, the New York Times Bestseller 1000 gifts is a real gift to the soul, written with truth and honesty from a personal experience of loss and grief.
To read more about naming the gift, head here to Proverbs 31 : Becoming blind to the daily grind by Alicia Bruxvoort.