[She suggested I send something to the Chicken Soup people about gratitude. They had extended their deadline to January 15. I declined, saying I was no longer interested in seeking commercial publication. But I didn’t consult God. Since then vague feelings have kept poking me, telling me I should relent and send. So okay, I shall. But first I want to share with you, my online readers, the edited repost below I’ve decided to offer.]
“[Be] …giving thanks always for all things…” -Ephesians 5:20.
I’d heard it years before: “If you want to change your attitude, start with gratitude.” Probably in an Al Anon meeting, while laboriously clawing my way out of a desperate pit of overwhelming circumstances and deep depression brought on by alcoholism too near me for comfort. I’d responded by starting to notice and give thanks for the pleasing and enjoyable in the midst of the miserable. And it had definitely helped.
But it’s absurd to thank God for something you don’t like! Isn’t it?
Yet that’s what this seminar speaker was telling us to do. She was pointing out that though 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to thank God in all things, Ephesians 5:20 says give thanks for all things.
She was citing an example from her own life: how she’d been thanking God for her beloved boyfriend repeatedly two-timing her! Even though it was causing her deep pain.
Well, I could see good reason for gratitude in her case—at least for finding out what this guy was like before she got tied up permanently with him! But love being blind, I guess she didn’t see it. So her prayer of thanks for this “bad” thing was wiser than she was, at this moment.
I didn’t know then that my own similar thanksgiving would turn out wiser than my human feelings, too. But for some mysterious reason, as I sat listening, I purposed to put the concept she was talking about into practice.
Opportunity arose in quick order…
Four hours of driving. Quiet rural roads and crowded superhighways. We’d returned, refreshed, my toddler son and I, from visiting my parents. Now the long driveway that wound among the trees welcomed us back to “the little house between two highways” that we’d been calling home for six months.
Just six months.
I’d agreed to a six-month, then month-to-month, lease, because finding any affordable rental had seemed downright impossible, and this little cottage had perfectly answered my prayer for shelter.
The house wouldn’t even have been available except the owner had just put the property up for sale and wanted this building on it unoccupied by the settlement date. The couple then living there with their little daughter did not like that uncertainty after renting for two or three years, and had decided it was time to press ahead and buy their own place.
But I’d figured (naively?) that I could trust God to keep such a Godsend available for us after the six months expired.
Well, now they had. Expired. Exactly. And what did I see, as I rounded the curve, but men clambering around with surveyor’s instruments!
“Oh, Lord, no,” I groaned. “Please, no.”
Sighing, I pulled up beside the cottage, climbed out of the car, unbelted my little one, and led him into the house. Meanwhile, that seminar kept flashing through my mind, along with my commitment to give thanks for all things, even things like this.
Inside, a moment later, reluctantly I did it: “All right, Lord,” I said. “Thank You! I thank You that surveyors are out there, which means this place is sold! I don’t like this at all!” (as my tone of voice made clear). “But thank You anyway. Thank You!”
I hadn’t learned yet that scripture also says to be grateful. And I certainly wasn’t. I didn’t feel any sense of gratitude. I felt whacked in the face! I felt deflated, frustrated, defeated. But I said, “Thank You” anyway, at least.
I waited for the notice, the bad news. A letter. Something.
Nothing came. That week, or the next, or the next.
A knock on the door finally did one evening, right while I was navigating the challenge of cutting the hair on a constantly moving three-year-old’s head, blond locks scattered everywhere in the disheveled livingroom.
Leaving the safety chain hooked, I inched open the door enough to see the lanky man who introduced himself as my new landlord-to-be. He assured me that once his purchase was finalized, I’d be able to continue renting, although no other non-commercial renters would be allowed to lease after me. And of course my rental payment would go up. (Of course, I thought grimly.) He peered through the crack in the doorway to glimpse what he’d bought here, but seeing my mess and occupation, he graciously apologized for “discombobulating” me, and backed away to his car in the shadows.
Another sigh. I could thank God that this man wasn’t going to boot us out. But could I afford any raise in rent? I was really scraping, and taking on side jobs, to pay the bills already.
So I waited for expected changes, notices, a letter, a phone call, whatever.
I thanked God now more authentically—and often. And by this developing practice I came to rest more and more easy in my situation.
Nearly two years passed since I’d moved in! Same rent rate, and nothing happening to our little surrounding woods. And by now I was packing up to move out and move on anyway.
So I was talking with my landlady on the phone, and she started to complain.
If only she hadn’t granted this buyer his two requested extensions! Right afterwards, both times, another buyer had appeared, offering full asking price with no contingencies—and with the quickest possible closing!
I caught my breath! And silently thanked God again—with genuine gratitude this time! Thanked Him for the buyer the surveying activity had announced, eighteen months before—not the buyer that pleased my landlady most, but the perfect one for me!
Things come full circle, and after more years passed I ended up speaking at women’s seminars myself. And when the subject of gratitude rolled around… well, I think you can guess what kind of advice I gave my listeners.