How to live through anything these holidays when you’re finding it hard to even breathe

The woman I meet up on the concourse, she tells me she was done.

Done with the man and the ring and the vows, done with the kids, done with her life.

Her eyes are so large and fragile, hands trembling, the way your world can quake and break and the aftershocks rattle you and the stunned retelling. I touch her shoulder.

And she crumbles in and heaves, and heaves that counting blessings made her see blessings and she’s staying and staying alive and barren places can break with bloom.

I memorize her face and glory.

We are the broken and the bruised and the messed up and the unmasked, women meeting at a conference, and turning quiet to pull up sleeves and show scars.

A woman murmurs at my ear over the din that her brother in law ran over his 13 month old daughter, and we don’t have to say anything, and hands find each other and lace and this world is right busted and tied up with the strings of His broken and offered heart.

And a gravelly voice speaks of cancer and a grave and a child whose name she wears around her neck, and we finger that name together and fiercely believe in a Father who knows and holds and cups like relief, like a lung, when we can’t breathe.

And the story of a stroke and a mother and depression that pinned to a bed and the dark that suffocated for decades and the pen that wrote His gifts, that opened the veil to His light.

And I tuck a lock of hair behind the ear, and listen to unlockings and how women are finding keys.

And then she stepped close, a woman who couldn’t lift her head, who hid her eyes, and she says it timid near my shoulder.

“I had six children when I sinned.” And I turn, wrap an arm around her shoulder, draw her in.

I had an affair…” Her words snag and tear and I hold on to her as she starts to give way. “I got pregnant. And I couldn’t handle what I had done.”

I try to swallow, all my sins stuck and lodged and burning there in my throat. Oh, sister. The sobs wrack and we are two women caught in the act of living and sinning.

“And the day I was going for the abortion, a friend gave me this.” She nods her head towards that book with the nest on the cover.

“She gave it to me — and she said what I couldn’t handle… was actually a gift.” And I can hardly take this, have to look away, take my shoes off, tear my coat, beat my chest.

“And I read and I agreed with God and he is.”

And there on the screen of her phone —  she offers this picture of a smiling baby boy.

And I reach out and hold his smile and it is holy and it is epiphany and it is hard —

What you think you can’t handle — might actually be God handing you a gift.

And I think of everything I have chaffed against and railed about and howled to the heavens and who am I to know what is best or not — but when you bow and surrender to the sovereignty of God then you are in the posture to receive all as a gift.

I touch the pixels of that baby boy smiling.

Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle and he’s smiling, that miracle baby’s smiling.

What is beyond the redemption of God?

And I look up and around at all these women gathered here with their God-witnessing, all their pain-glistening eyes and courage-smiles and chins that still quake, and there it is — in all of them —

In Christ, thanksgiving is more than a holiday —

In Christ, thanksgiving is all of our days.

The living proof, the woman from Chicago and the sisters from Kansas City and the grandmother from Florida and the couple from Arkansas, they are the walking witnesses of His Word and why giving thanks isn’t a pollyanna game — but a powerhouse game-changer:

God asks us to give thanks in everything — because this is the way you live through anything.

It’s a dare to really live and I want it, all over again, I want it.

And the mama of the miracle that almost wasn’t, she smiles at me through tears, and we both blur and reach out and touch each other’s face — Giving thanks is life giving.

And we murmur it at the same time —

Thank you.

And He hears.

And everything that seems done and over revives again.

 

 

 

 “Christian thanksgiving is the life of Christ in the heart, transforming the disposition and the whole character. Thanksgiving must be wrought into the life as a habit—before it can become a fixed and permanent quality.

We must persist in being thankful. Thanksgiving has attained its rightful place in us, only when it is part of all our days and dominates all our experiences.

Every day of our years should be a thanksgiving day.

He who has learned the Thanksgiving lesson, well has found the secret of a beautiful life.”

J.R. Miller