Most of the year goes by so quickly I rarely have time to think about anything except whatever task I’m trying to finish. But the holiday season is about to kick off, and although it brings all kinds of new busyness, this is one time of year that I usually find a moment to sit down and reflect.
Pictured here is what my disabled son will use when we sit around the table and tell each other what we’re thankful for. Since he has so few words in his vocabulary, he uses PECS to communicate, a Picture Exchange Communication System. It’s hard to know if the pictures are an accurate representation of what he’s thinking, since even with the help of a variety of picture choices many of his actions appear more arbitrary than planned. Did he really choose these pictures for himself? Maybe not; maybe they were just the ones his aids at school have observed in him and encouraged him to choose. He makes much clearer choices when they have a direct and immediate, usually tangible, benefit (i.e. food related!). 🙂
Nonetheless, seeing his thankful list in such a visual way made me wonder what kind of pictures I would choose if I were to make a plate of thankfulness. Family, friends, church and home would all make the list.
Not long after my son was diagnosed with Fragile X, I was reminded that we need to thank God in all things. (1 Thes. 5:18) At first I grated against this command. I was supposed to thank God for something that, even at the time, I only suspected would be limiting – not just for my son, but for my entire family? I was to thank God for that?
Eventually as my grief settled into place and I realized I had no place else to go except to God, I first thanked Him only out of obedience. I felt no gratitude, but I said the words anyway. Then, gradually noticing things like the wonderful people who came into my life as a result of my son’s disability, and little things like an increased awareness of our magnificently fine-tuned creation, I began to realize God still loved me. And after all, we live in a world full of death, disease, deceit, and disappointment. Why should my life be spared? I could think of no reason. If all we needed for a charmed life is to come to God, then I assured myself everyone would find a way to Him, one way or another. And where would faith play into that?
So after realizing I had nowhere else to go, and that it was only pride that made me think my son and those of us who love him should have been spared such a lot in life (and that I didn’t have to look far to find someone with more challenges than my own) I began to look for some promises that everything would be all right. I began to look for that “character growth” the Bible promises (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, Jeremiah 29:11 to name a few).
One of the first answers in this regard was a book God assigned me to write, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since I’m a writer. I’m still thankful for having written The Oak Leaves, because it was such tangible evidence of how God can allow a good purpose to result from something difficult. I still get emails from other parents of disabled kids from that book, even though it’s only available as an e-book these days.
I can also say that even though I still get frustrated, and I still resent the lack of freedom we all have because of Fragile X, nothing else in life has strengthened my faith and dependence upon God the way this has. I also look forward to Heaven more than ever, when I’ll get to converse with my son, run with him, worship with him. Can that be a bad thing, that kind of hope? I don’t think so.
So, am I thankful for everything, even the challenges? It’s easier when I think about the purposes God had in mind. Sometimes it just takes a little more reflection to get there!
What about you? Is there something God has allowed in your life that, if you look at what purpose God might have in mind behind it, has benefited you, or someone around you? Changed you or increased your faith? Maybe there is something about even the challenges we face that we can be grateful for.
May your Thanksgiving be full of gratitude — even in unexpected places.