I am so thankful!

After posting for an entire month about our trip to Israel, I have been in a bit of a writing slump on my blog this week. I have also been preoccupied with a lot of other things. It's hard to believe Christmas is just days away. I'm thankful for another joy-filled Christmas season.

I have gotten through the entire season without going near a mall. I did all of my shopping online this year. Not only did I enjoy shopping from the comfort of my home, I did not pay sales tax or shipping. I probably didn't get the sale prices I might have gotten if I'd driven and parked somewhere. But I didn't buy gas or fight crowds either. So I can live with the trade-off. Now that everything has arrived, there are lots of unwrapped gifts under my tree. I guess you know what I'll be doing tomorrow. I'm thankful for the ability to give gifts to those I love.

I worked at the church today, then came home and made a pot of chili for dinner. Poor John is battling sinus problems, congestion and coughing. Antibiotics have not helped at all, so it may be some kind of allergy. He hasn't been able to sleep, so it's all catching up with him. He even came home early today to rest. If you read this, I would appreciate your prayers that he'll start feeling better. One of our favorite Christmas traditions as a couple is attending our church's Candlelight Christmas Eve service and serving communion to others. We really look forward to that. If it were tonight, I don't know that he could even go. So I'm hoping there will be a big improvement in the next two days. I'm thankful for friends who pray for us.

Christmas morning we will get up and drive to Mt. Carmel to see some of my extended family. From there we will go to Evansville and have Christmas with John's family at his mom's. Sunday we'll celebrate here with the kids. And we always spend the night at Chris and Cheryl's on New Year's Eve. That has kind of become our Christmas get-together. I'm looking forward to each gathering. Being with people I love is always the highlight of the holidays for me. I'm thankful for the blessing of wonderful relationships, closeness and the comfort of never feeling alone.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning and 3:00 Sunday morning. I was so tired from waking up at 3:00 that I went to sleep at 9:00 last night, knowing it would result in my waking up early again today. When I woke up, all I could think about were my blessings as I laid there in my nice, warm, comfortable bed. I thanked God for every day and every year He's given us, for our kids and our families, for our church family, our friends, and all the many ways He provides for our needs. I thanked Him for His mercy, His love, His faithfulness, salvation, the cross. I am thankful for such a blessed life.

I never run out of things to thank Him for. It's not that we don't have challenges yet to face or situations that we would love to be different. But we have no challenge or problem to face that is not common to all of humanity. And all I have to do is watch the news to be reminded of all the things common to humanity that I have never had to face. I have never been all alone in the world. And I have never gone without food. Those are just two things that I thought about as we watched the evening news just tonight. My worst day is better than many people's best day. I'm thankful for perspective on my problems and the reminder of just how small my problems are compared to people less fortunate who have known only suffering in this life; especially those who live in places where they cannot even feed their children.

If God never answers another prayer for me the way I want Him to, He has already provided what I needed most. He sent His Son. I never want to take that so lightly that this greatest act of love and greatest gift ever given is not enough for me. I never want to love God conditionally in response to the unsurpassing love He has demonstrated for me. Consciously, none of us would ever think of saying to God, "What you've done is not enough." But we have all, at one time or another, demonstrated that through our actions, our behavior, our discouragement, our lack of gratitude or our thoughts in difficult times. I have heard Christians occasionally make statements about not being able to serve God if God doesn't do this or that for them, if He does not change their situation, if He requires something of them or if serving Him results in life circumstances they feel they can't live with. If we haven't all said it audibly, I doubt many of us could say honestly that we have never had a similar thought go through our mind in a moment of desperation. In those moments, our love for Him is conditional and our gratitude is small. I am thankful that God shows me my heart and inspires me to love and trust Him more.

As I drove to the church today, I was thinking about how good God has been to me. I said a short prayer acknowledging my inadequacy. I confessed from my heart, "Lord, I am not the Bible student that I want and hope to become. I am not the prayer warrior that I want and hope to become. I am not what I want to be in so many areas. I fall short daily. But I thank You for the gifts and abilities You have given me and I want to use them for Your glory and Your kingdom. Help me to live for You and Your glory."

My hope and prayer is that I will be able to endure whatever God allows me to suffer in this life for the glory of His name and for the joy that is set before me. I don't want to be entirely focused on this life and my own comfort. I want a servant's heart. And I want to be transformed into the image of Christ. I know that suffering is a part of that transformation.

I have had years that were hard. I've suffered losses. I know what rejection feels like. And I know the reality of the uncertainty of tomorrow no matter how good today may be. I also know that my life has been easy compared to many. And I have not suffered anything that resembles what Jesus suffered willingly to make me His own. I pray that in all things I will trust my heavenly Father and in all things I will give Him thanks; not just in the coming new year, but for all of my days and regardless of what comes.

Right now I am not suffering. I am living such a blessed life and enjoying the mercy and the goodness of God. But no matter what the future holds, I want to be faithful. I'm thankful God has put that desire in my heart and it has taken root.

This is the time of year when people are thinking about New Year's resolutions. I don't make resolutions. I never have. But I do have a desire and a determination to learn to trust God more fully and completely in this coming year than I ever have before. Because I know that my obedience will be in direct proportion to my trust.

I have so much to be thankful for again this year. And among my many blessings is the blessing of your friendship. If you're reading this blog, you must love me. (I can't imagine any other reason you would be reading considering how longwinded I am!) Thank you for taking the time to read my often scattered thoughts. Thank you for occasionally leaving me a comment. Thank you for your love and your prayers. Thank you for your friendship. And thank you for not letting me go if you have ever FELT like letting me go. I know I have traits that are not exactly endearing; possibly even annoying. : )

You have no idea how thankful I am for you, my dear friends. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Comments

lynda said…
Shari,

I love your blog so much. You say my thoughts. I marble at God goodies to me. At this time of year I think of the cross so much.
He die in a horrible death. I am so thank ful for all he did and doing for us now. I love you and you are a very good friend
Shari said…
Lynda, thank you for your response. I love you too and greatly value your friendship.
Liz said…
Shari, I wanted to tell you that I love you and hope that you and John have a Merry Christmas! I am so thankful that Val and I have gotten to know you better and I am happy that our friendship will continue to grow in the coming years. God is so awesome! Liz
Shari said…
Thank you, Liz! I feel the same way about you guys. Hope you're having a wonderful Christmas with your family! Hope to see you soon.