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Friday, November 29, 2013

Choosing Gratitude

“I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:17


“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thess. 5:18

As you well know, yesterday was our nation’s official holiday dedicated to “giving thanks.” No doubt, our culture has warped it into a holiday of gluttony, football and discounted shopping, but we all know the real reason for celebrating on the fourth Thursday in November – it’s to slow down, surround ourselves with loved ones and express gratitude.

I have to admit, yesterday was filled with a mixture of emotions – most of which were not warm and fuzzy. It was a sobering day for me. One in which I reflected not only on the past year but also on my entire life . . . wondering if this would this be my last Thanksgiving, desperately wishing for my old life with it’s petty, but seemingly-so-real-concerns. (Looking back, all of that was child’s play, and goodness, I was craving child’s play again – the easy stuff.)

I realized, deep down, there just wasn’t much in my heart wanting to give thanks this year, at least not for the cliché things for which we always thank God (salvation, forgiveness, freedom, peace, family). My heart didn’t want to thank Him for those things because I simply wanted my life back – my healthy “I can pretend I’m in control and take all sorts of things for granted” life back. No doubt the things for which we give the greatest thanks are incredibly important things, and I by no means mean to discredit them. They are things which we – which I – have not merited in any way shape or form. However, my heart just wasn’t there yesterday. It was mostly sad – grieved – still mourning where I am, what I’m facing and the unknowns I’m yet to face. And if I tried to move my thoughts forward, the constant pain in my body reminded me of the cancer – the Stage IV, metastatic, rare cancer.

So, I decided to pick-up a book that changed my life two summers ago called Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It was the summer after my 2nd miscarriage and I was struggling with the loss and the reminder having babies is no simple task for our family. And yet, a baby is all my heart desired – Chris too. Why would the Lord rob us of this gift . . . again? I knew I needed to read a book focused on “giving thanks in all things” because my heart definitely wasn’t there especially when I was surrounded by blooming bellies, none of which were mine.

It was good to reread many of my underlined and starred paragraphs. It was good to be saturated in Truth. It was good to be reminded of Psalm 116:17 – that giving thanks is referred to as a “sacrifice.” Why? Because it costs us something. We have to die to ourselves, our dreams, our preconceived ideas of how life should (and must) be. With that, I wanted to share a few excerpts from DeMoss’ book because she shares far more eloquently than I ever could. Perhaps you had a rose-colored Thanksgiving, and I’m glad you did. But perhaps, the circumstances surrounding this Thanksgiving made “giving thanks” more challenging than before. I pray DeMoss’ words and God’s Truth will encourage your heart as it did mine, so that regardless of where we find ourselves at the end of 2013, our hearts can say, “Thank you Lord.”

DeMoss recounts an incredibly horrific and terrifying experience of Helen Roseveare, a medical missionary to the Congo during the 1950s and 60s. Roseveare said in the midst of the ordeal, she heard the Lord cry out to her, “Helen, can you thank me?” She knew God was not asking her to thank Him for the evil, but the question that came to her heart was: “Can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?”

DeMoss continues . . .

Thanks-giving indeed comes at a cost.

The cost comes in different shapes and sizes and may be greater or less in different seasons of life. But we live in a fallen, broken world, and every season has its share of trials, ranging, as Elizabeth Elliot has said, from “traffic jams to tumors to tombs.” . . . (p.138)

The choice before you and me today is: Do we only give glory to God for the part of our life that’s going the way we want? Or do we worship Him, trust Him, and give Him thanks, just because He is God – regardless of the dark, painful, incomprehensible places we encounter in our journey?

Look, it’s sacrifice either way. If we go on without gratitude – choosing to be bitter, constantly bemoaning our fate – we force ourselves to live in already unhappy conditions with the added drag of our gloomy disposition. Unwilling to stay mindful of the blessings we enjoy in spite of our difficulties, as well as the strength and sensitivity God grows best in us through hardship and loss, we sacrifice peace. We sacrifice contentment. We sacrifice relationships – and freedom and grace and joy.

I have learned along the way that, regardless of how I may feel, anything that makes me need God is (ultimately, in the truest sense) a blessing. Be it disappointment. Be it physical suffering. Be it mental or relational anguish.

And if you must go through what you’re facing now anyway (should God choose not to lift it miraculously, which He can always do and we are always free to pray for), why make it even worse by withdrawing from his grace and fellowship, enduring life on the raw edge without relying on Him for help? Why not see what could happen if you let the pain drive you closer to His side?

Yes, to give thanks “in all things” may require sacrifice. No, it may not change your situation, perhaps not even a little. But it will put you in the only possible position for experiencing everything God desires for you throughout this hard stretch of life. (p. 140)

DeMoss challenges the reader at the end of her book that in our lives, We can go surrendered and willingly, trusting God and His higher ways, or we can go kicking and screaming. The choice is ours.

So I say to you, and I say to myself: let’s go humbly, in faith, and on bended knee. And for our own good and His glory, let’s go gracefully . . . and gratefully. (p. 157)

This is my prayer as I move forward . . .

Oh Lord, please forgive me for so often being forgetful of Your goodness, for acting as if I deserve anything more (or different) than what I have received, for sinfully comparing myself and my blessings with others’, for being oblivious to so many expressions of Your grace, and for allowing roots of pride and ingratitude to grow in my heart.

Forgive me for the many times and ways I reflect negatively on Your character and Your goodness, by verbalizing discontent and murmuring to others.

Grant me a spirit of true repentance and a heart that is always abounding, overflowing in gratitude toward You and others. (p. 58)

I know this won’t be easy. Ever since my diagnosis April 12, I’ve struggled with saying “Thank you, Lord.” But, I pray this will become my default not because of how I feel or for even what He’s done. I pray I can simply thank Him out of a heart of trust and for who He is. And, in the end, I pray I will be fully convinced -  He is enough. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


  1. Thanks (haha, get it;) for this post Kelsey. You are gorgeous by the way. I loved the pictures of you and sweet Alexa in the last post. Thanks for sharing some quotes from that book -- I'll have to check it out. Press on sister. Praying He will be glorified in you. love K

  2. Thanks for sharing. I know this is an incredibly difficult year but I am praying for Gods grace and love as you reflect on it and blessings as you have purposely chosen to give thanks despite your circumstances. Love you!

  3. Thank you for allowing me to learn vicariouslly through you.

  4. Dear Kelsey: What a beautiful Christian example you are to all of us. I just know that God has great rewards and gifts for you. Please hang on. We are all lifting you up daily. Bless you - child of God. Sharl Taylor

  5. Thankful for your life, your example, your friendship. So glad there's YOU.
    Keep fightin' Girl.
    Love you more! BHG