I remember the night like it was just yesterday. That particular travel day was an arduous, twelve-hour trip. It was 11:00 pm before we were finally settled in to our motorhome for the night at Michigan International Speedway. My husband’s demeanor had quickly changed from professional to troubled and urgent. The next words that he uttered were incomprehensible to me and to this day haunting. Earlier that evening, our son, a drug store manager, was attacked in his workplace by a co-worker’s husband. My husband calmly proceeded to assure me, “He is at the Emergency Room and is okay. His boss is with him and we will know soon if there are any serious injuries.” I will myself to breathe and before I can ask a question, he continues. “I have spoken with him. He will be fine. There is nothing that we can do until we have more information.”
In that moment, I could do nothing for my son but pray and trust his life to a faithful God. I would soon learn that his injuries were not life threatening. The attacker, a very large man, had viciously knocked our son down on the floor after he tried to quiet the man’s outrage in order to protect the other employees and customers in the store. While on the floor, our son was repeatedly kicked in the face, back and head until the attacker abruptly stopped, continued to take his rage out on store property and walked out of the store without saying a word. God had spared our son’s life and together we would walk an unexpected road back to healing, hope and grateful living.
The helplessness that ensued would grow into fear and then concern for safety as we learned that the man who had taken our son’s liberty that night had a very lengthy criminal history including federal prison. The trial dates would come and go with continuances and our son would work through the process of gaining his life back one day at a time. And we gave thanks for what could have been. During those horrific moments facing life and death, our son prayed for him to stop but knew full well that he was in a losing battle with evil. But our God had the final say as victor over evil that night and a plan for our son’s life!
We are a family that has practiced grateful living in our home. The glass has always been half-full, we consider ourselves blessed, and so the loss of freedom and gratitude would prove as devastating as the event itself. That is, until the day that I read the following quote.
I had given my joy to the circumstances created by someone who now had control over my life in a way that did not honor God. His goodness to us had been great, in spite of the messy circumstances. His sovereignty to see, to know and control what the enemy meant for evil, to be used for good in our son’s life. I purposed in my heart to take back what I had so carelessly given away. The joy of the Lord IS my strength. The hope-filled journey began as I committed to find my way, lead my son, family and others back to grateful living. I prayed for God to grace me with the gift of thanksgiving again, anew for the purpose of bringing Him glory.
The trial date in January 2012, would finally come. We were anxious but hopeful that he would be given a sentence worthy of what is prescribed by the law. And so it was, for the “victim”, justice was done according to the laws of our state. The end of one unexpected journey would lead us all to a renewed and full joy that has taught us that God IS greater than any circumstance that we might face in this world. We continue to pray for the salvation, healing, and complete restoration for this gentleman and the Lord’s protection over his wife and children.
The journey began with a biblical study of gratitude. I would journal my journey to document all that I was learning. Much of which was already the habit of my life that I gave away to the moment that was more difficult than any other moment that I had faced to date. In discovering the beautiful word, Eucharisteo, Joy, Grace, and Thanksgiving~ to give thanks, my heart would awaken again to the secret of Thanksgiving, where it all began. When I surrendered my life to accept the invitation of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ as my savior. Grace.
This unexpected journey toward fullness of joy, the pathway that leads to life, would be found in saying yes to grace., yes to the fullness of His joy. Real and full life and not holding on for survival until heaven. Joy here. Fullness of joy now!
My word journey continued and would soon direct my path the Ann Voskamp book, One Thousand Gifts A Dare To Live Fully Where You Are. It would lead me to understand the need to rewrite my habit of fear and ingratitude into a heart that was created for THANKS-LIVING!
While I in no way intend to rewrite what has already been so eloquently written, I surrender to the understanding that her story is my story, your story and the story of that special someone you love. We all have a story of defining moments in our lives that have shaped us into the who we are in Christ today and the plans he has made for us…for good….for His glory.
If you are in a season of difficulty and find yourself struggling with the pain that this world brings, you are not alone. We all face times of faltering, life-shattering faith that are so worth fighting for. In my heart, I stand beside and am fighting for you. This is what I learned and the four places that I began every day for what seemed life years. I encourage and affirm in you that God is very near, faithful and Thanks-Living is closer than you can ever imagine.
We all start somewhere.
At the beginning of each new day, begin with a committed heart in prayer, surrender, eyes on Jesus and practice “giving thanks in ALL things.” This IS the path that leads to life…
- Begin with a commitment and pray for God to help rewrite the habit of ingratitude. Anything that is not gratitude IS ingratitude. Pray and seek the path that leads to life. Practice! “The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” Ann Voskamp
- Surrender and confess your wounded moments that have closed your heart and hands off to God. When we close our heart to others, we close our hearts off to the work of God’s Spirit in our lives. It is a lonely place. Surrender.
- Keep your eyes on the Lord. Open your mind, heart, steps, thoughts and hands in thanksgiving for ALL things. Trust me it works! Trust was built with every thank you before the day began. “Thanksgiving precedes the miracle.” Ann Voskamp “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
- Begin the process of writing down the things that you are thankful for. (Note: Be gracious to yourself if you need to write down your wounded moments first.) Begin your day giving thanks, even when you are challenged emotionally, physically and spiritually. Thanksgiving will become Thanks-Living when the habit of your heart becomes one that has been emptied out of life’s difficulty and replaced by the fullness of His Joy.
The postscript to our story is filled with thanksgiving. God has used our son’s unexpected journey for good. He is keenly aware that the freedom to be safe in your workplace is a gift and one not to be taken for granted. The Lord has allowed him a platform to encourage and care for others within his company who have also experienced similar challenges with such mercy and grace.
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