Photo Credit: Jessica Harrington

Thanks is a word and a way of being. It seeks out the gift in what is. It assumes there is a gift to be seen here. In the hardest seasons of my life, thanks has been a ladder out of darkness. A therapist once reminded me through my tears that what we focus on is magnified. When we actively practice gratitude, the gifts of the present become easier to see.

We are walking through the strangest of days, living in a state of prolonged grief, change, and fatigue. Though the measure and kind vary between us, challenges are a shared reality right now. The first letter to the Thessalonians instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (5:18). Alongside another friend writing about gratitude in difficulty, this thanksgiving, I am challenging myself to practice this more actively.

And so, A Pandemic Litany of Thanks:

Thank you, Creator of All, for the chaos that formed the world. For disruptions and destruction that interrupt the way things had been and create empty space for something desperately needed and new. For discomfort and what it reveals about my wounded heart and deepest fears. For walks and wind and painted skies. I am grateful for the undoing and remaking at work in the world right now.

Thank you, Lover of the Broken, for the ways hearts are aching. For longing to wrap our arms around people far away. For the revelations in relationships, for collapsing under the weight of it all and finding the floor, for the relief that comes when I quit pretending I can do it all. For flowers wilted in the frost. I am grateful that my heart withstands the breaking and the ways you stitch me back together.

I thank you, God of Mercy, for unmet expectations, failures in the best laid plans, and opportunities to apologize. For care in weakness, love in confusion, hope in knowing that neither my nor others’ worst is the measure of our worth. For exhausted compassion, one more deep breath, a well of patience beyond my own to try again. For the sound of dead leaves beneath my feet. I am grateful for waves of mercy to wash over me.

Thank you, Spirit of Wisdom, for perspectives different from my own. For information overload, scientific research, and critical thinking. For the invitation to listen deeply to people, for the grace to set boundaries and stop taking more in, for the reminder to be kind especially when I do not understand. I am grateful that learning lasts a lifetime, and maybe even into eternity. For fog. May I come to see clearly what is confusing my spirit these days.

Thank you, Warrior of Justice, for the cracks in the comfort of some built on the backs of others. For the courage of those who cry out, the shame that follows an accurate accusation, the long road of struggle for freedom for all. For call outs and call ins, repentance and conversion, amends and atoning. For thunderstorms and the smell after the rain. I am grateful for the hard work of being reconciled.

I thank you, Abundant Giver, that there are gifts in situations I would have avoided, circumstances I did not ask for, and realities I do not like. For people who irritate and accuse me, for experiences that make me call on and receive the help of others, for a life that challenges me beyond the edges of my current capacity. For rocks beneath my feet and the sting of a cold lake. I can give thanks for the gifts of being stretched, being assisted and carried, for constant growth. I am grateful that it is possible to receive and even appreciate gifts I did not ask for.

Thank you, Healer of Wounds, for masks and vaccinations, distancing and outside air, health care workers and leaders. For errors in judgement, sacrifices necessary and not, humanity on display. For the struggle of trying to stay together while we stay apart. For tears of anger, frustration, defeat. For a sun that keeps on rising. I am grateful that you have promised to be with us in the mess.

May I open my hands and my heart to whatever gifts you pour out to be opened here. May I see what is possible in the ugly and unbelievable. And may giving thanks in all circumstances be a conduit to the fullness of grace you have promised us, amen.

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