On my first Thanksgiving as a foster mom, I held a two-week-old newborn baby as I grieved the loss of my own child. The night before, in a loud and chaotic emergency room, I had been diagnosed with a lethal ectopic pregnancy. In a matter of hours, I went from being deliriously happy and pregnant to deliriously sad and barren. The emergency procedure to end my pregnancy and save my life also left me permanently infertile. That day, as my family sat around our turkey dinner and took turns giving thanks, I doubted the value of Thanksgiving.
What good is gratitude in the darkest seasons of our lives? Does it serve any purpose worth the effort it requires?
As a foster parent, the hardest work I’ve attempted is the work of cultivating a heart of gratitude. When a visit is cancelled at the last minute or a social worker shows up on my doorstep without any notice, I am tempted to feel frustrated with the messy foster care system. When children I love leave my home, I am tempted to focus on the grief of their absences instead of the joy of our time together. When I consider the staggering uncertainty of their futures, I am tempted to give in to fear and anxiety instead of choosing to trust in God’s faithfulness. In those times, I have to make a choice.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 107:1
Seeing God’s goodness in the midst of terrible circumstances requires effort. Believing God loves us when we are feeling hurt and alone requires faith.
Every time I choose to put in the effort and exercise my faith, I find a great reward. When I look for evidence of God’s goodness, I find it. I see His goodness in my children’s twinkling eyes. I hear His goodness in the sound of my mother’s comforting voice. I feel His goodness in my friends’ supportive hugs. I taste His goodness when my husband’s lips brush against mine. I realize God’s goodness is right here in the middle of my difficulties. I recognize the goodness as evidence of God’s love for me.
On my second Thanksgiving as a foster mom, I received a text informing me that the little girl who had lived with me for all twelve months of her life would soon be leaving my home. As the grief descended upon me, I knew gratitude would be my path through the pain. Thinking through a year’s worth of precious memories made me thankful for the privilege of witnessing those moments. Remembering the miracle of her life caused me to thank God for his protection over her. Through my tears, I gave thanks. It didn’t take away the pain, but it grounded me in peace.
This Thanksgiving, my family will continue our tradition. We will sit down to dinner and smell goodness in the scents floating through the house. We will look across the table and see goodness in the faces of our loved ones. We will hold each other’s hands as we pray and feel God’s goodness. When it’s my turn to give thanks, I will tell of His goodness in my life.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:4-7