Thankfulness is a gift from God. Knowing the magnitude of the awesome sacrifice that our Father in heaven made in giving His son Jesus humbles our hearts and makes us grateful. Jesus was the gift of atonement for our sins of the past, present, and future, and true understanding of the magnitude of that gift makes us grateful for everything in our lives. Our values change when we humble ourselves before God, and He opens our eyes to every little gift, the changing of the seasons, the smile of a child, the warmth of friends.
Just this week I drove my husband Jim home from Duke Hospital where he had undergone his second brain surgery. I found myself being so grateful for the success of the procedure, for his being able to stick out his tongue and roll his eyes in ICU, for the kindness of the attendant who wheeled him to the car, for the parking space near the elevator, for the glorious color of the trees along I-85, for smooth highways, and I could go on and on. That gift of gratitude opened my eyes to God’s providence and calmed my heart.
But I was also mindful that I had also sat in the waiting room throughout the day of the surgery seeing surgeon after surgeon come out to speak to families until 8:15 pm, leaving me as the only person waiting for news. I was grateful for the opportunity my husband had to travel from Greensboro to a world-class facility where he could receive care from the best of the best. I was grateful for safe travel, for the pleasant young woman at the coffee bar, for the sweet lady at the registration desk who spoke so kindly to me knowing I had been there most of the day and had been the only family member left in the waiting room. She could have been impatient knowing I was probably preventing her from going home for dinner. I was also grateful for the comfort and peace that I knew I would have if the surgery did not go well. The knowledge that my husband had followed Christ in his life was assurance that I could persevere even without him if God had chosen to take him home. What a blessing, what a gift to be grateful, not in my own strength, but in the “blessed assurance” that comes only from God through His gift of Jesus Christ!
Jim’s third great grandmother Henrietta Hall Shuck had traveled to China in 1835 as the first American woman missionary to China trusting in God’s providence through disease, poverty, robbers, disagreements with the mission board, and all during the dangers of the First Opium War. On her 200th birthday, her descendants are still strengthened by the gift of perseverance that comes through thankfulness for the blessings of Christ.
Tethered begins in 1835 as Henrietta and Jehu Lewis Shuck set off on a 19,000 mile voyage from Virginia to China to establish the first Baptist mission. In Tethered Henrietta must hold a leather strap nailed to the railing of their ship to keep from falling overboard, but her life is also tethered to her husband, to their mission board, and to God. Their relationship is marked by humor and unflinching determination despite illness, poverty, danger, and opposition from the mission board at home in the volatile years of conflict in the First Opium War. By the end of her story, she has come to a full faith relationship with God and has become an icon in Baptist missions for American and Chinese Christians across two centuries.
Purchase TETHERED HERE
Brenda H. Cox is a life-long English educator at the high school and university levels. She earned a BA at The University of South Carolina, an MAT from The Citadel, and a PhD at The University of Georgia where she served as the Assistant Director of the Freshman English Program. She was affiliated with the National Writing Project site at Clemson University where she led a Writing in the Humanities Institute and is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. She has taught numerous writing workshops and delivered papers at state and national conferences and directed The Young Writers Conference at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she was an Assistant Professor of English Education. She has published articles in English leadership and in 18th century rhetoric. In addition, she has served as a writing consultant in numerous school systems in the Southeast and in the American and International Schools in Kuwait. She also served as a Reader of Advanced Placement exams for The College Board, and her students have won numerous local, state, and national awards in writing. Brenda lives in Greensboro, NC and is married to Jim Cox. They have one son and daughter in-law and two perfect grandsons.
It’s been so fun reading these guest thankful posts with you. The month is almost over, and although I faced obstacle after obstacle working on my NaNoWriMo novel (my word count is on the right sidebar if you want to see how challenged I am,) I wanted to chime in with my thankful thoughts.
I posted this as my Facebook status Thanksgiving day:
I choose thankfulness! My broken wrist and eventual surgery taught me to wait on His timing. A major shakeup at my home church taught me church family can’t be confined to a building, because we are all one Body. In many things this year I realized the measure of moving forward with favor and acceleration was in tandem to how I walk in grace and forgiveness. What felt hopeless now is a thriving situation with the kids. I’m thankful that although to me He seemed four days late, He was and will always be right on time. These truths are what I feast on, and I’ll wear fat pants for the food!
I’d like to expand on that.
It’s been a tough year. I realized my wrist surgery symbolized my 2012. It took a plate and screws to heal me. My wrist looks the same, but it’s not. It will never be as it was.
That speaks to much in my life right now. Everything looks as it was in 2011, but it isn’t. My guess is my life is in a paradigm shift,something I’ve realized the faster I embrace it and stay thankful, the faster God blesses. My knee jerk reaction to change is to:
A. Freak Out
B. Run Miles Ahead of God to guarantee success, only to fail miserably.
I treated the transitions with fair amounts of A and B. I started making lists of all the prayers and declarations I needed to make. As Godly as it sounded, it wasn’t the right way to handle things. In fact, I was ready to run so far ahead that God reminded me that I was in Sarah Plan B mode- and for Sarah-her making things happen created an Ishmael of a situation.
So what was I supposed to do?
God was and remains clear. For all the crazy plans, deep prayers, and reactions to this year, God has asked me to do one and only one thing.
Agree with His plan.
When I pray for people, I name them and say I agree with His plan for them.
When I pray for my country, I agree with His plan, even though I don’t understand it.
When I pray for my church, I name it and agree with His plan, even though things could shake further, or maybe not, but either way, I have to trust Him.
I agree with His plan for people I don’t see as often as I used to.
I agree with His plan for people where their choices or words or combination were like kicks in the gut to me.
I agree with His plan for the school the kids attend.
I agree with His plan for my husband.
I agree with His plan for our marriage.
I agree with His plan for my writing and other ministry.
Get the picture?
Don’t worry, I don’t all the time either. I make myself agree with His plan as part of my everyday speech. Everytime I do that, it becomes a little bit easier.
Which wasn’t anything like this year. How about you?
Thursday I went to my first post-surgery check-up and was warned hand therapy would be immediately after. The surgeon loved the x-rays and how my wrist looked. He got rid of the stitches and ordered a new splint. He called for the therapist and told her point blank, “Her body is naturally resisting. You need to work on her mind as much as her wrist.”
My previous therapist came via a doctor script. My new therapist explained that when this happens, both the doctor and therapist believe all is well and they go full throttle, and that happened with me. What no one knew was that the bones were moving in reverse. The pain was indescribable, but my reaction to tense up in this new situation is natural.
This time around, this is a specialist working hand-in-hand (ha, funny) with the surgeon. She knows my story.
My first session was more about renewing my mind and gaining my trust than anything. It took several attempts to assure me my exercises didn’t need to be fast, with weights, or with a ton of mobility. By the end, she noted how my back relaxed.
This is a lesson that far transcends my wrist. I’d say the last 8 years I’ve come up against circumstances where the first time around, things went awful. The pain was deep and my natural reaction was to never, ever go through anything that looked like that again. And not because He’s a meanie, but because He loves me enough to want me to grow, God would create circumstances that looked near identical to the first. I’d fret, stew, whine, cry–and eventually give in.
And I learned through renewing my mind in Christ and trusting God that it was going to be okay.
Can you relate? I have a feeling someone out there can. I’m going through it, too. The therapy example helps me, and so does the cardinal.
Yea, the bird.
For nearly two years there was a cardinal in my path. In my driveway, dive-bombing my car, walking up to our patio, chirping to get my attention. It was during a time I was struggling to trust God because He was putting me in situations that looked far too much like ones I’d already been through, and I was scared.
It took me time to realize there might be something to the cardinal. I read up on it and guess what I learned?
The cardinal is a loyal defender.
I realized all those cardinal sightings were God’s encouragement that He had not forgot me, and that He was going to be my loyal defender. I entered those situations and not only were they not like the first, they went way, way better.
If you are scared, trust God. He truly is your loyal defender.
Even when I have to trust Him with my wrist.
I had my follow up appointment regarding my recent laparoscopy. The surgery report was good but I confessed overall I’m feeling lousy and have for quite some time. I explained the symptoms and he ordered a couple tests. Turns out I had two additional things going on beyond the surgery recovery.
I dismissed a small issue and let it quickly evolve into something big. As the situation grew, it was more toxic, quite painful. When finally identified it attacked me from sides.
Isn’t that a lot like sin?
One of my favorite lessons on the matter comes from VeggieTales. Junior Asparagus meets a Fib from Outer Space, seems like a neat alien, nice enough. Junior breaks his dad’s bowling plate and he decides to tell a fib, a lie. One lie grows into another and another and suddenly Fib is a huge force threatening the entire city. It takes Junior confessing his sin and asking for forgiveness to save everyone.
Is there something threatening to take over your life, a toxin spreading like wildfire called sin? It can be anything, let’s remember in God’s eyes my lie is the same measure of sin as Ted Bundy’s serial murders. But guess what?
So is His forgiveness.
Don’t let a small thing overwhelm you. Why not go to Christ today? He loves you and can’t wait to spend time with you!