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Ugly beautiful

The Bible tells us that we should “at all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” (Ephesians 5:20, AMP)

I have been reading a book entitled, “One Thousand Gifts,” by Ann Voskamp.  The moment I began to read it, I knew I would struggle with it.  It is a book that is about being thankful, but its opening chapters begin with real life hardships and tragedies, the kind that leave scars.  I knew she would be dealing with the idea of being thankful for all things and therein lies the rub, the struggle, the conflict within my own heart.

Having a thankful heart seems natural to some extent.  God saved me, an undeserving soul; He saved me from a life controlled by sin for one reason – His love for me.  That produces gratitude.  I don’t deserve life, yet He gives it to me if I will receive it.  Yet the question lingers in the back of my heart beckoning me to give it attention.  Can I be thankful for everything?

One Thousand Gifts wrestles with this question.  I am three quarters through the book and she is bringing it full circle.  At one point in her life she was challenged to write down 1000 different things she was thankful for, which set her on a personal journey of cultivating a heart of gratitude for everything.  One of the results was she began to see things differently by looking more intensely in the day to day and being thankful for the simple, mundane, and overlooked obvious.

She surpasses her goal of 1000 and continues her journey of gratitude.  I am at the part where her path hits an ugly rock.  To be thankful for everything means to be thankful for the ugly things as well.  She calls them – the “ugly beautiful.”

The ugly beautiful.

I ponder my journey and think about the question lingering in the back of my own heart, but now the question has be reworded, “can I be thankful for the ugly beautiful?”   This question is harder, because it addresses the real issue.  The issue of the “all” things means the difficult things, the things that makes us ask “why?,” the things we wish weren’t, the things that are painful.  I look around and see my hurting family and friends and ask can they whom I know and care for thank God for the ugly beautiful in their lives?

Thank you God for another chemo treatment.

Thank you God for another surgery on my five year old daughter and another trip to Philly.

Thank you God for my daughter’s bi-polar diagnosis.

Thank you God that my wife passed away leaving me to raise my two children.

My eyes fill with tears as I think of the pain I have seen my family and friends walk through over the past few years. Their ugly beautiful makes mine seem trivial, yet I still struggle to be thankful for the difficult, the unlovely, the painful in my own life.  Can I…

…thank you God for the fire ants that covered my feet and hands leaving me with a gazillion irritating bites?

…thank you God for these premenopausal symptoms that leave me irritable and miserable?

…thank you God for leading us into a ministry that requires fundraising when I hate asking people for money?

Thank you God for the ugly beautiful in hindsight, when I see the results and see the good that has come from the pain? – Yes!

Thank you God for my friend’s last chemo treatment, that she is now cancer free, and she can get back to some sense of normal with her teaching, her husband, kids, and her new born baby.

Thank you God for my saying “No” to something I really wanted to do, which in turn, left Sydney and I at the right place at the right time so that she could go to the last minute invite to a concert she had desperately wanted to attend.  Not only that, they were VIP tickets on the second row and back stage interaction with Math West and Mike’s Chair.  How awesome is that, thank you!

Thank you God for my depression for I now write and live and breathe in deeper more meaningful ways than I did before.  I now have a heart for the suffering of women that was born out of my own heartache, and I am grateful for the scales that fell off my eyes during that time.

Thank you God for the beautiful.  My heart jumps forth to be thankful and I ask that my eyes would be more open to seeing it every day; that I don’t miss one vapor of your glory.  Thank you God for….

…the sun that shines so brightly …the warmth it brings …the vacation blessing …the early morning snuggles with my children …the deep belly laughter with friends till your tummy hurts & eyes are filled with tears

Thank God for the ugly beautiful? I am not there yet.  I am curious, open and wanting.  I know I am missing out on something.  First Thessalonians 5:18 says to Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (AMP)  It is God’s will for us to be thankful in all things. If you are like me, you are genuinely interested in doing the will of God.

If you are like me, you may also struggle with being thankful in all things, especially the ugly beautiful.  In this season of emphasis to be thankful for the bounty of God’s goodness, it is too easy to skip over His will to be thankful in everything.

I wonder where you are in your heart concerning thankfulness.  I wonder if I have any sister strugglers out there.  I wonder if we could try together to take that step and actually brave it, to think it, to maybe even whisper it, to venture into being thankful for the ugly….because through Christ there is the hope in the ugly that…. beautiful will emerge.

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts….and always be thankful.  And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”  (Colossians 3: 15, 17, NLT)

Through Him, Jesus Christ, we are able to give thanks.  Through Him everything looks different.  He is the beautiful and when it, the pain, the hurt, the thing that is too ugly then we only look at Jesus.  Jesus is the beautiful.  He is the beautiful in any ugly.  I may not be able to give thanks for the ugly, but I do know that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  I can look at Jesus and be thankful for Him.

Together, with arms locked tightly, because this seems a bit foreign and even scary to consider.  Let’s try to be thankful for everything.

Which poses another question in my continuous mind of curiosity;

…I wonder what will happen, when we step into obedience and actually give thanks for all things – including the ugly beautiful?

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