I’ve been thinking a lot about “Thanksgiving” in the past week and the many things I’m thankful for, and even things I’m not.  I’ve mulled over this post a couple times in my brain and am finally getting it down on “paper”.

There are many circumstances in my life that I’m not thankful for (in the initial event kind of way) but I’m beyond thankful for what God’s done with them. In Romans 8:28 we read: “And we know that in all things God works to the good of those that love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  In a moment of devastation it seems impossible, but it’s true. I’m not thankful for the choices Charlie made on 10/2/2006.  I’m not thankful for the way my life changed that day, the brokenness I endured, the way I had to stand and fight.  BUT, I am thankful for the depth of intimate relationship I now have with Christ- he came to my rescue, he stood alongside me and he gave me courage and strength when I was empty and alone.  He gave me freedom to walk in victory above my circumstances, not buried under the weight of them.  He showed me how to lean in to him, to rely on him, to watch him come through…to trust, to have faith, and to hope.  When He’s all you’ve got, He is all there is!  On the day I became a widow and single mom of 3 precious children, I faced a startling reality full of hard choices.  My dream of a shared life together forever had come to a sudden and tragic end- I was left to handle everything on my own.  I had no idea, at the time, how God could possibly redeem any of it, but I gave my life to him, yielding myself and offering all.  I don’t say this out of pride, but for the point of reference- I knew that I had nothing and I could do nothing on my own.

As much as my heart still mourns the loss of that day for my family, the other family’s impacted and first responders, I also celebrate the ways that God reached down and touched my natural with his supernatural.  I wouldn’t have ever dared to dream that a man would choose to share my life- there are so many complications and hard places, but it happened.  God had this amazing plan that he started unfolding quickly after Charlie’s death.  I met and married my husband, Dan, in less than 8 months following my loss.  I know that this is not typical or advisable in many cases, but God did something extraordinary for my children and me.  He knew that we couldn’t wait, the time was now and we needed Dan.  I say often that he is like “Jesus with skin on”.  I’ve never met anyone so self-sacrificing, thoughtful, and intentionally loving.  He has given me the courage to believe in myself and go after dreams buried deep within my heart.  He calls out my destiny; he’s my springboard.  If you stand along the side of a swimming pool you can jump in, dive and do tricks, but think about how much better it is if you’re on the diving board!  It sends you higher; the board provides a bounce, a distance, beauty that you can’t get on your own.  That’s what Dan does for me.  As I think about the treasure of love he gives me every day, from the abundance inside of him, I’m thankful.  I’m thankful that he shares with me, but more than that, I’m thankful he has given himself to the master-craftsman, the one who fills him with rare and priceless jewels.  Dan has also walked a difficult road- his life has had it’s own share of broken dreams and shattered pieces, but in the midst of those he has chosen to yield himself to God’s plans and purposes.  I’m not thankful for the heartbreak he has endured, but I’m thankful for what he has allowed God to do in and through it.   In the places where he has suffered he now has eyes that see my pain, a heart that bears my hurt and tears that mourn my scars (not just for me, but also for the kids).   Instead of choosing bitterness of the events of his life he chose God’s grace, he chose to not understand why in the moment, but to allow God to be bigger than what he was going through.  In each one of those places, although he didn’t know it at the time, he chose to allow God to prepare his heart to love me.  Dan’s love is just what I need: the gentleness of his arms is just how I must be held, the softness of his heart soothes the pain in mine, the tenderness of his words is the voice of the Father in my ear.  I wouldn’t want to think about life without him!  I can only imagine that as I was grieving my loss in Oct. 2006, God was whispering, encouraging my heart that I would bear this pain for a little while, but he had a beautifully glorious light coming at the end of my solitary tunnel.  It wasn’t going to be long, he was bringing redemption and restoration, so amazing and completely that it would blow my mind.

Dan yielded himself to be “Jesus with skin on”…and through him, God has provided for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.  (Isaiah 61:3)  Dan is an oak of righteousness, and thankful doesn’t begin to express what’s in my heart- for who he is and how he gives life to me.  God has purposed to work out a majestic “good” in Dan’s life that has beautifully impacted the “good” in mine…what greater purpose is there than that; to allow the devastation and destruction in our lives to become part of the tangible blessing of God to another…His rich, deep, unending love.