Being Thankful For a Story You Never Asked For

This Thanksgiving is going to be different.  This year, I'm not going to let it fly by and become about turkey, and stuffing and leftovers.  This year, I plan to intentionally give thanks.  To pause and savor my whole Thanksgiving experience. 

Have you ever felt like Thanksgiving came and went and your back to everyday without a blink? 

For me, pausing to give thanks this year can't just be about the things I have or a beautiful sunset.  All those things are beautiful and worthy of giving thanks.  And, we need to intentionally give thanks for the things in our lives. 

But somehow, I think I need to graduate from things to events.  I need to graduate to giving thanks for the things I never ordered in my life.  The unexpected things that I wish were different. 

Recently, a friend who is also a pastor, asked if I would come speak to his church about my own story.  My own journey of living a life I never ordered.  My own journey into being single when I always thought I would be married.  Well at least by the ripe old age of 47. 

As I reflected on what I would say to this church family, I reflected on my own journey.  I reflected because most days I am not thankful for my story.  If I'm honest, there are many days that I wish my story were different.  

All this reflection took me back to that time that I attended the She Speaks Conference.  A conference designed to train and encourage aspiring speakers and writers.  I knew I would come away with the tools I needed to become and in demand speaker and writer. Instead, I walked away with a message from God. 

Your greatest ministry will come out of your greatest pain. 

From keynote speakers to workshop leaders, the theme was the same.  Your speaking and writing should come from your place of deepest pain.  I gotta be honest, I didn't like it.  I knew immediately what that topic was and that was not my plan for my speaking and writing. 

I would speak and write about faith and courage, but this...not so much.  In that moment, I knew God was asking me to focus my writing on the thing I liked the least about my life - being single. 

To be honest, I felt the least prepared to be a voice for singles and to help singles.  Clearly, I had not mastered this thing called being single.  I didn't like it.  I wished to be done with it.  I just wanted to be like the bulk of my friends. 

So, in Jonah like fashion, I ignored the message.  I came home and went back to work.  And then I learned to be a coach.  Then I quit my job.  And never really considered how I might incorporate being single and my new calling. 

That is, until my friend called.  Until I was asked to share the story I struggle to be thankful for.  Until I finally listen to God's nudging from She Speaks and in the days and months since then when there would be little reminders that God loves singles.  Little reminders that we all struggle.  Little reminders that my story matters and can help someone else. 

Go big or go home!  So I laid it out for my friends' church.  My heart has been broken because I expected my life to be different.  There was letting go involved.  Like letting go of the idea that God sees my logic and will redirect as needed based on my logic.  Like letting go of my idea of what it means to be loved by God - I don't always get what I want but I get what I need.  Letting go of the idea of writing my own story and start submitting to the story God is weaving for my life. 

Which brings me to your story?  What parts of your story are you not so thankful for?  What one or two things would you change if you got to be the writer?  And what do you and I need to let go of to be thankful and embrace the life we've been gifted with - even if it's not the life we dreamed of? 

In my talk that Sunday, I had three points (it's the most logical) and I think you and I can apply them to our own lives. 

Own Your Heartbreak

If you're anything like me, you like to run from heartbreak.  We don't want to deal with disappointments and unmet expectations and building new dreams.  So we reason it out and we deaden our hearts.  You and I can tend to build a wall around our heart and quite frankly stop feeling altogether.  Lean into your heartbreak.  Lean into your disappointments.  Work through it with God. 

Own Who God Is

In my 20s and 30s, I had expectations.  Expectations for my life.  And expectations for God.  I started asking "the questions".  You know, the ones.  Have you forgotten about me God?  If you loved me, why wouldn't I receive what "everyone" else is getting?  Why am I waiting? 

Through all this I realized very important thing: God's ways are not my ways.  He doesn't love like me.  He doesn't provide like I would provide for someone.  His love doesn't mean I'll get everything I've always wanted.  His love means I'll get everything I've ever needed. 

Are we willing to own who God is instead of who we think He should be?  

Own Your Story

Trust the process.  That's what we say in coaching.  It's what I said two Sundays ago.  Waking up and owning my story was not an overnight decision.  For years, I was afraid that if I became thankful for my story, God wouldn't send what I desperately wanted.  Love.  A Family.  A home.

Little by little, I realized one truth.  God wants me to live a life that requires faith.  And for me, a life that requires faith includes being single for today.  I had to learn one day at a time to have faith.  To trust Him with the story He is weaving for my life.  

To be honest, it's not a simple transformation.  It takes courage to trust God when your story is not what you expected.  It takes courage to submit to God's story for you even when your heart is broken.  It takes courage to live the life God gives you wholeheartedly.  

This Thanksgiving, I don't just want to be thankful for my things.  Don't get me wrong.  I've got great things. A crazy dog.  A great home.  An amazing family on both sides.  Incredible friends

This Thanksgiving, I want to live in one foot faith.  I want to be the kind of person who will thank God for hard things.  I want to be the kind of person who is thankful for the story I never intended to live.  I want to be the kind of person who allows God to use my story for my good and His glory. 

What are the hard things you are thankful for this Thanksgiving?  I'd love to hear!