A Picture of Thankfulness
Updated: Jan 9, 2021
Grace Between the Closed and Opened Doors
My back porch.
It’s nothin’ fancy.
A patio loveseat on a striped rug, currently accented with a few pumpkins.
A mosaic side table, created by my supremely creative sister, sits off to the side. Made of broken plates which are placed in such a way to create a welcoming pineapple design, this table often holds my glass of water or La Croix.
The walls are lightly decorated.
A planter made of wooden pallets hangs on the east wall. Although empty due to my ambitious attempt to discover a shade of green on my very pale, non-green thumbs, imagine basil and rosemary and other herbs like cilantro growing lavishly from each wooden layer.
That was my intent anyway. Looks like I'll be adding something that can't die...Fake succulents for the win!
Also, do me a favor and imagine sweet potato vine flowing fully from the hanging baskets on the west wall. Again, my thumbs apparently have no hint of green in them.
Even still, this simple back porch has been a place of retreat and relaxation, watching roses bud, magnolias bloom, and bunnies scamper.
On the center wall, a wooden sign hangs with the words, "Welcome to the Porch." Although, "Welcome to the Office" would be fitting, too.
My Momma gave me this sign. Well, actually that's only partially true. She bought it for her porch, but when I mentioned I liked it, she offered it to me.
That's my Momma for ya. She is a giver. She will give anything and everything to those she loves.
I'm thankful for her and I'm thankful to look at my back porch and realize this - this humble space of comfort and unmet dreams of gardening - is my picture of thankfulness for 2020.
A Year of the Un-
2020 has been a year of the un...
Nope, I refuse to jump on the bandwagon and use THAT word...
Maybe we leave it at that - a year of the un...
Things were taken from us.
People we cared about.
Health we once knew.
Businesses we built.
Jobs where we once felt secure.
Trips we booked.
Community we shared.
Games we watched.
Plans we made.
The tournament may have been cancelled, but March Madness never felt so tangible and real as it did this year. Forget the basketballs, this was a month of madness in the form of quarantine.
I watched as all of the things I clung to for comfort were stripped from me in a single day.
A relationship ended. Not just any relationship, but one I thought was going to be the one. Door abruptly, painfully, tearfully closed.
If this door was going to close all along - if this relationship was not meant for me and was going to come to an end - why did it wait to end now at the cusp of a quarantine?
The company I work for decided to put our community's health first and sent us to work from home, closing their doors for the pandemic.
Bittersweet packing my things up as I realized I would not be able to escape the pangs of loneliness by surrounding myself with co-workers.
And unfortunately, this also meant rowing league was cancelled. I would not be working out my frustration with every call from our coxswain.
Church - a place we go to feel safe and cared for and surrounded by others who love and encourage us in our faith - was forced to close their doors and encourage us to worship online together.
Even though I wasn't quite ready to speak on my recent loss, I had hoped to blend into the crowds of our young adult gatherings and Sunday morning service to not feel so alone right now.
With all of these falling out of reach like a series of dominos falling one after the other, I clung tightly to a Spring break ski trip, believing this could be my escape from the loss and also my refreshment - my ticket back to normal.
As you might expect, it didn't happen. Ski resort closed.
The emptiness settled in the unopened rooms of my heart that night.
Doors were closing.
And sadly, I was not the one closing them. They were closing despite my best efforts to prop them open.
In short, I did not choose this.
I share this not for your sympathy for my situation, but because maybe you've seen doors close in your life, too, this year. Or maybe, you're recognizing there are doors that need to come to a close and you need to pull your foot back and stop propping these doors open.
I don't know your pain or your loss, but God does.
Even though I may not know your story, I believe there is encouragement for both of us. I believe God allowed these doors to close because He has something better for us.
There's someone else who knows what it feels like to have all the doors close around her. Her name is Naomi. Her story is held in the book of Ruth. It's only four short chapters, so go ahead and give it a read. You won't regret it.
At a time when a woman's worth was wrapped in her husband's provision or that of her sons, Naomi lost both.
And similarly, it was at a very inopportune time. She found herself in a famine.
We haven't endured a famine, but we did just endure a quarantine. They were out of bread; we were out of toilet paper. So yeah, I think we can level with her a bit.
In her distress and weeping, she tells her now widowed daughters-in-law,
"...for it is exceedingly bitter for me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me." Ruth 1:13
One of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, is determined to stay by her side even though Naomi has nothing to offer her, no other sons to give her. The two return to town and Naomi is so overwhelmed with grief, she asks to be called by Mara because of the bitterness of her situation.
"I went away full and the Lord has brought me back empty." Ruth 1:21
Doors closed on Naomi. She felt the bitterness and emptiness as she watched her comfort, her livelihood and her hope crumble before her eyes with no door opening before her.
We know the old saying “when one door closes, another door opens,” and I've experienced that in my own life. I've been able to walk from one opportunity to the next, leave one job and begin a new career in another.
But, it's not always the case.
Expecting there to be another open door immediately before us causes us to feel the bitterness Naomi freely shared. In these moments, we may doubt God's goodness and His nearness.
When our hope is in our circumstances, we may think this bitterness is not just our situation but our identity. Like Naomi changing her name to one meaning bitter, we may fall in to the spiral of hopelessness and forgotten-ness.
But, as we keep reading, we see God did not abandon her. And, it's worth pointing out that while Naomi wanted to change her name, God did not. She continued to be referred to as Naomi for the duration of the story.
Sure, the door Naomi had hoped for was closed with the death of her husband. Then, the other doors closed with the death of her sons.
But God was faithful. He opened a door - an unexpected door - in a husband for Ruth. In doing so, He was also providing for Naomi.
Ruth married Boaz, and together they were given a son named Obed. Naomi had the unique privilege of being the caretaker of Obed.
What's so special about Obed? Well, he was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David - the one who slayed the giant and later became king. From this line, Jesus, the Son of God, came to us!
God used the in-between time of Naomi's life. He didn't want to open just any door for her and Ruth. No, He had a very specific door in store for them. He wanted to use them for His glory!
He chose to reposition them from having no legacy to leave behind to having the greatest legacy of all time!
He turned her bitterness into the sweetest, most abundant joy!
Beauty for ashes. God does it time and time again - in the Bible and in our lives!
How could He use this in-between time of emptiness in our lives to reposition us for His glory?
Like I was saying, my back porch has been an unexpected picture of thankfulness in my life this year.
It’s become a place for answering emails and zoom calls, a place for admiring sunrises and sunsets, a place for tears and humble prayers, and the place where reading through my collection of prayers over a 40-day journey, I realized God had led me to write my first book.
God could have opened another door for me. I know He is able.
Yet, I am so thankful now that He didn't.
He allowed me to endure a painful season between a closed door and awaiting an opened door.
Here, He repositioned me by first bringing me to my knees. He met me with mercy and grace. He reminded my heart I am not forgotten and washed away the bitterness of this season with His refreshing, Living water.
He gave me renewed purpose for my days and deeper intimacy with Him.
I realize now how sometimes when one door closes, we need not forget the middle ground between the two. When one door closes, we step out onto the porch and wait for God to open the next door.
It's here on the porch that He is shaping us and renewing us.
We can be certain, the door that opens - He will use for His glory!
Let's find strength in His word to put our hope in Him, not in our circumstances or the people in our lives or the job we have or money we make or the leaders we elect. Let's find the joy building within us in the in-between places of our lives. Let's find peace on the porch and rest in the calming breeze of His presence.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!