The woman held the white styrofoam cup with two hands and looked down at the red sparkling grape juice inside. The fizz was drowned out by the sound of her little niece and nephew playing on the floor. She sat beside her husband, amongst her family who had gathered together in the living room forming a large, not quite-so-perfect circle. It was time for the Thanksgiving tradition where everyone would go around and take turns sharing what they were thankful for. After each monologue, the group would raise their cups saying "Here, here!" and "Praise the Lord!" This year, the woman didn't want to be thankful. She wanted to disappear. Unfortunately, her absence would most definitely be noticed, so she had no choice but to stay and participate.
Her grandfather opened the ceremony with a story. Eighty years of wisdom colored each spoken word as he shared a testament of God's faithfulness to him over the past year. "A year ago I was told that I needed to get a new roof," he began. "It was going to cost 7000 dollars. I had no idea who would help me do the work or how I would get the money to pay for it, so I prayed."
He continued by telling how he diligently saved a little each month in preparation for the expense and kept on praying over the course of the year. Fall came around and he managed to find eight people who were willing to help with the project. A few weeks before they started, he received an unexpected letter in the mail stating he had 3500 dollars worth of stock, which he cashed in to help pay for the expense. When it was all said and done, the entire project cost came out to 3500 dollars--half of what the original cost was supposed to be and exactly the worth of the stock he had just sold!
"The point is," he said, "God answers prayer. He doesn't always do it when we want it or how we might expect, but He always answers. Sometimes we have to just be patient and wait on His perfect timing."
The words "patient" and "wait" resonated in her mind as if someone had just hit a gong. She reflected on her situation. She desperately wanted to accept the message and believe she was experiencing perfect timing—no matter how imperfect it felt—but pain from the past few months had jaded her perspective. It coated the truth of her grandfather's words with a shell of bitterness. The truth was in her mind, but she would have to crack through the shell in order to truly receive it.
And so the circle of thanks began. One by one family members listed off the many things they were grateful for. Closer and closer her turn approached. She tried to think of what she could say. Everything she thought of only reminded her of what she couldn't be thankful for—a baby on the way. The cold fact was further etched in the stone of her mind as her brother-in-laws relayed how thankful they were for their children. Her husband's turn soon followed. I guess I'm thankful he gets to go first, she thought to herself.
"As you all know, we've had some trying times come our way recently, but through it all we still have things to be thankful for," he began. "None the least being that we live in Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic..."
He began to choke up. Her stubbornness held on as she fought back tears, but his warm, genuine words were quickly thawing her frozen heart. She grabbed his hand.
"...and they've been doing their best to get her better..."
His composure was quickly failing, as was the woman's ability to control her tears, and no one said a word. In attempt to contain the situation, divert attention elsewhere, and fill awkward silence, she held up her styrofoam cup and said, "Praise the Lord!"
"Praise the Lord!" the room responded.
It was now her turn. She opened her mouth, ready to quickly recite her pre-planned statement and pass the baton, but she couldn't speak. The dam holding back her emotions had been cracked during her husband's speech and by now it had lost its integrity. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She apologized for crying and as she regained her composure, she noticed the room was no longer quiet. Others had started to cry and sniffles came from all sides. It was then that she realized she was not alone in her pain. Her burden had been spread across the shoulders of those she loved most and they were walking alongside her every step of the way. How could I have been so blind, so foolishly hard-hearted? she thought. Thank you, God, for my loving husband and loving family.