Thursday, November 24, 2011

Through It All, Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day in America, a day that our country sets aside to be thankful for the many blessings we have received. It's an important family day, too. Thanksgiving just isn't the same if you can't spend it with people you care about.

On Thanksgiving Day 3 years ago, we had our SDA appointment in Kyiv for adopting our children Valya and Sergey. You can read about that here. It was a somewhat difficult day in unfamiliar surroundings, not special at all to anyone around us, no different than any other day. Our Thanksgiving "meal" was unrecognizable food in the food court of the Globus mall in Independence Square. But it was very symbolic for us to have the opportunity to increase our family on Thanksgiving Day. We were, truly, thankful.

Three years have passed and now our family has been turned upside down with events that have caused a lot of pain and heartache. I will only share what is public that everyone who knows us already knows. In July, our daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Our granddaughter was put up for adoption and the family took her home from the hospital at birth. The events leading up to that were not good and one of our sons no longer lives with us. He is receiving counseling, and hopefully will get the help he needs. Our daughter is also being counseled, working through many things. The rest of us have gone through counseling too, trying to deal with our emotions. I have told people that I have experienced every emotion possible over the last year. It has not been easy but I think we are beginning to heal.

Valya asked me the other day if I regretted adopting. Truthfully, we did not expect this situation and it has been so difficult. But I told her, no, of course not. We love her no matter what. This is one of the positives of what happened. She has learned about the unfailing love of parents. Something she didn't have in Ukraine. We see our son often, and he still comes over. We also reassure him that we love him as well. We are hoping that someday we will be together again.

Last weekend we were all together and took a family picture. It was like old times again.

For the last three years I have written one of the Advent devotionals for our church. I wrote one this year and the scripture for the day is 1 Thess 5:12-24. I will close by sharing it with you, too.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” If you were to ask me the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, I think these words from today’s scripture would sum it up very well. It’s easy to be happy when everything is going well. And it’s easy to be thankful when we have what we want. I saw a t-shirt once that said: I’m easy to get along with… as long as you do things my way! It’s meant to be humorous but, really, there’s a deeper truth here, which is that we are all selfish by nature. When things don’t go our way, we get angry, or anxious, or afraid. Is there anything in your life today that causes you to not be joyful or thankful? Most of us have something. But God’s word for us today is that we are to recognize that He loves us so much that we can give our troubles to Him. There’s a song we sing in church that says in part, “I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading my sickness, I’m trading my shame, I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.” This past year has been a difficult one for our family. I’ve asked so many times, Why did this have to happen? There are no easy answers, and yet, we lay it down and choose to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. May the peace of that starry night in Bethlehem rest on you today and always! Amen.

Last night, someone on FB shared this video from a Ukrainian pastor who passed away only a couple of days ago. It is about being thankful in the midst of suffering. Pastor Peter had been suffering from cancer and was near the end of his life when he preached this to his Odessa church on Oct. 24, 2011. He uses the same verse from Thessolonians that I used in my Advent devotional above. As you hear him speaking of bread, know that he himself wasn't able to eat because of his cancer.