Unlikely Thanks

I just returned from the North Central Hearts at Home conference in Rochester, Minnesota.  Loved it!   What could be better?  2750 moms.  Great speakers.  A hilarious improv comedy team.  The opportunity to speak to hundreds of moms in workshop sessions—and to speak with many face to face at our Mom to Mom table.   A chance to see my sweet husband “working” the table and telling lots of moms about what Mom to Mom meant to husbands—a first.  Thank you, Woody!

I always come home from such weekends with my head—and heart—full of stories.  Yes, lots of smiling moms and funny stories and good laughs.  But also stories of  hard places—very very hard places.  Stories of struggling kids and gasping marriages and leukemia and hospice and moms (yes, even moms) making bad decisions to leave families for old flames or imagined love.

Maybe that’s why the pilgrims on my dining room table are so important to me this week, this week before Thanksgiving.  The pilgrims belonged to Woody’s mom.  They were always on her dining room table.  Thanksgiving was Mom Anderson’s holiday.  Most years we traveled to spend it with her, especially in the years after Dad Anderson died.

Which brings me to what the pilgrims most remind me about.  It’s Psalm 34.  And it takes me back to one Fall many years ago when Woody’s dad was in the hospital for 9 weeks, dying by inches of a rare and never-diagnosed blood disease at the age of 52.  Every day, Mom drove from her home in the suburbs into Chicago to sit by his hospital bed all day long.  And nearly every day they read together a paraphrase of Psalm 34.  This paraphrase was read at Dad’s funeral.  That Christmas, we commissioned an artist friend to do a beautiful calligraphy of Psalm 34 which hung in Mom’s living room till she died.  Years later, the same paraphrase was read at her funeral—the day before Thanksgiving.

“I feel at times as if I can never cease praising God.  Come and rejoice with me over His goodness!”  That’s how the paraphrase starts.  An unlikely place to begin when you’re sitting by a hospital bed.  Or worrying about a sick child.  Or how you’ll make the money stretch to the end of the month.  An unlikely Thanksgiving Psalm.  But a good one.  A psalm for all seasons of life.  For all those twists and turns . . .

So I share it with you as my Thanksgiving Hymn this year.  I hope it can be yours, too.

I feel at times as if I can never cease praising God.
Come and rejoice with me over His goodness!
I reached for Him out of my inner conflicts,
and He was there to give me strength and courage.
I wept in utter frustration over my troubles,
and He was near to help and support me.
What He has done for me He can do for you.
Turn to Him; He will not turn away from you.
His loving presence encompasses those who yield to Him.
He is with them even in the midst of their troubles and conflicts.
He meets their emptiness with His abundance
and shores up their weakness with His divine power.
Listen to me.  I know whereof I speak.
I have learned from experience that this is the way to happiness.
God is ever alert to the cries of His children.
He feels and bears with them their pain and problems.
He is very near to those who suffer and reaches out
to help those who are battered down with despair.
Even the children of God must experience affliction,
But they have a loving God who will keep them and watch over them.
The godless suffers in loneliness and without hope;
The servant of God finds meaning and purpose
even in the midst of  his suffering and conflict.
From Psalms Now, by Leslie F. Brandt