Maureen Pratt

Whether you live with the extreme pressures of daily life or your daily stressors are compounded by illness and pain, as Thanksgiving nears it might be difficult to feel truly thankful. Yes, lifting up thanks for family, friends, a place to live and food to eat are the obvious. But that deep, resonant, soul-inspiring sense of gratitude that springs from a well of comfort and joy may seem far away, if not unreachable.

I can relate to the superficial difficulty in thinking of giving thanks. This has been a very difficult year in so many ways, and the troubles are amplified by the usual and unusual physical challenges of living with lupus and chronic pain.

And yet, despite everything, when I truly look at the year that has passed, I can say that I am very thankful.

For what?

I am thankful for God in my life, ever present and ever ready to bring comfort and strength. I am thankful for the sun rising and setting, the seasons changing, the play of birds against the sky or the wind against the tree branches — these and other things of God’s natural world are beauties that are never tainted by the darkness of life’s stress. Their constancy brings tremendous comfort on days that are full of woe. These are, in all ways, evoking of giving thanks.

My gratitude is unbounded for the friends, family and others in my life but not in the usual way. It is easy to be a friend in good times or to only attend to the celebratory events in one another’s lives. But my deepest thanks are to those who have been so supportive, good listeners, loyal comforters, true God-sent gifts. I pray for each of them daily, and pray, too, that I will be half as good of a support to them, when and if the need arises.

Physical challenges are neither easy nor welcome. But through them, I have met the most remarkable people and learned that there are heroes abundant in our society, heroes who toil without awards or medals, but who make a huge difference in the lives of others. I offer a heartfelt “thank you” to each of these good men and women.

The presence of the church, fellowship and faith are true blessings. And, as I have moved through these most recent trials, the richness of ritual and the variety of opportunity to pray, worship, sing and reflect are never ending and wonderful.

The opportunity to write this column is a blessing, and I am so very thankful for you who support and read it. And there remain other things to be thankful for: Kindness. Time. Laughter. Quiet. Possibilities. Creativity. Life.

For as difficult as life can be, and as full of sorrow and pain, within our lives is the privilege of purpose, of nurturing faith and moving along a walk unique to each of us, but tied together by God’s will. And for that, I am especially and enthusiastically grateful.

As we approach this time of year in which we are expected to be in a holiday mood, it is easy to become despondent about having too much stress or not enough resources such as hours in the day, money, health, opportunity to work or travel or relax. Perhaps, the loss of a loved one has brought deep sorrow so close to home that the thought of a festive holiday is impossible. Or, perhaps for other reasons, loneliness presses heavily at this time and this season.

Even within these struggles, there are gifts. And, as we pray to recognize them and reflect on them, we can turn the problem of giving thanks into a deepening of spirit and a strengthening of courage and love.


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