As I think of Thanksgiving this year, a lyric from my song “Heaven’s Gonna Heal My Sorrow” comes to mind. That lyric is: “I’ve lived long enough to know, you count your blessings when it hurts.” I think this lesson — to count one’s blessings even (and especially) when life feels unbearable — is something many people pick up along life's journey. It’s a way of surviving hard times by seeing the silver linings that come with the clouds. It’s a way of keeping perspective that as bad as a situation may be or seem, it almost always could be worse. It’s a way of advising our souls not to despair for indeed it is always darkest before the dawn.
Early in graduate school I was navigating compounded personal loss and went to see the campus minister for some guidance. She was a lovely and compassionate woman, with years of life experience. While I was hoping she would offer me some nugget of wisdom to latch on to, to help get me through the next stretch, she told me to just try to focus on one simple joy at a time, like a cup of tea. I felt a bit deflated. My heart was in pieces and I was supposed to find joy in tea? I didn’t feel capable of accessing joy, not to mention I didn’t even drink tea at the time. But I trusted her, because she had walked miles I hadn’t and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. So there I was, hurting significantly and attempting to count my blessings. I’d make lists of anything that brought me comfort or peace and, yes, occasionally a moment of joy when I allowed myself to forget my misery. It seems that minister knew that when one is experiencing a deep brokenness, it’s enough to simply acknowledge the tea was pleasant… to find even the tiniest sliver of the day was good. This turned out to be exactly the wisdom I needed, a great reminder to me to try and be present to that which was going right, even when so much else was going wrong.
This Thanksgiving is undoubtedly very challenging for many people as we continue to press on through a global pandemic. The reasons are wide-ranging and the grieving is real. Yet it is my hope that in the midst of the suffering, chaos, and uncertainty of these times we can still find some, maybe even many, simple blessings to count… like the cup of tea I’m about to enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!
May you be inspired!