Thanksgiving came in a beautiful tide, activities and planning washing in and out of our weekend. There was family, there were friends, there were two gallon ziplock bags of the best leftover smoked turkey ever.
Somewhere in the middle of my celebrating, a family down the road from us faced a tide of their own, one that took their daughter away and wouldn’t give her back.
Gratitude is like a beach full of startled gulls, lifting and swooping in unison. They settle and the beach is thick with their presence. They leave and the emptiness is wide. Deafening.
Some days, a house is brimming with life and activity. Others, the afternoon sky turns gray and everything falls to sadness.
The awful truth is that we must somehow live with them both.
The times of feasting and fasting.
The places where gratitude washes over our souls with all the goodness in the world, and the places left when the tide goes out, waterlogged sand crumbling beneath our feet.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
Reality gives us no other choice but to accept it. The table is full. The bed lies empty.
But we have a harder time with the next sentence. The one where Job says, Blessed be the name of the Lord. Because whether it’s in plenty or in want, we get overwhelmed. Finishing the phrase is the last thing on our minds.
Goodness carries us into laughter and revelry, busyness and schedules, making it easy for the heart to forget its praise.
Sadness takes our breath away. We are rocked with confusion, questioning everything, our eyelids burning with salty tears.
In both circumstances, we often find it easier to say nothing.
And then Love steps in.
The party dies down, and friends begin helping with the dishes. Seeing their hands scraping plates draws gratitude back to the table.
A community gathers. Floods a sorrowing threshold with meals and cards. Offers anything. Everything. Slowly, heads are lifted.
Love goes to work, and somehow, our mouths remember the rhythm of the word Blessed.
Because rhythm leads to movement. Movement to awakening.
And Love stretches out its nail-scarred hands, teaching us how to be present to one another wherever we are.
Whole or broken.
Full or empty.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.