As I fumbled in the top drawer of my desk for a pen earlier this week, a worn index card slipped free from the edge of the drawer. The card. I sank into my chair to read the penciled words and remember the day hard thanksgiving changed my life forever.
At my husband’s insistence, I left my stable medical practice to start a tiny clinic in the rural town of less than 200 people where we lived. The clinic was exhaustingly busy but the heavy load of Medicare patients barely paid the overhead. I needed paying patients but my schedule was already full. In the midst of the clinic's financial struggle my husband's business prospered as never before. The disparity in our two incomes was a difficult issue for us and one I felt powerless to change.
Eventually, he had an affair with a much younger woman and a pregnancy resulted. He left without a backward glance to move in with his new family.
I struggled without my husband's income. Long days seeing patients were followed by hours every night spent doing medical records after my son went to bed but the clinic was no more profitable. Because I was in solo practice, I never had a day off or a vacation. I was always on call. 24/7/365. My son cried every time the phone rang and by then I wanted to cry, too. We were both exhausted of the struggle.
In desperation, I cried out to the Lord and felt his still, small voice speak with clarity. “Close the clinic.” I knew it was right. Neither my son nor I could stand it much longer. Unfortunately, the still, small voice didn't reveal the next step.
I wrote articles for the newspaper and magazines. Tried my hand at taxidermy and failed miserably. Baked bread and sold it at the farmer's market. Became a fledgling potter. Whatever I found to do, I did it with all my might but my efforts barely kept us afloat.
On one life-changing day nearly fifteen years ago, circumstances collied with such force I felt I was out of options. My aging SUV had enough gas to transport my son to school and back but not enough for me to go home in-between. I didn't have enough in my bank account to buy gas and pay the bills so I did the only thing I could think of at the time. I dropped him off, pulled into a parking lot, and prepared to spend the next eight hours in my car.
I opened my Bible and wept more than read for several hours. Finally, I reached Psalm 50. You night recognize this as the "cattle on a thousand hills” psalm. I seized on the phrase like a drowning sailor reaching for a life preserver. “Lord, I need you to sell some of your cows and help me.” I don't know if I expected an out-loud voice or not, but I felt as if there was no response to my plea.
Finally, I cried out, tears streaming down my face, “What do you have to say about this situation, Lord? You have to do something because I’ve done all I can do!”
The quietest voice imaginable spoke in my heart. “Turn the page.”
What?? I didn't understand. Was this a call to a fresh start of some sort? Finally, I sensed the call again. “Turn the page.” Could this mean a literal turn of the page? I wondered and flipped the page. Astounding words waited for me there.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Psalm 50:14-15 nasb
A sacrifice of thanksgiving. My next step. Clarity burst into to my despair. I had the “calling out" part down pat but I hadn’t bothered to give God thanks in my difficult situation.
The only paper I could find was a blank index card. I pulled out a pencil and started writing. Soon, the front of the card was covered with thanksgiving so I continued on the revere side. The more I wrote, the lighter my heart became.
God didn't overlook my situation. Instead, I overlooked my blessings.
He replaced my grumbling and complaining with gratitude and hope. My heart changed that day. It took a little longer for my circumstances to change but, before long, someone called with a well-paying job I could do from home. Our finances improved and our joy returned.
The index card is faded and worn but my thanksgiving list is still visible. The sacrifice of thanksgiving didn't end all my financial worries or moments of despair. Instead, it taught me how to find my way through. In the hardest times, I start by offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving. When I do, I know I can depend on Him to handle the rest.
What about you? Are you in a desperate situation this holiday season? Does it feel as if you have nowhere to turn and your hope is gone? Could it be you’ve overlooked the blessings God has already given? Maybe it's time to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving—to give thanks when it's hard. Why not start your own list of blessings today?
Whether you're in a hard season or not, gratitude is alway the right gift to offer our Lord. This year, begin your family Thanksgiving with a new tradition. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and watch with anticipation for how God will respond.