Well, it’s that time of year again. Get out your pilgrim hats and Indian feathers and let’s talk about what we’re thankful for!

In all seriousness, despite the losses my family and I have endured this year (which are very real and can make it very difficult at times to reflect on our equally real blessings), I do have things for which I am very grateful. They include:

  • the baby currently doing some kind of tribal dance in my belly

  • my job. My clients make me crazy sometimes, and there’s a lot of paperwork details to chase around, but I can honestly say I love what I do, and I try not to take that for granted.
  • the wonderful love of my husband, who has walked with me through an unexpectedly difficult second year of marriage. He is truly the best, and I love and appreciate him more every day.

  • the wonderful love of my friends and beloved family. They have sustained me and made this incredibly difficult year more bearable.

(this picture will make more sense in a future blog post.)

There is one more thing, though, that I have been thinking about lately. When I found out my mother’s cancer was terminal, one person I was desperate to talk to was my dear friend Jill, who lost her mother four years ago to colon cancer. We cried on the phone together one day and she said to me, through her tears, But I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful that I had my mom for those 30 years. She was my best friend. Not everyone can say that.

Despite my grief, I am often filled with an overwhelming thankfulness for the gifts that my mother gave me and left me. I am who I am because this woman raised me! So many of the blessings I have now are, directly or indirectly, a result of her guidance through my life.

But I think her final gift to us is the thing for which I am the most thankful, and which challenges and encourages me most as a Christian. It is her testimony.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:7-14

This was one of the (many) Scripture passages we had read at her funeral, and it was one of the passages she held close to her heart throughout her life. My parents both knew that this world is not our home, and that there is a greater future to which we are called. One thing I admired, and which comforted me in the last weeks of her life, was that she genuinely was at peace knowing that her days on earth were coming to a close. She considered it all a loss – everything in her life – because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.

This picture was taken at the hospital not long before she died:

The thing that struck me the first time I saw this picture was that she looks happy.

The week that she died, we got an email from a friend of hers from BSF who shared a few stories about my mom. One of the things she said was that my mom never asked for prayer that her cancer would be healed. Rather, she wanted God to be glorified through it. She truly lived out her faith in a way that wasn’t just lip service — no matter whether life was easy or hard, her prayer remained the same thing at heart: that He would be glorified, that His will would be done. It was well with her soul. It’s easy for us to insist that we, too, want God to be glorified through our trials – but I know my prayer throughout the last four years was much more focused on her healing than anything else. Her constant, unshakeable, and unwavering faith is a challenge to me as I figure out how to live without her, because I want to live up to the legacy she left.

I have seen her prayer answered over and over again throughout the last four years, and especially in the last four months. God has been glorified through her cancer, her decline, and her passing. (He brings good out of all circumstances.) She knew she did not need to worry or be afraid that she had cancer; people used to ask her things like Aren’t you upset that you have cancer? and she would respond, Better for me to have cancer than someone who has no hope. I have the hope of Christ. And she actually meant it. She knew the love of God was “better than life” (Psalm 63:3), and she knew it wasn’t just a poetic, figurative phrase. What an encouragement to those of us she had to leave behind!

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

Proverbs 31:25

I miss her so much, but I am so thankful that she has found her true Home, and for the legacy she has left us while we wait to join her there. Sometimes my tears are happy tears.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.