This October, however, has been a little different. In many respects, it's been the best October ever! So much natural beauty and the time to sink my soul into it - this rare combination has been a blessing beyond price. But in other ways, it's been a hard one - hard to look up, hard to stay positive, hard to keep the faith... (I think maybe I've been more aware on a deeper level of both joys and challenges this year, which may possibly be indicative of a little bit of soul growth? One can only hope.) In addition to the difficulties that have been more or less consistently present over the years, it seems that some new, unexpected, more complex challenges have been added to the pile. Hopefully an indication of increased threat to the enemy; possibly due to my own laziness and inattention to sin's sly infiltration - likely a combination of both. Whatever the reason for this extra pressure, it's had an effect on my gratitude lists this time around. As I've sat down to make my list, night after night, I've found it to be something of a challenge. I discovered that beyond my family, good food and the beauty of the season, nothing came to mind right away. (Apparently, there's a limit to how many ways one can declare Autumn's surpassing gorgeousness!) I was ashamed to discover that I, who have carefully cultivated a thankful heart over the years, was reluctant to give thanks! I've had to learn all over again how to be thankful for everything God chooses to allow into my life - even when it makes no sense, even when I don't understand, even when it looks like God has abandoned me and I can't see how He could possibly pull me through. Everything.
And that's been a very good thing. As my faith is tested in new and more rigorous ways, it's a constant temptation to give in to despair and discouragement, to doubt and blame. It's harder to trust than it's ever been. But as a muscle grows stronger the more it's used, so has my faith. Instead of resorting to tears first, I turn to prayer more often. Instead of allowing my feelings to steer the ship, I remember the facts more often. Instead of letting a toxic whispered lie of the enemy fester and decay in my mind, I'm quicker to recognize it for the lie it is and replace it with the truth. Instead of letting the enemy steal and distort my identity, I am able to remember more often who I really am.
Wow, that sounds really good, doesn't it? Alas, I certainly don't get it right all the time. I'm still prone to discouragement and fear and unbelief. I still, maybe more now than ever, need to be reminded on a very regular basis just how big my God is and just how much He thinks of me. Like today, for example. I was minding my own business, working my way through washing my never-ending mountain of dishes, when my mind was bombarded with memories of my past failures (oh so many failures). I didn't even realize my thoughts were drifting into that dangerous territory until I started telling myself, "You'll never be able to pull off this ministry - maybe you should just give it up and try something more normal." That thought certainly caught my attention, and I was surprised to discover how much I'd let those memories affect me - just like that, I was ready to throw in the towel, to turn my back on months of work and preparation, not to mention the calling and vision I'm sure I received from God, and walk away from it all, just because I allowed those memories free reign for a bit.
Thanks be to God, I am a work in progress! Hallelujah! And I have this promise to hold onto today, and everyday:
...being confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.