For three or four years now I've been sending out a letter with my Christmas cards. You know, one of those family updates to let everyone know what's been going on in the last year. I started doing that because of infertility. I knew people were wondering what was going on and I felt like it needed to be addressed. I didn't give everyone a play-by-play of all the trouble we've had, but I made the situation known and thanked our family and friends for their continued prayer and support for us. For the years that followed I continued with the recap letter even though I find it difficult to do. I guess I want people to know that even though we struggle, we have joy in our lives each year as well. It's time for me to write the letter again, and again I'm sad to look back on a year with no new baby.
This has me thinking a lot about something. If there is any topic I have wanted to blog about, that has been rolling around in my head for months and months, it is this one. It is the subject of blessings. What does it mean to be blessed by God? Am I blessed by God? I regularly hear people tell mothers how blessed they are. They walk right up to them and say, "Wow, God has really blessed you," or "You are the most blessed woman." I don't think anyone has ever told me how blessed they think I am! Am I less blessed than a mother? Why do we usually associate blessings with children?
I know I've just thrown a bunch of questions at you! I have been thinking on this and trying to study about it and soak up everything I hear on the topic like a sponge. I've talked it over with friends and family, listened to sermons, read the Bible, prayed about it, and spent hours discussing it with my husband. Today I want to share some things with you that I have learned about blessings. I'm definitely no expert, and I welcome any insights you might have on this as well.
Yesterday at church we had our annual Thanksgiving service and luncheon. During the worship time our music minister called for folks to share how they were thankful. I sat and listened as person after person stood and talked about how God had blessed them with such wonderful parents, families, and children. I have to tell you, it was special and I also thought about how thankful I am for my family. But I couldn't help but feel sad too in a way, for myself and for others in the room who perhaps didn't feel blessed. Maybe there was someone else like me who didn't grow up in a stable home with two godly parents. Maybe someone else had a dad who left them and drank too much. Maybe there was a single or divorced man or woman who felt alone and had a tough year. Maybe there were couples besides us who prayed all year long for a child and were disappointed and heartbroken. While I was sitting there in church I had the overwhelming desire to stand up and speak for those people. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking but I knew I had to do it. I stood and told everyone there that even if they didn't have loving Christian parents or a spouse or a house full of children, that they were also blessed! I told them I was thankful for God's blessings like our salvation through His son Jesus, and hearts that are obedient to Him. I don't know whether it meant anything to anyone else, but it meant something to me. I didn't get through it without tears, which disappointed me, but I hope the message was clear. Please don't get me wrong, I DO think we must thank God for our parents, spouses, and children and everything in between! I just don't want to lose sight of what our blessings really are.
A few minutes later in that testimony time at church, a young man stood up and said that he was thankful to God for all of the trials in his life. He was thankful for all of the family hardships that he'd been given that have made him the person he is today. This young man is about 20 years old and has known more trials than I could even know. He came from a family of alcoholism, abuse, and neglect and was adopted by a loving couple. They have, I think, 4 biological children and I believe another 8 or 9 adopted and foster children, and this family has been living in tents and mobile homes ever since their home was destroyed by Hurricane Ike two months ago. He didn't say a word about any of that stuff yesterday, only how thankful he was. I was amazed. I'm not normally an "Amen shouter" but I couldn't keep myself from speaking out right then and telling him afterwards how much he had touched my heart.
In the Bible, in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gives us what we call The Beatitudes. I think it's interesting to note whom He calls blessed:
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn. (Are you feeling blessed yet? This one stands out to me.)
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the pure in heart.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.
The Bible shows us that Jesus used external "blessings" like miracles and healing to open the door for what He really came to do. I believe that our real blessings are internal: those that happen in our hearts. God's greatest miracle is that He saves us and changes our hearts and calls us His own. A good definition of blessed is to be fortunate. We are fortunate to have God's hand of protection upon our lives. If you do have a happy marriage, you are fortunate to have that. If you do have children, you should consider them a blessing and a gift. But the absence of those external things does not mean the absence of God's blessing in your life. Those are not the ultimate blessings!
Through all of this study I've learned something very valuable. I don't want to pursue having children more than I pursue righteousness and obedience to my Lord. I want to seek His kingdom first and let Him take care of the rest.
Even when I don't feel blessed, I know that I am. I'm careful about how I use that word now. I don't want anyone to look at anything I have on the outside and see that as a blessing, but I want only to be seen as blessed if people look at me and see my Savior. I want to tell you, single friends and childless friends and my dear friends who are parents, we are all blessed because we are God's children.
When I write that Christmas letter this year and when I celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I'll be thanking God for my blessings. And perhaps for the first time I will truly understand what that means.