Giving Thanks when Things Aren’t Perfect

Giving Thanks when Things Aren’t Perfect

by Meredith Mills


What does the perfect Thanksgiving look like to you?

christmas-583369_1280I think of Norman Rockwell’s painting Freedom From Want – all the family gathered around a beautifully decorated table laden with once-a-year favorites. Sweet smells, pleasant company, happy hearts.

But real life isn’t always that perfect, is it?

Just last week, we had a “Thanksgiving Feast” with our homeschool co-op. I should have known it wouldn’t be a perfect Thanksgiving when my car refused to start that morning. My hubby, mom and dad were all out of town.

Thankfully, a family friend was working from home that day and came over to jump my car. It ran long enough for us to arrive at co-op, dying once again as I turned it off the in the parking lot.

Thankfully, I had all day to figure out what to do next.

As I took our feast contributions to the kitchen, I realized I’d forgotten the two-liter soda I was supposed to bring.

Thankfully, a friend would be joining us later in the day. I sent her a quick text and she agreed to pick up the drink for me.

Festivities were scheduled to begin around noon, so I hurried to our abbreviated classes. A few hours later, I looked up to see my daughter’s face in the door. She mouthed the words, “We have a problem!”

Her costume had ripped, and she needed me to fix it. I had neither a sewing kit (who knew a mother should carry one in her purse?!) nor the skills to mend it well.sewing-kit-1468262_1280

Thankfully, another sweet friend offered to run home and get hers for me. And thankfully, my visiting friend had just arrived and is quite skilled in sewing. She fixed the problem in no time.

We enjoyed a delicious meal and an adorable program with more little pilgrims and Indians than I’ve ever before seen in one place. Before the program started, my friend texted her husband and asked him to come look at my car saying, “He’s pretty handy with cars.”

Thankfully, he knew just what to do. While we watched to our little ones perform, he jumped it, drove it to buy a new battery, installed the battery and brought the car back.

Later I found yet another friend washing my dishes in the kitchen when I forgot to pick them up after the program. Thankfully, she overlooked my forgetfulness.

As I returned home in my recently-repaired vehicle, I thought about the precious gift of friendship. It was a rather imperfect day – car troubles, costume troubles, memory troubles (not to mention the flu bug that hit that night!)

But my God supplied my every need…using my friends. His people were His hands and feet to me that day – sharing Jesus’ love in very practical ways.myGodwillsupply

Perfection isn’t often experienced outside of fairy tales (or Norman Rockwell paintings). And sometimes things are much worse than a day ridden with frustrations and forgetfulness.

But, as my daughter reminded me after my husband’s car wreck several years ago, “There’s always something to good” for which to be thankful. Because our God delights in lavishing love on His children – and in bringing good out of imperfect circumstances.

So this year as we celebrate Thanksgiving, may God help us see His abundantgood gifts. May we savor His kindness and enjoy the people with which He’s surrounded us.

For what are you most thankful today? Please comment below!

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The Prize

The Prize

Have you ever won the lottery?

No? Well, don’t feel bad – I haven’t either. (Of course, I hear you have to play to have a chance at winning, so maybe that has something to do with it.)

How about being chosen in a drawing, like at the Home and Garden’s Expo? You just fill out a little slip of paper, giving them all your personal information, then sit back and wait for a phone call. Sounds easy enough. I’d enjoying having new windows for my entire house.

jelly-beans-2099733_1280Or even just the “guess how many jelly beans are in the jar” game? Nope. I’ve haven’t won that one either.

I’ve never been a lucky person.

My husband, on the other hand, now he was an altogether different story. He used to win drawings and prizes a lot. Until he married me.

Whatever your views on luck versus the sovereignty of God, there’s something inside each of us that loves to win. Be it small or big, we humans delight in attaining something of value.

Recently, I was wrestling through a life circumstance I wanted God to change. I thought this change would simplify life and add value to my days. I read and began memorizing the following verses – “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26).

So, I waited. And I prayed. And I tried to change things on my own, which I guess isn’t really waiting on God.

Then I grew resentful when God didn’t bring the change I sought. I prayed and waited and tried some more.

And then I gave up.

God showed me that, while I love Him and desire to follow Him, I was fighting the direction He’d given. I was fighting Him.

You know, if I were God (and it’s a good thing I’m not), I’d be pretty irritated when my child wouldn’t follow my instructions. When, after lavishing goodness upon her, she kicked and squirmed and tried to run the other direction, I would find my patience growing thin.

But wonder of wonders, God didn’t treat me that way.

First Timothy 1:16 describes Jesus as “immensely patient.” And that’s exactly what I’ve found. With gentleness and grace, He led me to a place of surrender.

Oh, that word. Sometimes it makes me cringe. It feels so unnatural to surrender to someone else’s control. But this, like everything else in Christianity, is a matter of faith.

It’s a conscious choice to believe that the heart of God is good. To trust that He really does have my well being in mind. To act upon the belief that He sees the bigger picture and higher purpose.

I was waiting for God to grant me the “prize” for which I prayed. Instead, He gave me more of Himself. And I realized that Jesus is the prize, the treasure of infinite value.

People “surrender” many things for the chance at winning a prize – time, money, personal information…And any prize that we gain is temporal and sometimes worth very little.

But when Jesus asks us to surrender, He offers us in exchange the priceless gift of friendship with God.

Priceless Gift


Paul said 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” (Philippians 3:8).

And might I add a side note? When I surrendered, I told God, “Lord, I’ll do what You ask. But I can’t keep living like this – discontent, restless, angry. You have to change my heart. I’ve been trying to change myself, to pull myself out of this pit. But I can’t do it. So You’ll have to.”

And that’s exactly what He did.

After that step of faith, God began restoring joy to my soul. Where there was striving, there is peace. Where there was resentment, there is rest. I don’t know what the future holds, or how He will lead tomorrow.

But I know He’s good. And that’s good enough for me.


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We Are Family


“What did you swallow?” the triage attendant asks incredulously.

I brace myself and repeat for the hundredth time. “I swallowed the tab from a soda can.”


“What did you swallow?”

“How’d you do that?”

I know. I already feel stupid. Who does this sort of thing?

I’m not your everyday ER patient. I’m not a child who put something weird in her mouth. I wasn’t drunk or otherwise impaired. I’m just a mom who was watching her kids at swim team practice.

Earlier that morning, when I grabbed a can of La Croix and dashed out the door, I had no idea how the day was about to change. When the darling, adorable child pulled off the tab and dropped it inside, I didn’t know I should throw the can in the garbage right that very moment. It never crossed my mind that one could actually swallow something as big as an aluminum tab – before even realizing what had happened.

Nope, I didn’t know any of that – until today.

Now I’m rather an expert on such things.

Two sets of x-rays, 5+ hours in the ER and an endoscopy… still no tab. It left its mark – I can feel the scratch down my throat. But the tab itself has officially gone into hiding.

Quite a frustrating, unpleasant day. Not one I’d like to repeat. Ever.

But it wasn’t all bad. In fact, as I ponder it in retrospect, I’m struck by one thing – the Body of Christ is truly an amazing gift.

My sweet friend at swim team practice dropped everything and drove me home, then cared for my kids all day. My precious hubby cleared his schedule and sat with me in the emergency room. My family and church family prayed. Lots of people sent offers of help via text message. And the GI doctor, who called me after I left the hospital, asked if he could pray for me over the phone. His prayer brought me to tears. He called on God our Healer and Provider and lifted me before the Lord in Jesus’ name.

We Christians have been born again into a truly incredible community!


We are family!

Church friends, long-time friends, new friends, even total strangers…if we’re Christians, we all have one thing in common. We love Jesus. And because of that, we are family.

Right now, story after story is washing over me as I remember God’s love poured out through His people.

Like when our whole church rejoiced at my oldest child’s baptism.

And when concerned friends brought meals during my sick days of pregnancy.

And when a dear man from church sent my little boy a note to say that he’s praying for him.

And when loved ones cried with us as we grieved a miscarriage.

In joys and sorrows, achievements and losses – we’ve been through it all together. This is how it’s supposed to work. This is the Body functioning as God planned. What a beautiful gift!

I know, it’s not happiness and harmony all the time. We the collective Church are human. We’ve been forgiven and made new, but we don’t always act like it. Sometimes we hurt each other – sometimes even on purpose. Oh, how the devil loves to tear us apart!

But we need each other. We need committed friendships and regular fellowship that we aren’t quick to walk away from. It’s worth working at, working through, and working beyond the issues that separate. It’s worth swallowing our pride and admitting when we’re wrong. It’s worth overlooking offenses, extending forgiveness, accepting differences and learning from each other.


Who do you do life with?

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:9-10, 12).

This gift of community is priceless.

So today, I’m asking myself – how well am I contributing to the Body of Christ? Am I as willing to serve others as they have been to me? Am I pursuing growth and unity out of love for Jesus?

How about you? How are you doing? What community of believers do you do life with and how have you ministered to one another? I’d love to hear!

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Free to Be Me

The secret is out. This is the real me.


A few weeks ago, we joined a homeschool co-op. I prepped my kids ahead of time…reminding them to be friendly, to be interested in others, to introduce themselves. You know, basic friend-making stuff. But inwardly, I was a bit anxious myself. I’m not naturally outgoing. Being the first to introduce myself is not exactly in my comfort zone. I, too, was hoping to make connections that would lead to new friendships.

I guess I was hoping to impress people, to make them like me.

You can imagine my embarrassment when, at the end of the first day, I had to search for my misplaced phone. I found it in the office. Assuming someone had turned it in, I asked where it had been found. The sweet lady gave me a puzzled look and told me it had been sitting on the desk all morning. Only then did I remember that I had come to the office first thing that morning in search of name tags. Hmmm….well, she’s not going to think of me as the most organized person in the group.

But really, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Anyone can misplace their phone. (I just happen to do it all the time!)

However, when this same person locks her keys in the car the very next week…Well, the secret is out. This is the real me.

I spent nearly the entire final period in the parking lot waiting for a locksmith. The locksmith, of course, showed up in a huge conspicuous tow truck, just as classes were letting out and people were coming to their cars. He was a jolly fellow – asked how my day was going, as if locking oneself out of one’s car adds humor and excitement to the day.

I guess I should have smiled about it, laughed it off. But I was too worried about what people were thinking.

Ah, people pleasing. I know it well.

It can be paralyzing at times. I spend so much time trying to keep everyone happy. I work hard to make people think well of me – even when it means hiding my quirks and imperfections.

It’s an exhausting way to live, and God is teaching me that we were never designed to live this way.

Can I share with you what I’m learning? Because maybe, just maybe, I’m not alone in this people-pleasing craziness.

First, a person’s value lies not in what we do (or don’t do), but in who we are. Our Maker says we are “remarkably and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14 HCSB). We bear the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). We are infinitely loved and valued – not because of our own merit or loveliness, but because God has set His love upon us (Eph 2:4-5).


Second, we all have emotional needs that God alone can satisfy. The longing for acceptance is a God-given desire. Its purpose is to lead us to Him. When we look to Him in faith, we find that we are relentlessly adored, unconditionally accepted, and even greatly liked – quirks and all. (See Hos 2:14-19, Eph 3:12, Zeph 3:17.) On the other hand, looking to people to meet this need will lead to disappointment and conflict.

Third, another person’s opinion does not define us. This may seem obvious, but I have many times internalized a rejection (real or perceived), as if it were true of me. When our identity is built on who God says we are, we can come back to that reality every time we begin to feel otherwise.

Finally, true friendships are based on transparency and acceptance. If we keep our shortcomings hidden, the relationship will not be genuine. We’ll wear ourselves out trying to keep up the charade.

This is, of course, not a “blanket excuse” for hurtful behavior. We shouldn’t excuse sin or selfishness under the guise of “just being myself.” In living authentically, we should never lose sight of grace.

But oh, the freedom of walking confidently in faith. When those shackles of fear start to fall off – what a glorious new beginning! It’s taking place in my life. How about you? How has God helped you overcome people-pleasing? I’d love to learn from your journey!

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength…’” (Is 30:15).