We’ve been friends for over twenty years, so the conversation is easy. Whether it’s been a few hours or a few days or even weeks, we just pick up where we left off. You know what I mean.
She was telling me about the pressure she’s under at work, all the complications caused by endless new (and constantly changing) regulations that make it almost impossible for her to do what she was hired to do — what she’s gifted at and passionate about. Instead she’s working long hours filling out paperwork about paperwork about paperwork! And then there are her boys — Lord, have mercy! Parenting teens isn’t for wimps. How desperately she needs wisdom and patience and perseverance…
I told her about my latest MRI and the diagnosis I’m impatiently waiting for… what it could be, what it’s likely to be, and what that means for me. Then I told her about my to do list — all the things I’m supposed to be accomplishing in my career and ministry. I shared how frustrating it’s been that every time I cross two things off the list, I swear five more get added to it. (Hard to believe we used to get excited to hear the words “You’ve got mail!”) It all just seems so impossible and overwhelming to me.
We didn’t have time to get into anything major, anything deep. Just the ordinary stuff — the life stresses, the challenges, the to-dos looming large for both of us. I couldn’t fix her problems and she couldn’t fix mine, so we just took turns listening. And then at the end, we added — a little helplessly — that we’d be praying.
Sometimes it’s cathartic to talk things over… there’s definitely a time and place for venting. Even commiserating. But I can’t honestly say this particular conversation did anything for either of us. We were just tiredly touching base.
Fifteen minutes later, she called back. “I think we should do something,” she said, without any preamble. “I think we should take a few minutes and tell each other things we’re thankful for. We’ll go back and forth. I’ll start….”
And she did.
And then I did.
And we went back and forth for five minutes, long enough for each of us to list six or seven things — including a number of positive things about the situations we’d each described earlier that we’d forgotten to mention.
This time when we hung up, we felt a little lighter. A little more hopeful, more optimistic, less stressed and more blessed. At least I know I did. As we had talked, I could hear it in her voice, too.
One of things I was thankful for was a friend who would be obedient to the Holy Spirit and pick up the phone again and take the initiative to change the tone — the way she did. To remind us both where our eyes belong (on Him), where our hopes belong (in Him), where our strength is found (through Him).
I thought to myself, “We need to do that again… and again… and again.” It’s so simple, so affirming and encouraging and uplifiting.
Five minutes of thankgiving.
Just like that, it turned our somewhat accidental pity-party into a purposeful, productive, and ultimately joyful praise-fest.
Isn’t it amazing what praise and worship can do? What thanksgiving can do? Any time, any place, we can join our hearts with His — and with our friends’ and families’ — and celebrate, not just commiserate.
We can even do it here.
There is always something to be thankful for. Something we can praise God for.
Today I’d love to encourage you as my friend encouraged me: Let’s lift our eyes, our hearts, our hopes together! Let’s lift our voices, too. Let’s count our blessings.
I’ll start: I’m thankful more than ever for the opportunity we have (you and I) to connect with one another — whether we live across the country or around the world from each other. Thankful we can laugh and cry and pray together. Thankful for communion and community.