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“We can give thanks despite tough times"

Dayle Shockley
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000

Dayle Shockley is a freelance writer and author, and the wife of a retired fire captain. She studied Magazine Journalism and Feature Writing at Rice University, and, with God's help, has authored three books, contributed to more than twenty other works, and written for dozens of publications. In 2001, Dayle received an Amy Writing Award for her work in The Dallas Morning News. Her work appears in twelve Chicken Soup titles, including the May, 2013 release, Chicken Soup for the Soul Inspiration for Writers.

November sunlight lay in golden patches along the quiet neighborhood street. I sat on the front stoop watching a handful of leaves dance to the rhythm of an early morning breeze. We had gathered at my sister’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I wasn’t sure I had a grateful bone in my body.


The year had been a tumultuous one, filled with loss and pain. In fact, I had dubbed it the “year of tears.”  From January until now, I could not recall a single day that tears had not rushed to my eyes. I wondered if I might spend the rest of my life struggling with my grief, nursing this ache in my heart.


It wasn’t like me to be so wrapped up in my sorrow. I had lived through troubling times before, and managed to come through with a song in my heart. And even now, there had been brief periods of enjoyment, but they seemed to vanish as quickly as they came.


As I wrestled with my thoughts that autumn morning, I suddenly remembered a day when my daughter came to me and carefully handed me four small pieces of hardened clay.


“Mom,” she said, looking dismal, “my world fell apart.”


I didn’t understand at first, but on closer inspection I could see that she had fashioned a world out of the blue and green mixture of clay that now lay broken in my hands.


Making it whole


Acting like the typical fix-it-all mother, I gently led Anna into my office and, with a few pieces of tape, put her clay world back together again.


She was not impressed. “But Mom,” she said with a deep sigh. “It has holes and cracks all in it.”  Indeed, it did.


For years I kept that cracked ball of clay in my desk drawer, unable to forget my child’s disappointment when her “world” fell apart. How appropriate that I would think of it at a time like this.


Later in the afternoon, we gathered around a splendid Thanksgiving table and joined hands with the ones next to us. With a voice soft and low, my father said, “Children, we have so much to be thankful for today.”


I cannot tell you the impact that simple sentence had upon me. As my eyes swept around the table, I looked at each member of my family—all carrying burdens of their own. Yet there they sat, all smiling expectantly, nodding in agreement.


It was then I realized that, at some point during my year of tears, I had lost touch with something vital. Deep inside, I had been crying for the One who could bind up the fractured pieces of my world and fill the cracks with lasting peace. And He had been there all the time. But I had been so consumed with my personal sorrow that I had lost focus.


Suddenly, from somewhere deep down, a feeling of thanksgiving rose up in me. I knew at that moment that I would be okay. As we bowed our heads, the prayer found in the Bible’s third chapter of Habakkuk became my own that day:  “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Lord God is my strength.”


No matter what your losses may be this Thanksgiving season, I trust you will find the courage to look around you, and give thanks for all that remains.


Printed in theBeaumont Enterprise, November 22, 2012 (Beaumont, TX)

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