Strikes at the neighboring hospitals. Sixty eight patients on pediatric wards and in the NICU. COVID numbers in our staff at Tenwek climbing while others go into quarantine due to significant exposure. Twenty one patients—kids—dead in four weeks.
In the face of weariness and grief and death, how do we give thanks?
Our neighbor Julie recently told me about gently encouraging her son to write something other than “Dad” on his daily gratitude leaf. Caleb’s response, “But I’m thankful for Dad every day!”
Last week our daughter Hannah was thankful “that there is some playdough you can eat but others that you can’t.”
Whether profound or commonplace, intentional gratitude somehow grounds us in Christ. It seems an essential part of that secret to contentedness in every situation; whether facing plenty or hunger, abundance or need.
When I was twelve my family moved to the desert of southeastern Idaho where we met our seeming doppelgangers. This family’s girls mirrored my sisters and me in age. We had never met another family composed of four daughters!
But there the similarities ended.
If this family were our doppelgangers, then they must have been pulled from some parallel universe where they had survived the Oregon trail and carved out a homestead from the frozen loam of a barren tundra.
These girls were strong and capable. We would walk the two miles down the road to their house where we would make biscuits from scratch, ride horses bare back, and snuggle amidst the hay bales with their two most (and strangely) affectionate chickens Wesley and Buttercup.
I watched their mom teach them by example—through discovery, freedom, and responsibility.
And then one day one of the younger girls twisted an ankle while clambering over a fence. Mrs. Barklund made an efficient evaluation of a “minor sprain,” adeptly wrapped the joint, and with NSAID and water in hand advised elevation followed by return to play as able.
I remember saying, “Wow, Mrs. Barklund did that like a pro!”
Another mom said, “Well, you know, that’s why we call her Dr. Barklund!”
Me: “Yeah, it’s great to have Dr. Mom around!”
Other mom: “Wait, your mom’s a doctor?”
Me: “No. I mean, that’s just what you call moms because they always know what to do when someone’s hurt.”
Other mom: “Val, you do realize that Mrs. Barklund is actually a doctor right?”
No. I had not.
I had known her family for over half a decade and had not the slightest inkling that Mrs. Barklund was a physician.
Since moving to Kenya I’ve noticed that one of the first things I manage to tell someone is that I’m a physician assistant. You know, so they don’t think I’m “just” a mom.
But it turns out—doctor, PA, teacher, mom—we’re all wretched sinners saved by grace.
Today, Hannah is thankful for carrots. I am thankful for the example of Robin Barklund. For this reminder of the futility of clinging to a title or credentials. For the witness of a life lived in humility and walking in the assurance of who we are in Christ.
I am also thankful for a verse Mrs. Barklund sent to me around the time Hannah was born. She said it had helped her during medical school. And since first reading it, it has come to my mind in innumerable situations, especially those which seem incompatible with gratitude.
“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me…” He knows who and what He has called us to be in these days.
“…. the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever…” When we are feeling isolated because of COVID, when sickness lingers, when grief overwhelms.
“….do not forsake the work of your hands.”
Psalm 138:8 (ESV)
I would love to hear from you in the comments who or what you are grateful for these days. “…if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
To give: http://www.wgm.org/sleeth
*written by Val Sleeth
A Thanksgiving Psalm
I give thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
Before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward our holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
For you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
My strength of soul you increased.
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth,
And they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
For great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;
You stretch out your hands against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
The LORD will fulfil his purpose for me;
Your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138 (ESV)