The basket wobbled in my eldest son’s lap as we wheeled around the curvy sidewalk up to the front door. We had five stops to make—one for every birthday my son had celebrated. The basket’s contents held less importance than the intent behind them, but we prayed all of it would leave delight on the doorstep for each family. On this day of thanks, we wanted to remind them they made a difference in the world—that they’d made a difference in our world, impacting our lives with their actions, words, and love.
Seven months before, my son was not in a wheelchair. We had been in a state of fright and panic over his sudden and mysterious health scares, and after what felt like endless testing and searching, our neurologist had a definitive answer for us: Titus had a rare, fatal, genetic disease.
At that time, our youngest was almost two years old. The question wandered through my mind: Could he have it too? We sent in a harmless cheek swab. Two months later, on vacation, the phone call with results came and I heard the devastating words, “I’m so sorry, Bekah, but Ely has it too.” This vicious, unstoppable disease had affected both our boys.
FINDING GRATITUDE IN PLOT TWISTS
Friends rallied around us, and in the time leading up to Thanksgiving that year, we found resilience within gratitude. It wasn’t power I pulled from positive thinking or mindfulness, but the redemptive power of Jesus meeting me in hard places and gifting me with a perspective shift.
Daily, I stared death in the face as it sneered at our family. Each day it stole a piece of my son, attacking his body at a cellular level. But there was something more to be found—I wrote in my journal, “I’ve found joy in being fully present in a moment, wholly feeling the pain we are in and still finding the courage to claim thankfulness.”
These gifts of joy that filled us with gratitude came in every form: a hug, coffee dropped off by a friend, a warm meal, a cleaned-up house, a letter of encouragement, a Scripture collection box, and so much more. The only way we were surviving such devastation was because of our community. Gratitude spilled over, pointing me to my victorious, redemptive Lord.
As Thanksgiving neared, our life looked different from the previous one. Our son wouldn’t enjoy the feast with us—I now fed him through a g-tube in his stomach. He wouldn’t be playing ball or running around with his brother or friends—his newly fragile body depended on a wheelchair. As we heard about magical Thanksgiving plans coming together for friends and family, my husband and I felt loss, yet again. What were we to do with this holiday? Titus always filled our home with his spitfire energy. His enthusiasm for life spilled out, infecting everyone around him. But this year would be different. We needed a new set of eyes if we were to still see the spitfire joy.
SEEING ANEW IN THE MIDST OF GRIEF AND LOSS
Inspiration hit. This year wouldn’t be a year of big feasts, family games in the yard, or sitting around watching football. This year, we were called to steward the gifts given to us over the last seven months. It was time to spread some gratitude. The four of us hit the store looking for something special to hold a super-charged punch of delight. We found five unique baskets to contain our appreciation and love for those who had lived out Jesus to us over the past several months.
Our little family baked together, picked out beautiful fall-themed items, and assembled the baskets on Thanksgiving Eve. Thanksgiving morning, we packed the now-dubbed “Thankful Baskets” into our van, and with the boys buckled in and the GPS map all laid out, we departed on our gratitude journey. Each time we arrived at a destination, my heartbeat quickened with joy. We were claiming something back. Amid death and disease, gratitude was giving us the eyes to see our victorious Jesus. And it was contagious.
The following year again looked different from the year before. We weren’t wheeling Titus along in the wheelchair this time. He had gone to be with Jesus just two months prior. Although our hearts were ripped wide open in grief, we knew that even here, redemptive gratitude lived. This time, there were six baskets to make. Six—the last birthday we would ever celebrate with our oldest son on this earth. Six—a small sampling of the many people in our community who had shown us Jesus in the middle of dark grief. Six—the number of baskets we would drop off that year, as gratitude lifted high the anticipation within us of what God would do through these love-gifts.
Each year, the number grows. This year will be ten. Ten baskets of gratitude, pointing me to the redemptive power of our good and faithful God. Ten baskets of thanksgiving filling me with resiliency. This tradition gives me the courage to keep fighting through the storms of life while lifting my eyes to see Him—always Him.
With your family, create a list of people you want to delight this season on your gratitude journey. Decide what you’ll put in your thankful baskets, make your list, and take a family trip to the store. Each member of the family gets to choose something to include. Need to go on a dime? I’ve found some great treasures at the Dollar Store!
This is an incredible opportunity for your family to capture the spirit of gratitude described in 2 Corinthians 4:15-16: “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
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