Thursday, as we drove to my sister's house, we used the time in the car to make some holiday phone calls. My husband talked to his mother, who lives in Florida. One son was with his in-laws across the state. Another lives too far away to make it back very often. It was good to check in with everyone, catch up on each other, and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. So, one thing I'm thankful for is cell phones! Between that and e-mail, we have been able to stay connected so much more easily than families could years ago.
When I called Paul, who lives pretty far away, I joked, "I'm calling to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and see if you're thankful for anything." Without a moment's hesitation, he started listing things off: his wife, his baby, the baby on the way, his job, his church, that his car was running well currently. "I have a lot to be thankful for," he said. " I'm thankful that I can pray, and I know God hears me!" As we talked, I asked him if I could write a little about him on this blog. He assured me that would be fine.
Paul is such a kind, easy going person. His bosses have told him that they think he will eventually make a good foreman, because he handles people so well. He was like that as a little boy, too.
Then, for a few years, he wasn't like that at all. For what ever reason, whether it was to individuate from family members, or to self-medicate the school stress he felt as a person with ADD, or just the rebellion against authority that some children carry so much further than others, Paul made some pretty bad choices for a while as a teen. What others dabbled with, he made his full time job. When I say that we are glad he lived to be grown, it's not a joke. We really didn't know for a while if he would live to be grown. No amount of treatment, counseling, discipline, whatever, seemed to make a difference with him. Finally, on the New Year's Eve when others were celebrating the turn of the millennium, I found myself standing by a gurney in the emergency room, watching him being treated for an overdose. He was sixteen.
I know what it's like to battle a teen who can't listen to you. I know what it's like to go toe-to-toe with the Devil as you wrestle in prayer for your child's life. I know what it's like to look Evil in the eye and say "YOU CAN'T HAVE HIM!" I knew that, in the end, it was between Paul and God as to whether he would come out on the other side. I just wanted him to live long enough to get to that point.
When Paul told me the thing he is most thankful for is that he has the Holy Spirit living inside of him, changing him into a new man day by day, I knew I couldn't write a month of posts about thankfulness without saying that, looking back over my life, that is one of the things I am absolutely the most thankful for.
I'm also thankful that, when I get a hunch that there is a parent who is struggling with their child the way we did with our child, I can listen to them, and, not really advise them, so much as offer understanding. And, I can offer them hope. Paul's story is proof of the power of God to change a person from the inside out.
It's all in the past now, and gradually the ripples from that rock that was thrown into the waters of our lives are dissipating. It's nearly ten years since Paul decided to quit running from God, and turned to run just as hard toward Him. His teen aged behavior is not at all what defines him any more. Those who meet him now would never have an inkling of what he suffered through in his youth. He is a mature man, a great husband and dad, a hard working, responsible contributor to society. As far as Christian life witness goes, he's the real deal.
And me? I'm just thankful.