Have you ever received a gift only to discover its contents weren’t exactly your cup of tea? Candidly, I’ve received my share of clunker gifts over the years. A certain fuzzy velvet color-by-number art set comes to mind. Through God’s grace, I have matured to the point where I can tactfully — and even genuinely — thank the giver for the annoyingly fluorescent socks that are three sizes too small.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m able to be as grateful for the many blessings my Heavenly Father bestows upon me. It’s pretty easy to be thankful when things are going well — when that special intention is answered to my liking, the unnerving job situation finally resolves, and the tough conversation ends up being less challenging than I anticipated. These things are, to my mind, good gifts, wrapped up in beautiful packages of love and grace. But what about the defiant child, the condescending relative and that long-held intention that seems to fall on deaf ears? Do I view these as gifts, or is there great wailing and gnashing of teeth as I reluctantly “open” them?  

St. Thérèse of Lisieux famously said, “Everything is grace.” Everything, Thérèse? Really? Even the inconsolable kids and the random minivan repairs and the unsavory politics in the church and the horrifically burned dinner rolls? Well, in a word, yes. According to Thérèse, “Everything is the direct effect of our Father’s love — difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens, her needs — everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events — to the heart that loves, all is well.”

My interpretation of the Little Flower’s words is this: If we believe God is a good Father who loves us, how could we see our challenges and crosses as anything other than a kiss from him who wants nothing more than for us to be with him in eternity? In short, the difficulties we face in this passing life might just be God’s loving mercy disguised in challenging gift wrap, helping us to reach our heavenly home.

In my life, may I see all my circumstances through the lens of genuine gratitude as I pray:


For the piercing cries of my children, I give you thanks for the blessing of our beautiful offspring.

For unconquerable mounds of laundry, I give you thanks for the clothes on our backs.

For never-ending stacks of dirty dishes, I give you thanks for the blessing of food in our bellies.

For dusty windowsills and un-swept floors, I give you thanks for a sturdy roof and a place to call home.

For the difficult conversation with our child’s teacher, I give you thanks for good educational options and educators who care about our child’s well-being.

For my aching muscles and foggy brain, I give you thanks for all the ways in which my body is able to do what it was created to do and for access to medical care when needed.

For too many things on my plate, I give you thanks for my zeal to serve you and for the reminder to slow down and seek your will above all else.

For the family members who are far away from the faith, I give you thanks for the opportunity to be a witness to your glory with my life.

For the friend whose words sting my pride, I give you thanks for the gift of forgiveness and the opportunity to begin anew.

For the homeless person who requests my change, I give you thanks for the opportunity to be generous, and the reminder that you are often present in the distressing disguise of the poor.

For the priest whose homilies I don’t always understand and the liturgical music I don’t always care for, I give you thanks for the priesthood, the gift of the Eucharist, and the freedom to worship you in the Mass.

This Thanksgiving, O LORD, may our white turkey meat be moist, our cranberries be fresh, our family members agreeable, and our pie crusts golden brown. Yet even if every single aspect of this holiday goes completely awry, O LORD, may we still give you thanks and praise as the loving giver of all good gifts. Amen.

The writer is a wife and mother in the wilds of suburban Portland.