We were going through old boxes, that necessary yet emotionally-exhausting rite of passage before moving overseas. Before our first term in Ireland we carefully labeled and stowed away mementos and heirlooms, birthday cards and documents. These were all the things we wanted to keep, but didn’t really feel like lugging across the ocean.
So just a few weeks shy of returning for our second term, it was time to cull, save or throw out what remained of our first 10 years of marriage, the things held together with faded tape and cardboard. Our bed was a disaster zone of papers and trinkets and, much to my dismay, a half dozen never sent thank you cards… from our wedding.
Oh the shame of finding these outdated remains of my good intentions. With clarity I remembered a distant relative’s queries to my grandmother when a thank you card for hand towels never appeared in her mailbox. Oh, I sent it, I told Granny. No, Karen. You didn’t send it. You didn’t even put a stamp on it.
I wish I could tell you – 15 years after that wedding and a decade into our cross-cultural journey – that I’m a deft and thoughtful thank you card writer. That my excel spreadsheet of names and addresses and “date sent” columns is color-coded and up to date. I wish I could tell you that every Friday morning I sit at my writing desk and put pen to paper, sending prayers and loving gratitude to over 100 people and churches that have sent us to serve here.
But I’m not. I’m a terrible thank you card sender (and it should be noted I’ve missed the deadline for this post by a month; that’s how bad I am at thank yous). I’m a better texter, Facebook messenger, blog poster. I buy stationery inlaid with beautiful Irish scenes, yet I freeze with pen in hand, wondering how to put into words the ocean-full of thankfulness I feel welling inside me. The stories I could share seem hollow, the anecdotes seem repeated and the gratefulness-centered verses seem rote.
And all my good intentions seem pale and trite when faced with the reality: the sacrifices made on our behalf, the friends and mentors who fall to their knees interceding for us, the churches who remember us and the siblings who miss us, and our parents who – willingly, literally – gave us up.
How do I say thank you? Where to even begin?
I will start here, with these typed words on this dreary day:
When I feed my children, I thank God for you.
When I share a cup of coffee with a new friend, I thank God for you.
When we enter the homes of those enduring trials, I thank God for you.
When the Spirit invades my ears and heart during worship, I thank God for you.
When we take our sick child to the doctor, I thank God for you.
When you bring us crayons and candy corn and Kansas City barbeque sauce, I thank God for you.
When we receive a note, an email, a message or a text, I thank God for you.
When I share why we came, try to do justice to the story of Jesus moving Himself into this earthly neighborhood, I thank God for you.
When a young man shows up on our doorstep with a Wisconsin accent and a gift from home, I thank my God for you (and we feed him, too).
You are always on our minds, always in our hearts. We take no steps without considering how you have given, prayed and sent us. Even now, my hands tremble on these keys as I remember you.
Thank you, thank you… Oh, thank you.
And forgive me. Please forgive me for not saying it more, for not writing the words in longhand, for forgetting and – to be honest – for my laziness.
Your faithfulness astounds me when my weakness surrounds me. You are a life raft, pulling us ever closer to the safe harbor of Jesus.
How can I not thank you?
Perhaps, now that I’ve typed it out all out, now that I have a record and a roadmap… perhaps it’s time I pick up that pen once again and start from scratch.
What’s one thank you you’d like to say, but never have?