“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
On November 25, 1982, at 11:50 p.m., I got hit by a car. On the rainy streets of Paris.
It had already been a long Thanksgiving Day.
In France for a couple of months by myself, I was bent on exploring as much as I could, every second of my time. The morning had started well with an early train ride to see Chartres Cathedral—for an amazing impromptu organ concert, a dizzying trek to the tower top, and an eyeful of cobalt blue images in ancient stained glass.
As the day wore on, though, I longed for a real Thanksgiving meal…not on the menu since there’s no such holiday in France. But through the providence of God, I was handed a ticket to dinner at the American Legion.
Sure enough, they served up delicious turkey, dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie…a feast to sate my homesick appetite. The after-dinner entertainment was a “tombola,” a raffle of white-elephant items donated by the Legion’s auxiliary.
Coaxed into buying a ticket by my table companions, I was soon the winner of a souvenir bottle shaped like the Eiffel Tower and filled with—I kid you not—bright green perfume. But as the raffle wore on, I itched to leave. My parents were supposed to call me at midnight at my hotel, and I was a good 30 minutes away.
Soon as I caught a break, I dashed Cinderella-like out of the elegant hall and into the gloomy Paris night, running through the dim Métro subway corridors and waiting restlessly for a train. Finally, emerging at the Place de la République, I scurried around its borders toward my hotel street.
At the last crosswalk, though, I faced an illuminated red-man sign indicating, “Don’t cross.” Traffic was stopped, so I made a bad decision—I ran across anyway.
Just as I flew into the last lane, the driver of a sedan started up when his light turned green. The impact flipped me up neatly up onto his hood, sending my glasses and purse flying. All traffic screeched to a halt.
As the white-faced driver and all the others remained frozen, I slid off the hood and hobbled over to pick up my glasses and purse. A bit in shock but ambulatory, I got to the driver’s window and fumbled in French to explain I was not injured, all my fault. Then I pulled my raincoat hood back over my head and escaped toward the sidewalk, drenched in mortification.
The horrified driver pulled over, ran down the sidewalk to catch me, and wanted to know if I was okay, if I needed to go to the hospital, if I needed anything. I assured this kind gentleman, in halting French, that I was okay, not “wounded,” and just another “crazy American”…although I probably mixed up my noun-adjective order and said I was an “American fool.”
Upon reaching my hotel, I had indeed missed my parents’ call, but they called back shortly. Without sharing any of my ordeal, I told them I’d had a lovely day. Well, mostly.
What were the effects? When I went upstairs to my room to undress, I discovered that the Eiffel Tower bottle was still in my raincoat pocket…unbroken. It had come between me and the car, leaving a nice little dent in my hip muscle that lasted about six months.
That bottle has remained one of my favorite souvenirs of Paris for nearly four decades. It serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness despite my folly.
Did you get “hit by a car” this Thanksgiving? Did COVID do a number on your holiday plans? Or did you experience something more devastating like the loss of health or a loved one?
It’s hard to be thankful when you’ve been walloped by something ugly in your life, when the heavy weight of despair settles onto your shoulders. I get it, especially on energy-sucking days with drizzly rain and the strong temptation to go back under the bedcovers.
If you had a discouraging weekend, isolated from the love of family and friends…if you’ve had nothing but bad news lately…if you’re still suffering through a long, painful trial…I encourage you to take a leap of faith. Thank God in all of it…maybe not for it, but in all of it.
The mental effort of expressing gratitude to Him for what He is doing in your life is daunting. Do it anyway. Exercising those muscles of faith is what will make them stronger. It will prepare you for what lies ahead in His plans. And, winding you up like a rubber-band airplane, it will springboard you into more jubilant, soaring praise.
Our family didn’t have the best Thanksgiving, restricted by COVID-avoidance measures. Our senior moms, for whom Thanksgiving means getting all the family together, were a bit lonely in our small gathering. But we made the best of it and Zoomed with long-distance relatives. I’m grateful for that technology.
Sometime in the future, when we look back at this Thanksgiving, maybe God will reveal blessings and privileges we couldn’t see during these trying times. My hope is He’ll show us anew how His hand has held us securely the entire time.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for keeping us in Your care. While we often don’t understand the “why” of trials, we are comforted by Your faithfulness…You are the “God with us” Emmanuel. Make us mindful every day of the ways You bless us, despite our sorrows. And help us share our praise of You with a weary world. In Your holy name, Amen.
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