When I was a little girl I had terrible dreams, night terrors, really. I dreamt of running, being chased, dressed in rags, being hunted. I could feel the cold, hear the dogs. I ran, under cover of darkness, stumbling through snowbanks and hiding under dilapidated porches. My dreams were always the same and even as a child they drove me to my knees in prayer.
We didn't have a television when I was little and we never went to the movies. I didn't have any scary images filling my mind. My childhood was wholesome and uncomplicated - and yet I dreamed unspeakable dreams. I couldn't understand my dreams. I had no idea where they had come from. I knew only that they terrified me and filled me with dread. And then I read "The Diary of Anne Frank". At 9 years old, I sat curled in a chair next to the wood stove, engrossed in the story of young Anne, knowing in the very core of my being that this atrocious persecution was the stuff that filled my dreams.
That night, as I lay in my cozy, warm bed, I prayed. I thanked God for warm blankets and a roof over my head. I thanked Him for enough food to eat and indoor plumbing. I thanked Him for my family and my gloves and my boots. I lay in bed thanking God for every good thing I could think of.
My dreams kept coming, however, they didn't scare me as they once had. I dreamt of running with my family and hiding and always being two steps ahead of my pursuers. I dreamt of hiding in plain sight yet never being seen. As a little girl, I began to plan for the future rather than fear it.
I grew up. The dreams ceased, for the most part anyway. I got married, had children and chased the American Dream. Even so, every night when I got into bed, I would thank God with a grateful heart. When the weather was snowing and blowing outside, I would snuggle into my blankets and thank the Lord for my comfortable bed and warm quilts. And I would know that this could all end tomorrow. Tomorrow, I could be on the run, cold and hungry. But tonight I was warm and impossibility comfortable and I was thankful.
When we moved to our "Little Shouse on the Prairie", I learned to be even more thankful. Living without electricity or hot water or flushing toilets make me thankful to have oil lamps, a wood cookstove and an outhouse. Living without refrigeration made me thankful for my pressure canner and living without a dryer made me thankful for the clothes horse my husband built for me. But more than all of those things, I have learned to be thankful for every hardship, every inconvenience. Why? Because every difficult thing has been my schoolmaster. Every impossible situation I have endured has strengthened me and built my faith. Hardships and trials have wrought in me the great gift of thankfulness. Because I have lived without, because I have struggled, I have the capacity to be truly thankful.
When I crawl into bed tonight, I will thank God for my impossibly cozy, comfortable life. I will thank Him for the hardships that He has allowed in my life, knowing they have been His way of preparing me to trust Him completely. I will thank Him for my warm bed knowing that tomorrow I could be running for my life. And even then, I will thank Him for preparing me, in His perfect wisdom, for just such a future.