Daddy always believed that the good Lord should be thanked for the hard times as much as He was praised for the good times.
Every Thanksgiving meal, as well as our regular Sunday dinners, was blessed by the patriarch of our family with a prayer that included Daddy's humble voice saying, "Lord, thank you for the trials and tribulations of this old life, knowing that those trying times draw us nearer to thy almighty hand."
Drove me crazy. I saw no logical reason to be grateful for the challenges, because as I saw it, if you bragged too much on God for sending those tribulations, he was most likely to be encouraged to send more. It didn't seem like a very smart idea to me.
Now, I am wiser.
It has been one of the three hardest years of my life, perhaps the hardest, because it was a steady flow of tribulations. In the other two years, the troubles came in one big clump. It began in January when a water line break in the ceiling of my childhood home and destroyed the house. As the insurance agent said, "If this were a car, we'd total loss it." It took six months to reconstruct it, and if you have ever dealt with construction, you know how that will try a person's religion.
Still, the insurance company and the contractor rose up beautifully and generously to the task. In the midst of a challenge, there were blessings to be found.
I won't list all the troubles here, for there isn't room, and neither do you have the time to read them all, but, among other things, one of my houses was broken into and beloved family mementos taken. It nearly killed me to lose those pieces of Mama and Daddy, particularly a couple of items that Daddy had cleverly crafted himself.
Two months later, another attempted crime drove me to becoming a modern-day Annie Oakley and led the Sheriff's department to cracking a case they'd been investigating for months. Again, a blessing in the midst of a tribulation.
As Thanksgiving approaches, and I reflect on what I am thankful for, I finally see Daddy's wisdom in all of this. I liken the effect of hard times on my soul to the effect of exercise on my body. When I'm running or pushing myself in weight training, I hate it. It wears me out. But when the exhaustion is over, and I look in the mirror to see toned, fit arms, abs and legs, I love it and am so grateful for the results from the exertion.
When trials and tribulations wear me out in a similar fashion, my soul is building stamina and my faith is building muscle. Yes, it's been a devil of a time this year, but my heart and soul feel as strong as my body. I am thankful for that.
"I wouldn't take a million dollars to go back through what I have faced this year," I recently said to a friend. "But, on the other hand, I also wouldn't take a million dollars for what I've learned and how much I have grown."
Thankful am I for these tribulations and the good that has been wrought from them, but I am also prayerful that I have seen the last of trying times for a while. Like a school child who has spent two straight hours worrying with algebra, I need a recess. But if you don't mind, I'll skip the seesaw. I've had enough ups and downs for a while.
If the good Lord, though, doesn't see fit to grant that recess, and He keeps me in class a while longer, just know this: Come next Thanksgiving, Lord willing that I'm still here, I'll be thanking Him again for the troubles as well as the blessings.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.