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Thankfulness and Joy

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Well, 2013 has been an interesting year so far. I’m not sure what I expected but coming into it I knew things were changing. It began pitifully, with the intention of being healthy which led to panic attacks, then flowed into vulnerability, opening myself up in a way I never expected to, connecting with people in ways that fed my soul, breaking ties with people I’ve come to know and love, spending time with family who I don’t see often enough, pursuing new ideas and ways of thinking that will help me follow Jesus more wholeheartedly, and making important decisions in regards to how to move forward in building our family.  


I’m in a completely different place than I was a year ago. Just thinking about what I’ve experienced and what I have to look forward to, it’s all quite overwhelming. Although some things in life still aren’t exactly how I would like (I have only been back to the gym a handful of times since I broke my toe last November), other things like our journey to adopt a child have taken off like a rocket, completely unexpectedly, and are helping me feel like I’m on the right track with my life.


A dear friend recently reminded me how important it is to not only give thanks for the good stuff, the flowery happy stuff, but also for the bumps in the road, the challenges, and hurts. So I thought I would take advantage of the timely aura of thankfulness and share my thanks for the good and the bad with all of you. 

 

  • For my time at Liverpool Community Church, particularly within the Celebrate Recovery ministry, even though it sadly came to an end this spring.  LCC was the first church I attended after giving my life to Jesus, and the church I kept coming back to off and on over the next 10 years. I learned so much about God, discipleship, worship, and service, and met some wonderful people who I will always consider friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • For the panic attacks I suffered this past winter. It helped me prioritize what was important, take another look at my health, understand everything I had been holding inside that I needed to deal with, and move forward from the pain and loss I suffered from my miscarriage last year.
  • For my sister and her husband who have been our #1 advocates when it has come to pursuing adoption to build our family. Their love and support has been tremendous, just beyond measure, and we don’t know how to say thank you enough. So the best we can do is help to make them an aunt and uncle again so they can enjoy the preciousness of a new baby in the family.
  • For all our friends, family, and even strangers who have donated money, prayed for us, and supported us as we pursue adoption. We’ve been so overwhelmed by the love and generosity. There aren’t enough “thank yous” in the world to express our gratitude. If it’s shown me anything it is to never give up hope when pursuing your dreams.
  • For the shared experience Rich and I had at both the Justice Conference in February and again at the Storyline Conference in October. We are on a mission to live the life God is calling us to live, together as a married couple and as disciples of Jesus Christ. Both of these conferences opened our eyes to new ways of thinking, reset our priorities, reminded us of our privileges, and helped us to move forwarded in life instead of staying stagnant. 
  • For quality time with family last Christmas and this summer.  There’s nothing like a week of just hanging out to make up for the past 6 months apart. I miss them every single day. Growing up I didn’t realize how much I depended on my family, until I realized they weren’t close by when I needed them. So with that I’m also thankful for Facebook, email, and texts. Anything to keep me close and in tune with my parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Technology certainly has its advantages.
  • For parents who love and support me. Seriously, I know I’m loved. That’s so important, even as an adult, to have parents who believe in you and encourage you. I know raising six kids was hard, but they didn’t give up and if I need them, they are there for me. 
  • For music. It encourages me when I’m down, inspires me when I’m up, challenges my assumptions, and just makes me feel good. A great song is as effective as medicine. Music is a creation of God, and when used well, can channel the Creator God and bring me to a place of awe and wonder, peace and tranquility. It can also help me evaluate life and ask questions (even if there aren’t any clear answers). I’m particularly thankful for the Avett Brothers who have shown me that sometimes the most spiritual songs are the ones that aren’t labeled as such.
  • For our new church community, Axiom, which is full of kind-hearted, dedicated people seeking to follow Jesus through love and relationships. Rich and I are learning to live into the notion that God is found through being in community with one another, that church is a family. I am thankful for dialogue, breaking bread, and serving together. And I am especially thankful for the new friends we are making. 
  • For our dogs, their unconditional love, snuggles, desire to be close, silliness, loyalty and just plain old adorableness. I really believe God gave people dogs so we can understand a fraction of the unending love God has for us. I also am thankful for when they frustrate me. I'm using them as practice for how to deal with annoyances and realizing it's not worth the energy to get mad.
  • For provisions from God. Rich and I have been married for almost 12 years and have always had a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our back, and have been able to pay our bills on time. I understand that not everyone can say that, even in middle-class America. 
  • For the luck of the draw. I’m thankful I was born into the family I was born into, in the country I was born into, in the decade I was born into. This had nothing to do with anything I did. It was pure chance. No one chooses their family or nation or where on the time continuum they wind up. But as a white middle-class female who grew up in a loving family and now living in a safe suburb in the USA in the late 20th/early 21st century, I have it good. Damn good! If nothing else, I feel safe and free. I recognize that privilege and I’m doing my best not to take it for granted.
  • For closure. For so long we tried to conceive a child, only to realize that we are meant to provide a loving and stable home to a child in need. Love transcends DNA. Love transcends biology. Love is born in the heart, through a desire for connection. 
  • For my career. I feel settled, yet challenged. I feel needed, yet it’s collaborative. Since I started working at my church job, my stomach issues and stress have decreased and I actually look forward to going to work every day. I'm most focused and seem most like myself when I’m at work. I love that my work helps those are are serving others and we are all working together to live out the Kingdom of God here on earth. 
  • For my ability to give it up to God.  I’m still learning, but I can tell that I’m learning to prioritize what’s really important and what things I have no control over. The more control I give up to God, the more I can enjoy the small things, and the more joy I find in my life. So slowly but surely I’m learning what it means to be joyful.
  • For my two closest friends. You know who you are. You get me. You love me no matter what our differences are and I’m so grateful to know we’ll always be there for one another. After growing up without many friends, to finally have found true, trustworthy, caring, incredible people whom I can be vulnerable with and develop life long friendships with means the world to me. And I'm also so thankful that you've let me into your lives and let me be there for you as a friend. It's truly an honor!
  • For my husband. He loves me even when I’m moody, too critical and whiny. He also loves me when I’m successful, happy, kind, and giddy. He encourages me and reminds me that I’m worth it even when I have my doubts. He goes out of his way to try to make me laugh and relax. He and I are continually working at how to communicate better and enjoy life together. He is an amazing husband and is going to be the best father. I’m so excited that I will have the honor of parenting alongside him.  

Expressing gratitude is not like giving an Oscar speech, afraid you might forget someone, so for now I’ll leave it at that. These are the experiences and relationships that have helped me gain perspective and influenced me over the past year. 


Take the time appreciate your family, show them love and remember every moment, every breath, is a gift to be cherished. Instead of criticizing and complaining, let’s experience life together, make memories, and build relationships. Then we can experience true joy and have fewer regrets when the clock strikes telling us it’s time to go… I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving!



What are you thankful for this year?