"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18
This morning I opened up my snazzy new planner to the second week in November and was reminded to "be thankful." It certainly is that season. My facebook page is littered with daily thanksgivings. My blogroll had 4 posts on thankfulness this morning including this lovely post at the lovely messy by one of my favorite friends.
So, I started thinking, "What am I thankful for?" What are the things in my life that I should be thankful for? Well, there's the obvious ones:
And I am so thankful for these two (and the one that's practicing roundhouse kicks on my ribcage). I never dreamed that I could have someone who loves me like Joey does, he is a constant blessing. And Aurelia, that kid has changed my world. She enriches my life with her joy, determination, and contagious smile. But really, being thankful for those two (soon to be three) should be an understood, right? It doesn't mean I shouldn't say it and express it. I celebrate the gift of my family every day. And I'm thankful for a home, for health, for happiness. That's all well and good, but it's also easy.
What about the things that are not so easy? Are we really supposed to be thankful in all circumstances? Frankly, some circumstances don't inspire a spirit of gratitude. Some circumstances make me grimace. Some circumstances are downright crummy. Can we really find reason to be thankful in life's difficult moments?
When I was a junior in high school, my school had it's annual Thanksgiving Chapel complete with an open mic time for students to share what they were thankful for. I stood up and said that I was thankful my mom had cancer (with the confidence and naive enthusiasm only a naive 17 year old can have). At the time, Mom was in month 18 of her battle with colon cancer and things were looking okay. And I was thankful that my family had gone through that trying time. It had brought us closer, given us some very tender moments, taught me about selfless love and the power of faith and prayer. But two weeks after this chapel, my mom passed away. As the next November approached, I thought about my previous statement. Was I still thankful that my mom had cancer, even though it had claimed her life?
Fast forward a decade-ish. After over two years of heartbreaking loss and goodbyes to babies we barely even got to glimpse, Joey and I were faced with the tough decision to move from a place we loved in order to pursue a "healthy pregnancy." Thanksgiving 2009 found us freshly back in the states, stamps in passports still drying, and a sense of longing and regret for a place worlds away. Although we felt like we had made the right decision, we also felt a little empty and discouraged. I didn't feel much to be thankful for outside of the easy stuff (family, friends, dryers, microwaves, good espresso). Was I really supposed to be thankful at a time like this?
And, of course, the next year was filled to the brim with emotional upheaval: finding out we were having a girl, finding out about hydrocephalus, welcoming our daughter into the world, and so much more. It was a great year, but a hard year. Our 5/10/life year plan changed the day that 5 syllable word entered our life. Can I honestly say that I am thankful for hydrocephalus?
And so I sit here on my tweed couch, thinking about these questions, living a life that I definitely did not plan, and I rest in the asnwer, "Yes." Yes, I am thankful for all of these circumstances. Do I love them? No. Do I like them? Not really. I don't like cancer. I don't like pregnancy loss. I don't like the condition that caused my daughter's brain to be injured. These things do not make me happy, and they shouldn't. These things do make me thankful, and they should.
I see how these circumstances have shaped my life, my bigger picture. And I look at the life that I'm living, the life I didn't plan, and it's beyond anything I could have asked for or dreamed of on my own. Even in the absolutely difficult moments, I know that I can be thankful for this life I'm living. The point of all this rambling is that I want to be thankful for the not so obvious. And I want you to be thankful for those things in your life too.
“Every moment and every event of everyman's life on earth plants something in his soul.”
― Thomas Merton
― Thomas Merton