This is the time of year where "thankfulness" surrounds us. Our children come home from school with cute turkey cutouts labeled with all the things they're thankful for.. "monster trucks, cars, football, dad and mom," in no particular order I'm hoping.. ( - : We hear sermons and prayers on being thankful. We gather and celebrate with friends and family. And we see daily Facebook status updates on reasons people are thankful. Now.. this is in NO WAY a bash on people who do this. Because actually? I have a lot of good friends who do this. And I really like to read them. Some are heartfelt, tearjerker sincere thanks and some are silly, quirky things that make me smile. I love the idea of being intentional about taking daily, sometimes mundane things, and choosing to be thankful for them instead of getting lost in the hubbub of daily life. I think that's really important. But personally, I just can't bring myself to do it. Why? Of course I'll tell you..
Because I can't help but be reminded of this time just one year ago when I was having trouble thinking of anything I was thankful for. It was at this time last year that thankful posts about "having healthy children" would send me into a fit of tears and "new, perfect babies" being born was enough to send me to curl up under a blanket for the rest of the day. I know it seems like nowadays you can't say anything without offending anyone and I'm really not a part of the political correctness bandwagon so I hate to add another thing to the list of "should not say in public" terms. But I do know how I felt last year. And I do know there are many other moms feeling the same way this year. Maybe they've recently received a diagnosis of a disease or syndrome in their child. Maybe it's their first Thanksgiving with a special child. Maybe it's their 20th but it just doesn't get much easier with time. Maybe they're struggling with infertility. And as if it weren't already hard enough to not believe everyone else's lives are more perfect and "easier" than our own on a daily basis, these moms are suddenly bombarded with yet another image of why everyone else has more reasons to be thankful than they do.
I know I felt that way. Could I be overreacting? Too sensitive? Yes and yes. But when I would see people being thankful for their healthy children I honestly felt like there was a silent, "thankful my kids are healthy, unlike yours..." behind it. I know I can be accused to taking things too much to heart, but I really think sometimes we, myself included, are thankful for things because we see others without it. Does that make sense? When we see a picture of a child in a 3rd world country on the verge of starvation, we say an extra thanks for the bounty of food we have on our table. When we hear a news story about a young child physically or sexually abused by an unfit parent, we hold our own children just a little tighter that night. Is there anything wrong with this? I'm not sure.. I think it's good to be humbled and reminded of the many luxuries we have in life. But I don't want people to look at my life and say, "I'm so thankful for my healthy kids because some people don't have that. Like Maria... I'm thankful I'm not her."
If there's one most important thing I've learned on this journey with Ella it's that blessings really do come in disguise. It's wonderful to take a day (or month) to be purposely thankful for everyday things we might often take for granted--warm homes, food to eat, clothes to wear, jobs to provide. But truly for us, our biggest blessings haven't come from the easy times, when everything was handed to us. Our biggest blessings have come through our most intense struggles.
This year I am thankful for our family, home, food.. yes. But mostly I am thankful for our struggles. For the times we have been put to the test, thrown in the fire, all our impurities painfully burned off, only to emerge as the finest, most pure gold.
Ooookaaaayyyyy.. so maybe we're not the finest, most pure gold but perhaps we're microscopically closer? I hope so.