November is upon us. We are less than two weeks away from the day we have set aside as a time to give thanks. Rather than posting one item a day that I am thankful for, as many are doing, I decided to take a day and really ponder the topic...to think back on all that has transpired over the past year or so and let it really seep in. So, for anyone who may be interested, here is my list.
I am thankful for:
1. the abundant blessings God has poured out in my life...
There are too many to list them all, so I will just try to elaborate on a few below.
2. the difficult trials God has graciously brought me through...not just this year, but all my life. The mountain-tops of life have been great, but it is the valleys that have truly shaped me and refined me. For that, I am truly grateful.
3. 35 years with a loving, gentle father who lived out his faith daily...who fully embraced the role of a servant-leader...who loved me no matter what, even when I was living a life of self-destruction...who was a quiet man that had the best laugh when you really got him going...who never seemed to understand why I always have a pile of dirty dishes in my sink...who debated me and frustrated me on a regular basis...who would do anything for those he loved...who could be a very difficult man...who I miss terribly.
4. my mother, who not only has been a great mom, but also a dear friend...who has listened to my drama patiently throughout the years and shared wisdom with me...who taught me how to crochet, how to play Liverpool Rummy (I swear she makes up the rules as she goes!), and how to be a mom...who has been such a support to me in the difficult times and a companion in the good times...whose strength over the past year and a half has astounded me...who is so much a part of who I am that I could never properly express to her how much she means to me.
5. growing up with a large, close family. The older I get and the more people's stories I hear, the more I realize how rare it is to have grown up with so many aunts and uncles and cousins close-by. We spent weekends together, took vacations together...we were involved in one another's lives. We were raised with the idea that family takes care of family, that you show up when it counts. This legacy lives on with my siblings and I, as was evidenced last year in the weeks leading up to my father's death...what a sacred time that was... I pray that we can instill these same values in our children.
6. an amazing husband, who has loved and put up with me for over a decade...who is a phenomenal father...who sees me at my worst and still thinks I'm sexy...who works long hours at a difficult job six days a week to provide above and beyond what we need...who makes me laugh daily...who loves to serve in creative and unconventional ways...who supports me and my aspirations...who is all I ever dreamed of and more than I could have ever imagined!
7. three unique, smart, funny, noisy, awesome hooligans who call me mommy...who daily make my head nearly explode with frustration...who often make my heart physically ache with the overflowing of love...who are growing into incredible young men right before my eyes.
8. my friends! Friends that are more like family to me...friends that get me...friends that see the ugly and love me anyway...friends that challenge me...friends that take care of me...friends that make me a better person...friends that have changed my life. Man, I have some amazing friends!
9. seasons. Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. The beauty that each season brings. The newness. The crisp air. The bright, shimmering white of winter. The hundreds of bold colors of spring. The warm greens of summer. The rich, golden hues of fall. The activities and traditions of each. The familiar rhythm of life on earth.
10. seasons in my life. Each season of my life has brought its own mix of joys and sorrows, blessings and trials. Even the most difficult seasons I can look back upon with gratitude. Sometimes it is gratitude for the lessons learned, sometimes it is gratitude that I survived it, but usually it is a balance of both. Last year was a particularly difficult season. But even in the midst of all that was happening, I knew it was merely a season. I knew that even though it was cold and gray out, spring WAS coming! The beautiful, complex, familiar rhythm of life on earth.
11. the peace that comes from saying no. I spent a few years saying yes to everything. Yes, I will do that for you. Yes, I can work there. Yes, I can join that group. Yes, I can watch your kids. Yes, I can. Yes. Yes. Yes... But, I learned that I am not that good. I cannot do 100 things well. I cannot do 50 things well. In fact, when I try, I end up unable to do anything at all. I learned, albeit a difficult and exhausting lesson, that I MUST say no to many good things. I have found a comfortable balance for my family and I. That balance shifts constantly. But I have learned that for the sake of my family and my sanity, I can only do so much. Being able to say no to some things allows me to say yes to some other things and brings so much peace to our home.
12. the opportunities in front of me...The opportunity to serve. The opportunity to make a difference. The opportunity to love on others. The opportunity to show my children how to serve and practically love others.
13. the ability to homeschool. I am so grateful that I get to do this, that I get to teach my children and guide my children...that I get to have some awesome real-life conversations with my kids during our day...that I get to challenge them daily...that they are challenging me daily...that homeschooling is the sandpaper that is smoothing out my rough edges. This is a crazy, wild, exciting, challenging, wonderful ride that I wouldn't trade for the world.
14. memory foam mattress toppers. It's like sleeping on a cloud!
15. my kitchen and all its gadgets that allow me to cook. I love cooking and baking. I love it. Few things are better than a delicious, homemade dessert...or warm loaf of fresh-ground wheat bread...or a pot roast with veggies that have been slow-roasting all day long...or a spicy, cheesy chicken enchilada casserole...or stuffed poblano peppers...or a big pot of steaming-hot chili...or some good ol' fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and fried okra...or biscuits and gravy...or some flavorful red beans and rice...or huge pan of paella... Just to name a few.
16. the healing properties of food. I am grateful that God has provided us with so many different fruits, vegetables, meats, herbs and spices...that he has filled those foods with the nutrients our bodies need to not only sustain life, but to heal our sicknesses.
17. my garden. My beautiful garden. My wonderful husband spent days, weeks even, building me the most wonderful garden. Throughout this past year, it has served as my therapy. Digging in the rich soil. Planting tiny seeds. Watering and nurturing them daily. Watching those seeds sprout into a beautiful variety of plants...plants that nourish us. I don't know that words can possibly do justice to the beauty of that process. So many lessons and analogies. So many gentle whispers from the Creator. I LOVE my garden.
18. Colorado. I spent every spare moment of the first year I lived here gazing at the gorgeous mountains. I'm surprised I didn't crash every day on my way to work! I am still in awe of their majestic beauty. Since then, I have fallen in love with all of this state. I love the weather. I love the outdoor lifestyle, no matter the season. I love the character of the state. I love the Colorado style. I feel so at home, like I was always meant to be here...like I have always been here. I grew up in Texas. But I AM a Coloradan! I am so very grateful that the rollercoaster of life led me here.
19. scars. An odd thing to be grateful for, I know. But I am grateful for all the scars I have, because each one represents a wound that has been healed. Some wounds in life are deeper than others. But I know from experience that God WILL bring healing.
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." ~Ps 147:3
20. getting older. Apparently, not many people agree with me on this one. Aging is seen as a horrible disease in our culture. Whether it is the 20-30 somethings that refuse to behave like adults or the mid-lifers that fight back with surgery and botox, it seems that no one wants to face the most basic fact about life: You are growing older from the moment of conception till the moment of death. It is what it is. I choose to embrace it, rather than fight it. With age comes wisdom and peace, comfort with your scars and with who you are, and an appreciation of life. Those all sound like great things to me! (You might want to check back in 10 years...hopefully, I will still say the same thing!)
21. modern medicine. With the physical issues my family and I have had over the past year or so, I am incredibly grateful that there are medicines that can help. I am grateful for medicines that have cured and rid our society of diseases. I am grateful for medicines that allow babies to live and adults to thrive.
22. "alternative" medicine. I am oh-so grateful for what most consider "alternative" medicine, but I prefer to call "traditional" medicine...the healing qualities of herbs and water and massage and physical therapy and exercise...the methods of healing used from the beginning of time.
23. doctors. I am grateful for doctors who treat you like a person, not a number...doctors who listen to your concerns, not just look at your chart...doctors who truly care about you and want to help you... I have been blessed with some spectacular doctors, and I am grateful.
24. good samaritans. I am grateful for those who go out of their way or out of their comfort-zone to help someone in need. When you are on the receiving end of the good-deed, it warms your heart. (The giving end is even better, though!)
25. the fact that my husband is alive. I know that may seem like a very odd statement. But you have no idea how grateful I am. My husband is a police officer. Every day that he comes home is a good day. And I am not just saying that. I was with a friend when she was told her husband would never come home. I have been to numerous funerals of husbands that will never come home. In January of this year, my husband came very close to never coming home. Week after week of his recovery, as I watched him sleeping I cried and prayed, "Thank you, LORD, for bringing him home to me." Every night now, almost a year later, I still pray that prayer.
26. the many freedoms in this country that most people do not have. We are blessed to live in a place where we can worship as we choose, where we can speak out for or against anything, where we can raise our children by our values...and so can everyone else. It is a complex freedom that could be lost at any moment. We need to not only appreciate it, but fiercely protect it as well.
27. music. I love music. Good, bouncy bluegrass that makes you dance a jig... Soft, gentle piano music to soothe your nerves... Soulful, mournful words that pierce your heart... Bold praise songs to boost your spirit... So many options. So much medicine to a weary soul.
28. quiet time. Now that my kids are a bit older, I get to have this much more often. And boy, do I appreciate it! Time to sit and think. Time to read a book. Time to study. Time to listen to some good music. Time to just rest and rejuvenate.
29. the Bible. The older I get, the more I appreciate and realize my deep need for God's Word. I am weak. Left to my own devices, I will watch tv all day long. I will snap at my kids and be rude to my husband. I am not a "saint". But I know that the more time I spend with God in His Word, the less I am those things. I am grateful for the refining powers of His Word and His Spirit. I am grateful for the Truth that is not always comfortable. I am grateful for the Bible that is full of stories of broken people whom God loves and uses. I am grateful that those words of love and comfort and hope are readily available to me. I am grateful that I have free access to numerous translations of the Bible...that I can carry it always with me and read it any time, any where.
30. grace. "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I hope in Him.'" Lamentations 3:22-24
I am grateful.
"It is not the happy people who are thankful.
It is the thankful people who are happy."