"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thanksgiving. We're supposed to give thanks. And of course, I am thankful. So, yeah, we'll give thanks. Let's see... I'm thankful for..."
That was the approach I've had many a year. Sort of a laissez-faire approach to gratitude, if you will. But after losing my child three months ago, just 4 days after his birth, this year thanksgiving is not a mundane kind of thing. No, this year I have to choose to give thanks. It takes effort, it takes energy, it takes focus. Whereas in previous years I gave thanks out of a sense of sufficiency, out of a feeling that those things for which I was grateful were sort of a "given", this year I give thanks with the new awareness that what I have can be taken away.
Thanksgiving means so much more this year.
Thanksgiving doesn't come for me, this year, as a natural flow out of living in a season of abundance. Instead, this time, it must be squeezed, drop by drop, out of a desert of loss. But the desert makes each drop so much more precious and worthwhile. And this year, I am so much more keenly focused on the source of that gratitude – my God, the giver of all blessings – rather than on the objects of my thanks. And while I certainly do not give thanks for everything, I am learning how to give thanks in everything.
So this year I choose to give thanks. I do it consciously, intentionally, even painfully. But by doing so, I learn to see the good even in the midst of pain, the blessings that can come from difficulty. And that's a lesson I certainly want my children to learn in our homeschool.
- There are pencil marks on the table. I choose to give thanks. Because my 4-year-old made them while focusing on writing her letters correctly, rather than focusing on keeping the table pristine.
- We can't afford to go out to eat as much as our friends. I choose to give thanks. Because we don't have an excuse to do rushed dinners on the road, and so my kids grow up with family dinners each night.
- The girls are arguing (again) over who gets which doll. I choose to give thanks. Because their closest relationships get to be with each other (with all of the ups and downs that come with that), instead of their closest relationships being formed with same-age peers from school.
- I don't have a big house for homeschooling. I choose to give thanks. Because it's less space to have to clean, and because it's a mansion compared to the homes of the people in South Africa our uncle just visited.
- I have to eat gluten free. I choose to give thanks. Because I get to avoid many of the carbs that otherwise would make me blow up into the size of a house.
- The girls are complaining about doing their math. I choose to give thanks. Because I get the blessing of experiencing firsthand the ins and outs of my kids' academic preferences and progress.
- My laundry looks like a soda frothing over the side of the can after having been shaken too hard. I choose to give thanks. Because we have so many clothes to wear, my biggest struggle is how to get them all put back in the closet.
- My children left their clothing on the floor again. I choose to give thanks. Because now I get my basement floor vacuumed (their consequence for leaving out the clothes).
- I have to drive to the other end of town for our homeschool group. I choose to give thanks. Because when we're stuck in the car together, we have some of our most meaningful conversations.
- Both of my children want my attention at exactly the same time. I choose to give thanks. Because they both really want to please their mama, and come to me as their major source of affirmation and approval, rather than the approval of others.
- There are dust bunnies under every piece of furniture. I choose to give thanks. Because when there's only so much time and energy to go around, we focus more on our character being good than our house being clean.
- I have exactly two pair of pants that actually fit. I choose to give thanks. Because this body is what gave me three beautiful children, and it (for the most part) works correctly.
- My daughter can't seem to stay on task. I choose to give thanks. Because her spontaneity and ever-racing mind keep me from being doomed to a life of disciplined inanity.
- I don't get to do "date nights" with my husband as much as I'd like. I choose to give thanks. Because hiding outside on the porch, so the kids can't find us while we attempt to talk alone, makes the two of us feel like we're young and living on the edge.
- I never seem to have enough time. I choose to give thanks. Because I've had to learn how to prioritize the truly important over the insignificant.
- I now have a gray hair in my eyebrow. I choose to give thanks. Because the years that have brought on that gray have also brought on wisdom.
- We were supposed to have a 4-month-old this Thanksgiving, but we don't. I choose to give thanks. Because now I am able to be thankful for the family members I have left with a depth that I've never known before.