Well, it's that time of year. Everyone makes lists of all the things they're thankful for. My list could be long. I have so many things for which I am deeply grateful. But instead of making a list I thought perhaps I'd just ramble a bit.
G.K. Chesterton once wrote, "Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." Happiness doubled by wonder. I love that sentiment. Not just being happy. Not just choosing to be happy. But wondering at how beautiful life is. And being thankful for it.
This has been a hard year in many ways. It hasn't been all the fun and games that other years have been. It has been tedious. It has been gut-wrenchingly painful. It has been frustrating beyond what I thought I was able to bear.
I have mourned the untimely death of my young sister and worried endlessly about how my family would fare in the aftermath. Many of my friends have moved away (although some came back, yay!) and left little emptinesses for a while. I have shed hot tears of grief and struggled against the confines of my life. My heart has wrestled with unanswerable questions over and over again.
And yet, as I sit here, I cannot help but wonder in gratefulness. Even for all these sad things. Because these sad things have made the good things even better. My sister's death has brought me even closer to my family. It has welded us together and forged a bond only fire can. It has made me thankful in a new way for who she was, for every gift of life and love she gave me. And the memories I hold close continue to inspire me. Her passing has taught me the value of every day I have with my children. Even the hard days; I am learning to let those roll off my shoulders a little quicker. The void she left has taught me to soak up their sweetness while I can. To laugh and relish in their innocence. To listen to their stories about princess and cars and dolphins and ice skating. It has made each time I hold them seem more wondrous. Because I know it could be gone in an instant. But I will not succumb to fear. Instead, I will thank God for every kiss, every tiny hand clenched within mine, I will soak up every kind word they exchange, every funny anecdote. I cannot control how long I will have them. I cannot know what the future will bring. But I can take hold of the present. So that I can always look back and say, "I loved every minute."
This isn't to say it is always easy. Sometimes I have felt trapped. I have kicked against my responsibilities. Lamented the pressures of motherhood. And then I come back. And I see that motherhood is a gift. It's not just a gift to me, although it certainly is that. It is my gift to give, as well. At first we think we want to have kids because it will make our lives better - and it does. But ultimately, it's not about me. It's about giving my children the best gift I can, the gift of my life, my time, everything. Because I love them I will provide the safest, happiest, most peaceful home I can for them to grow up in. Knowing that I am giving this gift to the ones I love gives me a new meaning, and a new reason to be grateful. I am thankful I have this gift to give.
Missing friends who have moved away has shown me how much love I have received. It has made me grateful for the many teachers and companions I have shared this road of life with. I am thankful for what they have taught me, for the new ways they have helped me look at the world. They have presented questions that change my perspective. And sometimes answers that bring such relief, a little peace to my warring mind. I cannot even fathom how much I have been shaped by the wonderful friendships I have been privileged to have. From the Fabulous Filler Five and all the love and imagination that we have always shared to my mother who fought hard for us and the new family we are becoming. From the families who gave me a second home when I was in grade school, to the girlfriends that broadened my horizons in high school, to friends that turned into family in college, to the fellow mothers who give me such hope, such encouragement, such a lovely role model to follow. My husband whose love gives me the confidence to become who I was created to be, whose love is both a safety net and a springboard. Just when I think I couldn't ask for more, he gives my soul something I didn't even know I needed, heals pieces of me I didn't know were broken. My children who have brought me such joy, who have challenged and emboldened me. I will never stop being thankful for all of these. My heart is overwhelmed with the wonder of it all. To each of you, if you know who you are, and even if you don't, thank you.
I never want to say that I have gotten what I deserve. I don't deserve any of this. And that makes me even more grateful for every little thing. Every relationship. Every opportunity. Every good book. Every view of an incredible sunset over the Willamette River. Every golden leaf littering the ground. Every courtesy given in thoughtfulness. Every grand gesture of generosity. Every kind word. Every warm hug. Every sincere smile. Every everything.
So there you have it. Some mushy ramblings I have about how wonderful I think life is. And so I'll leave you now with the lyrics of a song from the Muppet Christmas Carol (which is the best Christmas movie of all time, in case you're wondering):
Stop and look around you / The glory that you see / Is born again each day / Don't let it slip away / How precious life can be // With a thankful heart that is wide awake / I do make this promise / Every breath I take / Will be used now to sing your praise / And beg you to share my days / With a loving guarantee / That even if we part / I will hold you close in a thankful heart.
Let your heart be wide awake with thankfulness. You'll see your blessings are unending.