Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

 It found its way onto my parent's front porch, delivered by a woman I've known for nearly thirty years, late last summer, just before the birth of our Ellie Girl.
Soft moleskin leather and neatly lined pages, it lay on my bedside table for months, empty and waiting.

 And when the new year rolled around, I suddenly knew.
I knew it's purpose.

To keep me thankful.
To remind me of all He has blessed me with.
To change my perspective on hard days.

 I realized at the first of the year that as my anxiety increased about Ellie's upcoming surgery, that perhaps if I focused on what I could be thankful for  - even in difficult circumstances, that perhaps my anxiety would be lessened.
And, then I read Ann Voskamp's guide to journaling thankfulness and I knew that my little journal had a purpose at last.
I would keep written record of all I was thankful for.
I would seek to find good even in the difficult and painful.
I am refusing to allow the pain of surgery and the challenge of a  spica cast take away from all we are thankful for.

I was challenged once to not let "disability" define me.  At first, I thought of course I would never do that.  But I realized that perhaps that was my pride.  I began to ponder about the term "disability."  I realized that in many ways, it does define us.  I do have a calendar full of of medical appointments.  We did move in part to be closer to our children's specialists.  I do spend time during the day doing therapies and researching doctors and treatments and equipment.  We think about accessibility issues in purchasing a new home.  We purchase specific equipment to aid our children.  It does mean I have friendships with people I would have otherwise never met.  It means our eyes our opened differently.  We are more accepting of differences.  We recognize creativity more easily.  I no longer think that being defined by "disability" is a bad thing.  It's a part of our life and it brings so much good with it.  No different than being defined by "mommy" is a wonderful title - (that also carries with it things like sleeplessness, always on call, a changed body, exhaustion (have I mentioned I'm tired?)...
having "disability" in our lives brings us much to be thankful for.  I am okay with it being one of the many things I am defined by.  I think it makes me recognize my blessings.

Some of the things on my list:
being a family of 4; quiet night nursings; a marriage surviving and thriving despite difficult circumstances; a little boy with curly hair; soft baby skin; a babysitter for a date night; friends that check on me; coffee (or Izze) with a friend late at night; a phone call from a church member with scripture for me as I drive to a hospital for x-rays; a clean dog; my dishwasher; long naps; laughter in our home; playdough on my floor as evidence of play and life; hot showers; friends who affirm me; text messaging; no wires attached to my baby yet; no spica cast for 24 more hours; snow days; cowboys and indians posed for battle - proof of chaos and living in this house; options; simple words "I love you, Mommy", girly high pitched squeals on the baby monitor; old hymns; little boy breath; simplicity of changing diapers for now; nursing in bed; a baby bottom; milk aplenty; back rubs; miracles; rainy days; grace; ariplanes; prosthetics and empowering opportunties; a clean house; giggles; organized closets at last; little boy smell; soft lips; a book to escape to; security in my marriage; iphone; friends who pack for me; being needed by someone; good nappers; freshly bathed babies; prayers of others; others packing boxes; gifted doctors; flights with a sleeping babe; a cast for healing; pink; zebra and leopard duck tape; being present for a lifetime; kissing the precious heads of  souls at the feet of Christ; friends who come when I need them; friends who come when I don't know I need them; an Izze on my front porch; flaming cheese; a sideways sleeping boy; my pillow; ability to distract Ellie from discomfort; meals just when we need them; a cast cooler; a friend doing my grocery shopping; an encouraging text; doctors who have become friends; being a stay at home mom; appointments with doctors that don't include plane flights at last; a church body; women in our home helping us with cast care; friends who affirm me; massages; hills for rolling; tears that are stored in His bottles that are not in vain; hot showers after hard days; rainy days; listening; hints of spring...
and the list goes on and on and on.

Today I will continue to find much to be thankful for - 
in spite of my tears at handing her over for surgery recently & in spite of tears at receiving her in a body cast and being unable to always bring her comfort, and 2 more months to go;
I will be thankful.
I will be thankful though I know there are challenges ahead in our future.
And maybe it's because of those tears.  Maybe the tears and the anxiety and the stress and the heartache actually serve to magnify the thanks.
Maybe they serve to force me to really consider what I am choosing to be thankful for.
Because it is a choice.

Four weeks into spica living and moving across the state and the anxiety and stress mounting daily and I think that maybe my thanksgiving is actually greater as I focus not only on the blessings but on how even the difficulty gives me reasons for thanks.

Will and I play a game at night in his bed.  It's called, cleverly, "The Thankful Game."  We take turns saying, "Thank you, God, for ...."  I love this game.  I love hearing him list things he is thankful for and giving back to God at the end of the day.  I love voicing my thanks out loud.

Even more, I love writing my thanks down and committing to being thankful.

Recently, I read this,

"...the list doesn't erase the heartache, it just sits next to it. The good God works out is an AND, not an OR. So often, I think we feel like we have to deny the bad to find the good. And I just don't think that's right. 
The cross of Christ was something God worked hugely for our good. But that good didn't erase the agony of it. The pain, the sorrow, the separation was real, and to deny it would somehow cheapen it.
We don't have to pretend like everything's alright when it's not. But we can say that in the midst of the not alright-ness, God is still faithful, still good, and actively working good."
(Quoted from Joanne at  www.thesimplewife.typepad.com )
Sometimes I struggle with being too "pollyanna."  Since Ellie's surgery, I've actually felt like a crazy woman as the thoughts that go through my head are something like this, 
Goodness, I hate handing over my baby for surgery.  It's the most difficult thing to do.  This is so hard to do this spica cast.
and not 2 seconds later, I'm thinking this,
Wow, this could be so much worse.  What's a four hour surgery?  Some children undergo surgery for so much longer.  This spica thing is no big deal.  How dare I complain or whine?  She is alive and therefore I am thankful.  
to this...
Is it a big deal?  Is this difficult?  Or is this just something I'm supposed to simply accept and move on with?  
My brain hurts as I literally find myself arguing with myself.  
I just read that sentence and agree with myself that I am crazy.
I want to be optimistic.  I am hopeful.  
But, I am also in reality and sometimes reality is difficult.

And sometimes I struggle with reconciling a difficult experience with my relentless pollyannism.
And I do not want to minimize things that are painful in life.  I think sometimes Christians are guilty of minimizing others' circumstances (because, seriously, when we compare everything to the agony of the cross, nothing seems so bad.)  And also I think, as believers, we set expectations for ourselves - that we shouldn't struggle in life or at least not appear to struggle.    But, minimizing others' or our own pain does not point to Christ.  It negates the experiences and points away from the fact that in struggles we are forced to depend on Him.
And I think what I had to come to terms with is exactly what Joanne said:
"The list doesn't erase the heartache.  It just sits right next to it."
My list of things I am thankful for does not take away from the pain.  It doesn't negate that there are difficult days.  It doesn't mean I don't cry.  It doesn't mean my heart doesn't break that my baby is immobile in a body cast or that my son is having to defend himself (verbally) to kids at preschool bugging him about his differences.

It doesn't mean that yesterday, when Will asked when he will grow another finger and why his baby sister has more fingers than him, that my heart didn't rip into a million pieces.

(I would rather deal with cruel, judgmental people any day than look my baby boy in the eyes as he recognizes that being different (though full of blessings) is hard.)  
It simply means that even on the darkest of days, I have much to be thankful for.  It means that I can thank God regardless of my circumstances, because He is good and worthy and faithful.
It takes my focus off of me and puts it on God.
Because, ultimately, He gets the glory for our story & for the work He is doing in the lives of my precious children.  (John 9)
As a side note, I love singing hymns to my children.  I grew up in an old church and we sung hymns every Sunday.  It's amazing how many of those have stuck with me to this day.
Ellie's favorite & the only one that seems to calm her?
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
That just seems about right, doesn't it?
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.
Lamentations 3:21-24

I am learning a lesson in thankfulness and by His grace, He is changing me.

2 thoughts:

Life in Beverly Hills said...

What a beautiful post. I came this way through a friend on Facebook. I look forward to reading more on your blog.

Lisa Johnson said...

What a beautiful post and a wonderful reminder to be thankful in all circumstances. I love the Thankful Journal and I LOVE the game you and Will play before bedtime. A great tradition to start early on. I am excited for you and your move - sounds like you will be closer to appointments and less traveling. Yahooo!

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