I could list a thousand things I am thankful for. I can also recall several times even recently, that I haven’t felt very thankful. It’s not that I lack a spirit of gratitude. There are just times when I crave something more, something deeper, something more connected.
The times when I feel a longing for what I desire, also allow me to reflect on the goodness of what I have. Desiring more does not mean we lack gratitude. Desiring more is part of our make up. It propels us towards goals, into prayer, and hopefully into personal and spiritual growth.
In my reflection of what I lack and still desire, I have also become aware of a few things that do not, on the surface, seem like things that I should be thankful for because they have brought me grief, heartache and even anguish. But that does not subtract from a simple truth: I have been blessed through pain and even deep loss.
Here are 5 things that I should not be thankful for, but truly am:
- My youngest son’s diagnosis of autism – KG has long been diagnosed with ADHD, depression and anxiety. It seems odd that I would be thankful for him to have yet another diagnosis. However, this diagnosis has allowed him to receive more help at school, especially in the social and behavioral areas where he has struggled so much.
- My oldest son’s trouble adjusting to high school – JC struggled when he started middle school too. In fact, it took him 2 years to adjust to just 3 years of middle school, but he did it. And by the end of middle school, we began to truly enjoy our son again (shout AMEN if you’ve been there!) But here we are again, low grades, poor decisions and low motivation. But I have faith in him and this process. And I have no doubt that he will find his way, in his own time.
- Struggles in my marriage – I do not enjoy any marital stress or discontentment, but our struggles have pushed us into talking, listening and compromising in unprecedented ways. It has also led us to serve other couples in blended families by hosting a small group (church) experience just for them. Through leading this group, we have learned something so refreshing: We are normal. And we will get through this.
- Problems in our business – Owning a business is really really hard. And after 7 years, sometimes we feel stuck and drained. This year was especially difficult for us. We got some bad press and it hurt us financially and emotionally. However, we have learned a lot from this process (and our mistakes) and in some ways it is getting us unstuck. We are making changes and plans that we had gotten too comfortable to make long ago.
- Good old infertility – The gift that keeps on giving. Two months ago, we experienced our seventh miscarriage. I never thought I was strong enough to endure this much loss, but it turns out that I can (with God’s help) get through unimaginable pain. My husband has loved me relentlessly through this, and I never doubt his commitment to me. Also, I can’t imagine how in the world I could manage a baby right now with all of the time and attention my teenage sons need. Not to mention, God has opened up a steady stream of writing opportunities that I am blessed to have the time to pursue.
Sometimes, looking at the bright side just doesn’t work. Just like you, I cry, yell, curse and hide. Sometimes life is just too hard.
But then I crawl out of bed, throw away the Kit Kat wrappers and literally say aloud to myself, “Get it together. You – are – a – woman – of – God!” I put on a Christian podcast or crank up “Oceans” by Hillsong and sing my ass off. I put one foot in front of the other, remind myself of my blessings, go to the gym and cry three times during one workout (letting strangers hug me and pray for me), then do my job of being a wife/mom/writer/business owner, then pray to God that I can do it again tomorrow.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and you won’t start now[“Oceans” – Hillsong]
Why bother being thankful? Because if we don’t we will drown in an ocean of self-pity, pain, what if’s, and longing. I can’t do this life alone. I must have my community of believers, prayer ninjas, and encouragers. But ultimately, I absolutely must have my God. For He carries me through the darkest times and so often saves me from myself.
I hope you aren’t drowning, trying to do this life alone. If you are, please stop. Reach out to someone – maybe a lot of someones, and ask for help, prayer and encouragement.
And if you don’t know God, or if you just haven’t talked to Him in a long while, He is here. He is listening. And even when you are struggling, He is not failing you, and He never will.
Even in my disappointment, loss and longing, He has yet to fail me once.