"I am thankful for my family and friends, my faith and for the things I have worked hard for."
That's probably the most common categories to be thankful for, right? Being thankful for those things is fantastic, and I too am thankful for those very things.
But how thankful are you..... really? Can you say you are thankful for financial hardships? Fights with a friend or family drama? For the flu your whole family got, back to back, that drained you? For the days you didn't even get to shower because your kids were terrors? For the stress at work that kept you from sleeping? For the mistakes you made? Can you find the light in YOUR dark situations this year?
For me, I think this is the first year I can say I am truly thankful in the purest sense. The first year my understanding of thankful has a rounded and complete definition. I think it is because I can look at every negative thing that has happened over 2009 and see why God had it happen, and how it changed a part of me and my family for the better. I wish I could accurately describe the feeling I have when I think about being thankful, but the words escape me.
I am thankful we 'lost' our house this year to the economy and short-sale, just 2months before Gabriella's diagnosis. Over the long term, it was actually the best thing that could have possibly happened. We were able to rent for a few months at a much lower payment, allow me to stay home with the kids in June when her heart condition became more demanding (and allowed me to be with her when her stroke happened as opposed to at work), and easily move in with my mom to prepare for the transplant call.
I am thankful we struggled financially. I am thankful we sold all we own and stripped our life of excess. It could have been thought of as 'loosing' all we worked for and gained over the years, but I choose to not think that way. I have been forced to become a super-saver, following blogs and other online resources, and getting great deals. Working hard on saving tons of money to buy things like a new body wash or pair of jeans naturally forces us to better appreciate the item we purchased, and better decide what is necessary to purchase and what is a frivilous buy. When we rid our life of the excess things we didn't NEED, we found a new appreciation for the things we did have. We sit here today, with only about a quarter of the 'stuff' we had coming into 2009, are are no more needy and no less equipped than we were then. We appreciate what we have, respect what we acquire and work diligently to preserve our money for the future. Struggling has taught us fantastic lessons that couldn't have been learned any other way.
I am thankful for my tested marriage. As parents of any special needs children know, the struggles of a special needs marriage is unlike anything a normal marriage could experience. I love THIS ENTRY on marriage written by another heart mom I follow and think is a doll. She describes just a taste of the side-effects we share as a couple. But what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? And boy does that token phrase hold true to a relationship- of any kind. For my marriage, no matter how much stress and strain we face on a daily basis, I am thankful that he is the one I stress and strain with. God put two very different personalities together to be able to both face this in our own ways, yet together.
I am thankful for my tested friendships. I remember something very similar happening when I went off and got married and had kids before my friends. It was difficult. It tested the strength of those friendships. I was entering into territory they hadn't yet been to, and the stress it had on those friendships was significant. The club hopping, girls nights, weekend trips, etc.... it all changed because of my new responsibilities. Yet again, I am facing the same thing through being a special-needs parent, though they will not be following. My availability to go grab coffee or have dinner with a friend is limited or impossible due to finances, therapies, medicines, transplant listing, or even the fact that I cannot leave Gabriella because of her communication limits. It is impossible to even share my true struggles or feelings because they are so specific, no one would understand. But this seemingly negative idea that my friendships are struggling are not that at all really. My friends have reached out in different ways to try and accommodate me being such a high-maintenance friend. In turn, I have formed a different appreciation for my friends than I did before.
I am thankful for my (extended) family. Simply said, without all my siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews and everyone with a family relation, I would sit here nearly empty. When I have a weak or difficult moment, there is always someone there to help me keep going, even though they might not even realize they are doing it. The joy Gabriella has when her family is around is priceless. I have full comfort in and have seen the actual proof that my family would be there at any time to do any thing any where to help us. There's not much more comfort on this planet than that.
I am thankful for Gabriella's failing heart........ (pause, absorb, read on) No, that's not a morbid statement. So many people in the normal world say they are thankful for health, and (praise be to God) they should be more grateful for that than they even realize. In our world, we are thankful for Gabriella's illness. This was what God planned for Gabriella, for her heart to fail her, for her to have a stroke, for this innocent little girl to experience this. This is not something I can change, but we were blessed to find this silent condition before it was found in a trauma scenario... so I sit and think of all the good that has come of this. The people it has brought into our lives and blessed us to know. The person/ mother it has transformed me to be. But most of all, the people she has reached with her story. She has touched so many lives already, and has yet to even survive through the actual transplant and show the world that anything is possible. The amount of people who have sat and spent time talking with God because her heart or stroke lead them to do it. The people who have told me they 'aren't the praying type' but break to their knees begging for Gabriella. The CHILDREN of so many friends and strangers who sit at night before bed and pray for Gabriella- probably one of the most filling thoughts for my soul. I am grateful that a situation with potential to be tragic has turned out to be such a God-centered experience that has drawn people together.
I am thankful for one of the most difficult years in my 27 years of living. Funny, because when I think back to my posts at the end of 2008 about what a 'dreadful' year it was (rolling my eyes), and how terribly I complained, I can SEE the difference in me. I am such a different person now. I recall a reader commenting on an newspaper story online written about Gabriella, and he took the time to read my back-blogging. He called me a train wreck. To be honest, he was right. We did have hardships in 2008, and due to the way I handled it, I was a train wreck. Now, I just consider myself a conductor of a very complicated, overfilled and unsteady train.... but it's on track and moving forward, and I'm smiling while I drive.
I am thankful for my faith. Without my faith, without my God being the one solid constant in my life, this year would have defeated me as a person, and us as a family unit. It's so simple, yet so complex, how much my faith means to me.
On this Thanksgiving, no matter what your story may be, make it a point to focus on one seemingly negative event that happened this past year. Really think about that, and what you can be thankful about from that situation. If I can do it, so can you.
God bless everyone this weekend. Make memories. Take pictures. Think positive. Be thankful.