When Being Thankful Feels Impossible

It is officially the week we collectively give thanks.

It’s good.

It’s right.

It’s tradition.

And sometimes…it feels completely impossible.

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(This post originally appeared here on Not The Former Things in November of 2014. It feels like much has changed, and yet, as I read own words below, I am struck by how much is still so much the same.)

 

At the beginning of this month, I committed to posting and sharing random, but true examples of what I am thankful for in my life. I asked all of you to please join me. Together, we lit up Facebook with post after post of thankfulness.

It was fun. It felt like a celebration of the good. It felt important.

But the truth is, there were so many days when I struggled to sit down and come up with something that I am thankful for.

This has been a really, really difficult month for my oldest son. It has been a really, really difficult month for his momma.

It has been a really, really difficult month for every single person that lives in this house.

Because meltdowns, and all the emotional carnage they bring, don’t necessarily inspire thanks.

Because trying to stop my son from bashing the radio in with his feet while melting down in our moving car, does not make me stop and reflect on gratitude.

Because him sitting down on the side of the road in a heap, tears streaming down his face, rocking back and forth, hitting his head and saying there is nothing good about his life, about being him, doesn’t immediately prompt me to whisper a prayer of thanks. (This happened because the restaurant we were planning to go to for lunch at the museum was closed. For most, this is not a big deal. For my child, who struggles with finding things comfortable to eat anyway, and who always eats at this restaurant when we go to the museum as part of his very important routine, it was catastrophic. The change in the schedule, coupled with the anxiety of having to choose another meal was too much.)

Because my husband struggling to be present in all the mess and not wanting to come home from work because he knows there will likely be total chaos and possible damage for him to repair and pay for when he gets here, is not something I am thankful for.

Because my little one is angry all.the.time. and keeps yelling at me, “Don’t you understand? This is really hard. You have no idea what it’s like to have dys-a-lexia, and a brother who talks like he is in college and acts like a baby at the same time.” I want to scream back, “I don’t know how hard it is? Are you kidding me? The only thing I know right now is how hard all of this is!” His pain and mine – it’s not something I feel super grateful for.

Sometimes, doctors don't have answers for our children.

This month has not gone well.

It was a tough month to issue and complete a thankfulness challenge. I will admit to rolling my eyes at least once when faced with the computer screen and trying to come up with something. I often felt really, really bitter that I had even committed to it.

And, this was exactly the month that I needed it the most.

Because no matter how bad the day was, I still needed to/wanted to honor my commitment to y’all. And when I sat down and actually thought through my day, every single day, I slowly began to feel comfort and peace, instead of bitterness.

There was always, always, always something I could honestly say I was thankful for.

Something tangible, real – not the obligatory we are healthy and we have a roof over our heads. I am of course thankful for this, but I most want to be aware of the little things, the little moments, the intimate details of our lives that are truly gifts – and that  I miss if I don’t purpose to find them.

One day the only thing I could honestly share was my thanks for yoga pants. (Alright, more than one day, it was my thanks for yoga pants.)

A few days it was yummy food. (Even more than yoga pants, I am apparently super thankful for cake, nachos, and coffee – especially coffee.)

What surprises me, looking back over the month, is that even in the midst of the damage, the tears, the loss and the chaos, what a gift t to see the beauty. I glimpsed the eternal.

This “seeing” – it is only possible when I receive this life I’ve been given with open eyes and open hands, and give thanks for it.

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There is a discipline in giving thanks. A practicing, a refining, a renewing of our minds to look for the good. Even more so, to look for the good and be intimately aware of the God that gives it to us so freely.

Even on the worst day, it’s there. We might have to look a little longer to find it, but it’s there.

I know our lives can be messy. I know our lives can be ugly. I know our lives can be exhausting and mind numbing and shattered. And despite it all, our lives are also lovely, and funny, and filled with grace, and delicious and silly and lovable.

Read on…read some of the posts that have come in from you sweet readers, and from my own life experience.

If you look closely, you will see the grace, the mercy, the joy, and the miraculous.

If you look closely, you’ll see a God who passionately, unfailingly love us.

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We Give Thanks

Thank you so much for sharing what you are thankful for with me….

“Today I am thankful that my son seems to be developing a serious, fixated interest in baking and decorating cakes. For the past two days, we have watched You Tube video after You Tube video on baking just the right fluffiness, tricks and tools of the trade, and all the best uses of fondant. This is might be a dream come true for his momma. Because cake people. Not reptiles. Not corn cob pipes. Cake.”

“Today I am thankful that we are no longer going to Cleveland Clinic every week, and thankful for family. :)”

“I am thankful today for cowboy cookies, the free sensory integration therapy they provided, and the precious hands that made them”

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“Today, I am thankful that my son finally agreed to get a haircut. He was not at all happy, but managed with no meltdown or major stress! It’s been months since his last cut. It is no exaggeration when I say that his hair had grown into an awful mix of Diane Sawyer’s style in the late 90’s and Ally Sheedy’s in The Breakfast Club. Can you hear this momma’s sigh of relief?”

“I am so thankful for coming across ur page. I find such comfort in ur stories. I know I’m not alone.”

“After being up and down all night long because my son could not stop obsessively scratching and freaking out over a mosquito bite on his leg, I am thankful that we do not live in a small Amazon village (or any other remote area of the world) . We would not make it y’all.”

“My eight year old has been writing his name now since he was four years old. He is a month away from nine, which means he is getting close to 5 YEARS worth of practicing writing his name. So you can imagine how frustrating it was for him today, when he went to write his name and the “e” just wouldn’t come out right. He tried and he tried, but this picture of his upside down “e” is the closest he got…after 5 years. As he threw the paper and ran to his room in angry, hot tears, I immediately knew what I was thankful for today. I am thankful that God reminds me how much it hurts to be in his brain, because sometimes, I am tempted to dismiss it. I am thankful that God shows me his sweet heart over and over again. I am thankful that He gives me peace in knowing that although my son may have trouble with language and letters, he has tremendous intellect and valuable gifts. And I am thankful that I get to be with this little boy everyday, reminding him over and over, that he is fearfully and wonderfully made.”

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As a Christian and Mother of special needs little guy I am thankful for a “sisterly” connection. I love the insight and humor here. Love and blessings!”

“Today, and everyday, I am so thankful for this husband of mine. And, I’m thankful that he and I got to play a round of ping-pong together today. We clearly don’t get out much, but it was fun yo.”

“I am grateful that I still have a sense of humor.”

“Your blog posts are like therapy. I am thankful that you have the courage and take the time and energy (that I’m sure are in short supply!) to share with us and make us feel like we aren’t alone.”

“We got a diagnosis on Monday. I’m grateful, I think. I’m grateful to know. I also might be a little bit in shock.”

“I am thankful that the Best Buy manager was so kind and didn’t charge us for the damage my son did while melting down in her store last night (or call security, or the police). I am thankful that my husband, already exhausted from working late last night, came home and without saying a word, did the dishes for me. And more than anything, I am thankful that after a night of prayer and not much sleep, my boys played together at the park today. There was nothing but joy and delight, and it was absolutely a precious gift”

I am thankful that I do not feel so alone when I come to this page, read what you write and see all the other comments on your page. I am so thankful for this.”

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I am so thankful that I get to do this, to know y’all – even if it’s only electronically.

I am so thankful that you are here.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

With so much love, 

Shawna

4 thoughts on “When Being Thankful Feels Impossible

  1. You hit it right on when you said you are thankful for the little, tangible things! This morning my son had a few major meltdowns – kicked a wall and took down a baby gate – but I was so thankful because A) he kicked the wall but it didn’t leave a hole that needed to be fixed! and B) I was able to put the gate back up and it does not need to be replaced! Hang in there. Eat cake. (if he’s still into that) and know that there are many who are thankful for YOU and your blog. 😉

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