joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in all things. – kay warren
November has been a hard month for me. Physically and emotionally. I’ve had mastatis twice this month (how the heck?) and facing the beginning of the holiday season without my mama has been…impossible this year. Last year I was pregnant and so expectant of that little life that was growing in my belly (that huge boy standing up there in the striped shirt!!) that I didn’t get weighed down by grief, but this year it’s hit me. That on top of feeling like I physically got hit by a truck for a lot of this month has left me…ungrateful. A terrible place to be as I look toward thanksgiving next week. (can I just tell you how much I envy the people who naturally blossom during this season? people who say it’s the most wonderful time of the year with no effort at all and really, really feel that way?! I envy them, but I’m learning!!) And while sometimes it seems easier to just think I’ll sit here in this sadness and wallow, I know that’s not for me. I know that even in the face of my struggles in this season (which, I’m sure pale in comparison to what some of you are experiencing and what people all over the world face daily), I must (must, must must) choose joy. Not the feeling. But the action. Choose to be grateful. Day in and day out. Moment in and moment out. Not because I need to live up to some set of rules about living with a smile on my face. Not with the white knuckled, grin and bear it strength that I can often (but not lately) muster in front of my kids when my insides are crying, nope…I want to choose joy and then have that choice spill over into my life. I want to make a decision to be thankful, and then really feeeeeel thankful. The reward is in the choosing.
So, a few weeks ago when I was in a particularly self-pitying kind of place and my little gal was having a rough day, I dropped everything and we wrote down (well, she talked, I wrote) as many things as we could think of that we had to be grateful for on scraps of paper and then put them in a jar. We started small, because when you’re in a funk, sometimes that’s the only place to start (like…I got up this morning and I’m breathing), and they gradually snowballed into huge giant things and I could feel my teeth unclench and the tightness in my chest start to loosen and all of a sudden I was really, truly grateful and it felt so good.
I wanted a way to display them during the next few weeks, so Adrienne and I cut leaf shapes out of construction paper and I wrote the “thankful things” on them. AB hole punched them – which was, without a doubt, her favorite part of the whole process. We should have written “hole puncher” on one of those leaves. Then we hung them on a tree branch that we found on the ground after our first big snow (I walked a mile pushing two kids and dragging this thing behind me and ran into plenty of neighbors who smiled with a weird look on their face. They probably thought I had really lost it) But I had designs for it. Designs that I knew would change my outlook and my parenting and my marriage and my season. Designs to be thankful.
Adrienne’s first leaf…but really, I’m seriously thankful for that too.