Last November, I started an adorable tradition with Anna Beth. I draw a very unimpressive turkey, ok, he looks more like a peanut, and pin him to our wall in the kitchen. Each morning after breakfast, we write down something she’s thankful for, or for a toddler, whatever she thinks of at that moment. So far this year, her feathers read: 

  • My sister, Helen, in Heaven.
  • Stickers- not the word stickers, just stickers from the Amazon catalog
  • Me
  • Mama and Daddy
  • Milly (her baby doll)
  • Addy (her other baby doll)
  • Andy (her other other baby doll)
  • My Fork

This is only our second year, and it’s already one of my favorite traditions. I love teaching my daughter things and watching her delight in them. It’s fun to teach her what it means to be thankful. 

My heart isn’t as moldable. The memories from last November come flooding back to me. They are so vivid. This time last year, I began to fight the anxiety I was carrying that surrounded Helen’s cleft diagnosis by writing a gratitude list. I went back and reviewed the list. You know what’s on top?

“She’s perfectly healthy.”

That stings. 

The very thing I was most thankful for last year feels like a lie. She wasn’t perfectly healthy. In fact, multiple pieces of her body were not developing as they should have. We just didn’t know it. The very thing that helped us through the hardship of anticipating and preparing for her life wasn’t true. 

That feels twisted. If my life was a work of fiction, we’d call that irony.

The human side of me suddenly struggles. If I make a list this year, if I begin to write all that I’m thankful for, will those be taken away too?

My brain tells me that’s not true. I know in my head that our lives don’t work that way, but it doesn’t mean my body and spirit are not still fearful. 

On the other side, I just don’t want to. I don’t want to make a list. I’m tired of the way our culture encourages gratitude like it’s an antidote to our problems. I know that gratitude is good and can transform our minds. I’ve even heard of the research that shows how we can rewire our brains by thinking positive thoughts instead of negative. I get it. I do. 

But gratitude will not take away my pain. 

Encouraging right? Here’s where I’d like to have some sort of hope-filled, biblical encouragement for you. Here’s where I’d like to share how gratitude has changed my perspective or circumstance. Today though, all I have are five words.

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thes. 5:18)

That’s it. And if you’re in a place like me, you’re next thought includes some expletives. 

The truth is, this Thanksgiving, I don’t really want to give thanks. Most days, I don’t want to think about all the good things that God has given me, because all I can remember is what He (seemingly) took. 

But, if I believe the Bible is true. If I believe that God is sovereign and He is good– even when I don’t feel like it’s true if I call myself a disciple of Jesus, then I will give thanks, damn it. And just maybe, the Lord will transform the “eye roll” posture of my heart into one of humility and praise. 

So here it goes…

  1. Tim- he’s a remarkable man. One that serves me when I’m ugly. He is full of grace and exudes humility. He is gentle and kind and loving to me. He points me to God through his spirit. He makes me laugh (Praise Jesus!).
  2. Anna Beth and her ability to bring joy when there seems to be nothing else to enjoy. Her laugh. Her life; she is living and breathing and walking and talking. Her newest desire to “nuggle.”
  3.  Our people. What remarkable people we have. (Stay tuned for another post just on this).
  4. The Joyful Mourning community and the wisdom from other loss Mamas.
  5. Getting to work from home. I imagine trying to peel myself away from my home and family each day. I imagine walking into a building to teach middle schoolers and my body exhales, so incredibly grateful I haven’t had to do that. Oof!
  6. Counseling.
  7. Writing in my book corner at my favorite little coffee shop.
  8. Pumpkin-flavored goodness, cozy sweaters, and leggings, because on hard days, comfy clothes are a true gift. 
  9. God’s ruthless pursuit of me, even when I might be beating on His chest.
  10. Helen.


My heart still hurts, God is still good, and I’m a little bit more grateful.


One thought on “What is there to be thankful for?

  1. Thanks so much for continuing to share your journey. It’s a gift and privilege.

    Some thoughts I had when reading that I’d like to share from my own journey. I learned that pain is not the worst thing I would ever experience. Our world tells us that it is. And it really really sucks to feel it. But in my experience separation from God in the midst of pain is the real source of my agony. So I will continue to pray for a real experience of his presence and you continue to walk through this shadow. And your right, there is no formula and no way to take the pain away. And honestly I don’t think that is even the point. But it also is so so so hard to feel it. But you’ve been feeling it for a year now and there is a beauty in you no other thing could produce. And I know those are just words, but it’s a part of you now. It’s both shaping and redefining you. But I am so sorry that it’s so hard to hold. I remember so wanting the pain to go away and often times I ran from it, but boy pain is fast! And always caught back up with me. it wanted time to pay attention, but I was exhausted. I pray you will continue to give your pain the attention it needs. Not too much and not too little…whatever the “normal” yo long to get back to is slowly coming and will be and this sacred season will pass, and amazingly enough you will find yourself missing it, so I pray you can present in it while it’s here.

    I hope this isn’t too much. Please disregard anything that doesn’t feel tru for you. I am encouraged by your honesty and authenticity and faith.


    Sent from my iPhone



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