Editor's Note: I wrote this on Thanksgiving Day but never published it. Fortunately for me, it's never too late to give thanks :-)
I woke up this morning at 3a to the smell of homemade sweet potato pie. (My husband is a good man, the best actually.) It would have been Thanksgiving with or without the fragrant aroma of course, but I this is how I used to wake up during the Thanksgivings of my childhood - to the smell of all my favorite foods cooking downstairs. This is how my kids will wake up today.
We are so very blessed.
And worn. It has been a day, or a week (a year maybe?) or whatever over here. In between all the busyness of the holidays and my obsession with not procrastinating on Christmas this year, we've been pretty wiped out. And sick. Somehow me and the kiddos managed to catch a horrible, horrible cough.
Still, there is so very much to be grateful for.
This year, I am especially grateful for the struggle.
"I read your blog with mom a while ago," my niece tells me as we lay on the bed the Saturday before Thanksgiving watching the entire sum of her iPhone video library.
"Yeah, it's a little depressing, isn't it?" I ask half-chuckling. (My sister-in-law has told me this more than once actually; thanks, Ann).
"Why is that??" she asks, intrigued, not looking directly at me, but with a tone that seems to ask, "is your life really that bad?"
I search for the words, but they slip through sewer grates in my mind. I look, stop and truly look at her, and try to recall the person I used to be at her age ... back when my only concerns were getting good grades, navigating the high school social scene and figuring out who I was.
Thankfully, she is 15, which means I do not have to actually answer this question the way I have to with my three year old.
And so I say nothing. I do not tell her what no one told me.
That life can be hard. Messy. Complicated. Beautiful. Thrilling. That it can be equal parts fun and work. Smiles and tears. Full of best days ever and worst days ever. And that it is ok to talk about the worst days. Comforting even, to know that you're not the only one.
That mothering can be hard. That one day, she may find herself married with two beautiful children, but also in the season of littles: sleep-deprived, teary-eyed, hormonal and wanting nothing more than to escape to all the pretty things in Target at every possible turn. That this too is ok.
That work can be hard. That someday she may find herself fighting for work-life balance, which only really means she will be failing in at least one department (either work or life) at a time. That giving her "best" will come to mean "the best she can do under the circumstances" and that because we share the same perfectionist tendencies, this may or may not wreck her.
That finances can be hard. That accepting your God-given lot in life requires humility and self control. That digging yourself out of a hole sometimes requires sweat and getting dirt under your nails.
That finding God can be hard. Even when He's right in front of your face and wanting you more than you want Him. That sometimes hurts get in the way of trusting or our own pride makes us feel more self-sufficient than we are. That it takes faith to surrender "control" of your life, which is only really to say, accepting that you were never in control in the first place.
My life is not bad, I want to tell her. On the contrary, it is a marathon. At times I feel the sheer exhilaration of living, of trying, of creating, of succeeding, of witnessing the beauty all around me. Other times I feel the sheer drain of living, of trying, of creating, of failing, of witnessing the bad all around me.
There is glory in the struggle, my struggle for sure. There is joy. There is hope in Christ. There is peace for even my restless, wandering, on-to-the-next-thing heart.
But that glory is sweeter, the joy deeper, the hope firmer, the peace surer - because of that struggle. Not in spite of it.
I do not say these words. I simply admire the freckles on her face. The absence of lines; youth, her only makeup. And I smile, knowing what she cannot, what I did not.
In an effort to be truly authentic, I realize this blog leans heavy on the struggle. It could otherwise be titled, "This Struggling Home," which would also be fitting and appropriate. I wrestle with this when deciding how much to share. Whenever writing about my own struggles with things like dreams deferred and depression and trying so hard.
I know that being vulnerable is not the norm in our culture. Thank you to all the people who have texted me at various points, checked in to make sure I'm not suicidal, but at some point I want to ask, aren't we all managing our own struggles? Are the hard parts of life only for the pages of journals and closed doors and whispered prayers?
It's quite possible I'm the only one and if so I'll own that.
But what I know to be true is this: it is the struggle that grows us, pushes us, fuels us, shows us what we are truly capable of. And before you think this is some sort of "I didn't know my own strength" philosophy, let me be quick to say that it is the struggle that showed me I'm capable of far less than I actually thought. It is the struggle that pushes me to my knees in prayer, crushes me just enough to remember I need God for my every breath. It is the struggle of life that keeps me near to Him when I'm tempted to rely on my own feeble efforts.
And so this year, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the struggle that binds me to my Maker. I am thankful for the way He has used and is using my very life to shape me into someone who day, by day, more closely resembles Himself.
Oh, and pie. Thank You God for pie :-)