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2015, and How #Gratitude Beats Want

We didn’t get our end of year letter written.

Okay, truth. I haven’t written an end of year letter for a few years now, and this year was no exception. I thought about it, but didn’t want to be too much of a downer on all the  Christmas cheer. I was feeling down. And I’ll admit, that in spite of the mostly happy posts on F*cebook, or the smiling face when I’m out and about, it’s been a year where want and scarcity has seemed to overtake my spirit.

But that down has not happened in my heart without reason. I believe we all need to recognize that when we lose something or someone of value, we will feel want. We will feel down. Regardless, of how strong our faith is, or how much love and support we received from friends and family, there’s still the times, we will feel that there’s something missing, a longing from the past when it seemed that more was right in the world. This has been a year where that feeling has happened for me and my family. And until last night, all I wanted was for this year to end, to get a fresh start that the newness of the turn of the calendar brings.

Profound things can happen while playing dominoes and drinking cider.

Until last night… when Hubs asked us, his little family, to think of the things we were grateful for in this last year. Here I thought that we were playing an innocent game of dominoes but it turned into a special time for me as I listened to Hubs and the kids reflect on all the good that happened in 2015. And we turned the want into #gratitude, and as we talked, the prickly heart filled with want living inside of me turned all soft and gushy, knowing that I have much to be grateful for in my life, so many blessings even as loss was a part of it all too.

First, Jax mentioned that he was glad his Grandmas didn’t die. Pretty blunt statement from a little boy who rarely expresses his feelings in a calm, rational way. But his honesty brought out the truth. We are grateful for the living grandparents of our children. My Dad died this June, and with the loss of Hub’s Dad now six years ago, Grandmas are very important. And hearing Josiah express this brought me so much joy.

Grammy has weathered the loss of her beloved with so much grace and so much willingness to continue to show us what it looks like to live fully even as your heart is breaking apart. She showed us what it looks like to love unconditionally a spouse who was dying, to pour out her heart and soul for her family. And Grandma had a hip replacement before Christmas last year and our visits with her have shown us she has a lot of life left to live and a lot of love left to give. So yes, Jax, we are grateful for our Grandmas.

Then talk turned to our travels this year. We’ve traveled lots to be with people important to us. No really famous destinations, unless you count the home of the World Series Champions among the famous places! (Now, there’s something to be grateful for!) The kids and I were able to spend nearly six weeks with my family in the States, with Hubs joining us for two weeks of that. We traveled in April after Easter as we knew that Dad’s treatments were possibly ending and we wanted to be there for as long as he was with us here on earth. It was a wonderfully heart-filling and heart-wrenching time, including Dad’s last Sunday in church here on earth.

We travelled again in early June to join my family in saying our final earthly goodbyes to one of the best men I’ve known in this world. I haven’t been a part of his & Mom’s everyday life for many years now, including the last 16 living in another country. So you’d think it would be easier, you know? But it’s wasn’t and it’s not. I will always miss this man for whom my love runs deep (even in all the times we didn’t get along because I got my stubbornness and independence from him!) and my respect is immeasurable. He was not perfect but he did his job as father and husband and grandfather well, even to his last day. We miss you every day, Poppy. Every single day. And we are so thankful for the time we got to spend with you!!!

As we talked last night, we began to name the people who loved us through this hard loss in my family. Here in Canada, the dear friends who supported us with gifts to make our travelling easier on a small budget. We are so blessed to be loved by these precious, generous people. There were gifts of food and fellowship and flowers too. The want in my heart from missing my Dad is so much less because of the gratitude I feel for those who cared for us.

David mentioned his job as something he is grateful for. In March, he was laid off from his transport job in the oil patch. For all the thankfulness we have in lowered gas prices, the flip side is that there are many in want right now as their livelihood has shrunk or disappeared with the downturn in the gas and oil industry. But God provided.

Shortly before we left for the States in April, Hubs talked to a friend whose family we have become close to through our school. This kind man made it possible for Hubs to interview at our local greenhouse co-op for a driving position delivering veggies throughout our city and area. The interview was right before we left on our April trip, and Hubs started this job when we returned. Yes, it’s financially less, but God knew that throughout the last months of 2015, we would need David at home every night and on weekends, something not always possible with his job in the oil patch. What made us feel lost and wanting in the loss of job, has ended up being a real blessing to our family. Having David home more has been so good for me and the kids.

And this conversation brought up another loss we experienced. That kind man who helped Hubs find a job??? A couple of short months later, he was suddenly taken to heaven after a highway accident, leaving behind to grieve his beautiful wife and precious girls, and many friends and family, and yes, a whole school community and city. What, you say, is there to be grateful for in this situation? It’s heartbreaking to see such a faithful and God-filled man to be taken away, and I admit, I’m still processing how God is in this. But we are grateful for how God put friends into our lives to love and to be loved by. And it has taught me one huge thing, maybe the biggest lesson of all… that in wallowing in the “wants” of life, we truly miss out. This kind man, great husband, father and friend had a full life. And the loss of him to his family and friends forced me to wake up and stop wallowing, (or at least remember to stop wallowing after awhile!!!) and instead giving thanks for the life I have, and making sure we are making the most of our very short time on earth.

I didn’t mention it in our conversation with the kids last night, but another thing (and this is the last… if you made it this far, wow!!!) I am truly grateful for is the trusting faith in God who provides for all our needs and calls us into his service. I’m approaching two years as the pastor to families and children in our church. I’ve longed to be a pastor again, and it is both challenging and overwhelming to have the gift of this role in the lives of the precious families in our church. I am grateful for this “job” as it has, with some work, fit well into my other role as mother, and also provided some income for us so Hubs could take the job nearer to home.

Want and loss is still there. It is and will always be a part of daily life. Grief is a real and valid experience for loss ~ including loss of a loved one, a job, health… But with work and some humble submission to God’s voice, and frankly, wrestling it out with Him over time, I realize that where there is want, gratitude, if you let it, won’t be far behind.

This is how I’m starting my New Year, bathed in gratitude.

“In everything, give thanks…”

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