We just got back from our little family vacation to the Smoky Mountains. It was beautiful and fresh and it was wonderful to escape from the daily work, the dishes, the trips to Walmart. It was beautiful to just be with my boys exclusively. But it was good to get home and it was marvelous to use my own shampoo vs. what was provided at the hotel. I couldn't believe how different it felt just to use what was familiar. I was thankful for that.
The past couple of months, I have focused heavily on gratefulness. I'm typically a glass-half-full kind of girl, but then things knock the wind out of me, tear my heart out and leave it different than it will ever be again, it's easy for me to fall into somewhere less lovely. Somewhere depressing. I was concerned that it was "in my head" and expressed many times to one of my best friends that I was scared... what if I was doing this to myself? The bloodwork came back a-ok which left me sitting on the floor at my coffee table with my journal and Bible, setting forward to do the hard work with God to get right. To be clean.
I began logging simple praises in an ivory embossed journal that the sweetest friend gave to me for my birthday. I had kept it, unsure how I wanted to fill the pages, but knew it had to be with something more than just my daily ramblings. In grasping for the good to pull me out of the dark well, I found that day after day, the thankful was making me better. Grief is a tough thing. It's heavy and it breaks you and it forces itself onto your shoulders, into your mind, into your words... it takes over. But you have to be grateful or else you'll just stay gone.
The pages in the journal filled up with simple things... the way Joel would smile or how proud of him I felt as he figured out a new toy or embraced a new skill. How thankful I was for the funny man I married and how much he makes me laugh. For new candles and fresh air and the hum of the dishwasher. I felt relief sink into that space between your shoulders where it's so easy to haul it all around and tense up. I saw the bruised colors of blues fade into that nasty yellow green and then to yellow and then eased away, back into myself. Healing. Cleansing.
"The things that make God
dear to us are not so much His
great big blessings as the
because they show His
amazing intimacy with us."
~ Oswald Chambers
While God was teaching me the art of saying thank you, I was unaware that He was preparing my heart, my outlook, for what was up ahead. While new life was being breathed back into my lungs and I was no longer feeling so much anxiety that I couldn't sleep or enjoy those around me, new life, the human kind, was starting. I was unaware until it was gone. It was supremely early and my doctor assured me it was no fault of my own, just something that happens. One of those things.
Disappointment flared and the daydreams I had of how I would tell friends and family flickered and faded. But I was thankful that it had happened at all. Thankful that I have a precious little boy at home who loves me and needs me. Thankful at least that, though brief, I had carried life, again. And thankful that at night my arms were not empty. Dark and light. Gray and yellow. Empty, now full.
And then last night, while my husband prepared to attack the jungle that is our yard, Joel and I were reading story books and winding down for his bedtime. And then it just happened. Short legs, unstable little feet and a coffee table that I can barely stand to look at, now. He wailed and I grabbed him, holding him close, thinking we were going to have a big ol' goose egg on that handsome little forehead... but then I saw blood and my stomach dropped. I grabbed a cloth and yelled for my husband. We were out the door and on our way to ER in a flash. I didn't have anything but my baby and his blanket. What else could I possibly have needed?
Less than two hours later, we were back home and I was cuddling a tired boy whose inch or so gash had been closed up with surgical tape and was covered nicely with a bandaid. We rocked in Daddy's big chair, just my little boy and his blanket and me. And as miserable as I felt, as many thoughts flew through my head of how it could have been prevented... if I had only put him to bed earlier, if I had just stacked up the books, if, if, if. But he was happy and content and fell asleep just the same. Unfazed by the day, by the bump and the blood and all the kisses.
Tucking him in bed, I thought about my grateful journal. I was thankful for so much. It could have been worse. There are parents at hospitals right now with babies who would give anything for it to be just because of the coffee table. For it to be something that a bandaid and a hug could fix. To go home, to tuck that baby in their own bed, to wake up and play and read books and then do it all over again. It was scary, it was upsetting and I hate my coffee table with a passion... but it's okay. We're all okay. The wound is clean.
While on vacation, we picked up a CD of worship songs by Randy Travis and listened to it over and over and over again. The mix of traditional hymns and a few modern praise songs thrown in for good measure were as refreshing as the waterfalls we viewed or the white water that tumbled over dark stone. It was as uplifting as the mountains we viewed, the haze that covered it all early in the day and late in the evening. My favorite quickly became, "Softly and Tenderly". I think sometimes we know God is there... watching, protecting, planning... but sometimes when we're just down here, low sitting at a coffee table, we forget the soft and the tender and how Jesus calls us.
I bought a plaque at one of my favorite Christian stores while in Tennessee and it bears the image of a cowboy on a horse with a lamb under his arm and a lamp in his hand. The words read how we are His. How He rescues us, names us, never loses us. It's sweet and soft and tender. It's love. In the dark, where we're lost and cold and hurt... it's still sweet and soft and tender. Softly and tenderly He calls us to come home, come home. And home is Him. Whether you're here or someday There, it is home. And there is still love even with broken skin beneath bandage. He is not unaware. He is not absent. He is not giving up or stopping the search. He knows us by name. He knows us by heart.
The smallest light overpowers the darkness, just like that. The smallest praise... the smallest thank-you for the smallest of things in life... it is great. It is strong. It conquers the negativity and the fear and the anxiety. It fights down the doubt and the should-haves and the if-we-had-only's. We can show up as dirty as we are, but we will still find mercies. We will still end up whole, again. We will still go to bed with fresh, wet hair and curl clean toes into clean sheets. It's not a once in awhile thing. It's a new clean. Over and over again.
"... And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly, teaching and
admonishing one another in all wisdom,
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
with thankfulness in your
hearts to God."
~ I Corinthians 3:15b - 16