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I hope you find this gift...

It's been just over a year now that I've been learning to say, "Thank you."

Obviously, I'm not talking about simply saying the words when someone holds a door open for you or you get that birthday check in the mail from Grandma.  I'm pretty sure my Mom taught me the phrase at an early age, much as I have done with my own toddler.  "Dank-ooo", he says.  Typically when I prompt him, but he says it nonetheless.  He's learned the response, but he doesn't know the process.

I've spent a year learning the ins and outs of it.  Of thanks.

In an ivory embossed journal, pages are filled and dated.  Little moments.  Life moments.  Everything from iced coffees and good hair days and fresh air bristling through an open window... to unexpected gifts, kisses goodnight, and new life.

Gratefulness births life.

And throughout this past year, not only did I take pen in hand and put it to those faintly lined pages, I also watched the uncontrollable growth of the unborn baby within me.  For nine months his heart beat and his weight increased and my midsection swirled.  He pushed and prodded, his foot nudging ribs and organs.  Keeping me up at night.  Keeping me heavy through the day.  Precious and weighted, waiting.

Last May I was grasping at gratitude for what felt like my life.  And the more I write, the more I notice, the more I feel is so greatly underserved - the more I realize it was my life that I was saving.  That's why it felt so desperate, so necessary, so perfect.  It was like blood in my veins.  Pumping my heart with every simple, noted "Thank you".  Making me stronger, healthier, happier... and more dependent on Christ. Pulling me out of the pit, rope burns on my hands.

And this May I held tight to my husband's hand, buried my face in his shoulder and counted backwards from one hundred in my head as I labored to bring our second little man into this world.  Popular song lyrics burned through my brain and the contracted haze, "Time stands still,... I will be brave, I will not let anything take away,... every breath, every hour has come to this... one step closer..."  The moment Travis was here: pure joy.  I gazed at him, rubbing clean by a sweet nurse, and looked up at Aaron triumphantly, "We did it again!"  Another beautiful, perfect, not-what-we-deserve little man.  Cup overflowing in a ridiculous abundant manner.

And then there are days when you just want to quit.  You're so done.

You want to throw in the towel and be done with it all.  With the risk and the hurt and the anger and the tears that are too heavy to make their ways out of your eyes.  Just a day ago, our dog was hit by a truck and didn't make it.  I stood on our front porch, babies inside distracted by Mickey Mouse, with my hand over my mouth in shocked grief and disbelief.  I knew it was bad when our neighbor went to her side yard, sat heavily in a chair and put her head in her hands.  I sobbed loud.  And just like that, Ruger was gone.

Immediately I felt myself race through the channels of grief.  The disbelief, "This isn't really happening."  The anger at the driver and at ourselves and even at Ruger for chasing that dang trailer in the first place.  There was the blame, "We should have never moved here!"  There was the resolutions, "I don't ever want another dog.  Ever."  And there on the heels of it all, the tangles of depressed feelings, "I don't want to go to church.  I don't want to see anyone.  I don't want to make new friends or see old ones."

Just done.  Done with how bad it all hurts.

But almost as quick as the negative came rushing in, so did the positive.  Thankful Ruger wasn't suffering or laid up for a miserable month with broken bones or a catheter or something else that surely an active, roaming dog would despise.  Thankful that he was our dog for when he was.  Thankful Joel learned to say, "Ruger" and not just "doggy".  Thankful that he got to explore at our new home for the brief time that he did, that he helped us bond instantly with our neighbors and that they loved him as their own and kept him inside on those too-hot-for-beast-or-man days.  Thankful that we were given a calm and beautiful place to bury him.  Thankful Aaron thought to keep for me the silver tag I had just recently purchased for him.

We started talking about if we'd ever want another dog and if so, how we could train them to not go near the road.  My heart felt a little like it was on lockdown.  No, no.  No more puppies.  I won't ever love another dog again.  It sounds a little ridiculous, but that's what happens when what you love goes away.  You feel like everything is simply a replacement.  Like any other dog would just be a poor man's Ruger.  You can't top the best.  Why try?  Just be done.

But then I got to thinking how love doesn't work that way.  And how, when you invite someone new into your life or your home, it's not to compare them to someone else or to someone who was there before... it's someone new to love.  Any other pet we own in the future is not a filler for the dog we lost.  It's simply another pet that we want to give a home and have be a part of our family.  If I don't open, and keep my heart open, to love and the possibility of loving more... where does that leave me?

In as fast as our life as we knew it changed, just as quickly I felt my heart lean towards gratitude.  And that amazed me a little and showed just how far I've come... because even though my first thoughts were those of sadness and grief and despair, almost immediately the tables turned and I was like, "Where's my gratitude journal?!"  It's not silly and it's something - the one thing - that I've found that has the power to make all the times better.  The good and the bad.  It doesn't take away the pain or give me all the answers.

Or does it?

If I am thanking God for how good He is all the time... then I have to believe He is truly good all the time and has my best interest - and those that I love - in His sights.  Today Aaron, his Dad and his Uncle Steve were headed to Purdue to watch an alumni game.  Aaron text me just a bit ago to tell me that his truck was rear ended and they were hit pretty hard but all okay.  And he texted back fast, "What a week!"

And I felt it in my heart, "We're so done."  I quit.

But then I sit here and I look around my house and I hear the washer running and the dishwasher humming and the fresh zucchini cobbler on the stove and the sleeping baby in the back room... and I think, "No.  No!  How could we be done?"  Not necessarily with life, because we know that life on earth is temporal and not our true residency... this is just a space for now.  But in this space... is there not so much to be grateful for and so much to love and so much more to learn and heaven's sake, so much more to give?

Even if it is just as simple as love to a new puppy?

And so that's why I refuse to be broken forever.  That's why I refute the lies with the truth.  That's why I stay awake when I want to crawl under the covers.  That's why I welcome in the new even when sometimes I just wish, wish so hard, for the old.  Because I will not let this heart, this life God has given, to dry up and leave me a walking bottle of tears.  I won't do it.  I will hold onto hope.  I won't let things go without being grateful for what they are, what they have been, what they have the possibility of being, what God could and will and can do.  I won't hang onto broken hearted times, rubbing the bronze shiny, just to say I remember how it hurt so much then and how it can still hurt so much now.

I won't stop saying, "Thank you." even if my throat is too closed to get the words out at the time.

"God has dealt graciously with me, 
and... I have (all things, 
more than) enough."
~ Genesis 33:11


  1. Beautiful words in an even more beautiful message (as always), Laura. Thank you!

  2. So sorry about your dog, Laura.


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