the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God.
I’m sure that every blogger and their mother will be doing a post on thankfulness in the next several days or so; after all, we are a week out from Thanksgiving. But this is a good thing. There are so, so many things to be thankful for, and while once a year is hardly a sufficient amount of time to be grateful for our blessings, it’s also certainly better than never at all.
The one thing that strikes me every time I think about my blessings is that they are far too numerous for me to ever comprehend. They are as great as the love of a God whose grace I will never comprehend, and they are as small as the breeze that cools me off on a hot Floridian day (even in November). I am a privileged member of a first-world nation who is living in a time period when unsurpassed technological achievements have brought comforts unlike the world has ever seen. I am a woman living in a time when gender equality (at least for the West) is as good as it’s been since the pre-Columbian matriarchies. I could spend years and still not be able to wrap my mind around how amazingly wonderful my life is, which is why I think I tend to take it for granted, rather than try and grapple with such a daunting task.
But for the sake of Thanksgiving, I want to delve into greater specifics than “life is good”. This will be good not just for my soul, but for my heart. I frequently get angry about the injustices I see in the world. I often worry about the future, and feel helpless to make life better for me, my loved ones, and those who need my help the most. At least once a year, I need to remember that life is often like the evening news: the bad stuff gets all the attention while the good stuff gets pushed to the side and ignored.
So here it goes, my very incomplete reflection on the things in my life that I am thankful for.
– God, and where I stand with Him. In the past few years, my understanding of God has changed drastically from how I’ve viewed Him my whole life, and I feel like my eyes have been opened. I am also grateful to the people who have helped me grow spiritually, as well as for the fact that I live in a culture where my religious beliefs are not grounds for my persecution. I’m reluctant to say much more on the subject, since my relationship with God is the most intensely personal relationship I have, for which I am also grateful.
-My husband. He has proven to me time and time again that he is not only a faithful, hardworking, loving man, but that he is also a true partner in every sense of the word. The past two weeks with our puppy have made me love him so much more, and I have every reason to believe that he will be an even better father than he has been a husband. I could write a whole entry on him (and I did, on our anniversary) so I’ll stop there.
-My families, original and marital. I don’t know how I ended up surrounded by such wonderful, quirky, interesting, beautiful people, but I have. My families are the opposite of dysfunction, and I always look forward to the time we spend together. My parents are so supportive and loving, and my in-laws are the best (I seriously don’t understand what everyone goes on about with the in-law jokes. My in-laws are fantastic people.) My sisters and brother-in-law are some of my closest friends, and the times I’ve spent with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and those of Chad’s, have been some of the happiest times in my life. Get-togethers in my family could be turned into Publix commercials, I’ll just put it that way 😉
-Loki. Oh, Loki. You un-potty-trained, high-strung, nervous wreck of a dog who has been more responsible for my exhaustion these past two weeks than anything school could throw at me. I love you and am so grateful for you. You are the perfect example of unconditional love, always ready to give kisses even when I’ve just given you a bath or taken you to the veterinarian. You are also the best possible practice I could have for my future children, and I know I will be a better mother because of the lessons you’ve taught me in patience, functioning on no sleep, and dealing with a creature that doesn’t have adult human rationality. You’re also pretty adorable, which is a plus!
-My friends. Friendship is such a huge part of my life, and I have been blessed with some of the best friends anyone could ask for. We have had the weirdest experiences, made the craziest memories, and you have been there for me in the very darkest times of my life, as well as the best. I love each and every one of you (and you know who you are!) so much more than I could ever say, and I can’t tell you how much you all mean to me. (New Year’s Eve 2010)
(right before Mission: Space at EPCOT)
(I can’t explain this one, but I love it!)
(The Leblancs and us at our wedding)
-My House Church family. Please see “friends”, but with the added bonus of some of the most badass, real, honest soul-searches I’ve ever had. I’ve never been in a church setting where I’ve felt more able to be myself and to deal with some of the biggest spiritual issues I’ve faced. You are the real deal, and it’s communities like this one that give me hope for the future of the Church.
-My education. In a world where many girls are denied access to even elementary education, and in a country where a college education would have been all but impossible a few decades ago, I am so grateful for the wealth of knowledge that has been made available to me. I had a fantastic high school experience in the IB programme (that I am planning to write a whole blog post on later), and have made it through my bachelor’s degree with almost no debt at all. In all likelihood, I will be attempting to earn a PhD, and if I am successful, that will put me in the top 1% of educated Americans. Not only have I had access to all levels of education, but the people who have been educating me are just spectacular. I’ve been able to learn from some brilliant people who are even more passionate about the subjects they teach as I am. Above all, I am grateful to my research advisor, Dr. MacManus, for being a role model for female academics and guiding me through the past four years so that I could make them as productive as possible.
-The traveling I’ve been able to do. I have seen most of the United States, several Caribbean islands, Canada, and as of this year I’ve been to three European countries. I think that traveling is one of the greatest things a human can do, and I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had around the world.
(me in London this past summer)
-Feminists. Yeah, yeah, I had to go there ;). I know that feminism is controversial, and many people think feminists are nothing more than lesbian, man-hating baby-killers. I see feminism as the movement that made it possible for me to vote, use birth control, go to college, get a career, and marry a man of my choosing, who will be a stay-at-home dad to support my career goals. Feminism and its predecessors, the abolitionist movement and the labor movement, have contributed to the fact that slavery is now illegal, that women earn almost as much as men for the same work, that male bosses cannot sexually harass female workers and get away with it, that I am legally guaranteed maternity leave when I give birth (paid maternity leave would be super cool, too. Just saying), that rape is (at least on paper) taken seriously by law enforcement, and so many other advancements in culture. I cannot imagine life in a world without the freedoms won for me by feminists, and regardless of how much people hate feminism, I will be forever grateful for the life I can live because of it.
– Modern technology. From air conditioning, to high-strength medication, to the internet, I love me some modern conveniences. ‘Nuff said.
-Employment. I love my job. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I am beyond grateful to have it, especially in an economy where jobs are less than guaranteed. I look forward to going in to work with my students every day, and it’s so gratifying to know that my job makes a difference in the lives of children. I am also grateful for Chad’s job, and that with our combined incomes, we are able to save for our future. I know so many people are struggling financially, and while we’re not rolling in money, I’m so thankful for what we do have.
These are just a handful of the things I have to be thankful for. I know I’ll remember dozens more after I post this, but the point is: I have a wonderful, wonderful life. I don’t say that to brag, but to marvel at how I ever ended up in this situation, and to remember that I need to share my blessings with as many people as possible.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
1-3 What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks, to sing an anthem to you, the High God!
To announce your love each daybreak,
sing your faithful presence all through the night,
Accompanied by dulcimer and harp,
the full-bodied music of strings.
4-9 You made me so happy, God
I saw your work and I shouted for joy.
How magnificent your work, God!
How profound your thoughts!
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.– John Milton
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.- William Arthur Ward