Category Archives: Thankful Series

Thankful Series: It’s more than just an attitude

Thankful series

This is the last post of the Thankful series, so today I’m talking about my feelings on thankfulness. I’ve really enjoyed reading all the different perspectives in the past weeks.

It’s interesting how much my perspective on gratitude has changed this year. So much has happened, and the most important thing I think I’ve realized is that gratitude is so much more than just an attitude.

It’s a necessity for survival.

The Family MathThis year I’ve had to learn to find something good in the worst circumstances.

  • My dad’s illness meant he had to go to the hospital in Birmingham, but that meant I was able to see him when I was too pregnant to travel more than an hour away from home.
  • Noah was in the NICU for a week after he was born, but I was grateful we were able to feed him and touch him, even while he was in a warming unit.
  • My dad never got to meet Noah, but thanks to technology, he did get to see a picture, and I was able to talk with him on the phone before he passed away.
  • A tornado destroyed a huge part of the town where I leave just weeks after Noah was born, but it missed our house, and we had friends who were willing to take us in until our electricity came back on.
  • I have battled postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, but I have a husband who has shown how much he loves and supports me through it all.
  • I got mono, but it forced me to get much-needed rest.

I could continue, but I’m sure you get the point. The amount of bad stuff that’s happened this year has been pretty tremendous, but finding a little good in everything — a little something to be thankful for — has kept me going.

Here’s to 2012 being a better year with even more to be thankful for.

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Missed a post in the Thankful Series? You can catch up on them here.

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Thankful Series: Donna from House of Lloyd

Thankful series

I’ve enjoyed getting to know Donna from House of Lloyd as my not-so-new-anymore cousin-in-law the past few years, mostly through her blog since we don’t live all that close together.

Donna has a really amazing story to share about learning to trust God’s timing and showing thankfulness even when he doesn’t answer our prayers right away. And if you are a person of faith who has experienced any sort of infertility or if you have been through the waiting process with adoption (or are currently in the midst of it), you won’t want to miss what she has to say. It’s such a sweet reminder that God has our good in mind, even when we’re not totally convinced that’s true.

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When Misty asked me to guest post on her blog about thankfulness I eagerly said yes and told her I would write up something about adoption since it is a topic near and dear to my heart. However, as I began to process the post and all I wanted to say, I decided I had much more to be thankful for than adoption.

Both David and I grew up in large families. When we married we knew we wanted kids, but we never agreed on a firm number. We just knew we wanted to be parents. When the time came for us to start our family we thought … this will be easy. However, month after month we found ourselves not expecting. After much medical testing we were told that we would have to go through fertility
treatments in order to have a child. Discouraged but not defeated (because there was hope) we began treatments. Several years later our hope was gone and we were defeated.

I gave up. I cried out to God. Truthfully I was angry at God. I felt like I was less of a woman because I could not do what every other woman on the planet could. I had students in my class getting pregnant, but I could not have a child, it was not fair. I prayed and sought God and finally turned my family over to him. Two weeks later I found out I was expecting.

I thought, “God, why did you do this to me. Why this path for our family? Why the torture, the pain, the hopelessness? Why did we have to work so hard and this and spend so much money to get to this point?”

I then realized that God had a lesson for me and that lesson was that it was in God’s time, not my time.

After having Caleb in 1996 we were told that due to PCOS and advanced endometriosis I would probably not be able to conceive again. So we began to talk about adoption. In 2006, we started the adoption process. I won’t bore you with all the details. I will say it was long and painful.

In July of 2008 our paperwork was set to expire, and we decided we were done. I wrote a blog post announcing to the world that we were done. We began to spend our adoption nest egg. Once again I was angry at God for not letting me have the family I always wanted and worked so hard to obtain. Once again life was not fair.

Then one night just 2 weeks before we would have to renew our paperwork my phone rang. It was the adoption agency. I ignored the call. David’s phone rang, and he ignored the call. The house phone rang, and we also ignored that call. I could not talk to them only to get my hopes up to have them dashed again. The calling cycle started again. This time David answered the call. A few minutes later he came to me and told me about the situation. We cried, we debated, we worried, and we had hope but did not want to be too hopeful. The next night at 11:45 after a nonstop day of travel and stress we had our baby girl placed in our arms. Once again God reminded me that it is always in his time not my time.

I am thankful for the lesson that God’s timing is always perfect. When life gets difficult I say to myself, “wait for God’s timing.” His timing brought me two beautiful children, Caleb and Madilyn. Because of this journey I am a different parent than I would have been if my children had come more easily. David and I have a stronger marriage because of this journey. Today and always I am thankful for the journey.

To read more, check out my blog, House of Lloyd, where I write about adoption, weight loss, family, religion and gardening.

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Missed a post in the Thankful Series? You can catch up on them here.

Thankful series: Jana from The Cook Commentary

Thankful series

I just re-read this post from my friend Jana as I was preparing to post it here, and it’s just so good. Sometimes I need these reminders to be thankful for what I have, even through the tough times.

Jana and I were college friends; she, her husband (Kenny) and I were part of the the same college ministry. Jana and Kenny have since gotten married, moved off to Kentucky and adopted two of the cutest boys you will ever see. Hope you enjoy her personal story of thankfulness, and if you want to know more about what the adoption process was like for them, definitely take a look at her blog, The Cook Commentary.

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Thankful. Feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.

Two years ago, I’m not sure I had an adequate grasp of what it truly meant to be thankful. But two years ago, life was totally different.

Two years ago, it was just me and Kenny, playing house, working, schooling…just doing what we do. Two years ago, we were knee deep in the never-ending adoption process that had lasted about 6 months longer than I had planned. Two years ago, we were living on two (half-way) decent incomes. Two years ago, I had all my family within six-hours reach.

Then things changed.

We brought home two of the most amazing little boys from Ethiopia. And everything quit being about us and became all about them. We instantly went from a family of two to a family of four. Literally overnight. That adoption process turned into life with kids.

I quit my so-called “real” job and began my dream occupation of Mommy, skipping that entire poop and spitting up stage and going straight to little people with personalities and opinions. (Who still poop a lot, by the way.) I went from worrying about meeting State-imposed deadlines, to remembering how to play Candy Land and watching annoying cartoons. I went from (mostly) intelligent conversations with adults to playing charades with two kids who didn’t speak English. And we began the delicate dance of a one-income family. Which includes lots of coupons, creative fun and making choices about what is absolutely necessary and what can be done without.

I got the dreaded 4 a.m. phone call that there had been an accident. And in an instant, I lost my best friend and little sister at the unfair age of 22. I don’t think I’ve ever spent time in such urgent prayer as I did on that very long plane ride that day, but I learned that God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way that we want.

So my feelings of thankfulness changed.

I am thankful for the children the Lord has blessed me with because it means two little boys can be confident that they will always have a family to call their own. I am thankful for every single piece of paper that it took to bring them home because it means that we live in a world that is willing to help others, no matter how long it takes. Or how many trees we kill while doing it. I am thankful for dirty laundry, pee on the bathroom floor and dishes piled in the sink because it means God has blessed us with the family we always wanted.

I am thankful for every hard earned dollar my husband earns and take joy in making our limited budget work for our family. I am thankful the boys and I have a husband and a daddy that cares enough about his family to provide for us. I am thankful to have bills to pay because that means I have a roof over my head and food on my table. I am thankful for a stable place of employment and that we aren’t included in the millions of Americans that are currently standing in the unemployment line.

I am thankful for each second I get with my family. I am thankful for the aggravation of math homework because it means I got to spend a little extra one-on-one time with my 2nd grader. I am thankful for days filled with a million questions because it means I’m in the company of the funniest 4-year-old around. I am thankful for hour-long phone conversation with my mom because it means she misses me. For each visit, for each phone call, for each text, for each hug and even for each moment of frustration. Because you never know when you might have those chances taken away from you.

I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be thankful in the last two years.

The little things matter and the big things don’t. In the grand scheme of things, nothing else matters as long as I have God, my boys and my family.

Be thankful your husband has a job to come home late from even when he promised to be home an hour ago. Be thankful for the greasy handprints on the wall even though you just spent your afternoon cleaning house. Be thankful for the hand-me-down clothes your kids are wearing because they are cute no matter what they have on. Be thankful for your annoying sister, your crazy grandmother and your silly father-in-law because family gatherings wouldn’t be near as fun without them.

And just when I thought I had the whole thankfulness thing figured out, the Lord has made a way for us to expand our family yet again, and we have started the adoption process to bring home a little sister for the boys.

Yeah. I’m grateful. I’m blessed.

I’m thankful.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

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 Missed a post in the Thankful Series? You can view them here.

Thankful Series: Kathryn at Our tiny BIG life

Thankful seriesIt’s week three of the Thankful Series, and I’ve been thankful for the great stories my friends have shared so far! If you haven’t read the past two weeks, you can catch up here.

This week’s post is from Kathryn from Our tiny BIG life. Kathryn is one of those people I have just found myself drawn to from the first time I met her. I met her when she and her husband, Tall Guy, led worship at the church I was attending at the time. They seemed to have the most laid-back, happy attitudes, and it just made me want to get to know them better. And, of course, they have two adorable and well-behaved little girls!

So check out what Kathryn has to say about having a grateful heart, and be sure to stop by her blog, check out her beautiful photography and say hello!

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In case we haven’t met before, I’m Kathryn and I write a bit and post photos and various miscellany over at Our tiny big Life. I’m a mom to two {a.k.a. Banana and Moose} and wife to one {a.k.a. Tall Guy} and a daily recipient of undeserved grace.

I love Jesus and coffee and I hate being cold, so November is not exactly my favorite month . . . but, I do love my family and holidays and all the good food that’s just around the corner! So, since Misty asked me to guest post on the topic of “Thankful,” I’ll start by thanking God for the five pounds I’m sure to gain by Christmas 😉

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Gratitude is a subject near and dear to my heart. Just this summer, I read an incredible book by Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts. I can’t recommend it or her blog highly enough. Her writing is poetic and uplifting and I think she makes living out gratitude an art.

My favorite thing about what Ann shares from her own life and faith journey is the need to embrace the undeserved in the everyday. In EVERY day.

I think that’s where I most often fall short.

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To be a saint is to be fueled by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less.” ~ Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing.

By that definition, a saint I — more often than not — am not.

It’s pretty easy to be thankful for the big things . . . “Lord, thank you for this winning lottery ticket! Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Much harder to embrace the gift of a lost child, a layoff, or significant illness. What about when it’s just an off day and the dogs won’t stop barking at the window, and the baby hasn’t slept all night and the washing machine just exploded and Niagra Falls is headed toward the your kitchen’s hardwood floors?

I don’t know about you, but those are the days I’m high on frustration and short on thanks. Then, I read this:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. {Colossians 3:17 }

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In her own journey to greater gratitude, Ann discovered that challenging herself to making a list of 1000 graces was key to breaking through a season of depression where she felt she was drowning in the ordinary.

As it turns out, it’s often the ordinary that is most worthy of our gratitude, yet we so easily dismiss and miss it!

I want to encourage you to begin your own list and challenge yourself to fill it with 10 things each day. Over time, you’ll find it heightens your awareness to the smallest details of life, grace in disguise.

From my list . . .

a tumor shrinking

It’s a Girl!

warm soup on cold days

kids in costume

a bowl full of chocolate

just the right words

new pictures in frames

afternoon nap

the look that says, “I love you” without words

yard sale present

Now, it’s your turn! I’d love for you to comment with your own 10 thanks!!! And stop by Our tiny big Life sometime. I’d love to get to know you.

Oh, and thank you so much, Misty, for letting me be here today! Such a treat.

Thankful Series: Katie Jane Says

It’s week two of the Thankful Series, and my friend Katie from Katie Jane Says is sharing her story today.

Katie and I don’t cross paths as often as we used to, but I’ve been so impressed to see the grace with which she’s handled all life’s thrown at her in the past year. In April, she and her then-fiance Blake, along with family members, survived when a large tornado ripped through their community before hitting Tuscaloosa. They were OK, but the home her family had given them to live in was not.

Since then, they’ve gotten married and navigated some tough times as a young married couple, but they are coming through it well — and together. But that’s enough from me. Read what Katie has to say!

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For the past seven days, my Facebook news feed has been filled with statuses regarding the things for which my friends are grateful. Parents, friends, family, Jesus, living in America, SEC Football… you know, the basics. I’m so glad to see the overflowing thankfulness, but there’s something to be thankful for that I seriously doubt I’ll see in my news feed before the end of November:

Manna.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4

I read those words a year or so ago, and they jumped out at me like never before. I remember writing the passage in my journal along with a big “WHAT!?!?!”. I was done with my Scripture reading for that day! But, I believed the words. I believed His words.

I’ve found myself in “trials of various kinds” over and over and over again in my life. (I wouldn’t necessarily say those times have been counted as joy!) This year has been particularly difficult. To put it simply: Tornado, unemployment, first months of marriage. We were overwhelmed, confused, and frankly unimpressed with life. Our biggest stress was figuring out how to pay for everything. “Married with bills,” I like to say! Looking at the bank account was terrifying. But, we kept holding onto James’ words and trusting that God really would take care of us.

Our families, friends, and pastors continuously encouraged us. The Holy Spirit gave us peace. And God the Father started doing something remarkable.

Little by little, things started coming together for us. Random people would call us and donate money to us (since we were displaced by the storm for a few months). We got EVERYTHING on our wedding registry (and then some). I quit a part-time job to start subbing (a HUGE risk) and immediately became busy with subbing. Blake got a job as a research assistant and another assistant job opened up for him. He got a raise for his TA position. I started tutoring again.

The list of little things could keep going… but I think you get the point.
It was like manna from Heaven. Little bits of goodness raining down on us from the clouds. Not enough to make us rich, not enough to beef up our savings account, not enough to go do whatever we wanted. But just enough to get us to the next point. Just enough to make it through the month. Just enough to keep our heads above water.

And now we are okay. We moved into a great apartment complex and we L-O-V-E where we live! I was offered an extended-substitute teaching position that should last until the end of the school year. We are finally caught up on old bills and we’re starting to see the light. Our marriage has seen some tough days already, and we love each other more because of it. God has been good, and we are forever grateful.

But that’s not the end of the story. We don’t roll down our sleeves and dust off our hands and walk away from the hardship. Though we don’t live in that place of struggle and fear and difficulty anymore, it won’t be long before something else comes along. We continue to remember how God provided for us in the desert. We are so grateful for the manna. We are grateful for finding our satisfaction in Him. And we know that without hardship, without discipline, without walking through the desert, there’d be no manna.

“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” – Deuteronomy 8:2-3

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Thanks so much for sharing your story, Katie!

Want to read previous posts in the series?

Thankful Series: Bob the Writer

Thankful seriesAs I continue my recovery from postpartum depression, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways other than medication that I can cope and deal with the tough times that are part of everyday life. The idea for this series came partly from allowing my mind to wander through some ideas while I was driving one day and (admittedly) party from seeing other people doing the same thing on their blogs (like Momma Bird! Holla!).

One of the most draining, dark things about PPD was the feeling that there was nothing good in life — that all the things that might even be considered good were ultimately draining, or I didn’t deserve them so they would be taken away, or everyone else thought they were good but I just couldn’t see it from where I was mentally and emotionally. Getting into the habit of seeing the good things in my life and being thankful for them helps me recognize that there’s more than darkness and depression in my life. There’s hope.

So, especially coming into the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I want to be able to dwell on those things and not just the bad things or the hard things that have happened in the past year. And I’m asking other people to join me in that and to share their stories.

My husband, Bobby, is sharing today. He’s one of the things I am most thankful for. He has been a rock and an anchor for me in the past 16 months through pregnancy, childbirth, the death of my father, PPD, the tornado … I wouldn’t have made it through these things without him. Even at the moments when he was at a loss, he was there, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

Here’s his story.

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When Misty asked me to guest blog about an aspect of being thankful, I was happy to say yes. I had a ton of great ideas, and was excited to share them with her audience.

However, I’m a major procrastinator, so I never took advantage of those ideas. Now it’s November 3, and I’m doing NaNoWriMo. Oops.

So please bear with me while I talk about being thankful. I’m going to simply be honest, and lay a lot out there. I have more to be thankful than most. I’ve lived most of my life as somewhat of a cad, an untrustworthy, irascible lout who was looking out for no one but himself. I hadhusband, baby, nature, overalls very little conscience, zero faith and a dwindling core of — well, not friends, exactly — people I hadn’t betrayed or hurt yet.

It was no way to live.

In the past five years I’ve changed so much. Rediscovered my battered faith. Married the best woman I know, bought a house, had a kid. Well, Misty had the kid. But I helped! And not just in the beginning, either, thankyouverymuch. I became a master of back and foot rubs. I was there in the delivery room to be yelled and cussed at. (Although Misty didn’t cuss a ton. I think she called me an a-hole once.)

My old view was nihilistic. I didn’t mind using up things or people because — hey, we all get used up in the end, you know? But I was wrong. We don’t get used up unless we let it happen.

I’m thankful for so much. This past weekend is a great example. My wife and I went on a road trip to see family in southeast Alabama, about four hours away. Every time I see my dad hold my son, it brings tears to my eyes. This weekend he bent down and gave Noah a kiss on the top of the head. It’s rare for my Dad to show affection like that, and I just felt so fortunate to be a part of that moment.

Another moment: My mom tucked Noah into bed with her and let him nap beside her. We had the pack-n-play over at my mother-in-law’s house, and Noah decided he didn’t want to nap on the pallet my mom made for him. So he got to nap with Granny. Moments like that make my heart swell with happiness.

family, baby, nature, portraitThat’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed these days: I’m thankful to be here, to be experiencing the moments of everyday life with a good woman and a great kid. Every second that I’m a father to Noah is like holding a precious gem. Being his father, being Misty’s husband — being the man I am today — makes me thankful.

I’m also thankful that my lovely and talented wife let me guest-post on her blog. I hope you enjoyed what you read here, and that you’ll find some other worthwhile things at my own blog: http://bobthewriter.com.

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Thanks for keeping the peace in the Mathews household and writing what I asked you to, Bobby.

Seriously, I’m happy to have had Bobby guest post because I think it shows readers the other half (or third, as it may be) of our story. I also look up to his writing ability immensely and am proud to have him sharing a tidbit of his talent here.

You can check out future Thankful Series posts on Thursdays in November and December. I’ve got some great folks lined up for guest posts, so be sure to stop back by!

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