There are times I have to stop and think what year it is. Am I alone in this? 2021 has gone by so incredibly fast, it’s almost as if it didn’t happen. And yet here we are, recovering from feasting on Thanksgiving and staring down the Holidays and the culmination of yet another trip ’round the sun. Looking back over this year I’m struck by the number of things I have to be thankful for. Man, that seems shallow to say, but it’s just reality: I take so much for granted day-in/day-out. Seldom do I really take time to stop and “give thanks” or, as we do with our kids, review my “thankfuls.” So, dear reader, here is my top ten(ish) list of “thankfuls” for 2021.
- I’m so very thankful for my wife. I could write until my fingers bled and still not exhaust the reasons why. Sometimes I just stand back and marvel at the woman she has become. We’ve been together 25 years this fall, and I can’t imagine a day without her. Today I find myself really grateful for her strength and courage, for the way she has carried our family when I’ve been unable to, and for the way she’s loved me through some dark days. She is, and always will be, my sunshine.
- I’m grateful for my kids. Gosh, they’ve been through a lot the last few years. I think one of the most humbling thing I’ve learned as a parent is how deeply my own decisions/issue affect my kids. Now, seeing them rising above all the mess and becoming their own people is so freaking amazing! I’m grateful for their love for one another, the way they stick together (even when they fight with one another in typical sibling fashion). They have taught me much.
- I’m thankful for home, a word which come to have a much deeper and textured meaning for me over the past few years. Though there is much we would have done differently if we had our name on the deed to this house, it has truly become “home” in every sense of the word for 4 1/2 years. I’ve walked the halls a lot the last few weeks, looking in my kids rooms, checking on them throughout the day, soaking in the time together around the table, the fire, a good movie. Mental snapshots being collected. The walls didn’t make this a home: my family did.
- I’m thankful for my little corner of our garage, filled with my workbench and tools. It has been a place of therapy for me the past few years. I started trying to build an acoustic guitar in May of 2020, and while it’s not yet complete, and will likely not be the greatest thing ever (barring a miracle) it has also been a source of a lot of joy. The fact that my youngest daughter joined me for much of the process only served to add to the fun. My hands might be a bit scarred, and my back a good bit sore, but it’s been worth it. In the end, there will be something to lean against the wall and say “we made that!”
- I’m thankful for my friends. I have been fortunate in life to make a few life-long friends. The thing is, life-long friends lull you into the idea that they’ve always been there, and you forget that those deep relationships take time. When we arrived in OK, the absence of those friendships (at least in proximity) was glaring. We were pretty dang lonely. Fast forward, and we have made some very deep, close, friendships here. They just took time. And now it feels like we’re having to say goodbye too soon. Doesn’t it always? Perhaps I just realize it more, appreciate it more, thanks to the past few years. The cliche’ is true: you don’t know what you got til it’s gone.
- I absolutely hated piano lessons as a kid, but now I am so very thankful my mom made me take them. They were the bedrock of a lifetime of listening to and making music. My memories are backed by a soundtrack of songs, and hearing an old tunes often takes me back to the sounds, smells, tastes, and emotions of the past. Getting to make music (or instruments) with my kids and my wife is something I can’t imagine living without.
- I’m thankful for good food, good drink, and time around a table with family and friends. Yes, this is a week of feasting (or should be), and I’m grateful. But more than that, I’m thankful for the nightly dinners with my family around our table. I’m thankful for the impromptu meals shared with friends over lunch or dinner. I’m grateful for date nights with my wife to our new (or old) favorite restaurants. I’m grateful for hot coffee and cold drinks shared with those I love. Some of the greatest moments in life take place around a shared table.
- I’m thankful for the past 2 years of being able to work (mostly) from home. After years of being gone 12-14 hours a day, just being in the house when my kids woke up, or when we ate lunch, or when they got home from school has been priceless. I don’t know what the future holds, but my work has been a major source of healing for me in addition to providing for my family.
- I’m thankful for the huge oak tree in our front yard, as well as the red squirrels and birds who call it home. Sitting at the table by the front window every day has provided a view unrivaled by the biggest corner offices. I’d take this any day.
- I’m thankful for my parents and for my in-laws. I’m amazed again at the way they’ve supported us all our lives, but especially the past 5 years. They stood by us when we knew we needed to move, even though it was hard for them in ways I don’t yet understand (but will one day). They’ve listened to our sorrows and joys from afar, and even when we began throwing around the idea of moving home, never pressured us one way or another (though I think I know which way they favored!). To have them all in our lives is a blessing untold, and I am truly grateful.
- I’m grateful for our church community here in Oklahoma. I came here flying high, guns blazing, ready to take on the world, and then rapidly descended into a blubbering mess. They didn’t reject me. They didn’t keep me at arms length. They invited me and my family in, walked beside us, listened to us, loved us, and supported us through an awful lot of hard. I haven’t always been the easiest of people to love, but love me they have. In a time when it would have been very easy for me to turn away from faith, they showed me real community and love, brokenness and all. This is hard for me to write…it’s hard to sum up succinctly.
- I’m grateful for the grace of God. I don’t understand it. I often doubt it. I struggle to accept it. I question. And yet I believe it’s true. On my worst days, my angriest, most doubtful, there is a spark deep within that has not been snuffed out. As I look out at the sun shining through the orange and yellow leaves, I believe He is there, and He loves me in spite of it all.
And I’m grateful for whoever you are reading this post right now. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for taking the time to read these words, these thoughts. There are many things you could do with your precious time, and to take a few minutes to read my thoughts means a lot. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and find time to stop and be amazed anew at the simple things in life, your own set of “thankfuls.”