Grasping for Gratitude

We are one week into 2019 – though, as a stay-at-home mother, I contend that things don’t REALLY begin anew until today, the blessed day when my kids are back in school. Glory, glory, Hallelujah! 

But a little over a week ago on December 31, I rang in the New Year in grand style…. if by “grand style” you mean wearing pajama pants and scanning my Facebook feed while rolling my eyes at people’s mostly rose-colored reviews of 2018.

Me? Well…

2018 was one for the record books, in the worst of ways. Most notably, it’s the year I lost my mom. It’s a year that ended with illness affecting three out of four of us in my house. Throw in a great deal of work stress for my husband and big struggles for my autistic son as he started a new school year, and… well, I went to sleep at 10:15 on New Year’s Eve. Suck it, 2018, I literally said to myself as I curled into bed. 2019 can’t get here soon enough.

I’ve always been enamored with new starts. I LOVED going to school, and so it’s no surprise I grew up to be a teacher. I was the kind of teacher who, as early as October each year, would start thinking about what I would do differently the next school year. But I woke up on January 1st feeling pretty hopeless. Life gets that way sometimes – when so many struggles happen so quickly, it’s easy to believe that only more catastrophes lie ahead. Or at least that’s how it had come to feel for me. What could I look forward to other than more out-of-nowhere-shitshows-because-honestly-isn’t-that-always-how-it-all-seems-to-happen-for-us-anyway?

Super healthy perspective, obviously.

But if anything can interrupt a pity party of mine, it’s a new beginning that involves school supplies. So i kicked off a rendezvous with a new pack of Flair pen and my new 2019 planner. As I started to fill it in, I noticed this planner includes a box for daily gratitude reflections.

Hmmmmm, new day planner. Maybe you’re onto something.

I decided to think a little harder about 2018. Because yes, when things were bad, they were really, really bad. But they couldn’t have ALL been bad. I challenged myself to really find things about which to be grateful from 2018. I knew to look where we all post the Technicolor version of our lives: Facebook.

So I scrolled back through 365 days of posts. Here are some highlights:

  • I hit a milestone of 100 boot camp workouts. (Did I maintain that effort? NOT SO MUCH, mmmmmmkay?)
  • My son had another great season of Special Olympics track that included support from many of my friends in sales, who made donations to support fundraising efforts.
  • I turned 40 (meh), but had a fantastic weekend getaway with my Momma Tribe.
  • WE WENT ON A DISNEY CRUISE. Thanks to booking through Autism on the Seas, we enjoyed incredible support. It was a magical week…. and beyond. This fancy schmancy Cinderella dress from the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique carried the magic through Halloween! 
  • My daughter had her Pre-K graduation and dance recital, which in hindsight are that much sweeter because my mom was able to attend.
  • My kids had a phenomenal experience at a Kanakuk day camp at our church.
  • My son had an opportunity to attend a two-week clinic where we received support and instruction on how to help him overcome disordered behaviors. Also, it was FREE thanks to the generosity of a huge grant.
  • My daughter’s transfer to my son’s school was granted… at the buzzer. Not only does this mean she can enjoy the amazing and supportive community my son has for the past four years, but also, and most importantly: I get to have two years of a single-school drop-off and pick-up location. There are not enough praise hands. 
  • My son’s longtime special education teacher left… but was replaced with another fantastic teacher whose been a tremendous blessing this school year.
  • My husband worked tirelessly throughout the year and earned opportunities and recognition because of his efforts.
  • Countless friends and loved ones showed up in ways big and small in the days leading up to and following Mom’s death.
  • Santa brought my son an amazing bike – thanks to the gift of a fantastic charity.
  • My son won the Star Student of the Month Award for his class. This is amazing in any case, but following the struggle of the first three months of the year, it was a special gift and delight.img_0229.jpg
  • My daughter did NOT get lice after trying on this, right out of the Wal-Mart bin.

The thing is, when I really look back – REALLY look – God put angels in our midst all. the. time. In the form of teachers, tutors, friends, principals, family members, strangers, nurses… in what has been one of the most difficult seasons of my life, I’ve never been alone. God’s been there.

So…. to be honest, I wouldn’t do 2018 over again. But I can look to 2019 with hope and trust. God is faithful.

And on a more practical/tactical note: I decided that my family will be doing this again. Check it out! It’s a great way to record those blessings and then review them without the agony of going back through all of your Facebook posts (and everyone else’s, obvi).

2018 felt like a harsh one for many of us. I hope that 2019 is gentler, and, when it’s not, we have eyes to see the good around us. Happy New Year – may there be many opportunities for gratitude!