Those words echoed from my lips several years ago when we were at the pinnacle of crises with our daughter. Part of me wanted to complain and throw in the towel for the “whole being thankful” attitude during the month of November. After all, I was not in a place emotionally to celebrate with family and friends while my daughter was incarcerated.
While others around me talked about traveling, seeing family they haven’t seen in years, doing reunions with friends, and planning the big Thanksgiving dinner with shopping day after, I was lamenting how much I hated it. Seriously, what was there really to celebrate?
Then I got a reality check. My daughter made a very long list of all of her favorite foods she wanted for Thanksgiving dinner. I totally missed what Thanksgiving was about. It wasn’t about the planning the big meal while family and friends were around the table laughing and sharing memories.
Seeing the excitement in my daughter’s eyes of the food list she had made and knowing that I would be making all of it, put such hope and excitement in her to carry on for more days. You see, she was suicidal and very depressed. Eventually they moved her out of juvie and into a program right before the Thanksgiving holiday. She couldn’t come home but she could have visitors for a short period of time. This time of visiting was better than nothing. I was thankful.
I began to be thankful for the smallest things. I was thankful the drive was not far to see her. I was thankful that I could make all of the foods she craved for. I was thankful that I could bless another girl that she was friends with because she received no family visitors. I was thankful that the weather was good.
Then something changed. I began to be more thankful for bigger things. I was thankful that I had the opportunity to spend time with her and yet not affecting my full time job. I was thankful that I was blessing more than one young girl beside my own. Many of the girls received no visitors, not even family. I was thankful for my job that provided the money to buy those things that my daughter loved. I was thankful that my car didn’t break down during the trips that I made up to three times a week, several hours per trip. I was thankful for family that may not have understood what I was going through but supportive enough to pray for us and for her. I was thankful that someone saw the heavy financial burden I carried and gave gift certificates for gas and for food.
As each moment of thankfulness came, the more it released me of the negativity that weighed me down. In place of my grumpy and negative outlook earlier, I began to have more peace, more joy, more reasons to keep going and not give up.
God was changing my heart, all because I became thankful in a season that most parents struggle – during the holidays.
The Lord says to count it all joy (James 2:2-4 ESV) “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.”
Yes, it was a testing of my faith to be thankful at all times which produced joy again in my heart as well as remind me that these trials were temporary. How long is temporary you may ask? Not eternal is my answer.
To make Thanksgiving a time of thanks in the midst of your parenting struggles, write down one thing each day you are thankful for. Do one kind thing for someone else (note: it does not have to be financial), to uplift them and give them hope.
Put on Thanksgiving praise music. This will encourage you for all that Christ has done for you and continues to do so, even in the midst of your parenting storms.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to find time to rest during the holidays and also okay to have some happiness too.