Happy Thanksgiving?:: When You Struggle with an Attitude of Gratitude

November is my favorite month of the year:: the start of, hopefully, blessedly cool days like today, my son’s birthday, my birthday, and one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. Some see Thanksgiving as just the kick off to the Christmas, or worse, skip over it altogether to focus on a more festive season, but I absolutely love Thanksgiving. I love the food; I love the family togetherness; and I really love the reminder to pause and recognize all the things for which I am grateful. 

Struggling to be Thankful

However, this year, the constant reminders to “Be thankful!” or “Have an attitude of gratitude” or “We’re so blessed!” have really grated on me. To be honest, this last year was hard for me. After a miscarriage, a crisis of faith, a rocky start to a new pregnancy, and some ongoing health issues, I felt tired and worn down- mentally, physically, and spiritually. I wondered, like so many others have at all points of history, where God was in the midst of my suffering. And while I could pinpoint the obvious things for which I was thankful- my husband, my son, our family and friends- I struggled to find the good in an otherwise crappy year. I was ready to start the new year and skip over the holiday season altogether. And reader, I have never before wished to skip over the holiday season. I LOVE Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

But as I sat there, letting my thoughts spiral down in a rather desperate direction, I had to pump the brakes. Was this year freaking hard? Yeah, definitely. Did it go the way I would have planned? Umm, definitely not. Did I understand the meaning behind my tumultuous year? No, not yet {and maybe not ever, in this life}. But one of my favorite things about my Catholic faith is the sincere belief that our suffering is never meaningless. I don’t mean that in a trite and cheerful “Everything happens for a reason!” way. Jesus redeemed our sins through his pain and suffering, and thereby, offered us the gift of transforming us through our own suffering to be more like Him. To be more selfless, more kind, more giving, more loving, and to recognize Him in the people around us. 

In Whom Do I See Christ?

So, yeah, this year was hard, and no, I don’t particularly understand why everything happened the way it did. But after a second look at this last year, I began to see how my experience of suffering pointed towards Christ in the people that I encountered each day. 

I saw Him in my parents, who literally canceled their plans for almost 3 weeks to care for me and my family when I was put on strict bed rest during my first trimester. 

I saw Him in my local mom’s group, who organized a calendar of meals for my family when I didn’t have the energy to cook. 

I saw Him in my girlfriends, who rallied to support me with cards, meals, books, puzzles, and prayers.

And, I think most importantly, I saw Him in my husband, who selflessly stepped up to handle tasks I wasn’t able to or was too tired to tackle. Who patiently raced cars, read stories, and played ball for hours with our son, when I needed to rest. Who made it his personal mission to care for my mental health by sending me every silly thing he could find on the internet and getting me a veritable spa at home with a bath tray for my book, book-scented candles, and comfy bath pillow. Who held me when I cried, knowing I didn’t need his words, just his quiet strength. 

I’m still having trouble focusing on gratitude over everything that occurred this year. It’s a daily struggle. And I think that’s okay. But what I can focus on and be thankful for is the opportunity to turn away from myself and my own suffering to see that Christ is present all around me. In my family, in my friends, and even, and especially in, strangers. And if that’s the one thing I have to share around the Thanksgiving table this year, I’ll be darn grateful for that. 

Happy Thanksgiving?:: When You Struggle with an Attitude of Gratitude  

 

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