When you’re thankful through all seasons

Let’s be perfectly honest—sometimes life is just plain rough, and it’s challenging to find reasons to be thankful. At times, it feels like you’re either sinking in quicksand or going through a never-ending storm that doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Your heart hurts, your brain hurts, and all of the emotions are making your body actually physically hurt.

You might often hear people talk about the different seasons of life—seasons of change, seasons of joy, seasons of pain, seasons of sorrow, seasons of financial troubles, seasons of success, seasons of being alone. So.many.seasons. But what about those perpetual seasons that don’t seem to want to change from one to the next?

Pretending that fall is actually here

I’m a pretty joyous person, and I try to help others to have fun in most situations, but I also know what it’s like to have a heavy heart and feel like no one truly understands the pain you’re going through. It’s sometimes difficult to focus on the reasons you have to be thankful because you’re consumed by the reasons you have to struggle. While I think it’s important to acknowledge the bad things in your life and to feel the emotions resulting from them (I’m actually still learning how to do this), I also think it’s healthy to find bits of gratitude, especially when you’re going through the darker points in life.

Years ago, I started wearing pink on Wednesdays. Sure, it was originally inspired by Mean Girls, but I later learned that pink is the color of gratitude, and now I treat that day as my weekly day of thanks. Three of my dear friends in California and I email our reasons to be grateful every Wednesday, and it’s a tradition I’ve come to love. No matter what messes we’re facing, we each find a list of things for which we’re thankful and share our bits of joy with one another.

Lately, just in my own life to myself, I’ve been trying to find those gratitude tidbits more and more on a daily basis. I’ve been in one of those tough seasons recently (or, more accurately, one that just hasn’t ever ended), and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of wanting to throw a pity party for and with only myself. But when I push those thoughts away and then, instead, focus them on the reasons I have to be grateful, my heart’s emotions shift, and the desire to feel sorry for myself disappears. Rather than thinking about what I wish were different, I think about what’s so wonderful as it is.

And joy takes over.

Thankful that I got to spend some time with my forever friend over the weekend

In the Bible, Paul reminds us to be thankful in all circumstances, not just the good ones. No matter what you believe, I think this is a wise way to live. It’s definitely not always easy, but it’s good. There are challenging situations that many of us haven’t ever been through, and it’s always easier to say something than actually to do it, but I truly believe that you can always find a reason to be grateful, no matter what you’re facing.

Last week, I absentmindedly left my classroom in a hurry during my conference period so that I could go to the bathroom and get back before the bell rang. In doing so, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to see my finger get caught in part of this strange rolling contraption thing on the door latch (a horrible description, obviously), but I sure felt it. For the first few seconds after it happened, I couldn’t look down—I was sure that the top part of my finger wasn’t there anymore. When I finally got the courage to let my eyes stray that way, I saw plenty of blood and a finger that was somehow still intact.

I have an extremely high pain tolerance—I once went almost an entire day with a 9-millimeter kidney stone (most of them are 3 or 4 millimeters) traveling through my body before I went to the ER. In this moment, though, I wanted to let myself cry. I didn’t, but I really wanted to. My whole hand was shaking, and I couldn’t focus on anything but the pain. As I’m writing this, it makes me sound pretty wimpy, but I feel like I could quote Monica in this case: “You can’t say that! You don’t know! I mean, I thought I was going to pass out from the pain.” I actually also thought that I was going to have to get my finger amputated (I’m clearly not one to dramatize a situation), but thankfully no one had to pee on me to get rid of the pain.

I wrapped a paper towel around my finger to try to stop the blood, but I’m not sure that I should have been squeezing something that had just been smashed as hard as it was. At that point, I only had like three minutes until the bell, so I just walked with my wrapped-up finger back to the classroom, purposely avoiding eye contact with the door that had just tried to kill a piece of me.

It’s my pointer finger. I’m not making a rude gesture.

I had a bunch of students entering into my classroom who were relying on me to be there for them, and I didn’t have time to focus on the pain and the fact that I still haven’t learned to slow down in life. Instead, I decided I was going to be grateful that I still had my finger. And you know what? I put a Spiderman Band-Aid on that mess, and everything was fine. Sure, I didn’t sleep that night because my finger was throbbing, and the nurse told me the next day that I needed to go to the doctor to have them drill a small hole in my finger to drain the hematoma that had become my new worst enemy (I never made time to go—oops), but I was grateful, and I’m convinced that it helped to minimize the pain.

Yes, I realize that a finger that survived getting caught in a door contraption that I still can’t accurately describe well is rather minimal compared to many much more difficult situations that people face on a daily basis, but comparisons often minimize more than they should, including how we view ourselves. Regardless of how big or small our troubles are, though, I still believe that there are always bits of gratitude that we can find to help us make it through the rain (sing it, Mariah, my ultimate soul sista).

The broken hearts try to break every piece of us. The dark times try to steal every ounce of our joy. The setbacks try to keep us from rising back up. The illnesses try to tell us that there’s no hope. The losses try to convince us that there are no wins in sight. The mistakes try to keep us from believing in grace. And so many more tough situations try to stop us from being thankful.

The key word is try—we don’t have to let those things win.

We don’t all live in an episode of Full House in which all of our problems will be resolved in less than 30 minutes when the “this is a valuable life lesson” music starts to play. Our situations won’t always pan out as we hope, but even in the midst of the worst storm you’ve ever been in—even when the torrential rain gets more powerful and daunting by the second—your heart can still find reasons to smile.

My precious JoJo (aka Jayna)

When I was in the hospital for five days or whatever it was for one of my many stays (thanks, kidneys), I remember being hooked up to IVs and on so many hardcore pain meds that still didn’t get rid of all of my pain but probably made me send some questionable text messages to people and feeling absolutely miserable—not just physically but also emotionally. But then my sweet friend Jayna showed up with a box of Wheat Thins, a coloring book, and a pink phone charger, and my whole outlook on everything changed. In that moment, I was thankful for her genuine heart and the thoughtfulness of her gifts that only a true friend would know that I would appreciate dearly. Sitting there with hair that I hadn’t washed in about nine days, morphine and dilaudid pumping through my veins, and a body that couldn’t even move half of an inch without excruciating pain, I sat in thankfulness.

I hope that you’re able to find reasons for gratitude when it seems like you can’t. If nothing else, it might help you get through those difficult times, even if in a very small way.

And give you a new reason to wear pink on Wednesdays.

Maybe Starbucks is the best dating app

One day last week, I had some time to kill before my hair appointment, so I went to a Starbucks nearby so that I could use the Wi-Fi and work on a few things I needed to complete. I don’t actually like coffee, so I usually just buy an Ethos bottled water so that I feel like I’m giving at least a little financial contribution while I’m using the free internet there. Plus, it helps children have access to clean water, so I’m a fan.

I opted for one of the cozier chairs and noticed a good-looking man sitting in one of the four of them. The other three were open, so I sat at one somewhat across from him after double-checking with him that it wasn’t occupied. He had his headphones in and appeared to be on a call. I tried listening in every once in a while to figure out what type of businessman he is—people fascinate me, so I’m always curious to learn more about them.

Thanks to a small bladder and kidney stones that won’t quit, it wasn’t long before I needed to use the restroom. I didn’t want to pack up all of my stuff and risk losing my chair (there weren’t that many people there, so it honestly wasn’t a great possibility), so when it sounded like Cute Guy wasn’t on the phone anymore, I got his attention.

Me: Hey, do you mind watching my stuff for a few minutes while I run to the restroom?
CG: How do you know I’m not going to steal it?
Me: We both know you’re not.
CG (noticing my Avengers Band-Aid on my knee): How’d you get your owie?
Me (immediately falling for someone who uses the word “owie”): I cut myself shaving.
CG: That’s not a very good story.
Me: You didn’t let me finish. I reopened a wound that I got while hiking the Incan Mountains in Peru. I noticed a llama off in the distance and became distracted, so I went after it, and I wasn’t paying attention, so I tripped on a rock and gashed open my knee. When I was shaving, I forgot about it and ripped the scab off. Hence the Band-Aid.
CG (with a swoon-worthy smirk on his face): Yeah, that’s definitely a better story.

Just wondering if I should go back to Starbucks soon

I walked to the restroom with a sense of pride at being able to create a fib so quickly. I’m not sure if it’s actually a quality I want to have, but I felt like it benefitted me in this particular instance. Also, I do realize that they’re actually called the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains, so maybe I’m not that great of a liar after all.

When I came back, I thanked him but also let him know that I told him I knew he wasn’t a criminal. He blamed it on the fact that there were security cameras in place. Touché, guy.

Not too long after that, I looked at my watch and decided it was time to leave for my appointment. As I stood up again, CG took out his ear phones and said “You can’t leave me.” I explained that I had an appointment, and he said something else I don’t really remember because I was staring into his eyes trying not to fall for some guy I may never see again but also secretly hoping that he’d ask for my number.

Dear Hollywood, why isn’t reality always like a romcom? Sincerely, a hopeful romantic.

We tied for first but then got third because we didn’t know the Rotten Tomatoes score for 10 Things I Hate About You (eye roll).

In hindsight, perhaps I should have asked for his. I need to stop assuming that every good-looking man in this world has a girlfriend. As one of my friends pointed out, it would have been a good moment to have a business card on hand. How stalkerish would it be to show up at the same Starbucks on the same day around the same time? And how much do I actually care? I mean, I know I’m not a psycho.

Maybe he didn’t see when I tried to suavely move my sunglasses from on top of my head to my face and got them stuck in my hair. But maybe it’s better if he did. It’s good for people to know others’ quirks.

And I happen to have a lot of those.

In other news, it’s Wednesday, so I’m going to share the things for which I’m thankful this week:

  • 10 Things I Hate About You trivia night on Monday—such a blast with some of my gals.
  • The changes that just keep happening in my life, even though some of them are more challenging than others.
  • Running with my brother and sister lately. I cherish those times.
  • My new community group, which is full of women who pour out the love of Jesus like flour in cake batter (I think that’s an accurate comparison) and make every single human feel valued and adored.

What are you Wednesday pieces of gratitude this week?