Its November, the month of Thanksgiving. I read 1,000 Gifts by Anne Voskamp. I see hashtags like #30DaysofThanks. And then there’s the Bible: give thanks, give thanks, give thanks. Over and over. I’m trying to step into thankfulness and I thought I’d take it gently, I thought I’d write about what I’m thankful in general, or what I’m thankful for about this season, or what I’m thankful for regarding Djibouti.
I run marathons. I moved to Somalia. I settled in Djibouti. I carried a twin pregnancy to full-term, walked up 22 flights of stairs the day I delivered them, and delivered one naturally and one via c-section.
I tend toward doing things the hard way, as foolish and stubborn as that can be sometimes.
So I decided to look at the hardest, most painful thing about my life at this point. The thing that makes me cry on a weekly basis. The thing that keeps me lying awake at night and has me crossing days of my calendar (sometimes a few days extra, just to feel like the time is passing faster).
I ask myself, can I be thankful for boarding school?
I can be. And here is what I am thankful for.
- I’m thankful for the way the absence of my teenagers sends me to my knees in prayer when I can’t sleep at night. I picture their faces and conjure their voices and sometimes a darkness sweeps in carrying with it all of the terrible awful things that could happen to them. I shut down the scary images and force light to cover the darkness and I’m thankful for how God meets me there.
- I’m thankful for the adults who are investing in my children and who are teaching them football and rugby and volleyball and flute and drama. They listen and put an arm around the shoulder and cook up late night egg mcmuffins and pray together.
- I’m thankful that this semester I have received more email communications from both kids than I did all last year in total. And that their typing ability is improving so the emails are growing longer (by a sentence or two).
- I’m thankful for the confidence I can see in these kids who have now traveled internationally, navigating familiar airports and the uncertainty of arriving in the aftermath of a burned down airport, on their own. They pack their suitcases, carry passports, fill out immigration forms, find flights.
- I’m thankful for how this confidence is deeper than being able to travel well. It stems from the knowledge that they are part of meaningful communities in three countries, from an awareness of the larger world and their place in it, that they leave one place they are loved only to arrive in another place where they are loved.
- I’m thankful for their academics at school and their joy in it. We struggled. They were successful in the French system, but not being native speakers, not having parents who were fluent, not having bookshelves stacked with French novels, required them to work. Hard. For which I am also thankful, it was stretching and character-building. But I never thought these kids would be placed in the advanced math class, that they would receive high marks in other classes. I hoped, I prayed, that they would discover the joy of learning, that it would be more than drudgery and battles and scraping to not be at the bottom.
- I’m thankful for the beautiful campus. Green grass, lovely weather, long adventure hikes, gardens and flowers, clear of garbage. There are many beautiful things about Djibouti as well but we don’t spend much time outside here due to the heat and dust. At school the kids seem to live outside and I love the outdoors. I’m thankful I get to visit this campus, it is a place of freshness and life and breathing deep and balm for the eyes.
- I’m thankful for the peers, for the friendships my kids are forming. Oh those dreaded junior high years, right? They aren’t smooth, they aren’t always pretty, they aren’t always easy. But they are character-building and memory-forming and for better or worse, we all must pass through. And so of course their friendships aren’t bump-free but the kids at this school have seen the world, share things with my kids that few others do. They are creative and smart and spiritual and strong.
- I’m thankful for the way God is holding our family relationships together, something I feared would weaken during these years. The two at school spend time together (even willingly), when they come home there are games and laughing and wrestling matches and tea parties like you’ve never seen. The one at home said once, “They have changed. They like to play with me now.” They would say that they always did like to play with her, but that sometimes she got annoying. But now they know the precious fleeting-ness of the days together, there is no time for petty squabbles and slammed doors. The family jokes and memories pile on and we hold them close.
- I’m thankful that no matter what, no matter where, no matter how, these are my children. They’re the coolest. Whether they are at the school down the street or at the school across international borders or in the plane coming home, they are God’s gift to our family and they are our gift to the world. I can think of nothing better than the honor of carrying and bearing them, of training and sharing them, of teaching and learning from them, of delighting in and with them.
And I can think of nothing better than squeezing them tight, skin on skin, when I see them on Friday night. The day after Thanksgiving, sure, but still a day in which to remember:
even this, yes, even boarding school, is something I can find thanksgiving in.