thankfulness

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Good Things the Seventeenth, November 2018

Hey! I missed this. I never posted it on December 1, for good things from November. I did have the list. Here it is now, one good thing for every day from November. I get to still say #blamethecancer because, well, I’ve still got it and still got foggy brain, too.

1 soup. hot soup from my dear friend. And an orange. I can’t talk to even say thank you. That’s why she brought soup. So, now, thank you.

2 sleeping with a big fluffy cat on top of my legs

3 resting with my mother-in-law while the men went hunting (I am so thankful for my in-laws, doubly so during cancer, they have been wonderful)

4 fresh venison on the grill

5 one, last long-ish run around the lake and feeling my heart race and my legs move and my breath, foggy in the cold, and feeling happy I’ve had this running joy for ten years and hopeful that I will have it again eventually

6 post-surgery nurses, especially the one with whom I had this conversation.

Nurse: “How is your pain? Honey? How is your pain?”

Me: (rolling from side to side and moaning and almost vomiting and mumbling) “Idontknow maybefour.”

Out of a ten-point scale.

Nurse: “Oh honey. Let’s say it’s a six.” And then she gave me more meds. That was awesome. And a good reminder that being tough isn’t always the right thing.

7 at least one morning post-surgery with my husband before he left for Djibouti. Not long enough and I miss him like crazy already, but it was better than no time and choosing gratitude doesn’t mean being nit-picky

8 emergency room doctors and parents who make healthcare decisions for me when I can barely finish a coherent sentence

9 something not-cancer related: going to my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s wedding dress fitting. She picked a gorgeous dress but she makes the dress move from gorgeous to stunning. So happy for my brother and for her.

10 old friend from far away, one of my first-ever friends drove through multiple states to visit me and sit with me and drive me around

11 walking in the snow on a silent Sunday morning

12 talking about Third Culture Kids with women who love them deeply

13 one week post-surgery, one week sans thyroid, feels like a milestone

14 being an extra at an extended friends Thanksgiving dinner party

15 hearing about a childhood friend’s dream for serving single mothers

16 meeting a writer friend at the Loft

17 high school friends (we haven’t changed at all)

18 Austin Channing Brown, preaching

19 Kenyan tea with an old friend who oozes gentle wisdom

20 one college student, home for the weekend

21 second college student, home for the weekend

22 American Thanksgiving

23 American Thanksgiving #2

24 young cousins attacking their oldest cousins with pillows

25 good conversations with my adult(!) children

26 post-op appointment: cancer didn’t spread

27 raspberries

28 brunch with new friends who have big hearts

29 turning in the final draft of Welcome to Djibouti, a guidebook

30 the Nutcracker Ballet with my mom and pork chops with cherry glaze for dinner

Good Things, the Sixteenth. October 2018.

Taking note of one good thing every day. This month was hard and good. From Italy to New York, the Evolving Faith conference to meeting my two new nephews, all topped off with cancer, what a ride. Still, I’m thankful and here’s my monthly review of why.

1 bad news from the doctor, so what is the good thing? He is a good doctor and understands, since he grew up in South Africa, the international complications of my situation

2 happy birthday mom, let’s fly to Italy

3 the warmest possible welcome into the town and family of the subject of my book

4 speaking about Annalena Tonelli and a love that is stronger than fear to 250 Italian high school seniors

5 I’m in Italy and I’m not thinking about Kavanaugh or Ford. I’m thinking about sacrificial love, courageous service, and hard, hard work, about community and peace and hope

6 university lectures I can sort of follow (barely) in Italian

7 one last bowl of gelato before leaving Italy

8 flying home-ish

9 good news from the doctor after a second biopsy – probably it didn’t spread

10 picking up Tom at the airport, now we are in the same country for a few weeks, like regular married people

11 night photography class and city lights reflected off water

12 collecting red, orange, and yellow leaves

13 leaf-covered bridges

14 listening to live music with my husband and taste-testing beer (I never like beer but it does look pretty)

15 trampolining fun with the newest kid in my life, fun to play little kid games again and who doesn’t love a good trampoline bounce?

16 coffee with a woman I met on the airplane, never done that before, I’m a no-talker on planes, but enjoyed how our thoughts and live have traced similar trails in recent years

17 quick pre-op physical (because darn it all, other than the alien beast in my neck, I’m perfectly healthy)

18 talking with an expatriate who had to leave her job abroad because of health issues, she gets it

19 Jones family Halloween party complete with relay games, scavenger hunt, and eyeball spaghetti

20 watching my daughter work on an experiment in her chemistry lab at University, then hiking Gooseberry Falls on a gorgeous MN fall afternoon

21 my husband cooked a feast for me while I worked

22 long run, ran the whole time, maybe the last double digit run for a while

23 deep and vulnerable conversation about the broken places in our lives

24 meeting my two new nephews for the first time since they were adopted

25 adding another sister to the mix, in North Carolina

26 Evolving Faith Conference

27 Still. Evolving Faith Conference.

28 true community living, a radically upside down way of life and love

29 talking books and publishing and dreaming

30 250 high school students with open ears and hearts to a message about moving away from comfort, toward need

31 giving directions to a Somali couple, in Somali, in my little suburb. Laughing together and welcoming them to the neighborhood where all are welcome.

What are you thankful for?

Good Things, the Thirteenth, July 2018

1 Ethiopian coffee at the mall

2 emptying freezers for friends when they leave

3 desert golf date

4 lasagna lunch with friend also launching a child to Uni

5 new books for the school library

6 American cheesecake at a party at the US embassy

7 one whole week, no power cuts

8 still able to run in the heat, still wanting to run in the heat, makes me feel strong

9 gathering memories for a Djibouti basket graduation gift: volcanic rock, shells, salt balls, the nation’s flag, favorite cereal, and more

10 goodbye to Djibouti, for too long, for not long enough

11 senior night, all the memories

12 graduation times two. All the feels.

13 watching musicals on a long haul flight

14 jet lag-fueled sunrise run in garden of the gods, colorado

15 endless supply of Lindt chocolate while debriefing and crying

16 slip-n-slide

17 hike with family and a new writer friend

18 breakfast on the veranda of a real, live castle

19 blueberries, granola, and yogurt for breakfast while talking books with new friends

20 pancake breakfast with old Djibouti friends, away from us for five years, the friendship not changed at all

20b airplane travel without any layovers. Get on, get off, you’re there

21 the farm, the cousins, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles

22 picking raspberries to refuel after my country-road run

23 open house, pulled pork, all the yummy desserts

24 cousins who turned the old barn into a bowling alley

25 25-cent massages from my sweet nieces and my daughter at the farm pop-up spa

26 happy 18, times 2!

27 TCKs from Djibouti and Kyrgyzstan

28 open house and a great cloud of witnesses

29 TCKs from Russia, Djibouti, and Kenya at Valleyfair together

30 axe-throwing double date (it is what it sounds like and it is just as awesome)

31 lemonade stands

Good Things, the Eleventh. May 2018.

1 original blessing, a book

2 kids, phone calls

3 an American friend, Danish friend, Korean friend, and Indian food

4 delicious French dinner with friends and cow tongue

5 my dad’s birthday

6 sitting on the beach for a rare conversation with a good friend

7 banana splits

8 one final volleyball game, ball over the wall four times

9 tears mingled across phone lines, no one is alone

10 unexpected generosity from far away

11 professionals

12 Kenyan pedicures

13 people brave enough and empathetic enough to pause, look in the eyes, and say, “I’m so sorry”

14 umbrellas, on loan, while away from home and in a rainy country

15 learning that doubling up on socks is almost as good as wearing slippers

16 varsity girls volleyball, a Minnesota friend, Burger King in Kenya, and stimulating conversation on a rainy drive home

17 my young nephew being so sweet and tender he made me cry from across the world

18 dreaming about banana bread and then banana bread at staff snack time

19 all day, no rain

20 sloppy hamburgers with bacon

21 running in the rain, scrambling up mud hills, sliding back down

22 Finding Home book release day

23 actually finding a home

24 learning more about Mary and Martha

25 phone call to Malaysia, solving all the thing

26 one night, one puzzle

27 the whole family at the same table

28 a place to run

29 learning to live one day at a time

30 new depth to the words: here. now. this.

31 talking faith and fresh interpretations

What are your good things?

6 Reasons Boarding School Rocks

I get to see my kids in less than two days. I don’t think I need to say that I’m excited.

My teenage twins go to boarding school two countries away. Whenever I write that, I feel the need to defend our family’s decision but I won’t, not here. Also, whenever I write that, I feel like I could follow it up with a litany of reasons boarding school is hard, that I could instead title this post 6 Terrible Things about Boarding School. But I won’t do that here either.

One of the hardest things to do in all of life, and yet one of the most beneficial things to do, is to maintain a heart of thankfulness. In the spirit of that thankfulness (and because I get to see them so soon) here are 6 really great things about boarding school.

6 Reasons Boarding School Rocks1

Physical Affection. My teenagers still hug me. In front of their friends and at school. Even their friends hug me, big hulking senior boys I’ve known since they were in first grade and high school girls I’ve only recently met but who live with my daughter in the dorm. As precious as chubby toddler arms are around a parent’s neck, nothing compares to a 14-year old boy still willing to joyfully throw his arms around me and squeeze, to say, “I love you, mom.” And then run off to the field to roughhouse and play rugby with his friends, who have also just hugged their mothers.

Family time. Time together is infinitely precious, even to the teens. During term breaks I don’t have to argue with the family that we should take a day and go to the beach. We sit down together almost every single day of term break for lunch and dinner, which totals almost the same number of shared meals as the average American family. We have focused, intentional conversations and game nights. They play dress-up and laser-gun battles with their little sister and lavish attention on her. Very little time is wasted on silly arguments or nitpicking.

Cheers for Mom. My home-cooking never tasted so good. After weeks on end of cafeteria food, anything I put on the table at mealtime is greeted with grins and thanks and sometimes even cheers, double when dessert is involved.

Independence and Courage. The Washington Post had a recent article about helicopter parenting in which millennials brought their parents along to job interviews. My teenagers don’t even bring me along on international flights. They know how to handle themselves with airport security, customs control, at restaurants, in taxi cabs. They know how to ask for help when they need it and they are brave enough to do so, no matter what country they are in.

Confidence. My kids aren’t afraid of challenges or situations outside their comfort zone. They have traveled internationally and have been responsible for their passports, their visas, their money. They haven’t always been successful in these responsibilities and things have gotten lost, they’ve made mistakes. But they’ve also learned to take responsibility for those mistakes, that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world or a definitive aspect of who they are as a person.

Problem solving. I can’t step into every situation to resolve it for them. I can’t intervene, as much as I would like to, when they have a conflict with a roommate or a teacher. I can’t hover over their homework or do it for them or urge them to remember to put it into their backpack in the morning. This means they have to learn how to address their weaknesses of timeliness, relationships, study habits on their own. Of course we talk on the phone and Skype and offer suggestions and make plans together. But hovering is not an option.

The skills my teens are learning at boarding school involve more than academics or increased sports and musical opportunities. They are the skills they will need to function and thrive in college and employment, in social relationships, and in an increasingly global world.

Of course, some of these areas are things I long to be involved in – like homework problem solving or to experience travel together, it isn’t easy and we often reevaluate our choice of boarding school. But so far, both kids are thriving, I’m proud of them, and our family remains close. I’m practicing thankfulness every day.

What painful thing can you practice thankfulness for today?