The past month, week, and day in particular we have been reflecting on the many blessings we have and giving thanks for them. Like I said last year, these take on a new meaning when you live through real crisis. Those feelings still linger with us now. We remain deeply grateful for Clara's life and health and it continues to color the way that we see all the blessings in our life. Rarely does a day go by that Robert and I don't just stare at each other and say, "This. This life we've got.... it's... amazing." I hope that I will always be able to live so presently. I hope that despite the cynicism and pain and hurt that is inevitable as a part of living, I will be able to remove myself enough to look at all I've been given and realize how truly deeply blessed we are. Our cups runneth over.
The list is long and full of both "big" blessings and many "small" ones that really are just as sweet and sacred when you think about it. But I want to write about the top five things that I have really been thinking about the most during this season of reflection. So, here they are.
* I'm thankful for my faith. I'm thankful that I had opportunities growing up at church and camp and in school groups and at home to be taught about God and to develop a personal faith that is all my own. I'm thankful that God and I are buds; that we can chat like folks who know each other and that I can sometimes just say to Him things like, "Dude!! What are you thinking?!?!" I'm thankful for a church and community who continues to foster that and for families who still value it. I'm thankful that my faith has withstood the past couple years of my life and the trials it has brought. I am thankful that I do not feel like I have to have all the answers, but that I believe the questions and doubts and fears are worth having too. I'm thankful for the ways that I am trying, oh so carefully, to pass this faith on to Clara as well. I hope and pray that the time we spend reading the Bible together, singing songs about our God, and praying together will teach her about our Maker and Redeemer. I am thankful that I am forgiven, for the grace of Christ, for a chance each day to try to live a little more like Him.
* I am thankful for my family. I'm thankful for our parents (all four of them) and the ways they loved and parented us so well. As I try to navigate the waters of learning how to parent Clara, I am thankful for the example that they set for me. They were selfless in their love for us and sacrificed a lot for our happiness. They had high standards, but lots of love. I hope I do as good of a job as they did. I'm thankful for Robert and this new little family we are building. I'm thankful for the love that we share, the memories we are making, the closeness that we feel. I'm thankful that this family shares our values. That we laugh together and cry together and pray together and stick close - through thick and thin. I am thankful for the legacy of our grandparents, mine who I didn't get an opportunity to know well, but who I know loved me, and Robert's who have given me a second chance at having grandparents. This family, like any family, is not perfect. But they are mine and I love them. All of them.
* I am thankful for our friends. Good friends are as good as family and I have been given more than my fair share of some really amazing deep friendships. I am thankful for women in my life who can look me in the eye when I'm hiding some sadness or fear and see right through to my heart. I'm thankful for friends who will stop what they are doing and pray for me right then, right now, because it's what I need. I'm thankful for friends who will sit and chat with me, even when they have other things they need to be doing because they know the value of connection and being present. I'm thankful for friends who genuinely care about the details of my life - how long Clara napped, what I'm making for dinner, who I ran into at the grocery store, or my latest idea for some project. I'm so very thankful for friends who hold me accountable and keep me honest. I'm thankful for friends who are deeply present in my life, who make me laugh, and who make me want to be a better friend. These folks know who they are.
* I am thankful for good health. There is not a day that goes by that I am not acutely aware of what a blessing it is and how much we tend to take it for granted. I continue to marvel at how healthy Clara is and will never cease praising God for it. Health is sacred.
* I am thankful for the opportunity to be at home with Clara. Ever since I was a small small child, I dreamed of being a mother. I dreamed of staying at home and filling my days with little ones. For many years, I worried that it was almost an idol, a dream that I should let go of, for fear of being disappointed. Most days, I still cannot believe that I am getting to do this. I have never been happier. I am so thankful for the circumstances that have brought our family to a place where we are able to afford my staying home for now. I am thankful that I love it and that I am getting to be present in almost every one of Clara's moments. Watching her grow and learn and develop and being able to teach my own child in this way is one of the greatest joys I have ever known. It's every bit as good as I imagined it would be when I spent hours playing with my dolls. I delight in watching her, in listening to her, in playing with her, and in soaking up these fleeting moments. Right now, I really truly am living my dream.
I am thankful for our home. I am thankful that we have more than enough food. I am thankful that we have reliable, comfortable transportation. I am thankful for internet. I am thankful for the toys and books that clutter our house. I am thankful for a big beautiful yard, even if it is full of weeds. I'm thankful for the people in our lives that we don't see or talk to or even think about every day, but who have touched our lives and changed us. I am thankful for Robert's job: how good he is at it and how happy it makes him. I am thankful that I'm able to still teach a little and maintain my identity as an educator during a season of being mostly mom. I am thankful for coffee and wine and sweet tea. I'm thankful for music that fills our home during the day and the still, quiet company of Robert in my living room in the evenings. I'm thankful for dishwashers and washing machines. I am thankful for my soft and comfortable bed and the electric blanket on it. I'm thankful for God's new mercies, every single day.
And here, my friends, are some Thanksgiving photos (I know that's why you really came, not to hear me list stuff I'm grateful for).
This is the cutest little turkey you ever did see.
Unfortunately, she is getting over some sort of virus or something and has not been herself at all. This is the face that we saw most of the day.
Who could be so unhappy in a pretty pasture like this?
Her daddy can always put a smile on her face though...
We always go to Covington, GA for Thanksgiving Day. There are often upwards of a hundred Hardys gathered there to eat and fellowship together. We couldn't have been more fortunate with a beautiful outside day. Last year, Clara stayed home since we didn't want her to catch any germs. But this year, we suspended a quarantine to take her along. Most of these folks had not met her yet, and since we knew we'd be able to stay outside, we decided to coat up in hand sanitizer and go for it.
Circling up for the count off (89 this year) and blessing...
Lining up for the feast of food...
And catching up with loved ones...
It was fun to watch Clara playing with some of her extended family and fitting right in with all the other kids. It was one of those many many moments where we stand back and take it in, remembering that we have dreamed and prayed for this moment and weren't sure we'd ever really see it. But here it is. It happened.
And of course, the traditional Thanksgiving oreo.
We were extra thankful to get to introduce Clara to her great great Aunt Mae. Aunt Mae is Clara's namesake. When I was at Thanksgiving two years ago, pregnant, we weren't sure if Clara would ever get to meet her. So blessed for these moments:
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen and Amen.