The holidays are meant to be joyful! Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on blessings throughout the year, and a time to express gratitude to loved ones and to our loving God who blesses us with more than we deserve or comprehend. So if that's true, then why does it simultaneously seem like the holidays are a time of mourning and grief for so many individuals who have suffered a loss of some sort? Why does a heavy heart often creep into our celebrations and merriness?
Suffering is a universal concept. We've all experienced loss in it's many relentless forms:
The loss of a job or an opportunity.
The loss of a loved one through death.
The loss of a loved one through betrayal, or simply the choice they made to leave.
The loss of health and therefore, quality of life.
The loss of hope that there is happiness and joy in the future.
At times the amount of loss in life seems unfair and insufferable.
The holidays are the time when it seem like our losses should return and magically reappear so the holes in our hearts can be filled for that short period of time when we're "supposed to be joyful." I often find myself wishing for the holes in my heart to be filled once more just for the holiday season... but life doesn't work like that. Instead we must find a way to fill those holes with new reasons to rejoice. This year I've found that obtaining a thankful heart might just be a tool in our toolbox to finding joy despite our grieving hearts or pained bodies.
When I was at my darkest place in my illness, I didn't believe that gratitude could change anything, and I often went about my day filled with bitterness and resent for people who were blessed to live their lives pain-free. Being thankful for what I have would do absolutely nothing in relieving my physical pain, so why should I try so hard when I felt I had nothing to be thankful for? Why should I try so hard now when my past pains often burden my heart in a way that seems unbearable in the moment? Gratitude will not take the PTSD from my nerves and mind. Gratitude won't make my heart any less heavy. Gratitude won't take my past or future flares from occurring. So does it matter at all?
The answer is yes! Practicing and expressing an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving changes you. Allowing thankfulness to envelop your heart and senses can be the difference between having a happy holiday and having a hollow holiday. Will it relieve all of the pain from the injustices of life? Of course not, but it will take the edge off in a way that gives you the power to endure the pain, and endure it well. A thankful heart often reminds us that there's always a reason to keep going, even if your circumstances are less than desirable.
With that said, there will always be times when gratitude will seem unreachable.
I didn't feel thankful during my panic attack today.
I didn't feel thankful during my endometriosis two weeks ago.
I didn't feel thankful when my heart pinched with pain when I was reminded of the loss of someone I love on Thanksgiving Day.
So what? Do we throw the towel in and quit? NO! We recognize that we're not always going to be happy, and allow ourselves to feel our pain. We then get up and trek onward with hope in our hearts for a better future and faith that God will give us the strength to endure. And when we feel like we can't even do that, we plead with our loving God and lean on His strength and gratitude until we can find it in ourselves. God is waiting to help us hold our burdens, we simply have to ask to put it in His hands for a time.
I'm not going to pretend to be the expert on gratitude. I'm not. But I invite you to take time to write five things you're thankful for everyday. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. I never knew I had so many things to smile about until I took a little time everyday to be thankful. Even if you can only find gratitude for the chair that you are sitting in, it is more than some people have. So take time to feel and express gratitude. It may not take your pain, but it will transform your pain into something beautiful.
This year I'm thankful that the years past are over and that I don't have to live in that consistent darkness anymore. I'm thankful for the health I do have. I'm thankful for the people I've lost so that God can heal and open my heart to new people that I can love. I'm thankful for life, breath, and hope that my Savior, Jesus Christ, instills in my heart if I allow Him too. There's always something to be thankful for... we simply have to take time to see it.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Chronically Beautiful people! I hope that despite the trials and tribulations we've been through this year, we can find something to be grateful for! I love this time of year because even if my body aches, my heart can manage to be full because I know that I'm incredibly blessed.
This Thanksgiving feels like a huge milestone for me. This time last year I had just come home from college, I had lost twenty pounds, I had a rash all over my face, and my hair was falling out! It was the beginning of a long hard road that I'm still on! I remember last Thanksgiving I couldn't eat meat, gluten, or dairy. This year I'm grateful for the many miles that I've come in this Lyme journey, and I'm grateful for the beautiful, organic, refined sugar-free meal that my family is going to sit down to. I've come so far, and I'm grateful for that.
Every year around this time I like to make list of things I'm grateful for. Last year I didn't make that list, and so now I'm going to make up for it.
Things I'm Grateful for this Year:
1. My Heavenly Father who loves me and blesses me and provides me with the strength and power I need to keep going.
2. My Savior who died and suffered for me so I'm not alone in my suffering and so I personally can repent and progress in life.
3. The Holy Ghost who is my constant companion so I can know God's will for me, and so I can feel peace during dark times.
4. The Prophet on the earth who guides and receives revelation for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
5. Joseph Smith and his strength. For without him, I would not have this beautiful gospel in my life.
6. The scriptures that hold so many precious truths that help guide my life and give me peace and wisdom as I read and study.
7. Prayer and the opportunity I have to talk to my Heavenly Father all the time.
11. The light of the gospel in my life.
12. My parents, best friends, and caretakers. (Bob and Leanne Dalton) I love and respect them so much!
13. My siblings.
14. My close friends.
15. People who have come into my life and left hand-prints on my heart.
16. My family. (Including members who have passed on. I will see them in the eternities).
17. Healing (in every aspect of the word).
18. Knowledge and Wisdom
19. Lyme Disease (I never thought I would say that but I've learned so much and my pain is worth it if I developed the knowledge and compassion along the way to help others who are suffering.)
20. Chronically Beautiful (my blog).
23. American Heritage School
25. Baking and cooking and the stress relief that they give me
26. Opportunities to serve others.
27. My heart
28. My mind
29. The body that God blessed me with. (Even though I hate it sometimes, I can't be on earth without it, so I'll take the cards I’m given).
30. My life.
31. Every breathe I take even if some breathes are heavy and exhausted.
32. Tender Mercies from God
33. My Spirit
34. I'm grateful for me. (There was a time that I would never say that. But now I know: I'm God's daughter. He created me so I should be grateful for that).
35. My home which is my sanctuary, my place of safety and love.
36. My goats (especially Miracle)
37. My dog. (She really brings me a lot of relief when things are hard)
38. The things that God has blessed my family with to heal from this horrible disease.
39. Little moments that I'll never forget.
40. The 10 commandments
41. God's principles and laws that help me choose right from wrong.
42. My agency.
44. Colors (I love colors!! Especially pink!)
50. Natural Beauty
53. My future eternal companion (whoever he may be)
54. My future children
55. Hard Work
56. Courage and strength that God gives me.
60. Laughter (especially when things are hard).
61. Crying (sometimes a good cry is just really refreshing).
62. The Temple
63. Humbling Experiences
65. Wise people
67. Our Country (The United States of America)
70. The Atonement
72. Everything virtuous, lovely, or good report, or praiseworthy.
73. Everything that God has blessed me with, and continues to bless me with, and will bless me with in the future.
Despite my trials, I truly believe that there is much to be grateful for. Here's to a Happy Thanksgiving! And a Happy Holidays! Wishing you all the best!
One thing I truly love about writing is that I get to be completely real. We all have struggles and trials in our lives, and yet we cease to talk about them. We paste on a fake smile and play the tough guy while inside we're falling apart. Well my writing is my safe zone to be real. No fake smiles, no masks, no reminiscence of a barbie doll, and no sugar coating. Just me and my inner most thoughts and feelings; imperfections and all. Sometimes coping isn't possible if you can't get your thoughts and feelings straight, and I suppose that this is my way of saying "Hey, I'm real. I'm a human being. No, I don't look perfect right now. Yes I'm in pain right now. And yes, I did just spend my entire day in bed because of my chronic illness and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that."
With that said, I'm going to be completely real with you now. The holidays are not easy. They never have been. Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas, and I acknowledge the most important parts of the holidays. But even then, there are some days that I'm in too much emotional and physical pain to care about the holiday season at all. Two Christmases ago, my mother was so sick that she could barely get out of bed to spend Christmas morning with us. Since then it feels like the domino effect has taken place in my home and family life. Just one thing after another. What do I have to be thankful for when I don't even really have the strength or motivation to get out of bed on some mornings? How do I put the happy into the holidays when knives are stabbing me in the stomach and my legs feel like they're going to give out at any moment? Where's the merry in Christmas when I'd rather do anything but lie in pain, but my chronic fatigue rather have me lay in bed. I was doing so much better for a couple of weeks, and then it's almost as if my Lyme got bored and decided to torture me for its own sick joy.
A few nights ago I lay on my floor, wincing in pain, and praying for some relief. The tears burned down my smeared face and discouragement flooded my mind and heart. All I wanted was a form of rest at that moment. With Chronic illness sleep (if you can obtain it) is your best friend. Your brief escape. Your peace of mind for the time being. I'm so grateful that even despite all the pain I feel, I'm still able to sleep soundly and forget my agony for a small moment. And with that, there are so many more small moments in life that I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of.
Coping with chronic illness is all about looking to the small moments. I'm so grateful for my family and close friends that I have that bless me with those small memories of joy during a hard time in my life. Life is not all bliss, but seeing the bright side of even the smallest things will bring just enough light into life to make it through the day. So to all that are struggling through the holidays, (or anytime of the year in that case) you're not alone. You're loved, and I pray that every small moment of joy will flood your heart which in turn will allow sorrow to flee from your mind. Look to the little bits of joy that life brings. It's those things that will get you through your hardest times. I hope your holiday season to be full of love, and I hope we can all find Christ in Christmas. I wish you enough strength to get through the holiday season. Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas.