A GRACE FILLED JOURNEY • Being Grateful In All Circumstances

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As we get ready to turn the calendar to November, it reminds me that many on social media use the month to post something they are thankful for each day.

It’s always such a bright spot reading such positive posts and thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for.

But I must admit, there are times it’s been tough to be grateful this year. It feels like so many “normal” things have been taken away and it’s often easy to focus on what we haven’t been able to do, rather than the opportunities we have been given.

I turned 40 this year along with several of my friends, and was planning a get together weekend with both some high school and college friends to celebrate. I haven’t seen my college roommate since her wedding, and Grace was just a baby!  I was so looking forward to some time to catch up face to face and enjoy reliving some old times.

But a global pandemic made travel plans tough. And those get togethers haven’t happened. We are still hopeful they might in the coming year or two, but for now, we’ve used the time to reconnect anyways. On my birthday, my college friends and I had a FaceTime chat on our phones, and I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. We also keep up with each other in group texts almost every week, which is more than we ever kept in touch in years past. One of us will start a text to check in on the others, and it gives us a chance to share how our week has gone and be there for one another. So, even though I didn’t get to have the celebration that I hoped for, I still got to keep some really great friendships.

Another really bright spot in the pandemic is near weekly phone calls with my brother. Before March, life kept both of us pretty busy with our respective lives, and we didn’t often make time to check in. Since March, we have talked on the phone many weekends, and I have loved it. I haven’t gotten to see my brother in person since last Christmas, but it sure has been fun to chat. My favorite phone call was a video chat with him when Charley showed him all her princess figures and sang him the song that goes with each one. She couldn’t wait to talk to him on the phone again.

And speaking of Charley, I have worried about her a lot this year. Even before the pandemic, we stuck pretty close to home because Grace’s condition continues to regress. But we still tried to find opportunities for Charley to have some things of her own.

This year made that tough because we kept our circle pretty tight, mostly family, and a few friends, if we could gather outside.

Thank goodness for Kyle’s cousins in Raymond who have a wonderful pool, and an even bigger love for my girls, for inviting us over this summer. It was a great way to spend hot, summer days, knowing that the girls were safe too with only a small gathering. Her abilities in the pool grew so much this summer, and if it weren’t for the pandemic, I’m not sure we would have made time to swim as many days as we did.

But as summer turned to fall, our swimming days ended and we turned our focus to Charley being able to start preschool. At just three, that first day of school is such an exciting rite of passage. Only it wasn’t meant to be. We decided that in doing our best to keep Grace safe, we would keep Charley home from school, just as an extra precaution.

Charley’s never been to school, so in all honesty, she doesn’t really know what she’s missing out on, although she desperately wants some little friends. I took her to the playground at Beckemeyer one night after dinner, and she knows I will only let her play on the equipment if there aren’t any other kids around. The back half was rather crowded, so we stuck to the red slide in the front, chased each other on the bridge and down the slide. But it wasn’t long before she noticed the kids on the equipment in the back. She started crying and when I asked her what was wrong, she looked at me and said, “I will never have any friends, mommy.” At that point I’m not sure who was sadder.

But I know this won’t last forever. Charley will get to go to school, even if it’s next year. She will make lots of friends. I will have a chance to see old friends again, and even go on a date with Kyle outside our home.

There’s no doubt this year has been tough on all of us. We have all had to give up doing things we love and being with people we care about. I imagine Thanksgiving will look different in my family this year, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be great.

We can look at 2020 as a year of missed opportunities, or we can take the chance to change our focus, and be grateful for the chances we do have. This year, we’ve had more time to spend together than ever before. We planned movie nights at home, went on “bear hunts” in the back yard and had picnics on the patio. Maybe it’s not what we would always pick, but it’s sure been a lot of fun.

Before we close out the strange year of 2020, let’s remember to count all the blessings the year has brought.

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