Thankfulness with less sorrow

We were swimming in the pool mid vacation and Elizabeth came up to me and said, “I’m feeling really, really sad and I don’t know why.”  Very thankful my kids can tell me that even when it’s hard to hear.  “Why are you feeling sad”, I asked?  “I’m really missing midnight” (our kitten that decided to stay at our old farm).  “Honey, I’m so sorry you are sad.  You haven’t even mentioned midnight in a long time so I didn’t know you were thinking so much about him.”  We talked about it some more and it dawned on me.  She had been so excited about our family vacation-saving money, planning our annual family photograph, and anticipating her new umbrella purchase at a local gift shop that she had completely forgotten to work through her feelings before our trip.  Now that she had checked off all of her well thought out plans the feelings of sorrow were right there waiting to come up.  And even though she was playing at the indoor water park before going out for pizza and a movie she was feeling great sorrow.  It was real to her and I could relate.

On the last day of our trip which is also the Thanksgiving holiday I cannot help but think long and hard about the maturity Nathan and I have grown into and the blessings it is having on our family.  We love our annual trip to Indiana, but if I’m honest about my own feelings-each and every trip has been full of anticipation, highs and lows, disappointment and postponed emotions that oftentimes got out of hand.  Let me explain.  We’ve been coming to Bloomington Indiana on vacation for about four years now.  About the same amount of time that we have been throwing our lives upside down with the transition to full time farming.  Like Elizabeth, I would approach our annual vacation with so much unrealistic anticipation that always left me feeling very deep sorrow in moments that should have been full of joy.  For weeks before our trip I would look forward to Nathan and I getting long talks in the car, having the opportunity to talk through all of the  burning desires of my heart, working through every possible scenario that could make our lives better, getting hours and hours to read and reflect, the kids would be perfectly behaved and everything would go exactly as planned.  If you have ever vacationed as a family then you know that’s not how it goes, right?

Oftentimes an argument would happen before we even got out of the driveway.  I would mention a “hint” of what I expected from our three hour car drive and Nathan would look at me exhausted after an hour of trying to fit everything in the van.  My heart would sink and all of the thoughts and feelings (sometimes rational, but often times very irrational)  I had been suppressing over the last couple of weeks would come up to the surface.  “Nathan doesn’t care about me, things aren’t going to work out, I’ll never find my place on our farm, I’ll never get to share my needs”, I would tell myself.  Too many of our vacation drives started with me sitting in silence in the passenger seat and Nathan dreading the moment I spoke up.  Each year it’s gotten better and over the years I’ve learned not to expect so much from a week long vacation.  I’ve allowed myself to work through my feelings as they come and in more appropriate ways.  Nathan has learned to be prepared and ready for our conversations as well as asking me for breaks and silence as he needs it.  We’ve learned to be thankful for our lives and what we “get to do” before the vacation arrives and also include plenty of time during our vacation to talk through how thankful we are for the lives we get to go home to.  We don’t always get it right, but we are able to get back on track more quickly now that we understand what’s happening.

Today I am thankful for that moment with Elizabeth which then became a teaching moment for our entire family.  We were able to talk through what’s really important and how fleeting the joy from purchasing things or individual experiences really is.  We used that time to pray together as a family and offer thanksgiving for the good and bad (which God works out for his good when we allow him to).  I can look back and realize that while we didn’t cherish every moment of our time in this sacred place it has become a place that we always stretch and grow in new ways.  We always return home renewed and ready to take on more as a family that will hopefully bless our community of people we love so much.

All of life can be like that can’t it?  We can be so excited about the next event, vacation, holiday, purchase, relationship, opportunity that we completely ignore what is happening right in front of us.  When what we are anticipating isn’t quite what we expected (and it never is) we are left feeling completely disappointed.  It’s a reminder that we should be realistic about life.  We should work through our feelings with honesty.  We should be thankful, but realistic that life is hard-for everyone, always.  The next thing will not make all of life perfect, but it’s in the imperfection and even the sorrow that we grow and become better versions of ourselves.  Today and always I’m thankful for these beautiful people no matter where we are on our journey.