thanksgiving + grief + surprise joy

the first thanksgiving without Nana.
1) i've been doing she reads truth, & thanksgiving i went back to this devo b/c it so richly and beautifully freed me to be authentic yet hopeful. 
2) little man shared my quiet space {heart melt}
3) chasing "auntie b" and "auntie m"
4) Nana's thanksgiving plates --in the words of grandpa "she would be just tickled to see them used!"
5) Isaiah 9:2

i was dreading this day. ya know, the kind of dread that sits in your stomach like nausea. the kind of headache that comes from refusing to be human & cry. last thanksgiving was strange enough...we had a smaller feast at her house, even though she was too sick to eat anything. because that's what she wanted. there was an ache behind all of it--but also a gratitude for every moment spent with her. for every breath without pain, every wakeful moment of memories & jokes & the many ways we found to say "i love you".
this year was going to just. suck. raw & miserable & forced cheer & eye makeup to prevent bathroom meltdowns. that's what i thought, anyway. i've been around this track 4 times now. lot of practice with faking-happy-holidays.

and somehow, the first holiday season after losing somebody dear is always a reminder of how permanently finally horrid death feels.

i didn't want to fake it. i woke up that morning deciding it was ok if i couldn't stomach all the gratefulness for little things that seem trite when people you love are forever missing from the photos. i was ok with just being thankful that death is NOT permanent.
but that isn't how it happened. joy snuck in and gratitude followed, creating a warmth i want to hold close in the fading light to come.
we had invited some family friends over who were also having a tough holiday season. their daughter (and my dear friend) went into labor thanksgiving morning. we were given the gift of her littles for the day--turning it into a delight! having a 5 and 3 year old with us lightened the entire atmosphere. they gave us all something outside ourselves to focus on. real reasons to smile, laughter that wasn't forced. they were a breath of fresh air--living, sparkling, abounding-with-energy air. so different from the stale, heavy, draining air of grief. even my grandfather laughed at their antics.
these children probably won't remember much about the thanksgiving they spent with us. but i will. it gave me something to be truly grateful for. it was a gift from my Father, in a season where any hope has been meager and hard-won.

this thanksgiving, i am grateful for life. toddlers. hope in unexpected places. God giving us a brief reprieve, a reminder that He *does* see, He *does* know our needs.

((also, this blog post about grief + thanksgiving is wonderfully real and beautiful))

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