I am 34 today.
Thirty-three was interesting, to say the least. Totally wonderful in many ways and incredibly painful in others.
It was the first full year that I had to experience life without my mom, and that has been shockingly painful. Grief has been a surprise in every way. I'm surprised at how deeply it has changed my understanding of life and death and salvation and heaven and the gift of every minute. I'm surprised at how much I need friends to ask me about my mom so that I have an outlet to talk about her. I'm surprised at how real and almost tangible Heaven has become to me now that my mom is there. I'm surprised at how even as an adult, I still really need a mom.
I'm surprised at how quickly the "freight-train" of grief can come out of no where (usually while I'm out running, where I have time to hear my own thoughts) and hit me so hard that it literally knocks my breath out of me and leaves me gasping and crying at the same time. I'm surprised at how much my girls talk about her. I'm surprised about how physical grief is, and how it actually hurts.
I'm surprised at how frequently I think, "Mom would know..." or "I need to call my mom..." or "If only I could ask my mom..." or "My mom would love this..." or "My mom would do this..." or "My mom would totally disagree with this..." or "Oh if I could hear my mom giggle over this..." or "Oh my goodness how am I going to make it through today, I need my mom."
Thirty-three was a year when Paul and I were almost daily overwhelmed at home with the constant chaos and constant needs of four young children. Thirty-three was a year filled with turmoil in our church that has been painful for all of us. Thirty-three was a year when our finances became tighter than ever and we've had to learn the joy of being content with less.
But thirty-three was also a year of great joy. Tremendous joy at times.
We have grown into being a family of six this year. We became a family of six as I neared the end of 32, but let's face it...it took awhile for us to grow into it. Those first few months were a blur. Now we've embraced it. Now it fits us. It's who we are. And we love it. It's not easy. In fact, hardly any minutes in our house can be described as "easy." But it's so good. Tremendous, actually. That baby's laugh is tremendous. That boy's concentration on his fire truck is tremendous. That girl's pure delight in all things colorful is tremendous. That girl's heart of generosity and kindness is tremendous. They are tremendous.
In year thirty-three, we took a few family trips filled with total chaos, but they left us with precious memories.
In year thirty-three, Paul and I, desperately needing to have each other's back this year, have grown in our love and appreciation for one another. He has walked every step of my grief with me, and we have shared every joy, and that's a beautiful thing.
Thirty-three was the year that we decided enough is enough and our family needs me to be home. Full-time. For the first time ever. So I'm home. Everyday. And at the end of every day, the blessings and laughter have outweighed the difficulty. So I'll take it. I wouldn't miss these moments and minutes and hours and days for anything in the world.
So tremendous grief and tremendous joy. What a year.
And now 34. It's almost a little nerve-wracking to think what might it hold. So, rather, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to ponder for a minute, just a glimpse at things I'm thankful for on this day as I turn 34.
So...my list of 34 Thanks I'd like to give:
1. I'm thankful for Jesus and the salvation He has given to me.
2. I'm thankful for the reality of heaven.
3. I'm thankful for my husband. You rock Paul Meidinger.
4. I'm thankful for my children.
5. I'm thankful for my 32 1/2 years with my Mom.
6. I'm thankful for all the siblings that have made Paul's and my life full and rich.
7. I'm thankful for my Dad and his new bride Sue, for the tractor rides when we go to the farm and for their frequent visits to Fargo.
8. I'm thankful for Paul's parents who frequently invite us over for delicious meals, fellowship, and Grandpa & Grandma time.
9. I'm thankful for my warm spacious home and food on my table every day.
10. I'm thankful for a husband who loves to bring home the bacon and sincerely wants me to stay home with our kiddos and is happy to make the "sacrifices" it takes (which, as we all know, aren't really sacrifices anyway).
11. I'm thankful that summer is hot and that it WILL come again.
12. I'm thankful for the new hot pink flannel pj's that the girlies told Daddy to buy me for my birthday.
13. I'm thankful that my husband FINALLY at age 36 started drinking coffee (4 KIDS!) so now I have someone to drink coffee with.
14. I'm thankful that today Gregory asked me to play hide & seek with him and I got to hear him squeal every time he couldn't handle it any longer and he HAD to show me where he was.
15. I'm thankful that my girls love reading chapter books with me and I get to discover new adventures with them through the pages of so many great books.
16. I'm thankful for my friends that called me or showed up at my doorstep today with hugs and flowers and treats for my birthday. You know who you are. You meant the world to me today.
17. I'm thankful for my group of girlfriends that has been drinking coffee together on Thursday nights for a decade now. Would I even know how to be a wife or mom without you?
18. I'm thankful for the mocha swirl coffee that my husband bought yesterday. Whoa. Makes me excited for morning.
19. I'm thankful for the "intense dark" Ghiradelli candy bar my husband bought me to go with my mocha swirl coffee. Does the man love me or what?
20. I'm thankful for the Art Wall I'm staring at as I make this thankful list. I am so amazed at my children's ability to express their thoughts with a paintbrush in hand.
21. I'm thankful for an excellent school that Evelyn loves going to and good teachers and good friends.
22. I'm thankful for Lily's preschool that she absolutely delights in.
23. I'm thankful for the children's Bible on the kitchen table that completes our dinner each evening as we read together.
24. I'm thankful for my Mom's Christmas dishes in my cupboard and her quilts around my house. As my heart aches for her, I'm so thankful for each piece of her I get to keep.
25. I'm thankful for the new jeans I'm wearing. A sweet and generous friend gifted me a gift card to my favorite store and these are the most comfortable jeans I've ever owned. You know who you are too. You are completely wonderful.
26. I'm thankful for our neighborhood - the families, the children, the playgrounds, the pond, the geese, the bikepaths.
27. I'm thankful that God has called me to a speaking & teaching ministry that excites me and challenges me.
28. I'm thankful for a garage that is overflowing with bikes and wagons and strollers and that our family is healthy and capable to use it all.
29. I'm thankful that God healed my daughter of her hip disorder, and for the fabulous doctors and therapists that walked that journey with us.
30. I'm thankful for the way Griffin sings along with me when I sing to him at bedtime. He melts me every day.
31. I'm thankful that each of my children is so vibrant and full of life and headstrong (where did they get that?) and loves Jesus.
32. I'm thankful for the new mercies that God showers down on me every single morning.
33. I'm thankful that I grew up on a farm. I wasn't a fan of it then, but I am so so grateful that we have a farm to go home to now.
34. I'm thankful for today.