On gratitude

There’s plenty of fuel out there for writing material right now. As I’m sure you’re well aware, there are serious global issues happening, all of which are far more interesting and pertinent than my own little life – but whether or not I hold strong opinions on such matters as have been all over the news of late, I don’t think I can do justice to any of them.

So right now I’m just going to share what I can talk about with confidence – my own experience. And in doing so I hope (as usual) that some will find it encouraging. I probably sound like a stuck record! But I guess that’s why this blog exists.

It’s been an interesting and certainly a difficult year for me, but to have now finished an important phase of my life and have the time to stop and look back has been kind of amazing, as I can see in how many ways and for how many things I can be thankful.

I’m going to share some of them with you partly as a way to simply remind myself of what God has done for me (because I can be quite a moany person!), and also because if you often read my blog, you’ll have seen in previous posts how I struggled in the midst of some difficult months. Now, I’m writing from the perspective of having come through that period (or ‘season’ if you speak Christianese 😉 ), with a clarity afforded only by hindsight, and I hope my words reflect the sense of joy and gratitude that I now feel. It feels fitting to show you the other side of the coin before I return to wider themes.

So what am I thankful for?

To start with, I got a degree in something I truly loved. That’s an enormous privilege and no matter whether or not my subject knowledge will factor into my future career/s, I wouldn’t regret my subject choice for a moment! And instead of never wanting to see a book again, I love reading as much as ever.

To add to that – I’m thankful for doing better academically than I had anticipated. For seeing how much my skills improved over the four years I was studying, and getting grades to reflect that. In fact, I look back over the year and honestly it’s kind of a miracle that I even met my deadlines at times.

I’m thankful for grace. There were points during the past year where I didn’t even want to hear from God. I was too afraid of being told things I didn’t want to confront. I didn’t always make the wisest choices, and realisation of that brought me some shame, yet I see how faithful God was to me throughout. I am forgiven. I am valued, and He misses nothing. In recent months that has become even more apparent. Through people, I was shown a huge amount of grace and kindness. Through the smiles of strangers’ children on the street I was shown God’s vast affection; through a perfect sunset that I witnessed alone in a field one evening, I was reminded of His extravagant goodness. Yeah, I know – these sound like small things. But they always came at exactly the right time and for that reason they were absolutely significant.

I’m thankful for friendship. For the blessing of being with friends this year with whom I have shared my soul – for whom no topic is off limits for discussion, who laugh and cry with me, who comprehend and appreciate the more complicated layers of myself that I often felt I had to protect in the past. To know that these friendships have been mutually vital; that we carried one another through some really rough points…. Seeing that now, as I look back over the past six months or so, I recognize how significant this is. To those dear friends who are reading this, thank you. You kept me sane. Also, you guys are fun and I like to eat and drink wine with you 😀

And to continue in this vein, I’m thankful for friendships that have been formed and/or lasted regardless of distance or culture or age.

Thankful for hearing good news from people around me and being able to celebrate their successes and joys, just as I have, at other moments, shared in their trials and their losses.

Thankful for the restoration of things I thought I had lost. Again, grace. Reconciliation of a friendship that I thought irretrievable. The restoration of joy where there had been sadness. Hope where there had been self-doubt and skepticism.

For strength that has come with endurance. Through experiencing suffering I have better understood Jesus. Through witnessing the pain of others I have better understood love.

For things to look forward to… and mostly, perhaps, that I feel like myself again.

As it is so often said, ‘this too shall pass’…

Much love.