Since my family's favorite holiday traditions of nagging and guilt have already started, I wanted to share my thoughts on gratitude now - while I still feel somewhat friendly and sentimental.
If I've learned anything in the last few years, it's that blessings are everywhere, even if they aren't always obvious. Sometimes what seems like missed opportunity is actually redirection towards something so much better. Sometimes, God slams a door shut because we are not smart enough to close it on our own.
There was a time when I thought my life would never be good, because it could never be what I wanted. I tried feeling sorry for myself - turns out, that doesn't really work. So I set out to make the best of what I could with what I had left. It didn't work right away, and at times I got discouraged. What I came to realize was that time wasn't being wasted - it just takes a long time and a lot of patience to build an amazing life full of joy and hope.
When I think about where I was even a year ago, I realize that if I had gotten everything I thought I wanted, I would have missed out on something so much better.
Sometimes, the most painful lessons are the biggest blessings. We have to hurt to understand what we really need. We have to go through loss to find what really matters. We have to be forced to change to figure out what we were doing wrong. But once you accept those lessons and open your heart to the possibility that you don't know everything... wonderful, amazing things happen.
This year, when asked why I am thankful, my answer will be:
I am thankful that God helped me see what I was doing wrong. I am thankful that He gave me friends who could help me navigate the loss, and make the changes I needed. But most of all, I am so very thankful that He slammed that door shut.