This is the first Thanksgiving that I can remember EVER that I haven't been home with my family. Last year's Thanksgiving trip home was a welcome relief from the overall shock of my introduction to the quaint town of Kirksville (which I am love with now...) But with all the extra bills and expenses that have come up and all the looming expenses of the move next year, we found it prudent to try Thanksgiving out on our own this year. I was okay with the idea until this morning when I woke up to the reality that for the first time in my life this little home-body would not be home for Thanksgiving, surrounded by the family and friends who I've spent my life loving.
Luckily we have a great group of friends here in the Ville' who are in similar situations. We are all going to come together for a fabulous Thanksgiving feast at the chapel this afternoon. I'm really excited about it. Every year as a tradition my mom places five kernels of corn at each place setting, and before we feast, we each go around the table and state the things that we are grateful for. I am aware that trying to get the large group of people to wait quietly and listen today as we each take a go at stating the things we are grateful for is a sheer impossibility, so I thought I would take this opportunity to list the things that I am most grateful for.
1. I am grateful so much to know who I am, where I came from, and where I am going. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows me perfectly and an omnipotent Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life so that I can live with Him eternally one day.
2. I am grateful for a living prophet, President Hinckly. I am so grateful for his inspired vision, leadership, and direction. I am grateful for his emphasis on the building and attending of temples, and the fact that I know that my family can be forever because of the covenants we are able to make in these sacred temples. I am grateful that under Pres. Hinckley's inspired vision the Nauvoo temple was rebuilt, and that I now have the opportunity to live just two hours away from it so we can attend it often and feel of the peace that is there as a welcome refuge from the world. I am grateful for President Hinckly's inspired words in General Conference this past October. His words on anger and forgiveness have found a welcome place in my troubled heart as of late, and I feel that his words were meant just for me (http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-775-23,00.html). I love him and am grateful for all the sacrifices he has made to lead and guide us today.
3. I am grateful for my sweet Andrew. We were married for time and all eternity in the Idaho Falls Temple August 15, 2002. Five years later, I am more sure than I've ever been that the choice I made to marry him and live the life we are living is the best thing that I have ever done. He completes me and makes me whole. Like two puzzle pieces, we are so very different, but we compliment each other perfectly and I am so grateful to my loving Heavenly Father for giving me him forever. He is so patient- so kind- such a hard worker- such a great friend- such a perfect father. I admire him, respect him, and love him so much. Everyone who knows Andrew loves him-- for good reason-- he is sincerely the nicest most genuine person I have ever known and I learn so much from him every day.
4. I am so grateful to be a mother who knows (http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-775-27,00.html) . I am so grateful for my three little angels. They are mine and Andrew's everything and we feel so blessed to be the shepherds of their precious spirits. Being their mother is the hardest, most challenging thing I've ever done. I've never felt so unfit for a challenge as I have down this road. This is not because my kids are not model children-- in spite of my feeble attempts-- they really are. But I find myself so often completely baffled at the complexity of the job of motherhood. It is so challenging, but SO rewarding and I am so grateful for the guidance of the spirit to lead, guide, and direct me down this road.
5. I am grateful for my sweet Noah. He is the smartest little friend I've ever had. At four years old, he has such a firm grasp on the complexities of the universe and daily teaches me the simple truths that adults the world over struggle to comprehend. When the specialists marveled at the healing of our Benjamin's little heart this spring, it was Noah who bravely told them that what they could not understand was a gift from God. "He heard my prayers and He answered them", he matter-of-factly told our baffled doctors. Just the other day when I was a little bummed after Andrew left for another long night of studying, it was Noah who perceptively came and pulled his chair up to the sink where I was washing the dishes. "You know mom", he said, "it's a good thing that we have each other forever because it makes me feel less sad when daddy leaves." Wow-- where did he learn that? Just this last Monday was a stressful day for our little family. My sweet grandmother had heart surgery, my uncle was having a brain tumor operated on, and my brother in law was getting his tonsils out. With so much to think about, I found myself a little distracted during the day. While reading nap time stories with my kids, I had paused for a moment to think. Noah put his hand on mine and sweetly asked, "Hey mom, are you worried about our big day"? I told him that I was a little worried, but mostly I just had faith. "That's good," said my little four year old, "because faith means hope and hope is such a happy thing, isn't it mom!" He then gave my hand a squeeze and turned over to go to sleep. I love him so much and I am so grateful to my God for sending precious Noah to me. His is my helper, my friend, my little ball of energy. I feel so blessed to be his mother, and so honored to be his friend.
6. I am so grateful for my precious little Emmaline. She is so tiny, so petite, but she is bursting with energy and attitude and she keeps this mama in line. She is so kind and sincere, but she is also a force to reckon with. She is my little artist as of late and makes the most interesting little pieces of art wherever she is. My couch was the most recent addition to her list of masterpieces. She is very perceptive and can instinctively tell when something she has done doesn't please me. She is lucky that she is so darn cute because she most often gets me from ready to kill her to ready to hug her with a sweet smile and her high-pitched "sorry mommy". She is the sweetest little pixie of a child and I am so grateful that she is mine-- ruined couch and all.
7. I am without adequate words to express the incredible amount of gratitude I feel in my heart for the opportunity to have my little Benjamin in my home to hold and to love whenever I want to. Andrew often warns me that I am spoiling him- and I know that it is true. But I honestly have no way of resisting his sweet smile or his adorable cry. Watching him completely helpless during his first weeks of life-- unable to hold or to comfort him-- was the hardest thing I've ever done. But he made it--we made it-- and I am so grateful every day to be his mother. Although I never thought I would say it-- I am grateful that I had the chance to slow down and really think about what mattered most to be during the time he was sick. Although I would still do anything to take away the pain he was in, I am immeasurably grateful for the ability I have to be his mother. The simple pleasures-- from changing his diaper to rocking him to sleep-- are so much more intense for me because I felt the anguish of facing the fact that all of that could have been lost so easily. I find myself at night grateful to be picking up behind my children, because the messy playroom means that they had been there, happy and playing. I know it sounds corny, but I am so grateful for the health and well being of my babies, and I am grateful for the opportunity I had this year to let my heart become more susceptible to feelings of thanks and gratitude for the gift of motherhood and all it entails.
8. I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon. It is the most incredible book I have ever read. As I read it daily, peace fills my life. Things that seemed big and overwhelming become small and manageable. Things come into perspective. I learn more and more and grow each time I read it. This book truly is another testament that Jesus Christ lives. Hand in hand with the Bible it shows the way to live a good life now so that one day when this life is just a distant memory-- we can meet our Savior face to face and he can say, "well done". Until that day I will continue to read from its sweet passages. It is real, it is true, and I am so grateful that it is mine. If you have never read this book, I highly recommend it. You can get a free copy at http://www.mormon.org/mormonorg/eng/basic-beliefs/the-restoration-of-truth/the-book-of-mormon
There are so many more things that I am grateful for. I am grateful for my family: my mother and father, my sisters and brothers, my incredible extended family. I am grateful for my amazing friends... from Idaho, from BYU, from BYU-I, from Axiom and Covey, and from here in Kirksville. God has blessed me to live a life constantly surrounded by people who I love and I am so grateful to Him every day for this incredible gift. I am grateful for my home, for my many belongings, for a car that runs, for wonderful neighbors and for incredible opportunities. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to serve and to share. I love being the children's music leader in my church. It is one of the funnest, most fulfilling things I've ever done. I love the children so much and I feel so grateful to teach them every week. I am thankful for music. I am thankful for good books and good magazines. I am thankful for my computer and for the internet. I am thankful for energy- for heat, for plumbing, and for a crock pot and freezer. I am thankful for my Cocoa Latte machine and think I would be utterly lost without it. I am thankful for ice water, diet Pepsi, caramel chocolate, vanilla bean gelato, Grandma Harper's chocolate chippers, and Grandma Harding's creamy rice pudding. I am thankful for steak and potatoes. I am thankful for bleach. I am thankful for my Franklin. I am thankful for Muji pens. I am thankful for my camera and thankful for vacations. I could go on and on forever (those of you who know me best know how sadly true this is...)
I am grateful for my life. I thank God for each and every moment He had given me to live on His beautiful earth, and I pray that I will live to love and to serve until the day when Christ comes again. I know that as the prophets have testified, He will come again to reign personally on this earth, and I pray that I will be here to be a part of that wonderful, blessed day when all the hate and envy and strife will cease and we call all live again in peace and love. I am so grateful. My heart feels like it could burst.
I am thankful for a mother who has taught me to be truly grateful for the things I have; to use my possessions and my talents to be better. It is because of her that I am so full of gratitude today, and I will love her forever for her wisdom and her love. Thank you mom. I know it will be hard, but try to have fun without me!