With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, I thought it would be fun to share some things I am thankful for here lately. As a flawed human I slip into modes where it becomes easy and almost second nature to be filled with fear or worry or focus on the negative. We do live in a broken world and do life alongside imperfect people. Life changes, presidents change, jobs change... all in all plenty of reasons to be uncertain about our present circumstances. However, when my heart is filled with gratitude and thanksgiving, I start to notice all the little gifts around me and the common grace of God in my life.
Recently I taught on the topic of gratitude to the women in my Survivor Support Group. These women have been through hell and back and have overcome the most horrific of circumstances. They could each share histories of abuse, violence, and other unspeakable things they experienced as someone who has been sexually exploited, prostituted and lived life on the streets. I was amazed when after my lesson they recounted so many things, even difficult things, they were thankful for. I was humbled by their answers and started thinking about a few of my own. So I thought I'd share them "out loud" as a way of practicing gratitude in the hopes that in doing so a little bit of worry and fear would fall to the wayside, and I can simply appreciate all that God has done!
1. Slow living - This may seem silly but I am slowwww person. Just ask my husband. Sloths are for sure my spirit animal. My life, by nature, is pretty fast-paced and I am going from one thing to the next or passing the parenting baton to Jamey so I can stay on top of my daily tasks and to-do-lists. However, this is not how I prefer to do anything. I like to take my sweet time- no matter what the task. I prefer to use up a whole day folding laundry while listening to a podcast and making muffins, rather than to "get it over with quickly" and move on. Life is better when I can take a leisurely shower, or better yet a bath, and blow dry my hair in sections, while trying on more than one outfit and hopefully sipping a glass of wine. My husband can testify to my preferred slowness. A million miles an hour is usually my pace though. So I really enjoyed this past Thanksgiving. I was hosting for the first time and had two dishes to make but I threw in a homemade peach pie and a spiced mulled wine just for funzies. BECAUSE I HAD THE TIME. So glorious. I spent almost an entire day organizing the table, adding little touches here and there as I saw fit. Since it was a complete DIY project that means lots of cutting, taping, fake hand lettering (I'm not that good but I like to try), all at a snail's pace. Thanksgiving day was more slow cooking, stirring, candle lighting, parade-watching and taste-testing! So if I could live all of life taking hours upon hours getting ready, cooking and cleaning, I would be the happiest girl alive. (I would also probably be out of a job and drive my husband crazy, but a slow Saturday here and there will suffice).
2. My NET staff - These people are the heart and soul of The NET. I could not do what I do without them. In fact, they are how I am able to have a family and still run a nonprofit. I somehow lucked out by hiring the best of the best. They are loyal, smart, innovative, funny, gracious, driven, organized, good at caring for people in need, and some of my best friends. They make me look better at my job than I actually am. They carry the weight of our little ragtag organization and find joy in their God-given roles. They trust God in order to work at The NET, and if I could tell each of their "faith stories" of how they stepped out and obeyed God despite circumstances, I would bawl my eyes out. They are my people, and I love them more than I could share on a blog post.
3. My neighborhood - I stinkin' love where I live. For anyone who has known me for any amount of time, it is no secret that I am a big city girl. I used to refer to Fort Worth as a small country town, and when I moved here it sort of felt like that. This was pre-West 7th, pre-Magnolia, and in 2007 the new spot in town was Montgomery Plaza! When I moved to Fort Worth, it was on the premise that we could one day move to Austin. A few years into marriage when Jamey was on tour, I would go visit Austin on the weekends trying to conjure up a way to work for or start my own nonprofit there. I loved the feel and energy of a big city, and its always my preferred vacation. I don't mind a beach or the mountains, but fun to me is going to New York or LA and soaking up the lights, diversity, smells, events, and energy of a city filled with people following their dreams! So five years ago when Jamey and I started visiting Magnolia and strolling through the houses in Fairmount, I thought to myself for the first time, "Now this is a place I could call home!" A quaint neighborhood rich with history, historic homes with charm and character, diverse people, walkable restaurants and coffee shops...is this for real?! Urban living has its disadvantages too, but honestly the constant sirens and train sounds make me feel like somehow I still ended up living my big city dream! Also now that Magnolia has changed so much and so many of our favorite spots in town moved there, WE GET TO WALK to the places we love the most. The best BBQ, ice cream, coffee, brunch spot, and wine bar in town are all 5-10 minutes from my front door! What the heck?!? God gave this big city girl a gift by putting my family where he did, and for that I am so thankful!
4. My miracle baby - 11 months in and I am still completely in love with my miracle baby. She is also the happiest creature I know! It also doesn't hurt that she's not a picky eater who sleeps 12 hours a night (Thank you Jesus!). I've always wanted a family but was never sure how it would all pan out. Around the 5 year marriage mark Jamey and I started "trying" to have a baby biologically, but we also simultaneously researched adoption. We were never too fixated on what would happen first because we knew/hoped we would end up doing both. However, after a couple of years, and several doctor appointments later we realized that a biological child, without medical help, was very unlikely. It was at that point we opted to go the adoption route because I simply never felt called to pursue more medical next-steps to get pregnant. It was sad, but I am thankful to God he also put the dream in my heart many moons ago to adopt because that never felt like a Plan B for us; it was just the logical next step. So, after lots of research we landed with an agency we loved and started a year's worth of paperwork, meetings, home studies, classes, workshops, fingerprints and all the other requirements. It was exhausting, but we always knew there was a little baby waiting on the other end of this arduous process, so we kept trekking along. I was so relieved when we finally got on the waiting list, and thus the wait begun. I kid you not, two months later I found out I was pregnant. God and his perfect timing! I had a pretty tough pregnancy and was very sick; I also had lots of previous physical ailments that re-surfaced and found myself getting weekly acupuncture for a displaced rib and at the chiropractor for my back and hips. Sciatica and nausea were my new best friends, along with a breech baby who, despite all my efforts and laying upside down on my couch each night, refused to move. So, a surprise pregnancy and unplanned c-section were not what I thought would happen, but I would do any and everything all over again if it meant in the end I get to be the mommy to my Rosie Pearl. She is perfect and her laugh is infectious and I can't fathom my life without her in it. So thank you Lord for my miracle baby that I didn't think I could have! I can't wait for our adoption in 2017 so we can add another little to the Ice clan.
5. Having a hands-on-husband - I can not imagine a life without a husband like Jamey. Jamey is not perfect and neither is our marriage, but he is the most hard-working, hands-on husband and daddy. Diapers, dishes, you name it, he does it all! We are literally a team. I don't feel like as a dad, he has ever skirted his responsibility or "babysat" for me. He is a parent the same way I am. I can leave him for hours or days and he knows 100% what to do with Rosie and how to take care of her. She has two parents who love her, and she does not see one parent deferring to the other to do the parenting. I understand this may work for some families, so no judgement for the dynamics in other people's households. But for me, God knew I could not do this on my own. He gave me a patient husband who loves his family tirelessly. I heard one time in a sermon by Matt Chandler that idea that godly men should lay their head on their pillow, wrung out from serving and loving their families well. Man oh man, I am forever grateful for my husband who chooses us over everything. Even though Jamey travels for work and we aren't always together, I know that if he could have it his way, he'd always rather be at home with his family.
6. Supportive friends and family - Jamey and I could not do what we do without the support of those around us. When you choose an unconventional path like we did there is simply no room for naysayers. There are a million reasons why the risks we have taken should be room for concern. However, the people around us who know us best were our biggest cheerleaders every step of the way! Starting a nonprofit, opening a restaurant, starting a real estate company, traveling with a band, moving 3 times in 3 years, finishing school, all while trying to start a family can seem a little absurd from the outside looking in. But, at the end of the day we had people on our team, praying for our success, friends who bought CDs, ate at our restaurant, and volunteered/donated to our nonprofit. They are those who understand seasons of startup are hard but support you anyway. They trust and know that we only go where we feel called to go. Our motive and goal is to make much of God while loving our city and using our gifts for His glory. Our friends and family who know our hearts and support us as we pave new paths, is why we are where we are! We could not do what we do in isolation nor would we want to. Thank you tribe for your prayers and support along the way. It means the world!
7. Eternity - Not everyone reading these words will agree with this idea and that is okay. I respect that we all come from different places and faith backgrounds. However, this idea and truth I am so incredibly grateful for, because it is my only hope. I am thankful that this is not my home, and that I know the end of the story. I could never argue that I live in a broken world, and the moment I start to get too cozy and forget that fact, I turn on the news or scroll through caringbridge stories on facebook and am reminded of this fact all over again. There is suffering all around me: families who are hurting, disease taking our loved ones, loss of jobs and relationships, violence and famine in parts of the world that break my heart at the thought of any person or child having to endure it. But our fractured world is just our temporary residence, because God is his ultimate kindness is preparing a place for those who love him (John 14:3), where all things will be made new and there will be no more tears, pain, or suffering. For those who want God in this life, we get eternity with him in the next life. No striving necessary to be a part of this new heaven and new earth, simply placing faith in Jesus who is the author of our story, the perfector of our faith, and the one who loved us enough to die for our sins. This same rescuer and merciful One wants (does not have to) but WANTS to spend all of eternity showering his love upon us and letting us experience true shalom, human flourishing, that we all crave so badly here on earth. So in the face of uncertainty and this broken world I try to rest in the idea that Jesus invites us to place where he says he is, "..making ALL things NEW." (Rev 21:5). Sadly I forget this truth all too often. However, the times when I remember this and set my hope on whats to come, I can enjoy the here and now, knowing that our time on earth is short and anything good we experience is but a shadow of what we will experience for rest of eternity!
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 107:1
(If you want to hear a great sermon by my pastor on this idea listen here, your heart will be encouraged!)