Last night I sat on the couch and watched my husband dance with our 2 daughters and our son play on the floor and immediately the last 8 thanksgivings flashed before my eyes. I am not sure why 8 but it was definitely 8. I share this for a multitude of reasons but mainly for anyone hurting this Thanksgiving, I know first hand it is not easy watching everyone around share their thankfulness when inside you are hurting but if I can give you anything it is this, the struggle you are in today is developing the strength you will use to inspire others.
2006: 6 days prior to Thanksgiving I admitted myself into Linden Oaks for an 11 year struggle with an eating disorder. I was tired, lonely, afraid and ready to break down the wall of perfectionism that I and I alone had worked day in and day out to build. Each day I would wake up and begin two full time jobs at the same time. My real job using the gifts God had given me and then my self-proclaimed “carpentry” job with a specialty in building false appearances. My life was a lot like the set designs you see on tv or movies. On the outside they look strong and sturdy built with a strong foundation, but get up real close and look behind the door and you will find there isn’t much behind it and it is a facade of sorts. Yep. That is where I was when I walked through the sliding glass doors, I remember the chill in the air, the smell of the lobby, hugging and kissing my mom and husband at the time goodbye unsure of when I would be able to see them again and wondering what lie ahead of me. After an intense week of impatient care, I was released on “black wednesday” and able to spend thanksgiving with my family. I was both thankful and anxious at the same time. The mixed emotions consumed me and I remember feeling guilty that I wasn’t more thankful at the time. Looking back, I reflect with a thankfulness that far over compensates for the lack of thankfulness I had on that day 8 years ago. I am thankful for the men and women who tirelessly and selflessly serve the E.D. unit at Linden Oaks and Edwards Medical Center, I am thankful for my support system and my family during this very tough realization and exposure in our lives, I am thankful for the dear friend that I met who is still in my life today and I am thankful that each day I have a God who tells me I am enough. Just the way He made me.
2007: Just one year had past but a lot of life. I think that will be a part of my eulogy one day. She lived about 10 years of life in each year of her life. Thanksgiving 2007 brings hope. I smile as I type remembering the night. Thanksgiving night 2007 I told my friend that I had fallen in love with him and our friendship had become so much more to me. We sat and talked on my couch in front of a fire place talking and sharing our feelings and wonders on whether or not we should allow ourselves to feel what we felt. We had both just come out of broken marriages and honestly the odds were completely against us. Each time we questioned if we should give it more time we came back to the same thing and that was that we enjoyed each others company and just felt as though it was worth it. For us, 2007 was a roller coaster filled with new beginnings, healing, hope and love. I am thankful God put this man smack in my face and made him so wonderfully. It takes a very special person willing to stand up for love against all odds and 2007 thanksgiving changed my life.
2008: Just one year later I married my friend in our home with our immediate family on Thanksgiving weekend. I know everyone thought we were crazy and I admit we were but we always had an underlying belief and faith that God brought us together for amazing things. We celebrated and laughed and enjoyed each and every minute with our friends that evening and look back each year on our anniversary with beautiful memories and stories. We can bring it to life as if it were yesterday and that is a gift I am thankful for.
2009: Black Wednesday, I hit rock bottom. I fell off a bar stool, flat on my face, drunk while Brian was singing on stage. This is me being transparent. It is not easy for me to tell this story and admit that at times I have tried to forget it even happened. Leading up to this day we had spent a full year going through in vitro. We went through 2 rounds of shots and hormones only to have the cycle cancelled at time of transfer. We wanted to try again. Third round was great. We got past the point of cancellation and were scheduled for the transfer. Everything was going going great! We had 2 beautiful embryos and a hope that filled our hearts. We were going to be parents and we couldn’t wait to spend our anniversary dreaming of our life as parents of twins. Monday of that week we found out that we lost both babies. I’m not sure I had ever experienced a pain like that before. I instantly went in to a state of depression and instead of allowing myself to feel the pain and process the pain, I took on the old role of “carpenter” and instantly built the wall of “I’m fine.” Well in the coming days that wall would be torn down. I wasn’t fine. I masked the pain with liquor and ended up hitting the wall so hard in broke into a million pieces..in front of hundreds of people. Rock bottom. I realized that God was the only person who would heal my heart and if it was in His will for us to have children, He would provide. I laid it all at His feet, my brokenness, my hopes, my fears, my desires, my selfish wants…everything. I laid it down. I am thankful for grace and mercy, Lord knew I needed it. We all need it.
2010: I am 36 weeks pregnant and contracting like crazy. Our miracle Brinlee is about to make her debut into the world. God blessed us with the news that we were pregnant on Easter Sunday 2010. We were in complete shock as we had been told that we would most likely never get pregnant naturally. She was a gift and a reminder that God is in control and the giver of life. Little did we know that in exactly one week Brinlee would be here. She was born December 2, 2010 on a Thursday afternoon at 3:32 pm. A beautiful thanksgiving full of warmth, excitement, love. I was very big and uncomfortable but I didn’t mind. In just one year, God had turned my life upside down and I was humbled. I had given my life to Him and he had given life to me. I could never be more thankful.
2011: I am 5 weeks pregnant. Yes, I couldn’t make this up. Brinlee is 11 months old and we are a month pregnant with our new baby. I am exhausted and overwhelmed but thankful. Haven was a gift for listening to God’s calling and following. Just 2 days earlier I had met with our pastor John to tell him where God was leading us and that we felt called to Yorkville to start a performing arts center. He had been praying for God to grow us in generosity during a series called the ladder and felt as if God said that the arts center would be the instrument through which we would be generous. This thanksgiving was filled with sharing the vision we had been giving with our immediate family and asking for prayer. This would involve a lot of transition for our family and we knew prayer was a necessity.
2012: Is a bit of a whirlwind for me. I now have an almost 2 year old and a 4.5 month old in a new house with 6 acres of land that is covered in leaves. What I do know is that we are blessed. We are surrounded by a new community of friends from our Church who love on us each and every day. The best part of this thanksgiving though is we had our Nikki home with us and she was able to meet Haven for the very first time. I am overwhelmed by the love and blessings and know we are on the right path to something so great.
2013: I am 4.5 months pregnant. I know, I know, I know what you are thinking. We are 4.5 months pregnant with an almost 3 year old, a 1.5 year old and a new business that is almost 3 months old! We are preparing to light our 60 ft christmas tree in front of our home for our first annual Light the Tree Festival for YPAC (Yorkville Performing Arts Center). Yes we followed God’s will and built the center. It has been a thanksgiving full of thanks and praise, community and celebration.
2014: Today. I am sharing my struggle from the past eight years because that struggle developed the strength I have today to share it with you and hopefully inspire you to turn your adversities into your victories.. I think a lot of people assume that I have always had my act together and the truth is just the opposite. Today, I am thankful for YOU. Yes, you. The one who took the time to read this, the one who shares in my trials and my triumphs, the one who recognizes a little bit of your story in mine. As, we go about our day whether we are at the height of happiness or the depths of darkness, remember you are loved. Your journey and your story is purposeful. Don’t be afraid to share it. If you find yourself feeling down, give it its time and then be thankful for it knowing it is part of your story. What are you thankful for? Please share with me!
Sharing with you in hopes you will share with others,