“Graditude” is a word that gets thrown around the internet a whole lot these days. And I have absolutely no issue with that. I want to be a grateful person. I want to raise my child to be a grateful adult and not an entitled jerk.
I don’t find it hard to be grateful when things are good. Who does? I don’t even always find it hard to be grateful in uncertainty or sadness, even though it’s easy to fall into the “woe is me” trap. But if I’m completely honest with myself, one circumstance where I find it extremely challenging to be grateful is when I’m sick. Or when someone in my family is sick.
Cue the last week and a half. On Saturday night, Otto started coughing his croupy cough that he tends to get when he has a respiratory illness. A day and a half later, the kid was miserable. I could barely do anything to comfort him. We went to the doctor, which helped determine he did not have the flu, but didn’t really help us in any other way. “It’s viral. You just have to wait it out.” Thankful for no flu, not so thankful that my toddler was still so sick and crabby for the next several days.
Later in the week, Kyle and I got hit. Not as flu-like as Otto’s seemed to be, but miserable nonetheless. I was even in denial for a little bit. “No, I’m not sick. I can just drink all of the tea and take all of the supplements and I will be fine.” Well, I was doing great and then I thought I had it beat and stopped doing any of that stuff. So the next morning I woke up with a terrible sore throat and congestion.
This was the first time I’ve truly felt grateful for the kick in the pants to slow down. Advent, if you’re a Christian, is supposed to be a time of preparation and reflection about the first coming of Christ and also a reminder to be prepared for the second coming of Christ. If I’m honest with myself, I often make it about a million other things but that. I’m not a crafty person, so I don’t feel the Pinterest pressure to do all of the decorating. But I’m a very social person so I like to go and do as many things as possible. Christmas concerts, Christmas parties, etc. I so easily stuff my calendar that it’s a miracle I don’t get sick every holiday season with all my go, go, going. For the last week and a half, we’ve barely done anything. We sat at home, cuddled, watched Christmas movies, drank tea, and I worked my way through an Advent bible study. If I had been feeling good, the stillness would have drove me nuts.
One thing we actually still did was keep our plans to go out of town this past weekend, even with our illness. Otto was doing a lot better, and Kyle and I just figured we could handle it. And we did. And it was absolutely wonderful to have our first celebration of Christmas with Kyle’s family. The above picture was from a concert we attended (we still did some stuff) with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law this weekend. It was a concert of familiar Christmas hymns and songs during which the audience was encouraged to sing along. I couldn’t. I had no singing voice. If you know me, is a very sad thing. However, because I was still pretty sick and so exhausted from the illness in our house, I was so vulnerable and open to meditating on what was happening around me. What God was telling me through these hymns and the scripture that the lead singer spoke. I almost never get to pay attention to church services anymore since I’m trying to keep a little one from being too loud and disturbing others. This was a rare opportunity for me and I am so grateful for it.
So hopefully I can remember this the next time I’m ill. Which, let’s be honest, I’ll probably still be crabby, but I pray that I will be a little better, at least. And I hope I can remember this feeling of slowing down when it truly matters. Yes, Christmas parties and events are fun, but it’s okay to not get to everything. In fact, it’s easier to be focused on what Christmas is truly about when you don’t try to cram in so much and instead leave room for meditation and reflection. When you leave room for Christ.