If I were to tell you that Thanksgiving this year was just another day for me, I'm willing to bet that you'd think I'm the ultimate Debbie Downer, and I wouldn't blame you. The statement in itself seems like a cavalier way to proclaim that Thanksgiving isn't a special day, or a refusal to engage in today's common practice of making declarations of thankfulness across various social media platforms. But you don't have to settle for the statement itself, without context, because I'm not interested in being a person who makes a statement of such seeming pessimism, and just leaves it at that. Context is everything.
When I say that Thanksgiving is just another day for me, I'm not minimizing the importance of thankfulness in the slightest. I'm also not downplaying the value of spending time with family, some of whom I don't see very often at all, due to either living away or my inability to leave the house most of the time. What I mean when I say that it's just another day for me is that over the past couple of years, as a result of Lyme & Co, I've learned the importance of living a LIFE of thankfulness. On a daily basis, I make it a practice to spend time thinking about those things for which I'm thankful. I try to take time out of each day to just thank God for everything with which He has blessed me. (I say "try" in an effort to not portray myself as some saint-like person who never complains and constantly speaks words of thankfulness--even though that's what God deserves from all of us--I do complain, I do get run-down, but I still try to maintain the practice of giving Him thanks for each day and the blessings therein). The truth is, living life with Lyme et al. has actually made me a MORE thankful person. As crazy as it may sound, I'm actually thankful for this battle with Lyme and all its assorted co-infections.
Before I go any further, let me assure you that I'm not thankful for the SYMPTOMS of Lyme, nor the fact that it has completely derailed not only my life, but the life of my husband, and essentially the lives of my parents. I'm not thankful for the lack of knowledge/understanding from the mainstream medical society, the legal issues Lyme doctors face when diagnosing and treating patients, nor the difficulty of getting a diagnosis in the first place.
But I am most certainly thankful for this journey.
I'm thankful because living with this illness day in, day out has forced me to focus on and appreciate the little things in life, which, it turns out, are actually the big things (who knew?). Two years ago, before Lyme had completely overthrown me and I was eventually given a name (of course I had a laundry list of misdiagnoses and "idiopathic" chronic illnesses before then), I never would have told you that being able to type a blog post as I lie in bed was a huge blessing. After all, a lot of the time I wasn't at work, I was home on my computer, mindlessly refreshing my facebook feed, writing posts for the blog I used to keep, and feverishly recording things in my journal with ease. The rest of the time I was driving, shopping, skating, taking myself to doctor's appointments, attending church twice a week, going to the movies quite frequently, and all kinds of other "normal" mid-twenties, young couple-type things.
Today, I'm thankful for the fact that my words and sentences are coherent, something Lyme stole from me for a solid year (and still does, sporadically). I'm thankful for every single thing that Roger does to keep our home together, and I appreciate the times I'm able to help with housework as the blessings they are. I'm thankful for the gift of nutrition and the whole foods God has put on this earth for our sustenance and health, and I appreciate the body for what it can do in ways of repairing and healing with those sources of nutrition. Some days I'm thankful to be able to take a shower, other days I'm thankful to be able to just lie in a comfortable bed with clean sheets, even if I can't move or am in immense pain. Some days I'm thankful for the ability to make my own meals in the kitchen, other days I'm just thankful that my stomach takes a 2-minute break from pain/nausea so I can take deep breaths without dreading the side effects of such an action (needless to say, on those days eating is completely out of the question, much less making my own meals). On rare occasions, I'm fortunate enough to be thankful for the ability to see a movie in theaters with my husband, and on many occasions I'm thankful to have aids such as my blackout curtains, my sleep mask, my ear plugs, and my prescription sunglasses so I can block out every little light and sound. And the list goes on.
There are a few things I'm thankful for every day, regardless of if it's a good-for-me day or a bad-for-me day, the first and foremost being my wonderful husband, Roger, and his absolute devotion to making our lives more manageable--and even fun--in any way he can. I can't explain in words how much everything he does means to me. He keeps me smiling and laughing when I think I've forgotten how, he works a full time job (his real job), and then comes home every day and works multiple other jobs (nurse, chef, hairstylist, chauffeur, waiter, therapist, and so many more I haven't mentioned), something no 31-year old guy would choose if given the choice. And he does all of this not because he feels like he has to (although maybe sometimes he feels that way), he does it because he loves me and he wants to make our life together as "normal" as it can be, given the totally not normal circumstances we've faced in our first three and a half years of marriage.
I'm thankful for my parents, and each and every thing they do to help us out as we navigate this journey. I'm particularly thankful for the times they're able to step in when Rog is away with a band trip or a late practice and come over to keep me company, fix my meals, help with our household chores, or run errands for us. I'm also beyond thankful for their financial help with my medical expenses, because with me not being able to work, and with the expensive nature of Lyme treatment, most of my doctors visits/treatments/medications wouldn't be in the realm of possibility without their help. As with Roger, my thankfulness for my parents goes far deeper than I could ever explain with mere words.
More than anything, though, I'm thankful for the unique platform I've been given as a result of Lyme & Co. I've always been vocal about my Christian faith, and even before the Lyme diagnosis was given to me, I had struggles that strengthened both my faith and my testimony of God's grace in my life (namely my 11+ year battle with an eating disorder, but others, as well). But I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had as a result of fighting Lyme to share how God is working in my life on a daily basis, even on those days when I feel life's challenges are insurmountable. It's hard to get to the place where you view such a debilitating chronic illness as a gift, and like I said, I'm not always thankful for everything that comes along with Lyme and its buddies, but I view the experience as a whole as a gift indeed. Never before in life have I been given literally no choice but to fully lean on God to such an extent as I have the past two years (of course I know that fully leaning on Him is something everyone needs to do daily, regardless of health, but what I'm saying here is that the inherent need to do this on a 24/7 basis has become so much more apparent to me as I've battled this illness). And as a result of that, never before has my testimony of His grace and healing power been so strong.
No, He hasn't completely healed me yet. Yes, I still believe He can--and will--do so. But regardless of how I may struggle health-wise on a daily basis, that doesn't change the facts:
His grace is more than sufficient.
His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
His blood was spilled so that I, an unworthy sinner, could have the free gift of eternal life, without paying the ultimate price myself.
God never once said that our lives on this earth would be easy. In fact, there is example after example in His word about how hard our earthly lives will be. But we're given the promise that everything we endure is just a stepping stone to the ultimate gift--Heaven--and we're told we'll always have what we need to make it through any circumstance (we just sometimes fail to realize that He is really all we need).
This year, Thanksgiving was just another day for me, but that doesn't mean it was any less filled with thankfulness than it ever is. No, it just means that I've experienced the dire importance of not just giving thanks on the fourth Thursday in November, but in giving thanks daily for the innumerable blessings God has given me. Honestly, I think being able to live a thankful life on a daily basis is one of the biggest blessings of all, and I'm glad that I get to continue doing so today--even though Thanksgiving is over--and every day to come.