Wednesday post #2

And now for the flip-side. The side of this whole ordeal that I am going to muster all the strength within me to focus on, that's also incredibly true and real. 

Yesterday, during the first phase of our Attitude of Gratitude project in my class, eight students, their parents and myself went on a quick "delivery field trip," to drop off all of the nonperishable food items we collected for the family homeless shelter that Community Action of Hillsboro runs for families in Washington County. In total, we collected 389 items in two weeks! It was incredibly humbling to learn of this shelter, to meet some of the families, and see what life is like when you realize you're homeless. We donated things like laundry detergent, dish soap, diapers, wipes, coffee, Thanksgiving food items, hot cocoa, baby clothes, etc., all of which serves to support not only the families at the shelter, but also families in need in Washington County who are without food on the weekends or in case of emergency. Community Action's family shelter food pantry is the only after-hours emergency food pantry in all of Washington County.
We saw the faces of families at the shelter. The children living there. People who it looked like were average families you'd never suspect were homeless. People who completely broke the homeless stereotype and seemed very humbled by what their reality was. But THANK GOODNESS for organizations like Community Action who step in and help families in need, and help to protect the children involved. The shelter we visited was in a very large, old estate home in downtown Hillsboro, which you'd never suspect was a shelter. It was very homey, very clean and very cozy. Families work hard while living at the shelter (they only get a 5 week maximum stay) to work together and keep the place clean and comfortable for each other. However, all family members have to share one bedroom together with all of their belongings, as the house is only about 2000 square feet big. Up to 22 individuals are living under one roof at any given time at the shelter. These families will be spending their Thanksgiving and Christmases there, and not in their own personal home. 

We were only able to give a little bit as a class, but even a little bit helps. I know I was impacted by this organization and these families. By their faces; their humility. By the man who looked like he could have been an employee of a major company; instead, he was quietly sweeping the floor with his young son by his side. By the efforts of coziness and normalcy that the shelter attempts to provide, and by the work of people pitching in together to help each other out.

I am thankful for my tiny apartment with a heater going, blankets, privacy and for having a roof over my head. 

I am thankful for the huge meal I bought and ate with my family tonight for Thanksgiving, and for the company there tonight: for the blessing my grandparents are to me and how they stepped up to be what my sister and I needed after our mom died. For my god-mother, Mary Jane, who embraced me as her own daughter and was the kind of mom I needed after I lost mine. For my husband, who protects me. For my niece and nephew and the joy and vibrancy they bring to my life. For my sister, who is all that I have left from our past and who understands our loss to the same degree that I do; and for Ashley, who is the kind of good friend my sister needs right now while she's sorting her own life out. 

I am thankful that I have so many family members who love me. For the meal with my other-side-of-the-family family on Sunday... Courtney, Sarah, Steve, Taylor, Bret and Ryder (and Ryan, who was working)... for the amazing food, the company, the laughter, the arguing (with Bret of course, but I always enjoy it!); from the understanding that we all have of our new family dynamics, nearly six years later. It's different, but we're still family and it works for us. We've worked hard to make it work-- and thankfully, it has. I'm grateful for that.

I'm thankful for the other-side-of-my-family, the Weiss family, where tradition unites us all as it has remained unchanged for dozens of years. Tradition on this side of my family keeps me grounded in who I am. Routine and predictability is something I desperately need at this point of my life, and the Weiss family provides it. That is something I'm incredibly thankful for. Jeopardy at 7. Thanksgiving at dad's. Black Friday shopping. Christmas morning at grandmas with "A Christmas Story" playing in the background; a breakfast of orange juice, waffles, coffee, eggs and bacon. Christmas afternoon at my dad's (stockings first, of course, with "A Christmas Story" again playing in the background). Leftovers for lunch; ham dinner at night, followed by morning-after bargain hunting on all of that Christmas decor we held out for. Unless God has other plans, this is what will happen, as it has every year the same way since before I can remember. As simple as it sounds, that predictability is part of my foundation. 

I am thankful for a husband who has the same time-off schedule that I do. That we can get coffee, read, hang out in our sweats, and that we do love being together. I really love hanging out with my husband. We fight, we make up, we fight again, we make up again. But we get each other and we love each other, and that's why it works. Not because some law or paper is binding us together, but because God made us for each other and we didn't know that until the timing was right. We are certainly not all stars and roses every day (dare I say the word couch-sleeping on this blog?)... however, the immoveable truth is that in every way shape or form, my husband is my best friend and we get over ourselves pretty quickly because that's what you have to do in marriage. Love, graciousness, patience, sacrifice and humility all take on a completely different form when you're married, and I'm so grateful for that. Marriage has completely changed me as a person, 1736% for the better. (Even if I've slept on the couch a time or three).

I'm thankful that I have a career which gives me time off with my family for the holidays. I will never forget the Thanksgivings and Christmas Eves I had to work retail. I remember the jealousy rising up; the tears stinging my eyes as I saw family after family gathering together over coffee or loading up for the road. I desperately wanted to be with my own coffee; instead, I was grinding beans and mopping floors. If I wasn't closing, I was up at 4am in order to make it to Thanksgiving dinner on time. I am SO thankful I have a job that provides well and provides time off. I will never take that for granted. 

I'm thankful that we have money for Black Friday shopping. That we can afford to buy small gifts for friends and family that we love, because we love the adrenaline and exhaustion that Black Friday brings. It's an excitement (seemingly created by retailers, but who cares?) that cannot be met any other day of the year. And I get to be a part of it. Crazy? Totally. But I'm still thankful for it. 

I'm also thankful that I have an unending support of people in my life who constantly offer me support and encouragement. From colleagues I learn from and who support me as a teacher, to Facebook friends who pop up out of the blue to send me notes that they're thinking of us. From people who have been in my life for 20+ years, to new friends who God brought at times they were needed. 

Although God may have taken away my mom and Chase for reasons I'll never know this side of eternity, one of the biggest blessings He's given me has been all of the people that have come into my life since then. Some have "adopted" me as their own daughter, some have come in to be mentors and supporters, some have been pastors, some have been friends, some have been boyfriends, some have been colleagues, some have been professors, and some have been grad school classmates. They have been exceedingly more than I could have ever expected six years ago. I am so thankful for each and every individual who has encouraged me and supported me in some way during a season in my life which I really needed it. It's something I will always treasure and appreciate.

These are all of the things on my heart and in my life that I am truly grateful for, which is more important than a dumb house, anyway.  ;)

Happy day of giving thanks for all the good things God has blessed us with, from my grateful family to yours.

(and ps. you'd better not beat me to Target tomorrow night!) ;)


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