Gratitude

4 Comments

I've been absent from the blogging world for quite some time. It's quite shameful really. But hey, I was pregnant (and not pleasantly so) and I had my miracle baby. That's a story for another day, however.

Today when the school called me to come and pick up my sick Kindergartner I was barely phased. Normally a wrench such as this thrown into my already chaotic days would have sent me into a hyper stressed sort of inward panic. I would've been the perfect picture of calm and collected if you had seen me, however, because hey, being outwardly calm is one of my talents. But today I really was calm. It didn't matter that I was trying to work. It didn't matter that I was in the middle of homeschooling my 8 year old. It didn't even matter that I'd just taken my newborn out of the bath and was nursing him mid phone call.  All was well.

Why, you say? Because Seattle Children's Hospital has entered my life, that's why. Talk about an ideal relationship. They're perfect. Or at least close enough to perfect that you can blindly put them on a pedestal for the remainder of your eternal relationship.

Tanner1 blog

If you've read my blog for long you know that Tanner, my 7 year old, was diagnosed with PLEVA back in March. It's a rare autoimmune disease with flare ups lasting for months (or forever) that make you look like you have the chicken pox. It leaves terrible scars and is fairly unpredictable. It can mutate to lymphoma and we were told there was no cure. His diagnosis tore at this mom's heart. It's a tough thing to hear about your child.

We tried 2 different antibiotic treatments lasting for months that did nothing but weaken Tanner's immune system.  He was fatigued and caught everything under the sun. And he still had spots. It was awful and frustrating.

Finally our appointment with Seattle Children's came (there is quite the wait to get into the place because let's face it, nobody breaks up with the perfect significant other). Tanner and I went on Tuesday. It was heavenly.

Our doctor was phenomenal and hopeful. She said that Tanner had quite the impressive case of PLEVA from the looks of his scars (not the type of impressive you want to be). She also said that treating it with antibiotics was basically worthless and the last thing she would do. She treats PLEVA with a low dose chemotherapy drug. He'd be on the drug for 1 to 2 years. It's immunosuppressive and so he'd have to go off of it any time he was sick in order to heal, but the lengthy use of the drug stops the flare ups and then is used as a maintenance drug for awhile. Slightly scary, but at least it's something that works.

And in even better news, she told us that she has seen PLEVA burn out. I stared at her blankly. What does that mean? It means she's seen it cured. Not all the time. Sometimes it lasts a lifetime, but she's seen it go away. You know what that means? HOPE. One of the finest feelings in existence. Hope gives people reason to believe and to have faith and in this case, to breathe easy.

Oh, did you think that was it? Sorry, no. Are you ready for the news even better than that!? She's never seen it mutate to lymphoma. NEVER. NOT ONE TIME. She's not saying it can't or that it won't, but she is saying that she's never seen it happen. I could've kissed her. I think she knew it too because she told me my mama heart could rest easy for a bit. She even told me what to watch for if it were to mutate (we were previously told that lymphoma and PLEVA would look identical and that it'd be tough to know if it had mutated). Oh, be still my heart.

So, yes, my son still has a rare autoimmune disease. And yes, it may never go away. There are all sorts of terrible things that could happen. But his doctor is hopeful and confident and she has a plan; an effective plan that has worked for her many times before.

Tanner currently has only one new spot on his leg. Unless it flares up and he gets more spots, he doesn't have to be on the medication yet. We can rest easy and not have to feel the panic of the  uncertain every moment of every day. And if things turn south we have someone we can call. Someone who knows what to do, someone who's done this before.

Things don't always turn out the way we'd like them to. Sometimes they turn out exactly opposite of our ideal. Sometimes our hearts break and sometimes hope seems just out of our reach. But sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we're blessed with little miracles. Sometimes things take a positive turn. And sometimes God has prepared other people to improve our journey and make it easier.

Thank you , Seattle Children's Hospital.

4 Comments

I know I've been absent from the blogging world for a bit. I didn't mean to be. Life just went a little wild there for awhile. And I've come out of that wild a completely different person than I was when I went in.

First of all, the husband, four kids, and two dogs are not news. They were here before, right along with all of the busyness that our little family entailed. We were doing homework, dishes, and laundry. We were working and coaching and running to baseball practices and serving.

I wasn't pregnant then, however, and now I am. I am all smiles about this, lest you were wondering. I've been waiting on this little baby and couldn't be happier.

In the past I have had the worst pregnancies you could ever imagine. They were so awful, in fact, that my husband was driven almost to madness worrying about what this one would bring. I am happy to report that I am a walking miracle and that my head has not been found in a toilet even one time. At least not yet and I'll take it. I'm about 10 1/2 weeks now and my head would have normally been permanently in a toilet for the past 6 weeks. I can't say that I'm avoiding the nausea, but I am gratefully skirting the extreme.

Sometimes when we do what we should, even if we're overcome with fear and apprehension, even if we think we know the nightmare that we're voluntarily jumping into, blessings rain down from heaven. They just do. And everything works out just like you wanted it to.

And then sometimes it doesn't.

Our son, Tanner, who's six, has been suffering from a skin "ailment" for several months. We made a few trips to the pediatrician where he was diagnosed with and treated for a staph infection and then scabies, all with no relief. Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, I insisted we see a dermatologist.

The dermatologist they referred us to wouldn't take our insurance (of course . . . that would be too easy) and so I went in search of a new one. My gratitude has multiplied as I realized that the one we found has been perfect for my son.

He looked at Tanner for two seconds. Seriously two. And he knew what it was. "He has PLEVA. I'm certain of it. But only a biopsy will tell us for sure."

"Wait. What? What's that!?"

"Well . . . let's do that biopsy first and then we'll talk about it."

He was sidestepping me. He was mercifully trying to spare me any panic. He didn't know me yet though and couldn't have possibly known that I would go home and immediately research the whole thing. That's what moms do. It's not his fault that he's not a mother.

Panic set in right along with the reality of the situation. Tanner's skin matched the photos exactly. No wonder the doctor was so certain. It was as if I was looking at photos of my own son. The words unknown cause and no cure and can mutate to lymphoma kept swirling around in my brain.

So I'm going to tell you what I've learned about PLEVA in the three weeks that it took to get a biopsy and definitive results. PLEVA (pityriasis lichenoides et varioliformis acuta) is a rare autoimmune disease. Researchers have several theories, but the cause remains unknown. There is also no cure. Symptoms are treated into "remission" and can come back any time his whole life.

The symptoms are basically little ulcers all over his skin (in Tanner's case they're on his extremities and face . . . his trunk is unaffected). He honestly looks like he has the most terrible case of chicken pox you'll ever see. But he doesn't. Mercifully, Tanner's lesions don't itch or burn like some people's do. They're just there. And mercifully, because he's only six, he's not concerned about the appearance of these yet although he did ask me before baseball practice yesterday if people would laugh at him if he wore shorts and a tee shirt. I told him they wouldn't. And I hope that that will always be true.

He has to go on antibiotics for three months, along with using a topical cortisone-type cream. And they hope that will send it into remission. Other options are steroids or ultra-violet light treatments or oral chemo drugs. Ironically, all of the treatments are technically pretty bad for a person under normal circumstances. This is where the risk of mutation comes in. A lot of people have no luck with treatment except going to tanning beds. Enter lymphoma. Some have luck only with oral chemotherapy (which if their PLEVA has mutated to lymphoma will mask it and it will go undetected).

All of this has bombarded me with a huge amount of sadness and what seems like an infinite amount of fear. Tanner's six. Only six. It's not fair. He's too good and kind and patient to have to suffer with this. What if he doesn't respond to treatment? A lot of people don't. What if it mutates? It so easily can. This is my son. Nothing could have prepared me for this. 

But as I've watched my sweet son endure this already and as I've offered up numerous prayers to heaven, I've learned a couple of things.

God is always listening. He weeps when we weep and He lifts our wounded hearts. He knows what course through this life is best for Tanner and He knows which course is best for me and my family. He sends us that way. And we have two choices. We can rise up or we can fall. I think our Father in Heaven stands there, holding His breath on occasion, while we decide if we're going to rise up and lean on Him. This family will follow Him. We will trust Him to take us down whatever road will ultimately lead us back to Him . . . regardless of how bumpy and hard that road.

I've also learned that something as simple as a good attitude eases burdens. It sounds simplistic and dumb, I know, but it's the truth. I was with Tanner for his biopsy. They numbed him and then cut a chunk out of his arm and stitched him up. Tanner thought it was the coolest thing ever and didn't even flinch. He'd "never seen so much blood coming out of a real person!" (apparently different than the puddles he'd seen coming out of fake people??) A few days later, Hunter hit Tanner's arm and busted one of the stitches. "Oh great. Now I only have one stitch, thanks to Hunter. At least it's not bleeding!" Oh sure, hey, and it's only one more scar to add to the dozens you're already going to have. Then they cut out the remaining stitch and  pulled it from his arm. He didn't move an inch. The nurse said that little kids normally have to be held down and squirm all over the place. "You've got a tough kid." Yeah, I know it. And his attitude and lightheartedness are going to make this whole thing that much easier. I've been able to smile at medical procedures where I'd prefer to sit in the corner and cry. I'm going to try to be more like Tanner. It'll make it easier on everyone.

Anyway, I guess I didn't exactly say it, but his biopsy was definitive for PLEVA. The disease is on a spectrum and he's testing in the mid-low range, which is a blessing. The doctor also said that his current biopsy showed zero signs of large cell lymphoma. He was extremely excited about that and so was this mother.

So for now we take this one day at a time. We place our hope right where it belongs, but also realize that the will of God supersedes all else. And we're good with that. I trust Him infinitely. And hey, I'm going to do my best to not blow up like a balloon while I'm at it (thank you, baby). In all of my previous pregnancies I've gained 50-55 pounds. I'm shooting for 45 this time since I'm all about a positive attitude and optimism these days.

4 Comments

Last month I read a story in the news that made me nauseous. I literally rubbed my eyes when I first read the headline because I was so tired that I thought I must have read it incorrectly. I wish I had.

A Washington couple was awarded 50 million dollars in a wrongful birth lawsuit. The husband was a carrier of a rare genetic defect and they'd sought prenatal testing to see if their baby was affected. Tests said he wasn't. He was born and it turns out that he was. They sued the hospital and the lab because they would've aborted their son had they known.

Their son. The little boy who is now 5 years old. The little boy who they're essentially declaring is a thorn in their sides. The little boy that they wish hadn't lived. The little boy whose existence just won them $50M.

How could a panel of jurists award anything to a couple who was suing over their son's existence? If you want to know what's wrong with the world, it's this right here. My hope and prayer is that little Oliver is never capable of understanding what his parents have done.

This story made me feel incredibly hopeless. It has literally been on my mind every single day since I heard. It created in me a feeling of near despair at the state of the hearts of the human race. We've come a long way and I don't mean that as a compliment.

Sure, we're currently so advanced that we can genetically test the unborn so that their fate rests in our filthy hands. But guess what? That's not our call. It has never been our call. Advances in the fields of genetics and technology should be used to bless and extend compassion, not to selectively destroy. Say what you want about this couple and their current state of suffering, but what they've done is sick and hurtful. There's no way around that.

Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly bombarded with stories like this one; stories of the selfish and of those who lack compassion, stories laced with evil and rampant with people attempting to take on the role of our Supreme Creator. But in the middle of all of that chaos and despair, I see stories of hope and love and compassion. I see stories of goodness and selflessness.

I had a phone conversation with my little sister two nights ago that expelled that doom and left me sitting in my chair smiling and feeling hopeful. I hope this won't embarrass her, but we need to hear the stories of hope that offset everything else.

My sister and her husband had their third child, a little girl named Kate, in February. Kate is a lot like Oliver in many ways. She was born with genetic abnormalities and Hirschsprung disease (which is essentially a congenital intestinal disease that has caused a lot of problems for Kate physically). Her genetic testing also came back inconclusive. Their databases don't include another person with the same abnormalities that she has. No one is a match. There's no name for her disability. She's forging her own, new path.

Wendy and David didn't know there was anything wrong with Kate until she was born either. Kate's life has been full of surprises and challenges. Their sweet baby girl has had moments of peace and comfort, but has spent an enormous amount of her time here on Earth struggling and suffering. She's had good days, but has spent unnatural amounts of time in the hospital undergoing surgery after surgery and battling infection. She's there right now.

The difference here is that Kate's story inspires hope. Her parents genuinely and selflessly love her. If her parents had known about her condition, she'd still be here fighting the same fight that she's fighting now. She would have still been granted her life. She would have still had the opportunity to meet her challenges head on, just like the rest of us.

And she's not less deserving of that chance than we are. If anything, her situation makes her more deserving. The soul of a spiritual giant lives inside that body that doesn't ever do exactly what she needs it to do. How brave of her to come here anyway.

Wendy was sitting in a Ronald McDonald House room when she called me. She was trying to get some rest while David stayed with Kate. She called me expressing some of the uneasiness of a mother who doesn't know the fate of her own child. She called with the exhaustion that comes from watching your child suffer for weeks at a time, knowing there's nothing you can do to alleviate that suffering. She called with the assurance of a woman who knows that her baby is in God's hands. She called with the faith that no matter what happened to Kate, everything would be just as it should be.

I thought about that news story. I thought about the stark difference between that couple and this one. I thought about David and Wendy, who consider Kate a blessing, not in spite of her disability, but because of it. I thought of the countless hours of service they've been able to give that little girl . . . hours of service that they're grateful for, not bitter about.

So Wendy and David, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being the kind of people who are capable of recognizing your own blessings. Thank you for giving Kate the best chance she could have at a wonderful life. Thank you for fighting for her and with her. Thank you for loving your baby the way God chose to send her to you. Thank you for being the reason that a tiny, little girl in her circumstances will feel joy and love. Your examples have changed our family. We're all immensely proud of the parents that you are. Thank you for being the kind of people who are worthy of admiration.

And Kate, thanks for coming. Thank you for giving this family the opportunity to love and serve you and yours. Thank you for being powerful enough to withstand the nightmare that you've been battling to be here with us. We are forever grateful.

Believe in the Miracle There's a lot to feel hopeless about. I'm not going to deny it. The world is in complete turmoil, much of which is our own doing.

I'm alarmed by the choices of groups and governments. But I'm even more anxious about the personal choices and beliefs of billions of people. Because after all, it is our personal choices and beliefs that direct our governments and any other groups to which we belong.

Good has become evil and evil has become good. We knew that in the last days this would happen. The scriptures and the voices of prophets have told us that it would. All that is right is made to look closed-minded and awful. And those things which are inherently evil, the things which are contrary to the laws of a loving God, are made to look compassionate and loving and decent.

As a society we're trying to rewrite the rules. We walk around as if the fate of the world is in our hands. We currently live under the assumption that if the laws of God don't fit into our personal plans, we can change them. If the secular law is on our side then we must be right. If the majority agrees with us, then it must be because the minority is wrong and ignorant and foolish. We somehow believe that we can lambaste our way through the decrees and expectations of the God of us all.

We can't. I can't and you can't. It's a simple truth that can't be argued away: God is the Supreme Ruler over us and the ground on which we stand. Get used to it. And while you're getting used to it, try waking up. Seriously. Wake up. The fate of the world is not in your hands.

Look around you at what's happening and really let it sink in. Do we really think that as a civilization we can ignore its Creator and come out ahead? If we can convince enough of our peers that something that we want is our right, even when God says it isn't, do we win? Can we hand over our God-given agency to corrupt governments without consequences? Think about it. That victory is temporary.

Maybe you're like me. Maybe thinking about the state of this world for too long leaves you uncomfortably anxious. Maybe you just want to grab the majority by the shoulders and shake them and make them understand just what it is that they're doing.

I feel like that a lot, but I also feel something else. I feel something that even the direst of circumstances can't take away. I feel hope.

And that hope stems from the very reason that we celebrate this Christmas season.

Jesus the Christ, the Creator and Savior of the world, can teach us a lot about hope because He is our hope. He exemplifies it, He personified it when He walked amongst us, and He literally became it when He fulfilled His atoning mission.

As I think back on His entrance into this world, I can't help but feel the warmth and hope of that miracle. I can imagine that I was there, staring in wondering awe at the sign of the birth of the King of Kings. I can understand the joy that must have been felt by those who had been waiting for that holy birth.

For a long time I couldn't imagine what the extent of my horror would be as a nation crucified the Son of God. I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that so many were past feeling, that there were so many who failed to recognize in the gentle man from Nazareth truth and salvation. I couldn't understand the mockery of all that was sacred and the flippant way in which the Roman soldiers insulted and abused their own Savior. I couldn't fathom the storm the world suffered as the Heavens raged.

Now I'm an adult. With age comes wisdom, sometimes more of it than I'd like. After witnessing the last ten years I can fully understand how it happened. I've seen what happens when a civilization collectively turns their back on God. I can now fully grasp the significance of all of the tiny, little decisions that we make . . . the consequences of which are a closeness to God or a removal from Him. I can understand all of the natural disasters that we currently suffer as the Heavens rage over our refusal to follow the Lamb of God once more.

I get it. I'm awake. And it breaks my heart.

But the one thing that breaks my heart also brings peace to it. Everything is happening just as it was foretold. I've known about it my entire life, thanks to wonderful parents who are firm believers in the miracle that is Jesus the Christ. And I still know it now. I continue to spread that hope to my children and to anyone who will listen.

So at this wonderful season of the year, I want to express my gratitude for and faith in the Son of the Living God.

From the foundation of the world, a Savior was a necessary part of the plan of God. Our brother stepped forward. He willingly took the role that would cause Him unimaginable suffering and grief and He did it for us.

I can only imagine the rejoicing that occurred amongst those of us who weren't yet here and those of us who were. What a glorious day for all of mankind. That sweet baby with the humblest of beginnings, set apart by His Godly mission and the angels who heralded His coming. I rejoiced. I know I did. And His birth still causes me to rejoice today.

I find hope and peace in my Savior, Jesus Christ. He's the One, the only One, who can make all that goes wrong, right. He's the One who will come again. He's the One who is mighty to save. All that He promised and all that He said will come to pass. The fate of the world is in His hands, not ours.

So during this most wonderful time of the year, we have as much reason as we ever have to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. He is our constant hope. Believe in Him. Believe in the miracle. In it you will find the peace that will carry you through whatever may come.

As featured in The Reflector:

I write a lot about motherhood. I don’t mention fatherhood very often, but only because I’m not a man and my experience with being a father is nonexistent.

I’m not going to suddenly pretend that I know what it means to a man to be a father. I’m also not going to pretend that I understand their responsibilities or their fears or their struggles. But I am going to tell you that they’re wonderful and necessary.

Not only was this past weekend Thanksgiving, but my eight year old son was being baptized. For both of those reasons, I had a house full of people. And when I say full, I mean the kind of crowd where if you turn around in the space you currently occupy, you’re likely to trip over a Lego castle or send another person flying simply by making the turn. I have a large, supportive family and my home was happily and crazily full.

In the middle of all of that chaos I witnessed fatherhood at its finest.

I witnessed a father who skillfully and quickly took care of the critical health needs of his baby girl with efficiency equal to that of her mother. I watched this father, so willing to care for his wife and children, sacrifice his own needs and comfort for theirs. And not just once, but over and over he came through. He softly touched that sweet baby’s head. It made me smile. He was constant and faithful and completely self-sacrificing. There is a man.

I observed another man who is not even a father yet himself, love on a mob of nieces and nephews. He catered to their shenanigans and entertained even the wildest. He willingly loves every one of those kids. There is a man.

There was another father who confided that he thought he’d rock at the parenting thing. He thought he’d be awesome at it, but felt he’d had a rude awakening. I’m here to tell him that he IS awesome at it. I watched him feed, clothe, care for, and play with his children. I watched him participate. He was there. He was involved and happy. I smiled at his goodness and his humility and the amazing example that he is for his sons. There is a man.

I watched another man who in a few short months will become a father to his first, care for his incredibly sick wife. He didn’t complain, he didn’t act annoyed, he just moved his feet when she couldn’t move her own. Caring for their mother is a critical part of taking care of your children. He gets it and he’s doing his job. There is a man.

I witnessed my own husband fulfilling one of his most sacred responsibilities as he baptized our son. Few things make me happier than watching him exercise his righteous leadership in our home. His example for our son in that moment was irreplaceable. There is a man.

And there was my own dad, the patriarch of the gigantic clan that invaded our little house. I overheard snippets of advice and counsel and I saw the smiles and hugs and love that were offered. My heart overflowed with gratitude for this dad who continued to be an example of goodness and love to his fully grown children. There is a man.

I’m telling you this because I’m tired of listening to the barrage of women who are telling the world that men are worthless. I’m sick of hearing broken women lament about there being no good men left in the world. I’m tired of a society that is selling the idea that fathers are unnecessary and irresponsible and inconsequential.

Please stop listening to it. It’s insanity. There are good men in the world. There are amazing fathers. There are men who rise up and fulfill all of their responsibilities. There are men who know how to love. There are men who choose all that is right and good. There were six of them sitting in my house on Saturday.

So amidst all of my gratitude for my own motherhood, I also want to express my gratitude for fatherhood. I want to say thank you to all of the men who give our sons something better to aspire to than what our society is telling them they are. I want the men of the world to know that we love you. We need you. Our children need you. Thank you for honoring your responsibilities and for loving who you chose to be. You give me hope.

1 Comment

As featured in The Reflector:

At this time of year, people’s expressions of gratitude seem to increase a hundredfold. I’ve always wondered why they don’t feel gratitude to that extent in months besides November, but I’ve also been happy to see that so many people are still aware of the richness of their blessings.

I feel like I have an abundance of things to be grateful for.  I typically do a good job of expressing that gratitude, whether through words or actions. I can’t think of a moment when I haven’t been grateful for my motherhood, in particular. And as everyone knows, I’m pretty vocal about it.

However, something happened this last week which has made me grateful for it in a completely different way. I learned something profound about gratitude. And it’s not that the concept is entirely new to me, but I’d never seen it in this light.

I woke up just after midnight Sunday morning throwing up. Moments later I discovered that my oldest had also thrown up in his sleep. He was sleeping soundly in one of the most disgusting messes I’ve seen (knock on wood). It only took me moments to realize that he’d thrown up so much that it had gone down the wall and somehow deflected onto his little brother. So Tanner’s head, pillows and sheets were also covered in vomit. He was sleeping through the whole episode too, which I find disturbing and perplexing on so many levels, but who am I to judge the sleeping prowess of another?

Side note: I know everyone touts the space-saving ability of bunk beds as a tremendous virtue, but the chance of getting thrown up on by someone on the upper level is a rivaling negative that should be more publicly discussed. There needs to be a warning label at least. This piece of furniture is hazardous and the Surgeon General should get on that. Just saying.

Anyway, I’ll spare you the rest of the nauseating details, but let it suffice to say that I stood there for several moments. I stood there staring at what I knew I had to take care of, feeling sicker than I had in a long time and wondering how I was going to accomplish it.

I quickly found myself getting annoyed. My nausea helped my negativity right along its not-so-merry way. After getting two boys showered, starting laundry and opening a window until I could do the rest, I was basically irate.

After getting my head out of the toilet, I found myself lying on the couch. I stared at the ceiling, fuming about the mess I just had to clean up and thinking about the one that was still awaiting me. I was murmuring all sorts of things to myself about how moms aren’t supposed to get sick and about how I shouldn’t have had to do that. I even realized that I was mad at my son for throwing up in his sleep. How could he expect me to clean up that mess!?

I glanced over at my two sleeping boys who had taken up residence on the living room floor after their room was declared uninhabitable and was overcome by a feeling that I’d never had before.

“Be grateful for all of it, even the awful parts,” the feeling said, “You wouldn’t want your obligation to these children to be gone, nor would you want that responsibility to fall to someone else.” My thought process stopped dead.

No, I wouldn’t. You’re right. I almost uttered the thought aloud.

I instantly felt the warmth that so often accompanies gratitude. I stared at my boys again. I couldn’t imagine having them gone, rendering my service no longer necessary. I couldn’t imagine voluntarily handing my responsibility to serve and love these children over to someone else. I couldn’t imagine their absence or an obligation disappearing that has always been mine.

I suddenly felt grateful for every speck of vomit that I’d ever had to clean up. I felt grateful for the fact that I haven’t slept through the night in two years because neither has my baby. I felt overwhelming gratitude for everything required of me that seemed ridiculously impossible when it presented itself. I felt grateful for dirty laundry and puddles on bathroom floors so severe that I was sure my kids must not have noticed the gigantic toilet bowl right in front of them. I felt gratitude for the adversity that characterizes my motherhood.

Truthfully, I’ve been grateful for adversity before. I’ve learned a lot from my challenges. But never before had I felt grateful that my children needed my service. I’ve felt gratitude for them, but never for the challenges that their presence automatically brings.

I hope that as we proclaim our gratitude this holiday season that we remember to extend that gratitude to every challenge that those particular blessings bring. Be grateful that you’re needed, thankful that you’re necessary and happy that no one has had to step in because you gave up.