Every year I watch friends post daily thanks on Facebook during the month of November, and this year I thought I would accept this “giving thanks” challenge. I’ve been following a posting that instructs you to Count 1,000 Gifts, taken from Ann Voskamp’s recently published book by that name.
I don’t have the book and I haven’t read the book but I’ve managed to get along fine so far this month, until today. I had no idea what Voskamp meant by “hard eucharisteo” so I went back to her website and did some research. She defines this phrase as “hard discipline to lean into the ugly and still be able to give thanks, find joy, find grace.” In other words, a moment when it is painfully hard to give thanks, but you still do (translation: character building). I thought long and hard on this and decided to focus on the three most ugly times in my life. As it so happens, the order in which they happened in my life is also the degree of ugliness.
Without a doubt, the worst, most ugliest, most hard eucharisteo of my life occurred during a span of four years, when I was twelve to sixteen years old. At the age of twelve I learned my mother had cancer. Two years later she died. One year later my father was diagnosed with cancer. One year later he died. Whatever trajectory my life had been on up to that point, it was completely knocked out of kilter. The very basic foundation of the person I was at age eleven was forever changed by the time I was sixteen. The deaths of my parents have influenced—directly or indirectly—every decision I have made, every action I have taken, and many of the relationships I have formed. And the common thread that runs through my life as a result is an overpowering belief that I am a survivor.
The second-most hard eucharisteo moment in my life was the break-up of my first marriage. When I took my vows of marriage, I did so with the belief that I would be with this person until the day I died. Period. However, I was absolutely blind and naive and ignorant to the lack of control he had over his anger. For twenty years I tried to fix what was broke and in the end I was forced to realize that I was powerless, without any control over someone else’s emotions. The lesson I learned was that no matter how much you love someone, no matter how much you have invested in the relationship, sometimes you have to let go. Understanding that does not take away the heartache or the immense sense of loss. But it did provide a greater perspective and wiser insight when deciding if I wanted to marry a second time.
I experienced the third-most ugly moment in my life just six years ago. In July 2008, the company I was working for merged with another and my position was eliminated. By September I was without a job, at the same time that our economy tanked and the Great Recession took hold of everyone’s lives. I knew it would be challenging but never in my wildest imaginations did I think it would be thirty-four months before I would find another job. It was more than half the job I had had previously and the wage was indeed fifty percent less than what I had been earning. But after nearly three years without an income or medical insurance, I was grateful to have any job at all. The steadily progressive career path I had been on was cut off, as if I had jumped off a cliff. I doubt I will ever achieve that same job status again in my life. And our finances crumbled and we will never recover all that we lost. The experience was horrific and I learned many things, but the greatest lesson learned is knowing that at the end of the day all that matters is your family—spouse, children, parents, siblings. No amount of money can buy the love and support family provides when you have nothing to look forward to.