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Yesterday, I shoved my keys in my purse, between old receipts and a tube of chapstick that my two-year-old had more than likely destroyed. Mentally, I reviewed the list of things I needed at the store as I walked briskly inside. I had to hurry. I had a lot to do at home. I was hungry, too, which was making me feel a bit cranky, and I wanted to buy a coffee, but I didn't want to spend $6 at Starbucks.

I sighed because the doors took a split second too long to open and I had to pause. Immediately inside, a cheery display of pumpkins and fall decor greeted me. Did it make me smile? No. I frowned to myself because I barely had it in my budget to get the things I needed, and cute gourds in checkboard cloth didn't make the list. Why couldn't we have more money?

And then, almost like someone had magically popped a movie on in my brain, I was watching myself walk up to a different store, in a different time...a memory from almost a year earlier.

I shoved my keys in my purse, between old receipts and pieces of paper that held important numbers I hadn't had a chance to call back. My hands fumbled for the one paper I needed at the moment, the list of supplements I was buying. It was 7:05 am on a Sunday morning. Most people were still in bed, and the store had barely opened, but here I was, hurrying across the parking lot with unbrushed hair and a pounding heart. I was exhausted. I was scared. I was wondering how on earth the past couple of months had devolved in such unexpected ways.

In front of the store, I noticed a woman. She was on the phone, a smile parting her cherry red lips. Her hair was curled, her nails done. Her clothes were nice, but it was her shoes that drew my attention. Boots. Oh, yeah, it was fall. Boot season. I loved boot season. Hers looked new, a fresh light tan with a heel that made a satisfying "clack" as she lightly stepped back and forth, back and forth, absorbed in her conversation.

It was fall. I had completely forgotten. Not like seasonal celebrations were very high on my priority list right now. But the realization felt like salt being rubbed into a fresh wound, and I felt myself starting to cry. I wanted to be celebrating fall. I wanted to be worrying about candy for trick-or-treaters, what we were making for Thanksgiving, and what outfits would be cute for the kids to wear for the holidays. I didn't want to be living in an Airbnb, with a toddler who was on week 6 of a mysterious rash that kept him up all night. I didn't want to be back in my hometown only weeks after we had tried to move out of state, because we just had to bury my father-in-law after he died suddenly. I didn't want to have a laundry list of people to call because all our possessions were in a storage facility 1000 miles away, waiting until we were able to close on the house we had just bought, in a town we'd never heard of, without even seeing it first, just so we would have someplace to live. I didn't want to be running to the grocery store at sunrise on a Sunday morning to buy things that I was hoping would help my husband, who had just come down with Covid, and was struggling to breathe. I didn't want to be running on weeks of no sleep and far too many miles driven and hard conversations and deep sadness and so much unknown about our future. I wanted to be picking out what boots I was going to wear to church.

I think about that time in my life often, and today, as I grumbled at the store about a bunch of "problems" that suddenly felt like nothing at all, I was glad I had remembered it.

Perspective is convicting, isn't it? And I don't say that to uphold some pie-in-the-sky, fake cheerfulness that is dishonest or unrealistic. A lot of things are hard in my life right now, too. But I don't have to pretend like they're not to also recognize how much I have to be thankful for. I hate the cracked tile in my kitchen, but I love that I have a space to cook food for my family. I don't enjoy having a tight budget, but I am thankful that we have enough to buy the things we need. It's hard to deal with feeling awful all the time because I am pregnant, but I am beyond happy that our baby is growing and healthy and strong. And even as I walked up to the store last October, all those heavy burdens weighing on my mind, I had things to be thankful for. There's always something.

And that's what I learned (or rather, relearned), this past week. It's something I hope to carry into this Worry doesn't fix problems. Thankfulness is never extravagant.

November 2021

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