“The Struggle Ends When Gratitude Begins”


Yesterday was Thanksgiving in my adopted country of America. Millions of families sat around the dinner table.  In some homes, a prayer was offered. Everyone would be given the chance to share something they are grateful for. They will enjoy the simple act of being together as a family. Immediate. Extended. And borrowed. In other homes, a different scenario played out. In the next few days, any leftover turkey will be polished off. In soups. Sandwiches. Stews. What else? In essence, many will vow not to eat another bite of turkey until next year.

Feelings of nostalgia rushed to the surface. Memories flooded my thoughts. I remembered how I spent most of my Thanksgivings in the USA. The homes I was always invited to. The people who loved and cared for me during the holidays. Because my own family was thousands of miles away. Treated me like one of their own. Sent me off with an extra plate. The same families who had me over for Christmas. New Years. Sunday dinners. Today, I took some time to reflect on the things I am grateful for. However, before we can appreciate our blessings, there must be sacrifices. Tests of faith. Cleansing. An awakening. Realization that we have so much. Me. In the past few months.

One of my many weaknesses is not opening up to people. Yes, there is a select few. Really select. Very few. I am trying to be better. The past few months have been hellacious. One would never know by looking at me. Sometimes, I smiled when I want to cry. Say I am okay so people won’t worry. Pry. Ask questions. I employ many defense mechanisms to “get by”.  No one really wants to hear my problems. Do they? They have their own. Heavenly Father must know that I am strong enough to handle them. These are the conversations I have with myself.

It’s been a struggle against pessimism. Gloom. Doubt. Cynicism .TBH.  Let me explain. In the past 2-3 months, someone I stood by, when everyone else walked away, finally showed their true colors. Soon after, I learned the person who I looked up to as a father figure, does not deserve the honor. Never did. The news shattered my belief in role models. Shook my trust . For one month I lived with the landlady of all landladies. A horrid person. Next, unbelievable news came from SVG, that my cousin has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Given less than a year to live. A young man in his mid twenties. Full of life.  Moving on, my carefully laid plans are being threatened by unforeseen circumstances. More recently, and in matters of the heart, love appears elusive. I will always care for this person. Deeply. What’s next? How will I end the year? Should be interesting.

Yes. It has been hard not to let pessimism rule my thoughts. And actions. A reprieve came just days ago. A bright spot amidst the dark abyss. I earned my Master’s degree. A milestone . The feat helped to soothe some of the hardships experienced this year. I want to look at the adversity differently. I want to think it’s good  “my friend” showed their true colors in the nick of time. Not later. I want to think my father figure is only human. Imperfect. Flawed. Just like the rest of us. I was the one who thought he was the closest thing to perfection there is. To think the old landlady helped me to appreciate the one I have now. The difference is black and white. Literally. To think my cousin’s terminal illness is a reminder of how fragile life is. To think the plans that I made might not be in tandem God’s. This does not sit well at all.  Hard to accept. Tough to swallow. As for romance? Well, after 30+ years on the planet, realization hit me. Or rather it has come full circle. The time has come to face the reason behind my relationhsip patterns. Fact: our childhood shapes every aspect of our lives.

So. Despite everything. I am grateful for life. And what it represents. The ability to breathe-reminds me I am alive. Live-despite the odds. Eat-because I have food. Sleep-so I can be refreshed in the am. Laugh-at myself, and my silly mistakes. Walk-because I am not confined to a wheelchair. Talk-it means I can express myself. Feel-pain,so I can appreciate joy. Believe in love-one day it will find me.Think-about my actions. Clothes to wear-there is more than enough. A roof over my head- I am not homeless. The church I belong to-a sure foundation. Parents-who love. The publication of my first book-a journey which took years. The ability to write-helps me to handle my emotions. To hope-one day I will get mine. To live in a free country- enjoy so many liberties. To have an education- make a difference. Make my own decisions-not have them dictated by anyone else. To know I am loved by so many-they have my best interest at heart. The blessings are enormous-I must always  remember.

I am not sure what problems might be troubling you today. Many of us fight daily battles. Silently. Bravely.We struggle to keep going amidst the turmoil of life. We wrestle against the odds. Winning some. Losing others. Our burdens weigh heavily on slumped shoulders. But they keep coming. Our own personal, private “Gethsemanes”. Excruciatingly painful experiences. We must be polished, like gems. I don’t know what your individual struggle is. What I do know is that “Sunday will come”. For all of us. That we will always have more than we need. The old cliché “someone else has it harder” is true. I have seen it.

This quote was shared with me more than ten years ago. It’s etched in my memory. You may recognize it : “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself” CS Lewis. The man was a literary genius!

So. In closing. Long after family leaves. The last bite of turkey eaten. And life before Thanksgiving returns. May we remember that in our darkest days. And Nights. When the winds and waves of life starts knocking us about. Remember. He knows. He is there. May we never forget: “The struggle ends, when gratitude begins

Until the next post….

Best,

Juan

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