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Day Twelve: Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 28th, 2013



Thanksgiving Day

I’ve really enjoyed my 12-day writing adventure this year, and as usual I feel richer for having done it. It’s been good to press myself to acknowledge and articulate some of the blessings we are experiencing, even while we are still in the process of accepting our grief and the changes it has brought. It’s been important for me to recognize some of the shifts in perspective God has provided for my heart that have enabled me to keep moving forward during this last year — one of the most difficult of my life.

As we’ve had the opportunity this week just to be, my time and thoughts have been free to wander through our blessings. It’s helped me notice a few things. And be thankful. Here’s what I’ve seen.

We are enjoying moments when our spirits are free. Free from the weight of some of the circumstances of the past years.

We are laughing. From deep within our hearts.

We are talking and laughing and remembering moments with Mike. And that process feels good.

We are creating and building and chasing and finding. All the things that help me know we are regenerating our lives.

We are fretting and fussing and arguing and tired and confused and selfish and angry and juggling and frustrated. At times. Because we are normal. Normal people. Normal siblings. Normal kids. A normal mom. This grieving and changing hasn’t kept us from just being regular people.

We are wandering. Through pastures and hay yards and elementary school and working single motherhood. And mostly enjoying the effort of finding our way. Because we are growing.

We are whole. In spite of our loss. Of a husband. A friend. A father. A companion. We are still complete.

We have traditions. They are changing and adjusting as our lives have changed. Like all traditions do. And should.

We are hopeful. Because we can’t not be. As we embrace every step of learning and every step of changing and every step of growing brought by three little ones and a mother trying to keep up, we can’t help but see the possibility of life. Undiminished by the loss of a life.

We make plans. About next week and next summer and next year. We continue to move and work and learn and play each day. And we look forward to what’s next. Because it reminds us life is rich. And deep. And wide. And beautiful. Something I wasn’t sure we could believe again.

We live. And so we are thankful. For the two can not be separated in our hearts.

I keep coming back to this every year, it seems. At the end of every 12-day journey. At the end of every day. That God is indeed good. So good. And His mercy in our days and in our hearts endures.

It endures. Forever.

Happy Thanksgiving.

© Haley Montgomery

Day Eleven: The Thanksgiving Tree

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013


Several years ago, we started a Thanksgiving tradition at our house — a Thanksgiving Tree. It was a quirky little idea designed to help us all cultivate gratitude during the season. The kids went in search of an interesting branch at the farm, and we braced it with a bunch of rocks in a pot on our dining table. Every day at dinner time during the week or so prior to Thanksgiving, we each shared one thing we were grateful for. The kids were young and couldn’t write, so I recorded their little moments of gratitude on cut pieces of colored paper and hung them on the “tree.” During that year, they were thankful for things like the color red and chicken nuggets and various Disney movies. And Mommy and Daddy. We didn’t end up doing our Thanksgiving Tree tradition last year in all the craziness, but this year I was determined we would start it again.

We did. On our first farm walk earlier this week, the kids and I went in search of a suitable branch. We found “it” down at the curve of the road. It was actually two nearly bare gray branches we held up together and determined they could work when paired together. Drummer Boy led the charge to gather rocks from the gravel road in our buckets and used them to scotch the branches together in a green crock pitcher. It’s been sitting at the end of our table leaving ample room for serving dishes but also reminding us of the holiday.

So, we’ve been naming blessings. And writing them down. And hanging them on a tree. This year, I created a printable Thanksgiving hang tag that I shared in some of my Small Pond Graphics communications. Baby Girl and Bug got into the fun of cutting them out and punching holes in them. Sometimes at breakfast and sometimes at dinner this week, we’ve each chosen our hangable and our crayon. The kids are old enough now to write their own thankful words with a little spelling help. I’m proud of them for thinking carefully about what to write, and their smiles at choosing the best hanging spot make me smile too.

As with most young traditions, I’m not sure the kids really “get” the tradition part. But, as I’ve seen with other crazy Mom ideas, I imagine that as we continue to repeat each year they will come to be the ones reminding me how it should be done. I guess that’s how traditions work. That makes me smile. I want this act to be part of who we are. This act of giving thanks. Of counting blessings. It’s so easy to indulge them, to give them everything I possibly can. But, I want them to understand the importance of gratitude, of nurturing a grateful heart, of knowing that blessings come in all kinds of packages. I hope you enjoy a glimpse at some of our blessings. May you and yours enjoy counting a few of your own.





© Haley Montgomery

Day Ten: Mud Puddles

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013



Well, we’ve had nearly two days of rainy weather here at the farm. So far it’s rained out our annual Busy Bee Bonfire, celebrating Bug’s and my birthdays. It’s dampened (literally) our outdoor fun, but we’ve still managed to get in a few walks.

In the midst of drizzling rain this morning, my mom drove into town for some errands and returned with four new pairs of rubber boots — two pink and two red. Suddenly, the rainy day got a little bit brighter.

Something about the prospect of wearing bright colors on our feet in defiance of the cloudy day lifted our excitement level to a new high. I imagine it also had something to do with the ability to wade through mud and puddles unencumbered by the need to keep our feet dry.

So, this afternoon, we scrambled to don our new footwear, tuck in our britches, layer up the sweatshirts and splash some puddles. We walked the full length of our private road in both directions without dodging any muddy places. In fact, we steered our steps toward quite a few ruts just to test their depth.

I love how something so mundane can shift the wind of a discontented attitude. The prospect of a new and fun way of braving the weather together changed the wind and cloudiness from gloomy to celebration. All it took was one little thing to be excited about. One little thing to choose to enjoy. The boots didn’t magically make the sun come out. But, to hear the sounds of our own laughter and joy, it was clear the clouds were banished from our thoughts.

Today was a good reminder for me that the forecast of our lives isn’t dependent on stormy circumstances. It is dependent on our ability to allow ourselves to be open to joy and contentment in spite of the difficulties.


© Haley Montgomery

Day Nine: Conversations with Baby Girl

Monday, November 25th, 2013


Yesterday as we were enjoying some time inside the farm house between cold walks, Baby Girl and I were hanging out on my bed. At the farm she has always shared a room with me, and it’s become a special thing. I’ve noticed that sometimes those down times are ripe for conversations — the ones that help me see her heart.

Baby Girl turned five in August. She was barely four when her father died, and of course sometimes our conversations about that situation are heart-breaking. She has always been the most expressive about Mike’s death which means that I am more likely to field those difficult questions and comments with her. Little girls have special relationships with their fathers. I do. And, so often I find myself looking for ways to help her deal with that loss while trying to shore up her memories.

I wrote last week about how much of a blessing time has been for me in giving me enough distance and processing of the situation with Mike to now begin to talk about him more freely and with more joy. I’ve seen how much that has helped Baby Girl in particular.

Because she is so young, sometimes I see her searching. Like she is trying to make her memories of her father more solid and real. That’s a process we are all going through. Everyone else just has more time — more memories — to pull from. So, she asks me questions. In surprising moments of contentment and safety, she asks. Times like yesterday afternoon.

We were hanging out on my bed in the farm house. She laid down on the side of the bed beside the wall next to where I sleep and asked of that was where Daddy slept. She began to explain to me how Daddy had used this bed to change her diapers and how he had picked her up from her bed when she woke up during the early morning hours and taken her to the farm house living room.

She’s told me this before. She repeats it for me occasionally. And asks, “is that right?” And I tell her “yes.” Every time she smiles to know that Daddy took care of her and changed her diaper and helped her when she needed to go back to sleep. Yesterday I told her that this was one of Daddy’s favorite things to do. I explained what I had all but forgotten myself. That Mike had often gotten up at the farm to play with her in the mornings — when toddlers always seem to wake. He did it to let me sleep. And to be with Baby Girl.

To write about it is still painful. I’m not quite at the stage where it is pure joy to remember the kindnesses Mike showed me, the kindness of his character, and the love he had for his children. I’m not sure I’ll ever count those memories as pure joy. They may always be twinged with the reality of his death and his choice to die. But, it is important for me to remember them again. And it’s important for Baby Girl to remember them. For me to be able to tell her “yes, that’s right.” To freely elaborate and give her more of the account of her father. To nurture those memories she treasures. What we all treasure. I’ve realized how important it is for me to help her hold them dear.

I’m learning how precious those moments of sharing are for our family. And for my own process of moving forward. I’m learning that it’s ok to show my children my tears and to give them permission to show their own. I’m learning that it is healthy and good for us to ask questions together and answer them together. I’m learning that joy does indeed come in the morning of our grief as we are slowly waking to those moments of truth and remembrance.

© Haley Montgomery

Day Eight: The Gift of Attention

Sunday, November 24th, 2013


Doing nothing accomplishes a lot sometimes. I love these kinds of days — days when we have no plans. Days when we feel that freedom to do what we want. We actually always have that freedom, but with the push and pull of work and school and schedules and to do lists, we don’t always feel the freedom. Today we did.

This is the reason I like to bring us here. To feel that freedom. To choose that freedom. To enjoy each other just for the simple fact we belong together. It opens up all kinds of possibilities.

Our “nothing” day included walking on gravel roads, finding colorful leaves, painting art projects, climbing on hay bales, laughing at movies and napping — all together. They all talk at once. They all run at once. They all laugh at once. My name is shouted a hundred times, and my attention is pulled in a thousand directions in response. But, it’s funny how there’s never a time when I’m more focused. Days like these make me “conscious of my treasures,” as Thornton Wilder said.

I’m not writing much today, mainly just a simple thought that’s been festering in my mind through our wandering… In these days I can see how our own grateful hearts keep us focused on things that matter. And I can see how the gift of attention is one of the greatest I can give — to myself and to my children.

Related Posts with Thumbnails© Haley Montgomery

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