Finding Thankfulness and Joy in 2020

2020 has been a year for many of us; and by that, I mean it hasn’t been a good year. Between a pandemic, quarantines, shutdowns, fires, deaths, and so many other crazy things happening, this year has been one for the history books, and not in the way that we like.

In my own life, it has felt like one thing after another. Wesley has had numerous health problems, leading to higher than normal vet bills. Ben’s nerve pain and neuropathy continues to progress, and has now reached his arms and hands. I was in a car accident, and totaled my car. Our washer went out and we had to get a new one. I finished Grad school with my second Master’s degree, but was not able to walk in any ceremony, due to the pandemic. We said goodbye to family members, had to have part of our roof replaced, and had a difficult season on the farm.

In November, I normally do a “what I’m thankful for” post daily. This year, I’ve done in videos instead, through the one-second everyday app, but looking back on the year, sometimes it is hard to find things to be thankful for. Deep down, I know there is much to be thankful for, but in the day to day struggle, it’s hard to focus on that. I create a list of 30 things I am thankful for:

  1. My faith
  2. My husband
  3. My family, including extended family.
  4. Friends
  5. Our dogs
  6. Our rabbits
  7. The opportunity to raise baby rabbits from the day they were born
  8. The ability to write
  9. A good camera for photography
  10. The ability to take great photos
  11. Life
  12. Food on the table
  13. Bills getting paid
  14. Transportation
  15. Safety in car crashes
  16. Computers and other technology
  17. Living in Northern lower Michigan
  18. Our backyard
  19. Birds, especially snowy owls
  20. The ability to read
  21. The gift of time
  22. Christmas
  23. Raindrops and rainy days
  24. Snow, especially fresh fallen snow
  25. Sunshine
  26. Sunrises and sunsets
  27. A warm house
  28. Fresh water to drink
  29. Social Media; even with the negativity, there is still positive
  30. Video platforms like Zoom that allow us to connect

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s the weirdest Thanksgiving ever, with some of my family quarantined and us all unable to meet as a family. As I reflect on Thanksgiving, I am reminded of several scripture verses, including 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Sometimes I feel like we mix up the definitions for joyful and happy. Being joyful is not the same as being happy. Happiness is an emotion. It comes and goes, and may depend on our circumstance. Joy on the other hand isn’t circumstantial. We can have joy even on the worst days, even when the world around us seems to be falling apart. We choose joy, and it gives us hope. We choose joy, and even in the darkest of times, we see good.

Sometimes we have to search for it. It’s not always easy, in fact I think more often than not, it’s a fight. Joy is knowing that no matter what tomorrow brings, we know it will be ok. It’s being thankful, even when it feels like there is nothing to be thankful for. It’s finding moments of happiness when it seems to be so fleeting.

Today, despite all that 2020 has brought us, we can choose joy. We can choose to be thankful, despite what is happening around us. Our circumstances do not change our ability to have joy. What we go through cannot take that away from us. We choose it. We will not always be happy, but we can always be joyful. We can always find something to be thankful for, even if it’s the breath in our lungs, a last chance to say goodbye, or a second chance at tomorrow. Despite all that 2020 has brought us, as rough it as has been, we can still say “Happy Thanksgiving.” For truly, there is much to be thankful for.

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