As I sit, gearing up for another Thanksgiving, I can’t help but to feel empty, like something is missing- and that’s because there is…

Something missing.

I wish that I could tell you that just Chad was missing, that just Chad left and isn’t here anymore. For awhile that’s what I told myself to make it through the days and as the pain got deeper and the pain continued to sit inside of me- I realized so much more is missing then Chad, he just encompassed it all and when he left, so much of me and so much to me left.

My best friend is gone. My future is gone. Many of my dreams have been forced to change. The person who made my heart skip a beat simply when I knew he was about to walk in the door has left. My partner in crime has disappeared. My safe place, the shoulder I cry on, the person who knew exactly what I was feeling before I said a word. The person I argued with more than anyone. The person who made me laugh more than anyone left. The person who made sure I rested, ate, and took care of myself- gone. The person I would call firsts, the person I knew would show up, the person who made me feel like the only girl in the world- gone.

Gone, gone, gone.

In a matter of minutes, all of that and so much was gone, disappeared- leaving me- breaking me.

Now more then ever I question how, I wonder why, and I sit- staring off into space thinking to myself how am I going to do this.

There are nights where it gets too much. The pain over powers my heart telling me I’m okay and that I can do this. The pain overtakes me, I can’t cry enough, I can’t get angry enough, I can’t get the pain out. It’s a silent pain, often and most times these nights go untold- You’d never know, my friends never know, my family never know.

These nights are some of the nights I will remember for the rest of my life- contemplating if I can do this, if I want to keep doing this, if I can physically handle it.

There are nights where I want to give up, I want to give in to the pain, I want to say, “why suffer here when I can be pain free up there”. Yes, that’s how powerful the pain is some nights.

I can’t describe it, I can’t do the pain justice, it’s strong, it’s powerful, and many times it seems like everything.

Some nights I have to take anxiety medicine to calm down and some night I force myself to lay in bed, to feel it, to embrace it. I know that if I don’t feel it, it will continue to overpower me for days and days- dragging the dreadful attack on and on until the next one strikes.

Sometimes I. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

I don’t get it. I honestly just do not understand. Yes I know I never will, I know so much GOOD has developed in the past two years and the Lord has provided so much, I know. But knowing all of that doesn’t take the pain away.

I won’t lie, the past two years I have dreaded Thanksgiving- while I am thankful to be around family- I know what’s missing and now.. I know what’s coming.

Business, business, business. Grief, grief, grief. Joy, joy, joy. Pain, pain, pain.

I know it’s coming- December. And then I question it all again. How. Why.

How can the month that I prepare for all year bring the year to a close with joy and love like I’ve never experienced and pain I can never explain.

Adopt a Classroom. My favorite time of the year. The days are packed with meetings, planning, gifts, community, and SO MUCH love. So much love.

December. My lasts. My last Adopt a Classroom with Chad. My last hug. My last kiss. My last phone call. My last I love you. My last moments with my person, and my last with everything my person encompassed.

Why did this happen, how can the two things I adore most on this world being such conflicting emotions during the same time. Why did God let it happen this way.

I won’t lie and say I don’t fear December- you probably wonder how, why.

I fear planning an event that hosts over 300 volunteers and wraps over 2,300 gifts. I fear failure. I fear getting over 250 volunteers into over 134 classrooms across Charleston. I fear not being good enough. I fear grieving. I fear that I haven’t come far enough. I fear letting people down- what if my grief takes hold of me. I fear the anniversary of the last time I hugged and kissed Chad, I fall weak at the thought of another year passing by without him. I grow weary at the thought of the anniversary of his death and then Christmas without him. I ache as I think of December 26 when we would be celebrating 4 years together. I hurt and hurt at knowing he won’t be my News Years Kiss.

What if I’m sad when I’m supposed to be happy. What if triggers happen and I fall to my knees in tears when I shouldn’t. What if there are times I’m not thankful when I should be.

And that’s where I catch myself. I have been putting condition after condition on myself, on my grief, and more importantly- on God.

I’ve skewed my image of thankfulness. I’ve turned it into being thankful for what I have left, for what’s happening now, for being thankful for what I’m hoping God is going to do for me now.

And it’s wrong. I’m wrong.

I’ve been learning a lot about thankfulness the past two years but a lot the past few months.

Being thankful, to me, has a strong correlation of recognizing where you’ve been, what you’ve been through, and the grace God has provided along the way of it. My worship to God is the extent to which I am thankful for.

I sit in church now and look back to two years ago, to even a year ago where I couldn’t make it through a service without leaving or crying in the arms of the person next to me. I look at my friendships and think of the times I begged for people to stay in my life instead of recognizing their role in my life for the time being and recognizing the role they played in making me who I am today. I look back and see how I couldn’t dance, laugh, and sing for months and months-and now I sing at the top of my lungs, dance around the living room with my best friends, and laugh until my stomach hurts.

I sit back and remember when those life questioning painful nights happened 5-6 times a week, and now they happened 4-5 times a month. I sometimes sit in my car now crying out to God, thanking Him for all that he has shown me, brought me through, and promised me- a long way from sitting in my car crying out in anger at God.

I sit back and think of all of those things that left when Chad did, all of the pieces of him that helped shape who I am- and I recognize that although I have lost so much of him, I have gained much from others.

As I sit and think of the many different persons Chad was to me, and as I think of all that I lost when I lost him- I think of the many different people I gained. I lost my best friend in the entire world, someone I have never been so close to, someone who I never knew could exist- but I gained friendships that will last a life time.

I think back to the friendships I had with some people before we lost Chad and I think of the friendships I have with them now- crazy thing is- they are the same people- before and after. Yet my friendship is drastically different.

I lost so much but I gained so much. I learned what true sacrificial love looks like through my friends and family, I learned what the love of Jesus looks like and the way He carries us, gives us grace, and never leaves our side- I learned all of this from the people in my life who have given so sacrificially, loved me when I didn’t deserve it, and carried me when I was too weak.

I lost love, my true love- but I gained true love in so many different fashions through so many different people.

I’ve learned what it means to lose only to gain. I’ve learned what it means to be carried through the storm, to never be forgotten, to never be forsaken. I’ve learned what it means to find comfort in the milestones, in the moments where I don’t know I got there, and the times i am able to say “that was God”, “the only reason I made it through that night was because of God.”

I have learned to look fear and pain straight in the face and go to battle with it because I know where I’ve been, I know what I’ve been through- and I know that through it all I was guarded, shielded, and fighting a battle that had already been won- had already been proclaimed victorious over my life.

I have learned to live because I have experience death.

The seat at the table during the Holidays will now remain empty, the encouragement from Chad to push me through the busy Adopt a Classroom season will not be there, and the person I fell madly in love with- will not hug or kiss me this Thanksgivig or Christmas.

I will find myself wrapped in tears and pain and hurt, probably more so then normal the next few months- and that’s okay. But what I have learned that is not okay, is not stopping to learn and feel the real meaning of being thankful.

This year, when I think about the Holidays- I will do my best to not carry around the weight of all that I have lost. I will not sit and soak myself in the many things I wish I had or the many things in life I wish I had not gone through.

This year, I will remember what was lost and I will continue to feel the sting of the pain of the loss- I will even embrace the nights I think the pain might win- but I will not let that become who I am, no more.

I will find myself resting in thankfulness. I will remember where I was and I will celebrate where I am now. I will look back and think of the many times, the daily times that God showed up and carried me, that God showed himself through those around me, and the way God had brought me to the place I am now.

I will remember and feel what has been lost, that I promise you but above all, I will choose to take a stance of Thankfulness.

Maybe you are grieving over something lost, maybe a death, maybe a child not coming home, maybe a lost friendship or relationship- whatever it is, even if you are a day or an hour from a painful situation- even if you are months or years away- stop for a moment, during this busy Holiday season and think of where you were. Think of the many promises God has promised you that he has either fulfilled, is fulfilling, or is preparing you to fulfill.

Don’t lose sight of the moments of weakness, of brokenness in your- remember them, reminisce on them, and look at where you are now- where God has brought you to.

I bet there are many of us that if we stopped for a moment and thought of the most painful things we have ever experienced- and I mean really remember them- we would fall to our knees in thankfulness as we recognize the mini and the large victories, moments of healing, and bountiful blessings God has shown and giving us. We would cry out to God for the many gains we have received from our losses.

I bet many of us pass the over the victories and the moments of healing, never stopping to see how far we’ve come or more importantly- never recognizing how we got there and who brought us there.

Hug your friends and family tighter. Say all that you need to say- don’t hold back on telling someone you love them or that they look beautiful. Go the extra mile to make someone laugh this season, go on a walk with a loved one, hug each other a little tighter.

You never know when you will be faced with the pain you read about on Facebook or instagram or twitter. You’ll never know when those moments that you say “I can’t even imagine”… become your reality too.

You never know when someone else’s “Wow look at how far I’ve come from that pain” will be the start of your journey on it.

Look back, hold on, hold tight, remember, don’t regret, find the good, find the hurts, and find the thankfulness.

Find the gains through the losses, the beauty in the ashes, and celebrate the milestones in your journey. They matter.

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