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One boy, stretching tall and skinny in the kitchen after a breakfast of leftovers. The pizza I’d thought we’d have for lunch, but oh well. The youngest headed downstairs to get to the shower first, before his brothers. The oldest still rubbing sleep out of his eyes, a large, bearded version of the firstborn babe he was. The new son bundled and backpacked and bussed away to school. Husband on his way to work, instructions for the boys lingering in the air after he closes the door. Check the water every hour. Make sure the trough heater is submerged.

It’s a cold November day out there.

The first week of the month is almost spent, and every day I read thanksgiving being poured out all over the internet. Thankfulness for amazing husbands or wives and wonderful children and the blessings of these or those things or people in our lives. It’s good, this month of thankful.

I’m thankful, too, for all that makes life sweet.

I’m mindful, though, of those for whom life is very hard. Those for whom a month, thirty whole days, of finding thankful is a challenge. Those for whom the admonitions to take joy in all things grow guilt rather than grace.

This is what I think. I think that sometimes life is wonderful and sometimes life is hard. And it’s not fair or equal or just. There is no balance, not really, and I don’t know why that is. I don’t know why some people seem to have more than their fair share of troubles and heartache and others seem to be especially blessed. I don’t know why some make it and others don’t. I do know it’s not always about trying harder or working longer or being more talented.

I don’t get all preachy very often, here, but when it’s hard, when I don’t understand, I go to Jesus. Because I believe this man lived – that God came from glory to be here on earth with us – had sweet times and very hard times, and this is what scripture tells me to do with that:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honour by the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

This man did not dance his way through suffering, he suffered his way through suffering. He endured. His joy was not in the immediate, but in the future.

I’m not a preacher, not even close. I don’t know all the doctrine or all the definitions and I hate being asked to take stands on things that people have decided are religious issues. Here’s my catechism. If you are gay, I offer love. If you are in jail, I offer love. If you have aborted or stolen or lied or had sex before you got married or told a dirty joke or took the last piece of pie – I offer love.

If you are suffering in the midst of this month of thankful, I offer love.

Not mine, you understand, but his.

It’s not about religion, not for me. It’s about breathing him in, and breathing him out. And the breathing in and out of him, always, is love.

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