Matt, the youth pastor I’m working with, asked me for some background on the American holiday of Thanksgiving while he was preparing for his sermon this week, and, cynic that I am, I crushed his dreams with the reality that it wasn’t ever like the legends with super friendly pilgrims feeding Squanto and crew, and Americans today use it as pre-gaming for the biggest shopping day of the year. I did bring up that my favorite tradition was when we went around the table to say what we are thankful for - while admitting loads of people are sarcastic about this too. I’ve always loved doing that though, because I have loads to be thankful for all the time.
The top of my list is Trader Joe’s.
But also, I love my job, and everyone knows it’s because I have the greatest students ever. I don’t have any favorites, which is clearly evidenced by the fact that no less than five students claim to be my favorite. I don’t endorse this title, but I’m grateful for what each of those precious children teach me.
I’m grateful for the punk who keeps changing her nickname in my Facebook messenger to “My Absolute Favourite Child” because she teaches me about joy and living life in the moment (always eat the pasta).
I’m grateful for the punk who gloats about being the most quoted student on my Facebook because he consistently shows such absolute excitement about learning new things in the Bible.
I’m grateful for the punk who has a smug look on his face when I’m frustrated with his peers because he actually is a good role model to them who actively seeks out input from wise people to help him grow closer to Jesus.
I’m grateful for the punk who refers to himself as the COAT (“Child Of All Time”) because he actually shows an interest in learning from others how he can be more like Jesus and turns around to share that with those younger in their faith walk than him.
I’m grateful for the punk who took on the non-existent role of my TA this year (despite neglecting to complete her one task of putting care packages in the mail) because she teaches me about how God extends his kingdom to all kinds of people and actively seeks out those on the margin of society to share the Good News with.
To my knowledge, none of these kids who call themselves my favorites have ever read my blog unless they were explicitly told they were referenced in it. However, there’s a whole group of students who I know check in frequently with my updates, and I’m so grateful for them and what they teach me too.
I’m grateful for the little lamb who is one of the happiest and friendliest people I’ve ever met because she reminds me to always be intentionally kind to everyone I see.
I’m grateful for the little lamb who asked me to be her mentor after I came back from my hospital stay because she grew into a thoughtful young woman who will have brilliant conversations with me about theology and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (we share a passion for seeing how pop culture can foster real life application of our faith).
I’m grateful for the little lamb who asks me regularly how she can pray for me because she encourages me to be honest with my weakness and to celebrate my successes.
I’m grateful for the little lamb who had to live with three of those punks above for a year and endured it with grace and relative silence because his genuine interest in others despite his quiet demeanor inspires me to be a better listener.
I’m grateful for the little lamb who may very well be one of the most insightful people ever because she always sees past people’s flaws and affirms the best of who God created them to be (bonus, girl, your boyfriend is legit committed to Jesus).
The thing is, I’m not just grateful for the kids who give me attention. I learn so much from so many of my students.
I’m grateful for the precious one who drunk calls me and then when he’s sober tells me I’m a horrible person because he calls me out on my own need to always grow.
I’m grateful for the precious one who spent two years sweeping my floors and discussing theology with me before she went on to Bible college to become an evangelist because she inspires me to always share Jesus with everyone I meet.
I’m grateful for the precious one who stood in front of a room full of lots of people who’d written her off as a lost cause and boldly declared “Jesus wants you now” before she was baptized because she inspires me to take ownership of my faith proudly.
I’m grateful for the precious one who always has hard questions in Bible class because he is never satisfied with easy answers, and I never want to be satisfied with cheap theology ever again.
I’m grateful for the precious one who climbed through my window on the last day of school to tell me I was her favorite teacher after saying almost nothing in my class through the semester because she reminded me that I never know who is listening.
Truthfully, I don’t actually know who my whole audience is on this blog. There’s like 200 some subscribers, but the counter indicates way less than that read it every week. I don’t know who is listening, but I’m happy to share my gratitude here. For Americans, this might seem like a natural fit for this week after Thanksgiving, but I feel like it’s a nice fit because it’s part of my healing. I recently read a book on Gratitude by Diana Butler Bass, and I realized yet another layer of how important my own attitude is in my holistic healing. Matt even mentioned it in his sermon this morning - gratitude scientific data to back it up as a holistic health benefit. I had some pretty crazy attitude issues to deal with this past week, and I struggled a lot, but I never once lost sight of all the good things in my life. I think the practice of gratitude so strongly established in my life was a huge help in working through the negativity. I’ve developed a habit of positivity that doesn’t leave room for the negative emotions to grow too big.
Still not having a real grasp on this audience, I’m going to shift to one more thing I’m grateful for that doesn’t make a lot of sense to the world at large. I’m grateful for all the people who have made all my interactions with students possible through their generous financial support and faithful prayers. One of the quirks of my job is that I’m actually a full time missionary, and I raise all my support from people like you who are excited about what I get to do and want to share in that joy. I’m incredibly blessed to have had a solid support team for over five years now, but there are also changes to German wage law that impact my support needs, so I’m asking for new people to join my team. If you are interested and able, please visit https://give.teachbeyond.org/support/lauras-journey/
And thanks, I’m grateful for you.