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I think I am always going to look back at 2018 as the year I grew up.

Pink Salt Riot has grown from me + two very part time students in my living room to a full fledged business with a CFO, three directors, and a team of makers in a brand new studio. But the transitions have been hard – full of growing pains, mistakes on my part, and risks I wish had gone a different way.

This year has also been one of growing personally: putting my children in school for the first time while navigating both giftedness and special needs, exploring my own talents as a teacher and an artist in new ways, renovating our mid-century home and, most recently, saying goodbye to my unborn daughter at just 15 weeks in early November.

So much has happened, and so much has been things I didn’t want to happen. There was more than a little kicking and screaming involved.

But now I find myself getting ready for Thanksgiving, preparing my family for the trek to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and realizing that this year has given me more to be thankful for than any year prior. And it’s not just that I appreciate the good things more, I think the grace of God has actually allowed me to find the thankfulness for the struggles as well.

The business has helped me be thankful for the gifts of others: the joy of our makers, the incredible focus and organizational skills of our Ops Director, the dependability and flexibility of our Marketing Director, the patience of our CFO working with an artist who has nightmares about journal entries and account reconciliation.

Each of these team members bring something to the business I never could – themselves. Sometimes I long for the relational simplicity of the soloprenuer life I lived for so long, but that’s the bad days. That’s when I realize that though running my business used to be easier, it was poorer, not necessarily financially, but spiritually. There was only so much I could give, and I felt the constant call for more from my audience. My team is that more. Their presence pushes me out of my comfort zone every day and there is not a doubt in my mind that that is making me a better artist, leader, and person – perhaps even into the beginnings of the person God desires me to be.

So for all the struggles, I am thankful.

My struggles with navigating school for my children, most especially my gifted four year old, have also been challenging, but they have helped me see the importance of viewing each person as an individual and realizing deeply that that is how God looks at us. It has helped me appreciate the struggles and sacrifices of my parents to provide me with a challenging education in light of my own giftedness. It has helped me see my son as a gift full of possibility, requiring a level of dedication from me above and beyond the norm because he has been given talents and gifts that have the potential to affect and shape the world above and beyond the norm.

So for all the struggles, I am thankful.

This year I also felt a call to dedicate myself to art in a deeper way than ever before. Though I showed early aptitudes for drawing, writing, poetry, and photography, much of the skill I built as child has fallen to the wayside in adulthood, except for the skills I do still use in my work. Somehow toddler motherhood and small business ownership hasn’t left a lot of time to paint and write recreationally. I still struggle frequently with frustration that I feel called to things I am not yet a professional at, and I resent the fact that time to practice, and not simply produce, is necessary.

I wrestled with this all summer particularly, and actually God has spoken to this need for time directly through the Pink Salt Riot team. They have all been getting so good at their jobs that there is less and less for me to do and more and more time for me to be creating better art for both our brand and myself. In short, God has opened the time for me to practice.

But you know what?

I hate to practice.

I like to be good at things.

And so even with the time given back to me, it has been a struggle to sit my butt down and make bad art. It’s hard to practice. Just like it’s hard to practice our faith. Have you ever noticed that’s what we call it? “Practicing” our faith?

I am at a time of tremendous opportunity in my life – a time when I can grow in discipline that will renew my life as an artist, but also as a Christian.

So for the all the struggles, I am thankful.

Our beautiful, maddening home is also a constant source of struggle that has, even still, taught us to be thankful for shelter. Our AC was sub standard for most of the Oklahoma summer, our electric and plumbing are ancient, and it felt like all we could do to simply paint all the mid century dark wood that made it feel like we were living in some kind of a underground lair after four years of enduring it. The paint on our kitchen cabinets ended up not taking two coats like we expected, but five to seven. On 40+ cabinets and drawers.

But our home feels like ours now after all the paint. The big yards are our children’s favorite playgrounds. And the constant fear that a major system will go kaput gives us a very tangible opportunity to trust God to provide.  

So for all the struggles, I am thankful.

And then, there’s Frances, my infant daughter that went home to God on All Saints Day. I found out I was pregnant my children’s first day of school. I liked the idea that I was not going to be away from all my children at any point this year. And even as I sit and write this I am aware that now I am here by myself, with an empty womb like an empty tomb inside of me.

Frances is everything that’s bittersweet in life. She is the saint from our inner circle, and I know she prays for us. But she is also the hole in our inner circle here on Earth, the open space that will never be filled until heaven.

Her sonogram picture hangs in the hall next to my other children’s portraits. Her life existed, her life mattered, and it matters still. She has deepened my pro-life views, and helped me find a new and shattering empathy with women who feel trapped into letting their unborn babies go before they have the chance to live. She has given me new empathy for the thousands of women who have walked this road before me, including my own mother. She has helped me find a longing for heaven that I have never experienced before.

So for all the struggles, I am thankful.

Wherever you are this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to count the blessings amidst your struggles even more than the blessings that come with a bow. My husband is wonderful. It takes very little from me to be thankful for him, or for my children (although that does fluctuate with their decibel level). It takes a lot more to be thankful for the struggles. The day to day gratitude should be the easy stuff- the things would could take for granted, but choose not to. But I think if we are going to take a whole day, or week even, to be about thankfulness, we need to dig in and till up our deepest feelings about everything that has touched us this year – good and bad. We need to take this gift of time and sit with it all.

Because I think, at the end of the day, a good Thanksgiving is one where we look past the turkey, and the iPhones, and the good jobs, and find the thankfulness for the hardest things we’ve faced this year. 

I think that’s when we grow.

Happy Thanksgiving, and please know that we are deeply thankful for you.