Finding Beauty in October

For me, Thanksgiving has come early this year. When I think about where I am—physically, mentally, emotionally—all I want to do is race to the top of a large cliff and yell at the top of my lungs, “Thank yooooou!” to the great blue yonder. And think—it’s just the beginning of October!

It’s funny, too, because I can remember so many Thanksgivings past when my grandmother would say, “Now, before we say the blessing, why don’t we all go around and name at least one thing we’re thankful for?” To which my disgruntled teenage self probably rolled her eyes and reluctantly named something she halfheartedly believed, if she said anything at all.

But now, NOW at the grand age of 23 (ha!), I know what it means to be thankful…and what it means to pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Never stop praying,” and boy did that verse ring true last year. Last October was the definition of constant prayer, only I was praying for what I felt I needed, that is peace, patience, joy, and strength to get through nearly every minute of every day. Only now am I noticing the verses that surround verse 17. You know, verse 16 that says, “Always be joyful,” and verse 18 that says, “Be thankful in all circumstances.” No wonder they always tell you to read the whole passage rather than focus on a single verse. Oops. “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances.” Got it.

All of that is to say that I am undeniably, irreversibly, everlastingly thankful. Thankful that it’s October and—unlike last October—that I can wake up, breathe in the fresh air that comes with fall, and carry that inescapable seasonal joy with me throughout my entire day. Thankful that I will finally have something genuine to say when my grandmother asks me what I am thankful for on Thanksgiving. Thankful that my daily prayers start and end with, “Thank you God for (blank)” rather than “Please God help me (blank).”

I could go on for days. Instead, I’ll leave you with the condensed version, aka my top five reasons for being thankful. I’ll also leave you with another verse in case you aren’t exactly living in a season of joy, because I know first-hand how difficult that can be. If this is you, I leave you with the verse that kept me going: “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Christ Jesus is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.” (1 Peter 1:6-8)

Five Reasons Why I Am Thankful: I am thankful for…

5. Finding my calling. It’s absolutely hilarious to me that I once thought teaching might be the career path for me after I became somewhat bored and disillusioned with journalism. I am thankful for finally realizing that journalism is, in fact, the industry in which I belong. I am also thankful that, after losing everything I owned in a tornado and consequently losing faith in what I considered to be a very tangible profession, my love for what the written word can do has been revived and is as strong as ever.

4. Being in Alabama. Tonight, as I was reading through this note that I wrote back in 2008 before I ever stepped foot on the Alabama campus as a student, I am realizing for about the millionth time now how incredibly lucky I am to be in Alabama. It’s amazing to me how much probably wouldn’t have happened had I never moved to this state (and how much moving to Texas actually brought me to this state). It’s also amazing to me that Alabama lived up to my pre-student, pre-alumni expectations of what the university experience would be like. Again, see the note. Plug for the section about football!

3. Opportunity. As I think back on my last year of teaching, it often occurs to me how fortunate I was to grow up where I did, and how much opportunity was afforded to me simply because of my street address. After moving to Texas, I can say that I attended one of the best schools in one of the most outstanding public school districts in nation, which gave me so many big and small opportunities that I know I have taken for granted. Take athletics, for instance. Even things like lifting weights in middle school and having the opportunity to attend strength and conditioning camps as a girl may seem small, but I know I grew leaps and bounds as an athlete because of them. And my students probably don’t even know those opportunities exist. (This doesn’t exactly fit neatly into this category, but I am also very, very thankful that Joshua found a job in Tuscaloosa working at the university. He started work today, and I am beyond excited for him!)

2. Great friends. What is life without great people? I am especially thankful for: Joshua, Caitlin, Lesley, Samantha, Mom, Dad, Phillip, Grandma, and everyone else who has kept me on their hearts and minds this past year. You are lifesavers, and I will be forever grateful for you.

1. Beautiful weather. I can’t not mention the weather. It is my favorite season, after all. And it really sums up my attitude about life right now. Weather seems small, and it is, sort of. But why not be thankful for it? “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances.” Big and small, happy and sad. I implore you—have a beautiful October. After all, it only comes once a year!

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  • Dear Stephanie: I am a friend of your Mom’s and ask how you are doing – especially last year – I was so glad for you to complete your ‘task’ and to come out with such wonderful knowledge. I know teaching was very important to you, and you did it beautifully and strongly! Now to read your beautiful words above, I. too, know where you should be! This is so beautiful and meaningful and I am so glad your Mom shared it with her friends. God has been right there with you all the way, and He will continue to be too. You have many wonderful places to go, and things to do – just enjoy all of the blessings you have, and will have. God bless you, Stephanie!
    With love, Susan Tandy