You know how your family does that "tell everyone what you're thankful for" thing? Well, I was always the kid who tried to think of the most holy-sounding response, usually throwing in "God" and "family" as buzzwords here and there. Honestly though, Thanksgiving meant very little to me during the first nineteen years of my life. I mean, I took great care to be grateful every day. Plus, it was just another holiday I had to navigate the realities of my parents' divorce (talk about tricky dinner conversation). The point is: Thanksgiving was just a chance to play with my cousins and verbally sprinkle my Christmas wish list on anyone who would humor my dreams of getting a puppy.
Now, that all changed when the eating disorder reared its ugly head. The holiday season became nothing short of miserable, and Thanksgiving in particular felt like an ultimate test in which I was doomed to fail with family and friends all watching.
At the risk of sounding cliche though: This year is different. It's the first year that Thanksgiving is "capable" not "calories" and "gratitude" instead of "guilt." See, like the Pilgrims did almost 400 years ago: I now recognize that looking back is a vital part of moving forward.
Let me tell ya: Looking back is painful. At the same time, it amazes me what God has done in my life this year. It also humbles me to realize how many friends and family-- many of you-- have stood with me, prayed for me and cried with me during the process thus far. You have eaten meals with me, learned about meal plans, texted encouragement and shown me what "fun" is-- something I'd missed out on for about five years. And for those five years, I hated Thanksgiving.
And I want to say thank you. Thank you to my parents. Thank you to my church-- both in Indy and Columbus. Thank you to Mary, Katy, Olivia, Stephanie, Hannah, Lexi, Lauren, Kristin and Stacie. Thank you to the amazing friends I met in recovery (because you women actually empathize with the struggle of this journey). Thank you to my therapists and mentors and dietician and everyone else who has seen God at work in my life. This Thanksgiving is such a miraculous milestone for me, largely due to your love and support.
Some of you know that I had a mild muscle strain that didn't allow me to finish our my cross country season the way I'd hoped. And yet: I am so grateful that God has given me this opportunity to learn how to cope with injury in a healthy way. How can I retain anger about that though!? Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be competing and running again with joy. I never thought I'd really feel comfortable being myself and letting others see that. I never thought I'd have real friends-- ones who were there all along, in reality. God is restoring life to me in ways I never thought were even possible.
All of this is bogus when I think about the pain I was going through at this time last year: Faced with the shame of having to withdraw from school because I was too unhealthy. I've worked with every fiber of my being to get where I am. But, like Paul says in 1 Corinthians, it is by the grace of God I am where I am. My strength comes from Him alone, and I am eternally grateful that I have so many people on "Team Hannah." I'm overwhelmed with thanks. But the cool part is, that joy now overflows into my life, paid forward to others in a grand circle of God's love!
So while you are enjoying your family and friends this holiday, I want you to know that I am grateful-- immensely grateful-- for YOU. So many of you have made a huge impact in my life. Happy Thanksgiving. This is my "Freedom Filled 2015," and Thanksgiving is such a sweet time to reflect on all this year has been. Thank you.