Nov 7, 2021 • 24M

Things I’m thankful for (365 days of suffering edition) lol

Joel Barnes SHAREing
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This has been the hardest entry to write yet. Damn near impossible… crippling my spirit… the thought of reflecting on the last year has discouraged me every single day this week. Matter of fact, it’s sent me into the biggest funk yet. Let’s be honest here… “funk” is a cute word for depression. It’s not a coincidence that this week of reflection has been accompanied by abnormally high pain levels and abnormally stressful situations with close relationships and abnormally heightened financial stressors. I don’t believe in coincidence anymore… for better or for better (notice I didn’t say for better or for worse)… I don’t believe that ANYthing is on accident. Not to me. Why? Because if I believed that, then I’d believe that I was a victim or I experienced things as a result of some cosmic force against me… but I do not believe that. God is FOR me… in this article, I’ll explain.

(I promise… this will become less glib and sad as you keep reading. Stick with me y’all.)

It’s been 365 days since I’ve walked without the use of crutches. It’s been 365 days since I’ve been in the worst pain of my life… honestly… the reason I’ve been absolutely dreading writing this is because it’s traumatizing for me to recount all of the things that I’ve lost in the last year. Physically. Emotionally. Relationally. I’ve lost, not only my job, but my ability to HOLD a job or work. I’ve lost more friends than I knew I had. I’ve lost my church community (not anyones fault). I’ve lost more than I knew to be thankful for… and I’m a thankful ass dude. Lol. Y’all know that… but I have lost MORE than I ever KNEW to be thankful for.

You know what though? I realized that I’m not supposed to walk back through all of that for this entry. Nope. I don’t think that’s a healthy place right now. It’s raw and hurting and unhealed and unresolved… I think that’s why it’s been such a crippling week. I am not practicing what I’ve preached. My mission is “Teaching people to SHARE their blessings and their bruises to spread LOVE and EMPATHY”. My natural instinct, now, is to SHARE. That’s literally my natural instinct… so I tortured myself all week trying to figure our how to share with you so much loss and how to make sure to spin it as a blessing. Because, honestly, it’s felt to me, personally like a nuke went off in my life.

But here’s why I continue to be in a conundrum.

Because I still believe EVERYTHING I’ve ever said about my faith and about how my story will end up. Matter of fact, I’ve said that “it’s gonna be a good book one day” more times than I can count. But you know what? The time to hash through this season… the time to process everything that God is doing CURRENTLY in my life… might not be exactly NOW. You know? Maybe that’s not supposed to be my action in this immediate moment. Maybe instead of recounting my curses…. I need to pause and reflect on specifically what I have GAINED in this season.

Like… whoa… that’s not easier. No way. Matter of fact, it’s SO “not easier” that I didn’t even think about doing it ONCE in the last 6 days.

November 3rd, 2020, I had a surgery that was supposed to be an “easy breezy” surgical procedure that was supposed to put me on a higher road to health and it was planned that I’d be on crutches for a week. Imagine…. No… seriously. Imagine. Typing the number 365…. And it represents that amount of days you’ve been unable to walk. Even worse, that many days of pain…

I can see how that would send me into a depression. Lol. Seriously. Just thinking about it.

But what if… I continue to do the work (with my therapist and close trusted relationships) to heal and process all of that. What if I counted the good? As difficult as it is to see… as blinded as I’ve been by trauma, do I even have it in me to see anything good?

I’m SHAREing that I don’t always have the strength to keep the positive squarely in my focus. I don’t always have it fully submitted to God. That’s the truth. I get so overwhelmed. I want to confess that. And I want to take the next few moment to be thankful. I had planned on making a list of things I’ve lost…. Again… IMAGINE. But, instead, I want to make a list of the things I am so thankful for. Here we go! (I can already I can feel the weight lifting from my chest)

Things I’m thankful for (365 days of suffering edition)

  • My family. I already knew I had the best family in the world, but in the last year, my mom and my family have just been a rock for me. Two things that have struck me as next level… 1) it’s broken their hearts that I was suffering. It might not seem like a good thing but when people love you at a level that breaks their hearts for what breaks yours… it’s God-like. That’s how God loves us. 2) they are EXPECTANT on full healing and restoration of my life and for this season to bless OTHERS more than we could ever imagine. I couldn’t say enough about this level faith… it’s helped me to remember that I’m not crazy… and not alone. For that, I am so thankful.

  • New friends. I’m so thankful for “new friends” and what’s dope is that I could be talking about people who I didn’t know before this season AND people who have gone deeper into relationship with me during this season. Both are NEW to me… because I am NEW. It has been a completely new season and environment for me and that means that it’s a completely new way to be my friend. I have had some really beautiful experiences with some really beautiful humans behind the scenes. For that, I am SO thankful.

  • I am NEW. I’m not who people used to know anymore. He’s wiped my slate completely clean. I don’t have to carry the expectations that anyone else have assigned to me… I’m new. I’m a writer now. I’m a full time pastor now. I’m a student now. I have time to study the Bible like never before. I have time and space to hear from God like never before. I have time to parent my daughter who has needed her daddy… like never before. That alone deserves its own bullet point. For that, I am so thankful.

  • I have been able to father my daughter through the hardest season of her life in a new way. Somehow… through the hardest season of both of our lives, there has been created a foundation rooted in love and empathy that is SO secure and SO strong that I KNOW that there have been seeds planted that will yield good fruit for the rest of her life. I mentioned it in a piece I wrote a couple weeks ago … it’s been THIS season that has shifted my story from “a dad who wanted to be different” to “a father who DID different”. That came into fruition in THIS season of darkness… and for THAT I am so thankful.

  • I have NOTHING and yet God still provides my food for each day. Ugh. Here come the waterworks ….. I have nothing. Less than nothing. There’s no other way for me to say it … and I’ll probably go into more detail in the book lol… but LESS than nothing. But somehow, I keep making it. Barely. But… making it through. I can’t tell you how humiliating it was to tell my landlord what I was going through. To confess my inadequacy as a provider for my family… and to tell him that I couldn’t cover my own rent. Humiliation. You know what? AS I’M WRITING THIS…. My landlord, Greg sent me a “rental assistance program” application. This is probably the 4th or 5th time he’s done it. And not just because he wants to get his money… Greg actually checks on me. Asked me today “how you feeling?” He doesn’t have to do that. God didn’t have to give him to me as a landlord 7 years either. No coincidences, remember? The fact that God has kept my head above water even as I thought I was drowning… I am so thankful.

  • It’s STILL “gonna be a great book one day”. And you know what that means to me? Not that I’ll get to the other side and get a book deal and be not-broke 💰. Not that I’ll get to the other side and I’ll have attention or fame or recognition or be revered. Not that I’ll get to the other side and have everything that I’ve lost, restored. I talked about THIS promise in last weeks newsletter, from the Book of Job. But this ain’t it y’all. None of this is what goes through my mind when I say that “this is gonna be a great book one day”. You know what I think when I say that?! That I still have HOPE. Actively. Flowing. Through. My. Soul. Even in my more depressed week. I still have HOPE?! Seriously?! With the pain you feel right now, 370 days later?! You still have hope? Yeah. I do. And one day I’ll be able to explain it in a book and I’ll be able to use the resources from this season FOR “Teaching people to SHARE their blessings and their bruises to spread LOVE and EMPATHY.” And I stand in the middle of THAT mission having not lost hope in my own darkness. For this…. I am so thankful because it’s THIS that has saved my life. Hope saved my life.

I’m a weird writer. I know it. I write like I talk. Maybe you are listening to the podcast version of this newsletter/blog and you can’t tell… but the words on the page have ellipses and capitalizations and breaks and the same exact dialog that you are listening to. It’s how I write. And I’m trying to refine it and polish it, but every time I try to do that, I feel like it loses a little bit of the edge that God’s given me. So I end up reverting to the uncouth and raw style of writing that I’ve been ordained with.

I mention that, because I will write a bit and review a bit. Then write a bit more? And review a bit more. Half the time, I’m just making sure that my ADD brain stays on some sort of path while I create. I try to make sure that all parts of the piece are flowing in the same direction. That there’s a common theme… and it’s building upon itself. You know what happened when I just went back to review what I had written to this point? I saw this pattern.

Family -> Friends -> I am new -> Fatherhood -> Provision -> HOPE.

Those are my bullet point simplified. And you know what the pattern is? I got to each point by reflecting on what I was thankful for in the previous point. I ended up at HOPE because I had discovered my blessings of provision. I observed my blessings with provision because I saw the blessing of fatherhood. I was a blessing in fatherhood because I am new… and experience new relationships with friends… and that is the extension of family to me. I appreciated my family first because that’s who’s closest to me in these trenches.

But do you see the pattern? Thankfulness breeds thankfulness and leads to hope. Thankfulness is light in a dark place. It doesn’t matter how dark it is around you… find a flicker of light in 1 thing that you are thankful for… and darkness begins to lose its power. You might be down to a matchstick of hope and it may not seems like much, but a single match holds the power to obliterate the darkness. And it’s contagious!

It felt like a waterfall flowing while I was writing this today. For that, I am so so so thankful. I hope this might encourage someone out there to write down something they are thankful for and to keep writing as one thing shows you another thing and another thing. Before you know it, the light WILL outshine the darkness.

Thank you for being on this journey with me. I want to thank all of you who have supported this project and shared it and liked it and subscribed to it. I promise to keep going. I promise to keep SHAREing…. And you know what? I also want to promise you all that I’ll keep healing. I will. This season has been really traumatic and I know that I’ll have work to do here for awhile. I’m excited to see what God’s going to do with all that.

Until next time. Don’t forget to SHARE. We have enough. Whether it’s blessings or bruises, we have enough. If you’ve been blessed, share that blessing. If you have been bruised, find a safe and healthy space to share and release that burden. You are not alone … and we are going to prove it.

I want to end on a little humor… I took this video seconds after I got back into the triage room after surgery on November 3rd, 2020. A) it’s still a hilarious video (but more importantly) B) I still believe it… 365 days later.


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