Count your many blessings

I want to take a moment to share all of the ways in which I feel truly blessed in my life.  I don't do so in the attempt to make others feel less fortunate, and I hope it does not have that effect on anyone.  In fact, I hope it has the effect of influencing you who read this to examine their your lives and be grateful for the many blessings that you have been given.  Also, I do not feel that I have necessarily done anything spectacular or noteworthy to have qualified for all of these blessings, so I do not mean to give the impression that I am somehow more deserving than others.  Quite the opposite, I feel as though I have a duty to help those who might not be as fortunate, since I have been given so much that I can share with others.  (Because I have been given much, I too must give.)

My job is wonderful.  I love teaching math and I love doing mathematical research.  I enjoy studying, especially math.  It makes me so excited when I'm working with a student, trying to help them understand a difficult concept, and they suddenly have an epiphany which allows them to see what they've been trying so very hard to understand but until that moment were unable to see.  I love seeing the curiosity and ambition in a student's eyes when they start a new semester.  I love making a breakthrough in my research, after weeks or even months of beating my head against the wall.  I find nearly every aspect of my job (except for grading) to be rewarding.  I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to engage in employment that I find so rewarding.

My family is good to me.  My mother calls and emails to make sure that I'm doing ok.  She writes to let me know that she just watched a movie that we used to watch together all the time and how she thought of me as she was watching it.  My dad complains about Nancy Pelosi and talks about how Obama's going to send the nation to hell in a handbasket.  It may not seem all that personal on the surface, but I am touched by the way he shares with me what is important to him.  When he's talking politics or science or family history he's showing me that he loves me by sharing things that are dear to his heart or important to him.  My relationship with each one of my siblings is unique and there is something about each one that endears them to me.  Some of them just want to sit down and have a sincere heart-to-heart conversation.  Others want to joke about how insanely conservative BYU's honor code is.  Some just like texting me funny pictures that they found online somewhere.  But, each of them has their own way of saying "I love you."

Karen's family is also good to me.  Ever since Karen and I became engaged, her parents have treated me like their own son and her siblings like their own brother.  Karen's passing did not affect this relationship, since we all feel that the soul continues on after the grave and thus she is still there waiting for us to join her.  Her family is quite possibly the closest-knit family I have ever seen, each showing love for every other member of the family, treating in-laws (such as myself) no different than those related by birth.  The love and acceptance I have felt from them has been overwhelming.  Even as hard as it has been for them to learn of my sexual orientation and my relationship with Conrad, Karen's parents have still continued to see me as their own son.  They have continued to love me, even when it has been difficult for them because of the sorrow that they feel.  This certainly is true love.

I am also very grateful for Conrad's family.  I was touched by how warmly they have accepted me into their lives.  When I visited Texas for Conrad's older brother's wedding, I was asked to be in the family pictures.  When I went back to Texas to pick up Conrad and move him here to Tennessee, a going-away party was thrown for Conrad, and I sat down to dinner with the whole family.  I was welcomed just as were his brother's wife and his sister's boyfriend.  I am truly grateful for this acceptance.

Yesterday, as rain was pouring down hard all over Eastern Tennessee, I was very grateful to have a roof (albeit, a leaky roof) over my head.  I am grateful for the amenities I have to make my life easier and more comfortable--for my beloved electronic devices, a refrigerator to preserve my food, lights so that I can see even when it's nighttime.  I'm grateful for all of the photographs I have to remind me of all the happy times I have had in my life, all of the memories I have shared with my loved ones--and I'm grateful for the memories themselves.

I am grateful for the freedoms that I have--the freedom to choose my own career, to buy and wear the clothes that I like, to own my own home, to disagree with the government or my friends and family if I don't like the way things are, to read and watch the things that I am interested in, to listen to the music that I like, and so many other freedoms.

And, most of all, I'm grateful for the man who makes everything else worth living for.