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Lemonade matters

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. We hear that when things go wrong.

Lemonade is pretty good when you make it right, but I’ve had some pretty awful stuff that called itself by the name. What’s the difference? It’s quite often the balance and the strength of the lemons. Do the strongest lemons make the best lemonade? They do if you balance them with the right amount of sugar.

In this Thanksgiving season, can we be thankful for the lemonade? Sometimes life’s lemons lead us down a path we don’t want to walk. I’ve had my share of those. People who’ve rejected me or just gone about doing their thing without regarding how it would affect others, physical challenges — for myself and loved ones, loved ones lost, major disappointments.

All lemons. How do you make lemonade from that?

Not to introduce another cliche, but you’ve heard, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I’m not sure I believe that, I’ve been weakened by life in the past. But I do believe that we go through trials for a reason.

When my oldest was diagnosed with yet another physical issue as a child — this time pectus excavatum, essential a sunken chest — and facing surgery to implant a metal bar in his chest, it sure felt like a lemon. It turns out he didn’t need the surgery because it started to correct on its own, but, truth be told, I really didn’t need that stress in my life just then. But ... a few years later, another mother at our church spoke to me about her son’s condition — you guessed it pectus excavatum. I was able to reassure her about the procedure and although her son also didn’t end up needing the surgery either, I feel like I was able to help take a weight off of her, if just for a moment, because I was able to be that person who knew what she was talking about and going through.

On the other side of things, a friend sent me a link to a blog quite a few years ago written by another friend who was going through a particularly rough time. It was hard to read, and yet, it had a hopeful air, that things would — and did — turn out okay. Fast forward a bit and that person’s struggles became mine. Through the blog I had read, they shared their recipe for lemonade with me. I’ve still got to make my own, but at least I know it’s possible. Someday, maybe I’ll share that same recipe with someone else, take a bit of their worry or at least hold their hand while they do it.

That’s the sugar in this metaphor: helping hands and the right attitude. Having someone walking along side you who knows the way out can make all the difference in the world. Believing that there’s a purpose, even when you don’t know what it is, and that maybe someday you’ll help someone else through their struggle can give you the strength to keep going.

We have to have some water now for our lemonade. That’s time. There’s nothing that can water down pain and make it drinkable like time. You just have to get to the other side and let the days — or sometimes years — take the edge off. Watch out for that pulp though, there will still be moments that hit you with a sour taste the sugar doesn’t conceal. As time goes by, and our lemonade gets more balanced, those will be farther apart.

Here’s the thing about lemonade, and life, you have to take the bad with the good. One more cliche, this time from Libba Bray — you don’t notice the light without a bit of shadow. A little pain in our lives makes us appreciate the good things.

I’m happy with where I am right now. There are a few things I would change, but I love what I’m doing. I love talking to all of you, both in person and through this column. I have people I love in my life that love me back. I’m safe, I’m warm — except in the office, and I have food on the table. Some of the things that brought me to this place and time weren’t fun, but for right now the lemonade is pretty sweet.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to be thankful for the lemons, but I’ve learned to be grateful to have the lemonade.


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