It’s more than just a holiday. It is more than a few days off of work, or a meal you’ve prepared for weeks in advance. No, Thanksgiving is more than a parade of giant balloons tethered to the bodies of the people underneath them, walking in a line down miles of New York City streets. It’s more than having dinner at lunchtime, eating as much as you possibly can in the span of an hour, and spending the rest of the evening on the couch in front of the football game. No, it’s much more than waking up before the sun rises to wait in a long line of people waiting to get that door buster deal at your favorite department store. Thanksgiving is so much more than family, friends, food, fun, or fashion. SO. MUCH. MORE.
I don’t know about you, but it’s not always easy to count my blessings. I was challenged this morning to write down SEVEN things I am most thankful for. Not just the things or people that I am thankful for, but the ones that I am MOST thankful for. The ones deep within my heart; the ones that are often overlooked, and maybe just haven’t even been discovered yet. So, this morning I dug deep. I reached far down into my heart and pulled out some things I didn’t realize I cherished so much. And now I’m going to share them with you because by sharing them, I am bringing them to light. What good is thankfulness if you never share it with others?
(Please note that these are not in any particular order! They are definitely not in order of thankfulness!)
- OKLAHOMA — I am thankful for a new and different perspective on life and on ministry. I am thankful for the growth that new cultures and places brings as I learn about different types of people, different types of weather and geography, but most importantly different types of food! 🙂 I have always been on a journey to find newness and change consistently, and I am so thankful for the lessons and challenges that Oklahoma has brought. I am growing here, and I couldn’t be more thankful to Oklahoma for welcoming me home.
- FAMILY — I am so thankful for such a supportive and loving family. Many of them don’t even understand my desire to move so far away from them and pursue such a strange passion, but still they love me anyway, and try to support me as best they can. I so appreciate that. I have always been the black sheep, but still they care about me and include me, even across thousands of miles. But my parents and my sister, Juli — the thankfulness in my heart for them is what consistently overflows. I have never been more thankful for FaceTime and for USPS so that we can continually make these miles seem closer than they appear. I feel their love so much, even though they aren’t here to hug me, to catch my tears, or to laugh heartily with me at Dad’s jokes. Absence really does cause the heart to grow exponentially fonder, and I am pleasantly surprised to see how well my family loves me from afar!
- REDEMPTION — The past several years have been difficult for a number of reasons, but mostly due to bad decisions on my part. I’ve made many poor decisions financially, relationally, career-wise, and beyond. Through every single difficult choice, though, God has been with me. Over these years, I’ve learned that there are no “wrong” choices, just minor setbacks and consequences for unwise ones. God knows every move we make before we make it. We don’t always choose the best fork in the path, but somehow we still find God up ahead. That other direction may have been a better choice for us, but He knew where we’d end up, and He went there with us. And that’s what He has done for me. We don’t always choose the route that God would choose for us, but that’s the beauty of redemption — we have the freedom to honor God or to not honor God. But no matter how far we get off track, He is always there to put us back, and when He does, often times we end up far stronger and more purposed than before. So I am thankful for God’s redemption over these last few years. When I wandered astray, He began to plant beautiful flowers along the path. He worked hard to make sure the seed was tilled and watered and had enough sunlight. Then when I finally found my way back to Him, back to the path, I discovered a beautiful garden there — the road was even better than it was before. Redemption.
- OPPORTUNITY — I have no words for how thankful I am for the opportunity to even be in Oklahoma right now, to even be at Life.Church and sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning and growing from Him. I am thankful for the newness that this opportunity has brought — for new friends, new co-workers, new skills being cultivated and new talents being used. I’m thrilled even to imagine all the future opportunities that this one simple step of faith might bring in the future.
- FRIENDSHIPS — I don’t have a lot of deep, valuable friendships in my life yet. Yes, I’ve been alive for 31 years, but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve really figured out how to be a good and loyal companion to anyone. To be honest, I’m still learning. Vulnerability is part of it, I know, and another thing is courage. I’m thankful for the courage that the Lord has cultivated in my heart so that I can approach relationships with much less fear and much more trust. But mostly I’m thankful for the people that have stuck around through all the years that I didn’t really have it together. Let’s face it, will I ever really have it together? Probably not. All the more reason why I’m extremely thankful for all of the wonderful people in my life! For Kelly, Colleen, Abigail, Christine, and Steph — I hope our friendship never fades! I am thankful for you beyond any words I can express. Your encouragement through the ups and downs of my journey will never be forgotten. I am so thankful for you! But also for my new friends too — Lauren, Tara, Jamie, Brooke, Chelsea, Katelyn, Mellissa, and so many more that I barely know yet — I am so thankful for you as well! I am thankful for all the possibilities of memories to be made and opportunities to sharpen one another in the days to come.
- MY PAST — Here’s the one I didn’t realize was in there, the one thing in my heart filled with unexpected joy and thankfulness. You know you’ve grown a lot when you can sense thankfulness in your heart for things in the past. There are so many people in my past who have hurt me, so many circumstances that have broken my heart, but I can finally stand here and say that for all of these, I am THANKFUL! If I dared to make a list of names of people who have influenced me and people who have hurt me, I kid you not that the list of hurtful people would be longer than the influencers. It may even be double! But I can truthfully and joyfully say that no matter what list they made it onto, each person has for sure contributed to me being the woman I am today. Every single circumstance has shaped me into this daughter of Christ. I am closer to becoming that woman God knows I can be because of everything and everyone that has been a part of my past.
- JESUS — Obviously the underlying reason for any of these other reasons to be thankful, is JESUS. Jesus is One who was sacrificed on my behalf to begin with. In the midst of my deepest, darkest moments in life, when I turned away from God and indulged so deeply in all my earthly desires, Jesus looked me straight in the eyes as he hung on the cross and breathed his last breath. He saw me long before I ever met him, and he knew the desires of my heart. Yet He still chose to die so that I could live in the freedom of His relentless love.. so that I could live with a hope and a future. For all of this, I am eternally thankful. There will never be any melody lovely enough to sing His praises, but I will try to anyway.
What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving Day, 2017? I challenge you to form your own list of seven things, and share it with the ones you love and trust. Let us together praise the Lord and bring honor to His Name for all of His many blessings!