As a person of faith, Thanksgiving provides an opportunity for me to be retrospective, looking back over where I’ve been and how far I’ve come with God’s help.
In humility and gratitude, I take time to pause and give thanks to God and yet again reflect on my favorite verses in the Bible: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Recently, I looked back over the last several Thanksgiving holidays to once again count my many blessings and offer up my thanks. Here’s an abbreviated version:
- November 2005 – By Thanksgiving of that year, I was so thankful to be alive. My cancer diagnosis that summer frightened me, brought me to my knees, and made me realize how much of my life I took for granted. It also caused me to examine a bitterness that had taken root in my heart. Through much prayer and atonement, not only did I praise God for His forgiveness, but I came to fully forgive others. The chains of bitterness that encircled my heart were broken!
- November 2006 – I was happy and grateful to have been given another year of life to witness our son’s senior year of high school, tearfully and proudly watch him graduate from high school as valedictorian of his class, and send him off to college. I was also very thankful for the high quality medical care in our city for middle daughter’s concussion treatment, appreciative for oldest daughter living in the city nearby, and so fortunate to enjoy time spent with my elderly father.
- November 2007 – Another year graciously given to me chock full of blessings. Despite some set-backs, God was working in all three of our children’s lives while teaching lessons about careers, college life, and loving relationships. Good medical results from cancer screenings for me provided more fodder for my grateful heart. We celebrated the holiday at my middle sister’s home with a feast of her awesome good cooking – always something for which to be thankful!
- November 2008 – Celebrating Thanksgiving that year, we had a full house – my father, my sister and her family, and all of my own family, especially wonderful since oldest daughter had moved to another state. What a joy it was to sit at our bountiful table with some of the people I love the most, name and count our blessings, one by one.
- November 2009 – That Thanksgiving was quiet and reflective. Hubby was unemployed, and we had just lost my father the past summer. Grief was still fresh, especially on the first holiday without him. But oh, there was so much for which to be thankful! God supplied our needs; we were warm in our home and had plenty to eat. Middle daughter had graduated from college and launched her nursing career. Son had scholarship money to pay for his next semester of college. Oldest daughter safely traveled home from the south for the holiday. My father had lived a long, full, rewarding life of 90 years. God took him home quickly before his suffering became too difficult and for that I was also thankful.
- November 2010 – That fall marked the first time Papa and I were truly in the empty nest as the last of our grown children had graduated from college, initiated his career, and moved away from the nest to another state. The nest was brimming full for Thanksgiving and we were thankful for jobs and our time together but when oldest daughter left to drive back to her home in Dixie, middle daughter headed back for her home in the city, and son said goodbye to travel back to the state next door, this Mama lost it. Sadness, loneliness, and a feeling of emptiness filled my heart and not even the boxes of Christmas decorations waiting to adorn the house made this Mama’s heart happy.
- November 2011 – Celebrating Thanksgiving that year, we were grateful to have oldest daughter back living in the city with newly engaged middle daughter, and we looked forward to family times planning a wedding. As we all gathered around the dining room table and counted our blessings, a realization suddenly dawned on me. By the next Thanksgiving, our family would expand from five to six as middle daughter would be married to the young man we already loved as a son. By the end of our celebration, we got an inkling that our family would expand even more!
- November 2012 – Last year, our hearts overflowed with love and gratitude as we spent the entire year celebrating THREE weddings and welcoming two sons-in-law and one daughter-in-law into our family. Our Thanksgiving plans were different than usual though. Papa and I traveled to the state next door to celebrate the holiday with newly married son and daughter-in-law. Thanksgiving Day found us on Staten Island, helping Hurricane Sandy victims clean up after the disaster they had endured. To witness how so many had lost so much grieved our hearts and instilled in us how very much we had to be thankful for. Giving back to others, helping them in their need, and being a part of the body of Christ in ministering to the needy made that Thanksgiving one of the best ones we’ve ever celebrated.
And here we are, November 2013. Another year of life. Another year of joy and celebration but also loss and trials. But the love of family and friends remains strong as does our faith in the One who provides and hears our prayers.
Thanksgiving will be celebrated at Mama’s Empty Nest. Not all of our children will be able to come home. Middle daughter and son-in-law, both medical professionals, will be serving others as they minister to their patients in their respective hospitals. Son and daughter-in-law are hosting her family at their home in the state next door. But, weather permitting (snow is falling heavily as I write this), oldest daughter and son-in-law will travel here for a few days to join our feast.
So even though there will be beloved faces missing at the table, joy and the blessing of family time together will be celebrated with my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew, his wife and family joining us. And for the first time, there will be little ones at our dining room table also – my great-nieces, one almost three and one just two months old.
So many life events, some wonderful beyond measure, some daunting and trying, have transpired during the last few years. But through them all, the Lord has taught me lessons that needed learned, shown me grace, forgiveness, and His faithfulness in countless ways. Blessings overflow like the goodness pouring out of a horn of plenty – a cornucopia of God’s love – and we have so very much for which to be thankful.
“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” ~ Gerald Good