"Rejoice in the Lord always again I say rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7
Another thanksgiving, another time to rejoice. Ecclesiastes will remind us that there is a time for every activity under heaven, that life will change, that we will pass through different seasons and phases of our life... but Paul reminds us that there is always something to be grateful for, there is always a reason to say thank you and celebrate God's graciousness to us.
Sometimes it feels to me like life will never stop changing and I will never stop growing. Changing who I am as a person as I learn to mold and adapt to different life experiences, different friends, different locations, and different jobs. I'm so grateful for the experiences of my past where God has taught me His faithfulness and taught me about His love for me. I have seen God leading me in specific situations when I was young or when I was in college that prepared me to face some of the more recent things and experiences I faced as a much stronger and prepared individual and Christian.
I will never forget spending a Thanksgiving in Peru with my student missionary family when I was eighteen years old. It was nothing like a typical thanksgiving with family- but we cherished our time together and tried to make some simple dishes to remind ourselves of home. I remember falling in love with missions for the first time while I was in Peru. I was ready to quit college and move my life overseas to serve. And I remember dreaming and writing in my journal that one day I would go to Africa and serve there. Little did I know five years later, after going to nursing school and working a year as a night shift pediatric nurse, God would answer my prayer and that calling he put on my heart and lead me to Kenya to serve there for six months. And while I was so unprepared for the poverty and challenges that the Kenyans faced daily, God guided me with grace and compassion and provided every daily need. I will forever thank God for the opportunity to travel and volunteer in both Kenya and Peru and for the effect the beautiful people I met there will forever have in my life.
For most of my life I've spent my thanksgivings in either Illinois or Oklahoma. As a family we would rotate holidays between my mom's house and my dad's house. Both Thanksgivings were so special and authentic in their own way but couldn't be more different. Illinois' Thanksgivings were at my grandparents' beautiful home in Mattoon that my grandpa actually built for himself. At their house there is always an abundance of family members (maybe 8-30), an abundance of good food, and an abundance of noise and holiday activities.
At my dad's house in Oklahoma, it was always a quiet, more simple Thanksgiving, spent in the country side. My cousin Kim and I would jump hay bales, shoot hoops, and play with the ducks or horses. My mom would make a dish or two and my grandma would make a vegetarian casserole and a fruit salad. No matter what we were always together: me, my brother, my mom, and my dad.
I remember spending one Thanksgiving with my mom, dad, and brother in Little Tybee Island Savannah Georgia. It was while I was in college and single. I remember my mom and I doing so much cooking and making this incredible corn casserole and then I remember playing with my brother on the beach and tackling each other in the waves. I will never forget the fun we had together running around and playing in the water. My brother was always my best friend growing up and I will always love him deeply.
Every thanksgiving brings new changes, new seasons, and new reasons to celebrate and praise God. This thanksgiving I'm celebrating with my new family in South Carolina because I've now experienced six months of the joy of marriage. For many years I prayed for a loving husband and I finally have a family of my own. It's small now but it won't be forever. So now I have a husband that I can love and call my own and I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful to be married and to be sharing my life with his.
Thanksgiving is funny, because it's a holiday we all experience in our own different ways with ourselves, or our families, or part of our families. It's something we can celebrate around the world, on vacation, or in our families' houses but really it's up to us, to choose the status of our hearts this season and this day. Only we can choose whether or not we are really and truly grateful and if we are going to live that way in gratitude. So I just encourage you, to spend some time today saying thank you to God and maybe remembering some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories with family and friends that you love. Slow down, sit for a minute, and think about something you are thankful for.