Now is the time of year when most people sit around and began to think of what they are thankful for. Sometimes there are things in life or in the world that make you ponder on what you are thankful for long before the month of November.
As I meet new people, witness new events, and travel to new places I am often reminded of the things I’m thankful for. Most of all, I am thankful for the many blessings God has given me. It is very easy to overlook the little things. However, the little things you have may be the “big things” another person wish they had. Likewise, it is easy to complain about what we do not have. I once heard someone say, each person should think of all that they already have before complaining about what they do not have. Remember that every blessing that you receive is a gift from the Lord above. We would not have much without his love, grace, and almighty power.
Reflecting on my own life, I’m thankful for many blessings. First, I am thankful for life itself, and my current state of good health. I’m thankful for 4 parents (a mother, 2 dads, and a stepmother) who have always pushed me to reach my potential and held me to high standard. I’m thankful for surrounding family members who are always praying for my safety and well-being. I’m thankful for a girlfriend who is prayer partner and gives me a reason to smile even on the toughest of days. I’m thankful for many mentors who are always willing to talk with me and show me the way. I’m thankful for friends to chat with and enjoy great conversation. I give thanks to Lord for the chance to receive a college education and the ability to work towards achieving my goals.
There are so many more things I am thankful for. Yet, many may not have some of those I listed above. Regardless, just the gift of life is something to praise the Lord for. I believe each life is precious and has value. Jesus Christ died and rose for each person on this Earth- regardless of gender, color, last name, or region of the globe. Each new day, each meal, and each opportunity is a gift from our Creator.
This Thanksgiving, think of all the things you are blessed with. Think of all the wonderful people in your life. Think of the blessings that may seem small, like the next breath. Think of the blessings that are large, like the receiving your dream job or buying your dream car. Then, remember that the Lord is the source of everything we have. No matter how simple or complex, big or small; the Lord is the source of everything we have today and all we will receive in the future. Do not just give him thanks in the holiday season. Give the Lord praise continually, ever day of the year, without ceasing. Be thankful for all your many blessings.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” - 1 Chronicles 16
Thanksgiving. Something that should be innate to believers. In everything give thanks, right? God is good all the time and...you know the rest. Thanksgiving and praise should ring forth out of our hearts and off of our lips every day, at least once a day to meet the required Christian quota, or so we're taught. But what if that's not what happens? What if you aren't really seeing anything in your life to be thankful for? What if your health is failing, your finances are insufficient, you hate your job, or you're still single? What if you're really not thankful?
You are not alone. Often in the Bible, we can see men and women who were unhappy and dissatisfied with where they were in life. Elijah was trying to be killed by Jezebel so he went out to a field and asked God to kill him. That doesn't sound like he was too grateful for life. Naomi lost both of her sons, only had 2 daughter in-laws, and a debt. She told her daughter in-laws to go back to where they were from and just forget about her. She didn't seem grateful to have them with her. Job lost everything he had except his wife and his life and still had the audacity to 'go off' on the God of the universe. Job didn't seem grateful for what was left. Jesus prayed that there be another way other than the cross. He didn't seem grateful to die. John was exiled to the island of Patmos. Although he wrote the book of Revelations, I doubt he was grateful to be on an island alone for an extended period of time.
So what do you do when you're ungrateful? Shift your focus. Oftentimes, it is easy to see all of the bad in any situation. Research has shown that bad or deleterious memories and emotions stick with us longer than happy or exciting memories and emotions do. In other words, we remember and attach to the bad more than the good. Although, this may be the truth, as believers we have a different truth. We always have a different reason to be thankful. The objective truth of the gospel is that a perfect Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21) came to an imperfect earth, put on this sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), lived a perfect life (Hebrews 7:26), died a death meant for us (Rom. 4:25), and was raised for our reconciliation with God (Rom. 5:10).
When we shift our focus from subjective, temporal situations and people and onto the almighty Savior of the universe, thanksgiving rings from our hearts. When we remove our selfish, sinful desires and look at the One who is true, just, gracious, and loving, we can only be grateful. Not to undermine our emotions and feelings, because God does care and wants to hear about what troubles and worries us (1 Peter 5:7). However, we can't focus or dwell in negativity and ungratefulness with a Savior like Jesus.
This thanksgiving in those times when you don't feel the most grateful, ask yourself what are you truly thankful for?
Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas – basically, anything that included a feast – those were definitely the go-to’s; days filled with hours upon hours of meal preparation, spending the entire afternoon with grandparents, visits from relatives you often didn’t see otherwise, and the promise of a top-pant-button-unfastened full belly and delectable leftovers for microwaveable-reheats to come.
Think back on your own fondest moments and memories from childhood. If your yesteryear was anything like mine, holidays are seated firmly atop the leaderboard.
As for THE favorite, I’d suspect that many will hearken back to the awe and wonder of Christmas mornings; all the suspense and anticipation the event had to offer, complete with yet-to-be-unearthed treasures awaiting their respective turns to be shredded open beneath wondrously decorated Christmas trees, adorned by festively designed wrapping papers of sleigh bells, snowmen, and reindeer.
As a preemptive measure, let me be clear: Christmas was a BIG deal in our home (especially as an only child with very generous grandparents that took great fulfillment in living up to all joys and perks their role entailed). Christmas lights, inner-tubes (more maneuverable than sleds), the wish for a multiple-foot-deep unleashing of snow that’d ensure a week’s worth of Snow Days to keep me home from school; and those were all just the longings to attribute to my father.
But… There was just something about Thanksgiving. Even as a youngster that couldn’t quite yet grasp the entirety of what the holiday was “really” about – you know, aside from the essentials: turkey, stuffing, pies and pies and pies, and football – I remember a difference in demeanor of the adults around me. It was unlike any other of our ‘holy days,’ Christmas included. You always did (mostly) your best to behave (or just avoid getting caught), but there was a certain tangible reverence in the air when it came to Thanksgiving Day and, accordingly, how you should conduct yourself. That’s what I recollect most clearly; when it was evident the occasion meant something more than any other typical day.
We were not a church-going family. We didn’t pray before meals, didn’t adorn our Sunday best, and didn’t discuss God (and certainly not Jesus) in any capacity. It wasn’t relevant; we led a pretty busy life and no mention of including God into it was ever steered to the forefront of our attention. This isn’t to say we were anti-Religion (although I did believe I was Atheist at one point), but it was just never part of the discussion, never brought into consideration.
Thanksgiving, though; if there were ever a time I can look back and see myself experiencing the Presence of the Lord being firmly planted in my midst, it’s crystal clear He was abiding right there in the room with us. While I was still none the wiser, God was molding and fashioning me to learn how to acknowledge that His Presence was and is dwelling amongst us.
Before I ever knew any semblance of who He was, He was teaching me reverence.
Before I ever learned to recognize His voice, He was calling my name.
Before I ever knew I was running the other direction, He was drawing me near.
Before I ever had any notion of my need for a Savior, He was displaying signs of His unending Grace and Patience, allowing my discovery to take place squarely within the safety of His Hand.
We all grew to learn about the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, and the traditions surrounding the holiday here in the States. What will forever strike the biggest chord in my memory is discovering how the Lord used Thanksgiving to instill in me an understanding for those moments where we need only to give Him thanks, praise His name, and declare that He is Lord.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving.
– Psalm 95:2
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in Your presence.
– Psalm 140:13
All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
– 2 Corinthians 4:15
And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Ephesians 5:20
Gardens require more work than those without a green thumb may realize. At least that was the case for me as a young girl. I was fascinated by the look of gardens and the idea of eating food you planted.
Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and wanted their life, family, money, job, reputation, etc.? We all have wanted what someone has. It is true. But just like with a garden, we see the end result and are unaware of their labor for their current harvest. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
What have you been sowing? If you are constantly comparing your life to someone else’s you are sowing seeds of ungratefulness, discord, strife, jealousy, and so much more. Stop! I beg you!
Wherever you are now, take a moment and write a list of things you are grateful for. Add to it. Review it everyday. Review the list when your garden seems to be dying. Rejuvenate yourself through faith. Speak over your garden. And, review it when everything is going great- sincere gratitude requires humility. Always give thanks to God for all your successes and victories.
Do you think the lady with a beautiful garden goes out and says her garden will die and not produce any fruit everyday? Or can you see her smiling from ear to ear in anticipation of what she will harvest this year. Your words have power. How are you using yours?
Water your garden with seeds of thanksgiving and praise. Giving God thanks does not mean your life is perfect. Many times, giving God thanks in the midst of challenging situations is an act of faith and the way God intended for us to water our gardens.
When you see someone reaping a harvest, remember you have no idea how many times they experienced crop failure in the past. Yet, they did give up! They studied, learned from their mistakes and went back out there the next year. Let this be your gratitude check. It may be by far easier to complain and whine about what is not right in your life, but that only plants seeds that you will later reap. Plant seeds of thanksgiving!
The bottom line is that your faith, gratitude, and current situation is linked to your ability to give God thanks at all times.
Be thankful for life. Be thankful for friends and family. Be thankful God woke you up this morning. Be thankful you are able to read this blog. Just be thankful. While you may not have rows and rows of harvest like your neighbor next to you, you at least can give thanks for what you do have.
Water your garden with thanksgiving. Nothing is impossible!
Founder, Always Praying
Here young adults share their struggles and victories to encourage you on your Christian journey. You are never alone! God is with and for you and we always praying for you!