A Hard Thanksgiving

The month of November marks the celebration of the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It is my ALL-TIME favorite holiday. Why, you might wonder? Thanksgiving means everyone is home. The cousins out west, cousins home from college, all my siblings together. Thanksgiving means endless rounds of SPOONS, trying a fun new game at Uncle Paul and Aunt Vicki’s. It means turkey and stuffing, my mom’s amazing peach pies, laughter and memories and farm talk and shared gratitude.

Thanksgiving is easy when times are good. I can look back and count gifts when God provided, when joy spilled over and my cup was full.

But what about the hard things? When people die and friends hurt us, when days are hot and long and we struggle to put one foot in front of the other.

Praise in the tough times is hard. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that confess his name”. Sacrifice is hard, it means a surrender, a putting of something on the alter, it is messy. But God is most worthy of our praise whether times are good for us or not.

Many people are listing all the things they are grateful for in this Thanksgiving season. Today as I thought about my sacrifice of praise, I was remembering some of the hard things.
– Watching my grandpa die of Alzheimer’s
– Two grandmas who died of cancer
– Coming back to college after a summer overseas and re-entry shock that lasted a full two months
– A youth pastor who lied to us and left a lot of hurt in his wake

It is not easy to surrender the hurt, the ache of these hard times. But here I share with you my sacrifice of praise.

1. I am thankful for the legacy of my grandparents. Although they are not here on earth any more, I am thankful for the chance to know and love them. I am constantly reminded of this when friends in Cambodia share that they never got to meet their grandparents.

2. I am thankful that God told me to go home in July 2010 so I could hug my grandma Anderson one last time and hear her say, “I love you”.

3. I am thankful for the few precious memories I have of my grandma Hilkemann- how over a pile of macaroni and cheese she taught me to start at the edges and work my way in to avoid a burnt tongue from the hot middle. How we made homemade pizza and enjoyed it together. Putting stickers on her cane to cheer her up, not realizing it was the last time I would get to see her alive.

4. I am thankful that in the hard season my junior year, my friends did not give up on me (although they perhaps wanted to). I am thankful for relationships that deepened, listening ears, doors left open, tears that finally came.

5. I am thankful for lessons in forgiveness and letting go.

6. I am thankful for restored relationships, parents who stepped in to fill the gap in our youth group, a new season for our church.

7. I am so thankful for God’s grace. When I respond to situations negatively, when I make mistakes and come running to Him, He is quick to forgive. He is constant when my emotions are unsteady and shows His love in a million different ways. Even in the pain, I can see His hand at work. He is good.

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