Holidays just aren’t what they used to be for me. I can remember years gone by, what seems like a lifetime ago, when I was a kid and we would get aunts and uncles and cousins together for a get together. Conversations would ensue. There was lots of laughter. The aunts usually played tricks on each other, then gathered on the couch to watch “Pollyanna,” a movie that I didn’t begin to appreciate until my twenties.
But time marches on. Families spread out and move away. Loved ones are lost. It becomes harder to gather everyone in the same place. Things just don’t look like they once did. In some ways, it begins to feel like a Winter of sorts.
But just as the buds begin to emerge through the snow and the trees begin to show signs of life as Winter begins to fade, so our lives are seasonal as well. As we look around, we begin to see new things, new life, new opportunities. They don’t necessarily replace the old opportunities, after all, they’re different. But they provide for us to find afresh what we thought we had lost. They provide opportunities for us to live again.
If we aren’t careful, we can get bogged down in lamenting what once was, what used to be, and in the process, miss what’s right before us. I’ve fallen into this trap too many times in the past few years. Before me is my family, my wife and 3 children, behind me is a memory of what made me who I am. By focusing on the family before me, I’m not discounting or forgetting the memory of what was. In fact, I think that I can better honor what WAS by investing in what IS.
Thanksgiving is an opportunity. Every day we have the opportunity to be thankful, but we’re given a day when we are almost forced to think through what it is that we are thankful for. Do we have a choice in the matter? Well, yes, we do. Black Friday creeps into Thanksgiving Thursday and our attention is pulled away from where it should be. That seems to be a trend in life, to be distracted from what really matters in exchange for offering a temporary salve to your empty soul. And I’ve been there, at the place where I really think that the temporary salve can actually provide a long-lasting solution. It never does, and I am always left wanting. More. More. More.
Today, when I sit down at the dinner table, there are fewer faces there than there were last year. But there are new faces as well. If not new, than they are at least changed faces. I am thankful for the opportunities that I have sitting right before my eyes.
Today, I am thankful for my family. I am grateful that we are together. Family that I have and family that I have lost, for all of them, I am thankful. I am thankful for what God has given me. My needs have never been in question, and that is a privilege beyond what I can fully understand. For that, I am thankful.
I am thankful for freedom. I can think. I can talk. I can speak my mind. I can write my mind. I can vote. I can drive. I can worship the God who made me. I can choose. For these things I am thankful.
I am thankful that I am still here. There are so many things before me that I want to experience and pray that I can. I am thankful that I have friends who have joined me in this journey. I am blessed because people care for me and about me. Not everyone can say that, so therein lies yet another privilege.
I am thankful that I am a child of God, created for His good pleasure, gifted with things that I can use for His glory. I am thankful that my life is different because of what He has done for me. I am thankful that I am not the man that I was a year ago and that next year, I won’t be who I am today. I am getting more refined, transformed, not by my own will power and determination, but by the power of God within me.
Many people have sacrificed to allow me all of these things for which I am thankful. Those sacrifices are not lost on me. Freedom is not free and privileges are not to be treated as rights. I am thankful for what I have and I need to remember what is right before me. I hope that today you will do the same.