Here we are again, Thanksgiving week. And, here I am again, a little bitter that the consumerism of Christmas is overshadowing the reflection work that is needed in our hearts as we learn to practice thankfulness.
My dream this year? To sit with those I love and reflect out loud on myriad things in which we are thankful. To talk about the things of the heart and the things of life that really matter.
Last week I got the opportunity to share holiday memories and traditions with our women’s ministry. I reflected and shared about worshipping as a family on Christmas Eve. Christmas music and times with family always bring me back to missing my dad and celebrating the many rich memories we had together. So, of course, in true Jen fashion, I cried from the beginning. Never fails–add a big group of people and sharing, and I lose it.
I took pleasure in hearing the other pastor’s wives and ministry leaders share their traditions and memories. In fact, there were several that I would like to put into practice in our family–many of which had to do with the act of thanksgiving. Many shared that they sat around the table and shared what they were thankful for from the past year. I have made place cards in the past telling those there what I appreciate and am thankful for about them. The idea that stuck with me was a thanksgiving jar. This family has a jar in their home where they place sentences of thankfulness throughout the year. As God works, they write it down. They, then, dump the jar on the table after their Thanksgiving meal and one by one read what God has done and praise him for it. We are all so quick to forget his faithfulness. I loved this idea. What I also loved about this is that it is about sharing the heart, but it may be less intimidating for an introverted person to read out a slip of paper than have pressure to share from their memory or something “profound.”
We are commanded in scripture to give thanks in all circumstances–to rejoice and be thankful. This is a conscious decision and practice. Thankfulness breeds joy and encouragement. It forces our eyes upward to God instead of on ourselves in self-worship (even if that self-worship involves negativity and feeling overcome with circumstances). So, I choose to share what I am thankful for in this year, and I invited you to share as well…Not necessarily in order.
- First and foremost, I am thankful that God has taught me so much about beholding and living in the truth of the Gospel daily–That I am declared righteous in Christ because of his perfectly obedient life and death that bore the wrath for my sins…That I am set free from the bondage of sin to walk with him and in him and that I can obey him…That God has no more wrath for me–only the love and direction of a Father.
- I am thankful for His grace toward me daily. I do not live in religion and a set of rules but in his gracious work and character! ( and a reminder so faithfully to share that with others)
- The gift of my husband, Greg…that God is making us more like Christ in the pleasurable times together and in the hard. That we can laugh together and be silly.
- Family and friends that are in relationship with Christ spurring me on toward love and good deeds and showing me the grace of Christ when I fall flat on my face.
- Dear old friends that knew me when and know me now and ask the hard questions…Cindy and Amber. The fact that we semi-regularly get together and regularly chat on the phone.
- My “mentor” friend, Beth, who listens and helps from recycling to issues of infertility. God is so gracious to put people in our lives who understand the heart and function of things at just the right time. I am thankful that she is there now and has been there.
- I am thankful that God has stretched me and is stretching me to “do hard things” like form a non-profit, Women’s Discipleship Concepts, providing a board, and people who are praying and giving, and new friends to minister with and to. Hard work and faith and hard work and trust–he is faithful.
- I am thankful for the small group that God had us in for 7 1/2 years…and the friendships that have come out of that even when though the group has ended.
- I am thankful for the opportunity to minister and be ministered to as a small group leader for 5 years to a group of young women whom I miss meeting with weekly. I thank God that he is faithful in their lives and is growing them.
- I am thankful for my dog, Bailey, whose presence teaches me to care beyond myself and whose warm snuggles are a joy. I am thankful that her presence is there even when she makes my backyard look like a nuclear bomb has gone off…Even more special, we got her on my dad’s birthday 2 years ago. I know he would have gotten a lot of joy from playing with her.
- I am thankful for Melba, my mentor, who ministers such love, grace, truth and encouragement to me. I am thankful that she faithfully points me to God’s word.
- I am thankful for a warm bed to sleep in and a warm home to open to share with others. I am ashamed when I compare to others and think I have less–because we are richly provided with all we need.
- I am immensely thankful for our church body, Fellowship Church. I am thankful for the heart of the elders and pastors and the body which seek to honor Christ and hold tightly to his gospel and nothing else! I am thankful that my husband has a boss there that ministers to him and encourages him.
- I am thankful for deep questions to ask of myself and others—and I am thankful for dry answers from myself and others which continue to teach me that I need Christ every moment!
- I am thankful for the opportunity to work with college students and young adults–the life and energy and challenge they provide.
- I am thankful for all my nieces and nephews and how different and uniquely special they all are–in order of Age-youngest to oldest…Kale, Hunter, Joel, Sarah, Stephen, Andrew and Brittany. (From 3 months to 22 years!) I cannot wait to meet little Kale at Christmas. I could not imagine at 11 years old, when Brittany was born, how much these precious ones would be a part of my life.
- I am thankful that I get to stand with Brittany and have the honor of being her Matron of Honor next May as she marries Ben.
- I am thankful for God’s provision of timing and a doctor to help diagnose and treat Greg this year as this is the beginning of our battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis. God has been faithful to provide from doctor to medicine to energy…to joy in the midst of hardship.
- I am thankful for a mother who has wisdom to support in very special ways and not put pressure–I think about dating and marriage and now looking toward children. She never pushes or puts pressure in those areas. I only hope I can be wise in those things with others.
- I am thankful that God is the one in charge of bringing life into our family…I echo my trust in him.
- I am thankful for new friends this year…
- I am thankful for music.
- I am thankful for the opportunity to exercise.
- I am thankful for the talent of painting and art and creativity. It is a way to enjoy life fully.
- I am thankful for times of quiet–at my sister’s lakehouse, in the hammock, in the bathtub, driving in silence, hiking, at my aunt’s beach house…
- I am thankful for the diversity of all our family.
- I am thankful that God is Sovereign…a beautiful comfort for a worrier like me. I am thankful he is teaching me to rest in his sovereignty in all things…salvation, finances, marriage, children, future, friendships, etc.
- I am thankful for the things that are yet to come in this year as we celebrate together Thursday and beyond.