Giving Thanks

Today in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving.  For a lot of people, this holiday can be very controversial.  Historically, it is a reminder of land and lives that were taken.  It can also be a reminder here in the present of people who are missing from around the table, through loss or estrangement.  It can be a contentious holiday as people avoid certain topics, walking on eggshells to try to keep the peace.

But it’s also a day set aside to celebrate gratitude.  It’s a bittersweet concoction of seeking out the joy and gifts in your life that follow so closely the struggles and pain.  It’s searching for the presence of God in the stillness of sorrow.

Personally, Thanksgiving is a time of hard memories.  It is surrounded by lost dreams.  My first daughter was stillborn four years ago the day before Thanksgiving.  My second daughter was actually supposed to be born the day before Thanksgiving two years ago, but was stillborn a few months before her impending arrival.

And this Thanksgiving.  I’m holding a miracle of a son in my arms, overwhelmed with gratitude, but also with loss and wonder at what it might have been like if my daughters were alive.  How chaotic and loud would my home be?  Would my daughters play with my son as I cook dinner?  How different would our Christmas card look?

It’s okay to feel both gratitude and heartache this holiday.  If you need permission to feel so, then I’m giving it to you right now.  It doesn’t have to be either/or.  It can be both/and.  And if you are only feeling one or the other, that’s okay too.  Gratitude (much like love on Valentine’s day) doesn’t have to be forced into one day a year.

With all of that said, I hope you find some rest, eat good food, and have memorable and positive conversation around the table this holiday.  I am so grateful for all of you in this wonderful community!

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Sustaining: Be Gracious

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. – Proverbs 16:24

It has not been hard lately to be grateful.  Sun is shining.  My relationships are going pretty well.  And I have a son.  And he’s pretty spectacular, though I’m pretty bias.

I think back to the moments that weren’t so sun-shiny.  The moments when my life was turned upside down by the loss of a heartbeat.  The moments when I laid in the middle of the floor in the fetal position crying out to God.

In those moments, I still practiced gratitude.  And I had one incredible thing to be grateful for that I couldn’t forget.

I had a God to cry out to.  And he would hear me.  And he wouldn’t forsake me.

And that was healing for me.  I would name the ways God has shown up in my life, big and small, and remind myself that he would do it again and again.  And I would praise him.  I would tell him how grateful I am to have him in my life.  That he chose me.  That he loves me.

This verse in Proverbs reminded me this week how important it is to continue practicing gratitude every day.  It’s not about being optimistic and smiley.  It’s about making a habit for the hard days ahead.  Because they will come.  But God will be there in the storm, just as much as he is here today in the sunshine.

 

Legacy

I’ve been getting a lot of wonderful feedback from my posts.  To say that it’s overwhelming, well, it would be an understatement.  I don’t know how to take all these compliments gracefully in the moment.  I never really know what to say.

It’s not the fact that I’m at a loss for words, but more so that I have too many words to say in that moment.  So, I thought I would take a minute to say those words (and perhaps take the easy way out the next time someone says something to me, and just refer them to this post).

The entire reason that I am able to say the things that I say, to react to my circumstances as gracefully as I can, to show the perspective of life that I have, is because of the legacy that has been given to me by God through the men and women in my life.

It starts, of course, with my parents.  I remember all throughout my childhood, around bedtime, I would see my dad pouring over his Bible with the black leather cover.  I remember the conversations I would have with my mom about life, and how God always seemed to be in the center of each of those conversations.  My dad taught me to stand up for what I believe in, and to build those beliefs on a foundation of knowledge and understanding in God.  My mom taught me to always look for the God connection in my relationships with other people, and know that I’m representing Christ in my words and actions.  My parents gave up their free time to support the church and do mission work in India, Panama, and for several years in Jamaica.  They taught me the importance of spreading the gospel.

There’s my extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and great grandparents who have God as the center of their lives.  Their example has inspired me to always keep God in the forefront of my life and to believe in the power of prayer.

Then, there was the first church family that I can remember – Hickory Knoll Church of Christ.  I still to this day consider those people as part of my family.  I learned from them about love and acceptance, trust and obedience.  I fell in love with hymns in that church.  I learned about the Bible, memorizing the books and verses.  When I went back for a visit on our first anniversary, it felt like I had never left.  I am so proud of that church and everything it signifies in its community.  They truly taught me what it means to be part of a church family.

Of course, there were other churches that helped me along my spiritual path – Macland Road, Burnt Hickory, Downtown, Highway.  Of course, when Michael and I moved here and we became a part of Greenville Oaks.  That’s when I received a lot more clarity on my life as it relates to the Kingdom.  I learned that I was placing my value and security in things that are temporary, and started on a path to begin placing my value and security in the permanence of God.  It affects every part of my life – how I am as a wife, daughter, friend, woman, blogger, and Christian.

So, when you read the words on my blog, know that they are mere echoes of the legacy of people throughout my life that have brought me to this point.  It doesn’t feel right to take the credit for what all these others have done for me.  So, I just want to say thank you.  Without your love, acceptance and guidance, I would not be where I am.  I know that God has worked through each one of you to help me along this journey.  I praise and thank God every time I think of you.  You are all such incredible blessings to me.