This year will be our fourth year in a row spending Thanksgiving Day here in Central America. I have always loved Thanksgiving, maybe even more than Christmas, because we usually always had people over to our house, watched football, and ate three of my favorite foods: apple pie, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Plus, I got to eat olives off of my fingertips. As a child, Thanksgiving was so simple to me, and I loved the story of the Pilgrims and Native Americans.
This year, the concept of Thanksgiving has brought me to a place of reflection. It has caused me to ask myself what we have to celebrate today. There are so many things we say we are grateful for, but I think we might not be totally honest about those things. And then there’s so many things that we should be grateful for, and we simply don’t notice them.
The other thing that happened to me when I started thinking of what I truly am grateful for, is that I began to process all of the things that I have that others don’t. And it challenged my faith and trust in God as a faithful, loving Father, because I have so much that so many others don’t have. And it’s not because I am better, it’s not because I deserve it, and it’s not because God is punishing or holding back on anyone.
So I look at the world, I look at my own life, and I ask myself, “Do I truly believe that God is a good Father, a redeemer, a provider, a gracious and loving God who never changes? Do I believe that He cares for every single soul in the world, that He loves every single person equally, that He gives good things to all people, and that His grace is sufficient enough for all of us?”
Yes, I do. So, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things. But I am also thinking of those whose gratitude may look much different from mine; and others who, because of their circumstances, may not believe there’s anything to be grateful for at all.
Without further ado, here’s my ThanksGallery (in no special order):
I am so SO grateful for both my “birth” family, and my “gift” family – the family God gifted me with when I married Ryan. I can honestly say that these people are some of my favorites that our Creator placed on this earth.
Both of my mom’s are hilarious, extremely generous, thoughtful, and bursting with love and hope.
There’s so much to say about my Daddy, and my Gift-Dad. There’s something so special between Fathers and Daughters, and I’m just so thankful that my Dad made me feel like a princess, while at the same time teaching me to throw a football, punch a heavybag, do proper push-ups, and wear basketball jerseys every day. My new Dad has accepted me from day one, loved me with open arms, and treated me like family. I’m so grateful to have another Dad!
All four of my brothers are unique, but something I love about all of them is that they have incredible wit, and a sense of humor that never fails to make me laugh. They are those sweet, sensitive guys who care about the important things, and who inspire me to put other before myself.
My one and only sister amazes me. She is extremely intelligent, fun to be around no matter what, and makes you feel special and valued every chance she gets.
My nephew and niece bring me a joy that I simply can’t put into words. I wish I had a way to express my love for them!
As I thank God for my family, I also pray for everyone around the world who doesn’t have a family. For those who lost their families, and for those who were abandoned by their families. That they’d know it doesn’t change their value or change the truth that they were created to be loved.
Marriage by Choice
I am super thankful for my husband, and so grateful that I wasn’t forced to marry him. I got to choose him and he got to choose me!
There are so many girls, and even guys, around the world who don’t get to choose when or who they will marry.
Even though I know that my true home is wherever I am with God, I am really thankful to have a place where I am protected from the rain, where I can sleep and cook and workout and paint and read and play games and have people stay with us.
At the same time, I pray for all those who’ve lost their homes, who’ve been forced to leave their homes, and who don’t have a home at all.
I’m serious about this one. It’s something that I took for granted for a really long time, but after living in countries where clean water is hard and expensive to get, I have become so very grateful to live in a place where I can drink water straight from the faucet.
Work that I love
Even though some people may not consider what we’re doing a “job” because we don’t get paid… I am SO very grateful that what I do everyday is something I LOVE and am passionate about. Even more than that, I am so thankful that I get to do what I do with absolutely amazing people.
While I get to work with people I love and do what I love, I reflect on all the people around the world who are forced into labor, treated unfairly, and completely taken advantage of. I pray for their freedom, and that they’d know their circumstances don’t define their worth.
Access to God’s Word
Not only are their millions of people who straight up do not have access to the Bible because of their governments, but there are 1800 languages that are still waiting to have a Bible translated into their own tongue. I am so grateful that I can read the Bible in my own language, without fear of persecution, in the comfort of my own home.
A Safe Church Community
I took this one for granted for most of my life. Church was a normal routine for me for such a long time that I completely looked past it’s value. I’m not even talking about the building. I am grateful to have “the church” around me, a community where I am safe to talk about my struggles, my joys, read the Word and pray together freely!
I try to remind myself to pray for those around the world who are giving their lives for the freedom to know God and make Him known. As it says in Hebrews 13:3, let’s remember to “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
I don’t think of this often, but after hearing the stories of so many friends who either can’t get passports at all or who can’t get into certain countries, I am very thankful for my US Passport. With it I can enter into almost any Nation safely and quickly. My life would be so much different if I didn’t have the opportunity to immerse myself in other Nations and cultures.
There are so many things to be grateful for in this temporary life on earth.
Most of all, I’m grateful that this isn’t it.
I’m thankful that no matter how little or how much I have in the physical, the love, hope, and grace that God gives has no end.
What are you grateful for?