Thanksgiving always sneaks up on me.
At the beginning of October it seems so far away and then wham: I always look up, startled, in mid-November to realize it’s right around the corner. This year I feel grateful to have caught it by the tail a little sooner, and so on today (and next Wednesday as well) I wanted to cultivate the spirit of the holiday a bit by sharing some thoughts, a few testimonies, and some general thanks of my own. I am still collecting testimonies and thoughts, so if you want to add to next Wednesday’s pile, please do by contacting me here or on Twitter.
For my part, I am grateful this year more than anything that God did not answer a lot of my prayers, though they were not necessarily bad prayers. I prayed for a higher income than the one I receive at my current job. I prayed for a different job. I prayed for an extra job. I prayed for networking opportunities and for a tenure-track job to magically open up somewhere around me. And He didn’t answer any of those.
Instead, the prayer that God chose to respond to was my desperate, one-sentence plea: “I want to want more of you.” And in the process of pulling me to Him, He sorted out the other questions: doors closed, and this blog began, and I remembered the promise I’d made to God when I was very young: what I want to do is write for You. The greatest spiritual gift I’ve received this year, and that I am most thankful for, is the out-of-bounds growth of my desire to be close to God and to develop a more mature and intimate relationship with Him. More than anything else, it has wrenched my life off its axis and back into proper perspective.
But I’m not alone in my gratitude. Steve Austin (whose wonderful blog iamsteveaustin you will find here) shares the following:
Gritty Faith, Stubborn Grace
This has been a heavy but fruitful year. Right after Christmas, after much prayer and thoughtful consideration, my wife and I packed our suitcases (we’d already sold everything we owned) and our two small children and loaded a plane for Alaska. We left behind everything we knew in Alabama: family, faith, and football and headed 4,000 miles away for the job of a lifetime.
We lived like tourists for the first two weeks, soaking up our first Alaskan Winter. We were in Heaven with our perfect little cottage: bay in the front, snow-capped mountains in the back. Three days after starting my job, our world began to crumble as the work fell through.
This isn’t smelling quite like a Thanksgiving feast, is it?
I wish I could tell you that after living in Alaska for four months, piecing work together as it came, then moving back to Alabama, God has shown us His glorious reasons for letting us fall flat on our faces. But I can’t. We are both still processing our grief. I wish I could tell you that I understand His ways after a year of seeking His face over this painful issue. But I don’t.
As the weather turns cool and the leaves fall, I still dream of Alaska.
What I can tell you is that I still find peace in His presence. I don’t know how Romans 8:28 will play out in this situation, after bringing our two small children back home and living in one bedroom at my parent’s house, their pallets permanently stretched across the floor. Looking for work and starting over from scratch is stressful. However, I am thankful today, more than ever, that God has shown me that faith truly is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
In the past year I have learned that our faith is stubborn. Even when it feels very hard to trust, I still look to God for comfort. The path of a believer doesn’t always make sense, but I refuse to stop believing. I have learned that trusting God doesn’t mean it will always be easy to pray. Sometimes trusting God isn’t a praise song with the full band on a Sunday morning, but rather it’s a stick-to-it-ness that says, I know there is something deeper than my pain and a Power higher than anything I can rationalize, so I’ll give this another shot tomorrow.
My faith isn’t ornate anymore. It’s not as beautiful as a stained glass window or a gold cross necklace. Alaska was our dream, and now our dream is gone. Even so, over the past year, I’ve learned that His grace is stubborn too, as He continues to come and find me in the midst of the mess.
Janet, from Tennessee, takes a moment to dwell on freedom:
I’m most thankful for freedom. I think it is the greatest gift of life. First freedom in Christ. Free from the shame and guilt of sin. Knowing I am loved by my Father not for what I do but only that I am His child. Accepting that love frees me to live life and to love others without fear or hesitation. Secondly I’m thankful to live in a free country. My father was in the military. I grew up around people very willing to give up their lives to defend freedom. As I think about having just celebrated Veterans Day I am grateful that those before me were willing to give everything to make that possible. The thing I am most aware of though is that neither one of these freedoms are without cost. Christ suffered and died on the cross for my sin. That’s something I could not do for myself. I have seen and see now men and women who have lost arms and legs in the fight to preserve freedom. Some even gave their all. Freedom is a precious gift to be celebrated every day!
And Ronda from West Virginia is difficult for what a lot of people struggle to be thankful for: the convicting power of the Holy Spirit:
It took little time for me to figure out what I am spiritually most thankful for this year and it is the convicting power of the holy spirit. I have battled recurring sin for years in my Christian walk and daily asked forgiveness and went on to repeat portions of it time and time again. This year the conviction reached such a point that the Spirit clearly
revealed my sincere lack of love for my Lord and myself if I continued down this road. While thankful as well for the grace, mercy and forgiveness each time prior, His Spirit’s continual conviction has helped to keep me continually aware that it would be easy to return or ‘re-sin’ so to speak and reminds me I am victorious (at least for today), only because He continues to convict my heart of this. So I am more thankful than I can begin to say. I know tomorrow could be the next time I fall to this sin again, but am convinced that His Spirit will be faithful to convict my heart again if I do.
And for an additional gratitude boost, may I encourage you to head on over to Elihu’s Corner? Elihu is diligently blogging out a “30 Days of Giving Thanks” series that boggles me and keeps giving me a reason to smile; I’m sure you’ll find one there, too.
Finally, I’d like to add that I’m thankful for you. Yes, you, whoever you are, happening to be reading this. For accompanying me on the journey, for commenting or encouraging me, or even for praying for me – I am truly so grateful, and I pray for you, too.
Let’s continue to cultivate grateful hearts as we head into Thanksgiving week!