It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I sit here and write this the Saturday evening right before the most delicious of the holidays. It’s always been one of my favorite holidays, but more because I’m someone who likes to eat than because I really get into the holiday spirit. But this year is a bit different, as it has been for me most of the year. This year, I’m looking a little bit deeper into the traditions than I have previously.
Thanksgiving is a holiday intended to celebrate the Pilgrams being thankful to the Native Americans that they met when they landed at Plymouth Rock. The natives taught them how to grow food in unfamiliar soil, how to harvest and use things that were new to them and how to survive in their new home. As tradition goes, they ate a large meal together to show their thanks to their new native friends. It would appear (as the name suggests) that Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate things that you’re thankful for. Obviously.
What am I thankful for? There are all of the obvious answers like family, a roof over my head and pizza that’s just an app click away. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those. I love my family and am very grateful to have them in my life. I love having some place to go after work and call home. I love pizza, in fact that’s what we had for dinner, although my wife made it which makes it better than anything that you can order online. But each of those things shares something deeper.
This week, our church hosted a Night of Worship for the first time in what feels like forever. It was an incredible evening of the worship team rocking, some speakers sharing what God had spoken to them, prayer and deeper conversations with a few people that sat around us as we broke out into small groups to pray for one another. I shed more than a few tears and left feeling as though I had been spiritually recharged after a very difficult few weeks of preparing for Black Friday working in the retail world. And all of the other draining curve balls that life has thrown. Our Worship Pastor did an amazing job of planning and executing such a wonderful couple of hours
Things seem to be improving in different areas of life (and some areas seem to be getting more difficult) and I’ve felt a bit lighter than I have for the majority of the year. The holiday “gloom” is still somewhat present, missing old family traditions and family members and knowing that I am not able to see my family for the holidays, that’s how it’s been for the last 14 years since moving 1500 miles from home. Some stresses have been relieved, some tensions eased, some thoughts made captive. Overall, improvement.
I still haven’t quite said what it is that I’m truly thankful for this year, but each of these things has a bit of a common theme. God and godly people.
You see, God had to move mountains for me to meet my wife. There is no way that we would have ever met on our own living 1500 miles apart. God had to make things happen in each of us for the decision to be together to happen. God has been with us over the years, blessing us and caring for us even when I wasn’t much of a believer. All the years that I believed God existed but all I had to do was be a good person, He was there watching out for us and helping us through some challenges and preparing us for who we have become and who we are to still become.
God had to move mountains for us to end up in the church that we are in. So many amazing things have happened in my heart since we joined our current church and my level of faith has far surpassed anything I would have ever expected previously. My passion for a relationship with Jesus is something that I never saw coming and likely would have never happened if we weren’t led to be in the right place at the right time. Some of the darkest times in our lives have been lived out since we have joined our church and I’m not sure how we would have survived if we weren’t there, surrounded by His love.
The people that we have met since we have been there have really helped to shape our lives drastically. Without God giving me the courage to step way out of my comfort zone and join a community group, I wouldn’t have been surround by such amazing and godly people who have helped my family survive through major medical issues, loss of family members, marriage difficulties and so much more. Without the group of people who we now call our family in Christ, we could have easily been very lost and very different.
First and foremost, I am thankful to God for all He has done for us, especially this year. He has always been nudging us in the right direction and been patient with us when we haven’t listened. He has always blessed us and cared for us, whether it’s through tough financial times or dire medical issues. He has loved us even when we weren’t sure if we loved Him. Even when we have been angry with Him, He has been there with open arms. This year, I have struggled off and on with my anger about my health that I’ve directed towards Him and He has loved me and held me in His amazing arms anyway. He has let me vent my frustration without getting upset with me and shown me just how much He loves me. He has healed me in many ways.
I am also very thankful for the close friends and church family that we have around us. They help to hold us to a higher standard of faith living while not judging us for being human. They understand our frustrations and set backs and love us as Christ taught. They stand by us, support us and help us grow in our faith. They allow us an opportunity to learn from people who are further along their journey than we are and see that even though we may admire their faith, that they are human just like us and struggle with some of the same things that we do, which gives us hope that our faith can and will continue to grow and that one day, we may be able to be a blessing to others as they have been for us.
Our pastoral staff has been absolutely amazing. Shortly before going to our church, there was a bit of a scandal and shake up involving the previous pastor. Our current senior pastor started a few months before we began to attend. His love for Jesus is mind blowing. His passion for sharing that love and guiding others towards Jesus is awe inspiring. He loves what he does, not because he gets a pay check to take care of his family, but because he is doing exactly what God has called him to do. He is such a blessing to anyone and everyone around him and his love of Jesus comes through in everything that he does. He’s also extremely down to earth and not afraid to admit that he is as human as everyone he gets to lead.
Our worship pastor has so much love for leading our congregation into a deep and meaningful worship. It’s not about getting up on stage on Sunday morning and singing a few songs, it’s about teaching people what worship truly is. It’s the heart that matters and he wears his heart on stage each Sunday morning to show an example of how to go before God with praise. He tends to be somewhat quiet in general conversation, but get him started on music or God and the dude just lights up.
Our student pastor has been such a blessing to our family, and I’m sure to many of the other families of the students that he cares for. He has joined us at the hospital late at night when our son was in the er, even bringing pizza just in case we hadn’t had a chance to eat. He has gone out of his way to try and show our son that he loves him. He leads those youth with so much love in his heart. He is so passionate about Jesus and it shows in everything that he does. His sermons are short, but they hit you in the gut pretty hard. He’s a wealth of knowledge about Scripture and loves to share anything and everything he can about his faith.
Our technology guy, I don’t know his official title, is one of those guys that can just do anything. He’s very quiet, but when he knows you’re struggling will make sure to see how things are going. He does so much behind the scenes that sometimes it looks like he’s going crazy on Sunday morning, but he’s just trying to keep the livestream going and make sure all of the tech is working like it should. He’s a talented musician and shares his gifts on the worship team regularly and leads on occasion. He may be quiet, but his passion for Jesus is there each and every time you speak to him.
I don’t know the ladies that run the children’s programming very well, but come on. To be able to handle young kids on a regular basis takes a very special heart. I know that I can’t do it, but they do it every week. Room fulls of kids, going crazy and running around all over the place. Hearts of gold lol.
Yes I am thankful for many things, but the things that I am thankful for the most are what has led me closer to God and naturally, God Himself. And pizza.