I feel like Thanksgiving so easily comes and goes each year without me really taking the time to step back and look at my life through the eyes of total gratitude. I easily get wrapped up in the feast and the family and the football, but sometimes the day will just pass without me ever really sitting in the purpose of it all. Sure, I will send out texts to friends and family about how thankful I am for them. Sure, I may think about how generally thankful I am for my blessings as I wake up to the smells of sweet potatoes and turkey being prepared in the kitchen. And sure, when we pray before the meal, I will think about how thankful I am for the wonderful family God has given me. But rarely do I take any sort of substantial time on this day to really look at how good the Lord has been to me.
This is my first year ever to not be home for Thanksgiving. As hard as it is to be away from my family in Texas, one thing that I decided I would do this year is take some time today to really look at my life and acknowledge the Lord's blessings and mercies...something I wish I did even more throughout the year, but something that I just refuse to overlook today. November 2010 - November 2011 has undoubtedly been the craziest year of my life...in so many ways. It has been a roller coaster beyond what I ever could have expected. And I feel like almost every day, my emotions will end up ranging from excitement to fear to frustration to sadness to peace at some point during the day. But today, I simply choose gratitude.
What am I most thankful for today?
- Mel and Donna Carter - I didn't get to pick where I was born or what family I was born into. I didn't get to tell God, "8208 Joliet Ave. in Lubbock, TX please". But if He HAD allowed me to choose, I would have picked my mom and dad. It's so cliche, but so true, that the older I get, the more I am just blown away that God would gift me with the parents that He gave me - parents who raised me in the ways of Jesus, who showed me (didn't just tell me) that there is nothing more important than your walk with God, who have loved and supported a daughter whose life probably isn't looking exactly like what they might have imagined, a dad who has always made me feel like a beautiful daughter, a mom who has been so much more than a parent, but has been one of my best friends. Oh gosh, I could write a whole book about my mom and dad...
- Melissa Carter - I really don't think I could possibly choose another female on the planet that I would rather have as my sister. My sister is different from me on so many levels, but that's what I think makes us perfect for each other. I just feel like everyone needs to know Melissa. She has been a source of laughter, encouragement and inspiration in ways that I know I'll never be able to express.
- Jesus Family - I don't know if I've ever understood what relationships in Christ were meant to be more than I have through my Jesus Family here in Tennessee. These are my best friends in the world, the people who I can be with and just let down every guard and breathe, the people who make me laugh so hard that I physically hurt, the people who will listen to me and cry with me, who carry my burdens, who push me spiritually and call me out when I'm going the wrong way, the people for whom God has given me a love that I didn't actually know I could even have for other people. Oh, my heart is full when I think of my Jesus family.
- The Minchew Family - (of course...part of my Jesus family...) I feel like the Minchews truly deserve their own bullet-point here...specifically at this point in my life :) Not only have they forever been my "Tennessee family" and not only are they the ones with whom I'm celebrating Thanksgiving this year, they have also so very graciously allowed me to live in their home during this time of transition in my life. But more than that, they have each individually been a source of so much encouragement and support over the past 6 years of my life, and are truly four of my dearest friends in the world.
- The family at Harpeth Community Church - God led me to this family of believers almost as soon as I moved here, and these have been the people who have been my source of strength and support through life's post-college journey. I was blessed beyond words with the opportunity to minister to the youth at this church for six years - an experience that changed me forever and brought more joy into my life than I could have ever imagined.
- My HCC small group - I had a Thanksgiving meal with my small group last week and on my way home, I just couldn't stop thinking about how thankful I was for those people in my life. God has given me friends who aren't just the greatest/funnest people to be around, but who also encourage and challenge me spiritually every week and who have been the most wonderful people to walk this journey with. Greatest friends I could ever hope for.
- Hilary Boucher and Melanie Sutton - I have been meeting with these two women each week over the past couple of months, two women who have always been dear friends of mine, but who are now becoming partners in the gospel, sources of intense encouragement and inspiration on the darkest days, voices of truth when the lies are attacking, prayer warriors, and people with whom I have shared some of the hardest of tears but also some of the hardest of laughs. Sisters in Christ, just as I feel He desired it to be.
- Proverbs 19:20 - I am so thankful that the Lord's purpose is always the one that prevails in my life, no matter what plans I may make. If my "plans" had come to fruition in my life, it would look quite different than it does now. But there is not an ounce of doubt in my mind that my life is more full of purpose and passion and joy and fulfillment because the Lord, in His mercy, took the reigns in my life and led me to people and places that I could NEVER have planned for.
- Romans 8:28 - There has never been a time in my life when I could look back and say that God wasn't faithful in not only working things out, but working things out for my BEST. In some of the most frustrating and hurtful experiences, He was at work shaping me and moving me in a way that now when I look back on those experiences, I actually look at them with joy and thanksgiving. That can't be explained outside of Him. He is forever faithful.
- Jeremiah 29:11 - As I mentioned, this has been one of the most insane years of my entire life...maybe the most insane one ever. And I will NEVER understand why, but in His grace, God has chosen to form in me a specific passion and has given me a vision for where my life is headed that I just don't deserve. He has been weaving things together and putting people in my path and is truly at work. Although the final picture is beyond unclear, I believe that the path is sure. And for whatever reason, He chooses to use me to work in His Kingdom, to be His hands and feet, to be a vessel of redemption and freedom and truth. This is a blessing that I couldn't feel more unworthy of, but for which I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.
- Jesus - No words do this one more justice than...
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.
"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his goodness..."