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a-different-thanksgiving

A Different Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving will be different.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always a big deal. We could never “skip over” Thanksgiving to get to Christmas – we always emphasized Thanksgiving in our home. Mom and dad both cooked, but it was dad who cooked and carved the turkey – he would always give out samples along the way, so we could be salivating for his masterpiece. After the big meal, we would watch the Cowboys football game and fall asleep on the couch. Growing up in Texas that is just what you did. Even after I married Lisa, we would still always go to Texas for Thanksgiving. It was tradition, and our daughters loved it! One year, dad even made fajitas (along with the turkey) because my girls were not much for turkey, but they loved fajitas. “Hey, it’s San Antonio,” he would say. When my parents moved to Tennessee a few years ago, it was still dad carving the turkey (and/or fajitas), us watching the Cowboys game and everyone falling asleep on the couch.

This year will be different. There will be an empty place at our table, and we will need someone else to carve the turkey. My dad went home to be with Jesus in January, and this will be our first Thanksgiving without him. We all miss him.

Now, I know for many of you, this may also be a different Thanksgiving. Maybe it is not a parent, but a grandparent or a friend. I am praying with you and for you. Yesterday, I officiated the funeral for a 29 year-old mom who was killed by a drunk driver. It was heart-breaking and I couldn’t help but think how different this Thanksgiving would be for her family.

Maybe this Thanksgiving will be different for you not because of the passing of a loved one, but because you will be in a different place. Maybe it is a different location or a different place emotionally or spiritually. Maybe not a bad place, but just different. Life moves on. Things change. Loved ones go home to be with the Lord, people get married, family members go to in-laws’ homes, people move. Nothing stays exactly the same. Every year is different in some way.

Regardless of this being a different Thanksgiving, there are still some things that will be the same:

First, it is still Thanksgiving, and I am still thankful. Even though I miss my dad, I know I will see Him again. This life is not all that there is. As 1 Thessalonians 4:13 tells us, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” Because of God’s grace, I do not grieve as one who has no hope. I know I will celebrate the greatest Thanksgiving meal in history with my dad (the Wedding Feast of the Lamb), and for that I am thankful.

Second, the God who is Sovereign over all never changes. Even as everything else in life changes, God is still the same. He loves and He cares. My God sees and He knows what is going on in my life and in my heart. He knows this Thanksgiving will be different, but He will still be with me. I love Him and His love for me will never change.

Finally, I still have so much for which to be thankful. It is easy to focus on what I have lost instead of seeing all that I still have. My God has blessed me – and all of us. He has lavished His blessings on us with His love, family, friends, food (too much food), a couch to fall asleep on and so much more. I choose to still celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

Yes, this year Thanksgiving will be different. And, because of that:

I will cherish it more.

I will be more aware and be more thankful.

I will tell people more how thankful I am for them.

I will spend more time with God since He is always there for me.

And, I will embrace the moment because there will never be another Thanksgiving exactly like this one.

Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, be thankful. Know you are loved and cared for that day – and every day of your life – by a God who never changes. As Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Yes this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

God is with you and for you. Also, I am praying for you. May our God fill you with all joy and overwhelm you with thankfulness this Thanksgiving – regardless of how different it may be. As Tim Keller writes, “Our Christian hope is that we’re going to live with Christ in a new earth, where there is not only no more death, but where life is what it was always meant to be.” Remember, the best is still to come. There will be bumps and detours along the way, but our heavenly Father is preparing a Feast for us. He gives us samples along with way – a sweet time with family, an amazing time of worship, listening to the prayer of a child – but one day we will celebrate a Thanksgiving meal in complete perfection. Hold on to the hope you have in Christ and embrace each moment you have with family and friends on this earth. Every Thanksgiving is different, but it is all simply to prepare our hearts for perfection. Your Father is preparing something really special for you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

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Twelve Lessons in Twelve Years

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My oldest daughter, Grace, turns 12 today. I love her, and I am so proud of her! As I reflect back on the past 12 years with her in our lives, I am reminded of 12 lessons I have learned being her dad:

  1. Time goes fast, so embrace each moment. The time of feeding baby Grace in the middle of the night and wishing the time would pass, has now passed – and it did so very quickly. Each stage feels like you will never make it through, but you will, and it is important to learn to enjoy and embrace each moment, because you will miss it when it’s over.
  2. Hearts are tender – handle with care. When she came home from the hospital, I was concerned with the physical – can I take care of this baby? Will she eat? What will she eat? What if something happens? But, as parents, we figure that part out quickly. The bigger concern should be our kids’ spiritual and emotional development – holding her heart with love and care.
  3. The power of prayer. Praying with her and for her are some of the sweetest times I can remember. Hearing her pray still brings tears to my eyes. Pray with your kids. Even the simplest prayer shows you value God and you value them. Hold hands, snuggle up and point them to Jesus.
  4. Read the Bible together. When Grace was born, my childhood pastor gave us a Rhyme Bible. We read it with Grace until we had it memorized. Then, we moved to the Storybook Bible. Now, she reads her own Bible every night before she goes to sleep. Teach your kids the importance of God’s Word.
  5. Reading together is a blessing. Growing up, Grace always wanted for me to read her all sorts of books. We read the same books over and over and over and over… Now, I miss that. The books she reads now are chapter books, and she reads them on her own. Set a strong foundation in reading – it lasts a lifetime.
  6. Church is not only important, it is essential. The role of the church is massive in a child’s development. Where will they learn about morals, grace, putting others before themselves, generosity and Christ besides the church? Not from school, the government, Disney or online. It is the Church, and I am so thankful for a great church surrounding and loving my children.
  7. Their friends matter. The more my Grace and her sisters grow up, the more I see the influence of friends. Kids are constantly learning from others. Who they sit with at school, play with at recess and attend parties with, all impact them. (Again, see number 6!)
  8. Your friends matter. As a parent, the people who surround me, influence my children. Kids are always watching and listening. They are learning about marriage, parenting and values from watching the people around me. Thank You, Father, for surrounding me with incredible friends who love my kids and model Christ.
  9. Be patient – don’t make big deals out of small deals. As I reflect, I realize that most of the times I was frustrated with Grace were more about me than they were about her. The times when I was emotionally spent from work, had a long day or was simply being impatient were the times that I escalated the situation. Be patient. Your response carries weight.
  10. You are always modeling – you are always “on” as a parent. You are always teaching. What do you want your kids to learn? As a parent, I am always teaching. The saying, “Don’t do as I do, but do as I say” is completely false. They will do what you do. As your kids get older, you see them mimic you in their vocabulary and actions. This is scary, but always a great reminder.
  11. You have to grow as a parent – each stage of life is different. I only have six years with Grace left at home. Six years of doing homework, driving her to school or plays. Six Spring Breaks, six summers – only six! Will she be ready to go to college? Spiritually? Emotionally? While you never stop being their parent, your role will change, and you have to keep growing.
  12. Above all, love! Make sure your kids know you love them. Above their grades, performances and their responses, make sure they feel that they are loved. Raising Grace is a joy and a blessing. I want her to have the confidence that she is loved regardless. She is loved by God and loved by me. Say and live it. Love.

Happy Birthday, Grace! I love you!

Here’s a birthday song to Grace from Lily. Lily is one of our closest friends from church, and an absolute treasure.

 

It takes a village…

I really don’t know how people make in life without Jesus, first and foremost, but in addition, I don’t know how people make it without church. We need other people in our lives to encourage us, support us, challenge us, pray with us, and simply help us be all God desires. We need a village – an extended family. For Lisa and I (like many people today) our families live in different states. In other cultures, you grow up with your grandparents, aunts & uncles and cousins all living close by (many times in the same house!). Our society is different, and the need for a church family is even more important!

I am so thankful for the church family God has given me. I love that my girls have so many people who join with me in raising them in Christ! As a parent, this is my number one responsibility. However, it sure helps to have so many amazing others! From Aunt Carol and Uncle Larry to Pastor Nic and Lala at church, we are blessed with many to pour into the lives of our girls. I love seeing my girls quote Scripture and tell me about their Bible Story. I love seeing my girls run into church longing to learn as well as to be with people they love. I love seeing my girls excited about simply being at church and feeling like it is “home.”

It really does take a village. I believe that was what God was calling us to in Deuteronomy 6. I believe this is the culture He longed to create and why the Early Church thrived. Parenting – we can’t do it alone. But, the amazing news is that we are not supposed to. We need others to speak into our kids lives, to demonstrate Christ-likeness, and to be the heros for which they will aspire. I am so thankful for our church family! What a joy to know God is with us, and we are not alone!

It is Easy to be a Dad on Christmas

Christmas is one of the greatest days of the year (along with Easter)! On Christmas, it is easy to be a dad. You give presents to your kids. They are excited, and you’re a hero! It is easy to be a dad when you buy your kids things.

However, the real challenge to being a great dad is on the other 364 days of the year. When you are tired from a long day at the office. When you don’t have anything left to give. When money is tight and the kids have needs. This is where the real dads step up and the dads who are really in it for themselves step out.

The question becomes what are we really giving our kids?  Is it simply a barrage of “toys” that provide immediate gratification, but shortly end up in the back of a closet or a trash can? The measure of a great dad is investing in our kids each day. Investing Christ, His Word, His character and His love. This is where influence happens and where lives are transformed. So many times we buy into culture. We end up raising spoiled, worldly, whiny kids more so than we do strong, mature, godly kids. Why? Because it is easy to be a dad on Christmas.