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.