Ungrateful. Unsettled. Unexcited. I’m sorry to admit that was the state of my heart when I first contemplated Thanksgiving this year. My gratitude journal reflected numerous blessings, but the thought of another holiday without my mother saddened me.
Mama was the heart of festivities for every holiday gathering. She created traditions that made Thanksgiving my favorite day of the year–decorations and flower arrangements, prayer in a circle with family holding hands, croquet games after lunch, Monopoly after supper. What I miss most is being loved by her and hugging her.
Oh, the Thanksgiving meal– the world’s best dressing, steamed cauliflower with cheese sauce, turkey, rice with giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, tiny green peas, green bean casserole, apple salad, and rolls.
Supper was my favorite though–turkey sandwiches with lettuce, light mayo, salt and pepper, and a bit of sweet pickles. Sides included chips, congealed salad, and ambrosia, followed by numerous desserts served with coffee and laughter.
As I reflected on the Thanksgiving celebration I couldn’t enjoy this year, I chose to do what my parents did. I turned to the Lord and counted my blessings.
Are holidays difficult for you? Do you lament the unwelcome changes like I sometimes do? There are many reasons special occasions are painful. Tonight, I prayed for a friend who lost her husband this week and the family of a wayward teen who recently left home. Holiday celebrations seem to sharpen the pain of hurting hearts, don’t they?
When I turned to God last week, He renewed my heart, helped me recover my gratitude, and created an excitement for this special day set aside for giving thanks. Although I’m not suffering as many are this week, I have three suggestions to help us enjoy a Thanksgiving that is “not the same.”
No, it’s not as simple as 1, 2, 3, and I’m not pretending my words could heal your heart or renew your holiday joy. However, God can transform our Ungrateful, Unsettled, and Unexcited into Grateful, Peaceful, and Joyous.
Three Ways to Recover Gratitude
1. Reflect on past joys.
Ponder sweet memories of past Thanksgivings. Write them in a journal to treasure.
If tears come, cry.
My mom spent her last Thanksgiving in bed. As my brother’s poodle trotted from her bedside to the table wondering why Mema had not joined us, my heart broke.
If funny happenings come to mind, laugh.
One year my mother used a disposable pan for the dressing. When she removed it from the oven, some of the “took-a-whole-day-to-make” delicacy flipped out onto the floor. My normally meticulous mother quickly scooped it up with a spoon, returned it to the pan, and said, “It’s okay; I just mopped this floor. But don’t tell anyone!” I never told—until now. Shhhhh!
2. Remember to “brighten someone’s day.”
That’s the tagline for my website because encouraging people toward the truths of God’s Word offers hope and comfort. Who in your circle of influence needs those blessings?
- Is this the first Thanksgiving without a loved one for someone you know? How could you add sunshine to their day?
- Can you call someone to say thank you for their influence in your life?
- Is there a busy cook who would appreciate a helping hand and acknowledgment of hard work?
- Would a restless child in a room full of relatives enjoy taking a walk or playing a game?
- Does someone you know need to hear that Jesus offers forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life?
Brightening someone’s day will pierce your cloud with sunshine.
3. Rejoice in thanksgiving to God, the Giver of all gifts (James 1:17).
Listing our blessings changes our focus from need to gratitude. A two-year-old I know recently called, “Tank you,” to each nurse, doctor, and tech who administered care to her in the ER. Simple gratitude.
I’m praying for each reader that whether you’re experiencing grief, pain, or frustration, God will fill your hearts with joy and help you recover gratitude as you look to Him.
Now it’s your turn
Please share a Thanksgiving memory or a suggestion that helped you when holidays changed.
If you choose to leave a comment about your need, it will be my privilege to pray for you.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High.
–Psalm 92:1 ESV