Fall Color shines in the afternoon sun.

Thankfulness in the Presence of Heaviness

This year marks our second journey through the Thanksgiving Holiday without my brother Jeff. I can feel the pull to go one of two ways through the season: Rolling my emotions up inside, away from everyone and everything and just floating through, or giving myself over to frustration and anger over the loss – the empty seat at the table and the empty space in our hearts.

I do not know what the Holidays hold for you, but if you are like us, they’re probably not as simple as they used to be. But are disconnection or discontentment our only options?

We often think of life and the options set before us in this way: Either or. A or B. Right or Left. But Jesus stands at these forks in the road and invites us onto a different path that isn’t as visible and leads away from the oversimplified options.

This Thanksgiving will again be one of loss, sorrow, and pain for our family. It is also a day full of thankfulness that is richer and more meaningful on this side of tragedy. And we get to feel all of this and remain present in both. It is not either or.

We hope and pray that your Thanksgiving is full of connection and joy. However, many of our stories aren’t about peace, tranquility, and ease as we look around the Thanksgiving table. We confront loneliness, disappointment, family trauma, grief, and many other realities.

In light of this, how do we do Thanksgiving well?

How We Can Do Thanksgiving Well

Thanksgiving will never be the same for our family. You might know our story, and we are honored to know so many of yours. But I hope that what we have walked through collectively and individually allows us to be more thankful than ever before.

To be thankful in the face of loss, hardship, struggle, and pain isn’t to diminish those things you are or have walked through. It embraces and even enhances them. The contrast is turned way up. The more we can remain in the tension of pain and loss and bring them “home” this Holiday season, the more clarity and ability we have to engage in profound thankfulness.

But how do we grow the capacity to hold a space for thankfulness in such heaviness? By pressing in, with tenacity, to the power of a thankful heart.

The kind of thankfulness I’m suggesting takes intentionality to acknowledge the good and allow the backdrop of our lives to highlight them instead of absorbing them. Pull your gratitude to the forefront today.

Here are some things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving:

  • I’m thankful for this church community called Living Waters. Now, more than ever. We have taken some hits over the last couple of years, which hurts. But it also makes standing together in the storm even more meaningful. We wouldn’t have made it through the last year without this community of people. We love you, and we love what Jesus is doing in us! It’s starting to feel more and more like Gideon’s army around here!
  • I’m thankful for our team. Our team has grown smaller in the last couple of years, but we are not blind to the beauty of the hearts and lives Jesus has knit together for such a time as this.
  • I am thankful for my kids, wife, family, home, and the honor of truly seeing what Jesus-centered community can look like. Our house is an unmistakable gift from God, as are the people who share our home and lives with us.
  • I am thankful for this place we live; even with all of its foibles and follies, the uniqueness and struggles, this is a brilliant place to live, and we continue to contend for the heart of our valley and cities.
  • I am thankful for our location and building – even though it feels like a lot sometimes and a bit too big for us currently, I wouldn’t trade the miracle, the building, the location, and the opportunities to reach and influence our city for anything.
  • I am thankful for our deep sense that God is at work powerfully in our midst as we head into 2023. It’s odd to describe, but we are on the precipice of something unique in our story, and I feel the anticipation building!

What are you thankful for?

While the goal isn’t just to compile a list of things we’re thankful for, pulling them forward allows us to build a perspective and mindset that sees these things first so we can hold them close to our hearts as we navigate a challenging day and season.

What do you see first when you look around your life?

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