As a kid, nothing moved the year along more pleasantly than the anticipation of the next American holiday. From New Year’s Day to Christmas, holidays were never far away. We would dress up, craft valentines, wear green, carve pumpkins, and make shaped cookies. Some were small holidays, but we could at least make a special craft at school for most of them.
Today I have lost most of my holidays simply by moving overseas. New Zealand doesn’t have many holidays that feature unique celebrations. When we lived in Taiwan we celebrated some of the Chinese holidays, but they didn’t have the nostalgic tug to our American hearts of the holiday we grew up with. In Taiwan we had American friends to celebrate American holidays with. In New Zealand we don’t have American friends nearby. Since our children have grown and gone, most of the American holidays don’t seem worth the effort of celebration.
We celebrate Christmas and Easter in New Zealand, but we have no Thanksgiving Day. I miss it. Of all of the American holidays, Thanksgiving is probably the least commercial. Being thankful is the whole point. Yet many American housewives are so busy cooking and making the holiday special for others that they have little time to actually give thanks.
File this suggestion away between your pumpkin pie recipe and your fold-away turkey: Choose a time over the holiday to spend alone with God. Turn your sadness and worries into praise.
- Are you far from family? Thank God for good phone service, email, or Skype. Thank him for family members that are living for him.
- Are you so busy you hardly have time to think? Thank God for purpose in life and health to achieve goals.
- Does health keep you from many meaningful activities? Thank God for extra time to meditate and carry out a prayer ministry.
- Is your ministry in a time of discouragement? Remember good things God has done in your past. Recognize this phase as a temporary time that God is using for redemptive purposes. Thank God that your labor is not in vain, even if you can’t see results today. Rejoice that God isn’t done working in your life. Believe that he has a future and a hope planned for you.
- Have people disappointed you lately? Thank God that he is in control and that he will continue to work in their lives. Thank him for his faithfulness.
- Feeling poor? Focus on the things God has given you, the everyday things which you forget to thank him for.
- Feeling lonely? Reach out to another lonely person. Thank God that he is always with you, that he’s glad to talk to you any time.
- Does God seem far away and you don’t see him working in your life? Look for quiet miracles, small changes in your life or friends and family that have happened in recent years.
Some of you may be going through deep waters right now. I don’t mean to minimize that. But I also believe that thanksgiving is often a matter of focus. God brings good gifts into every one of our lives. They may be hard to spot among our troubles, but they can be seen by Christians who take the time to focus.
So whether you are busy baking pumpkin pies this week, or you’re far from home and missing family, remember this: No one can keep you from the most important part of Thanksgiving—giving thanks!
Lord, you have given me so many blessings. Please give me one more—a thankful heart.