Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I think it started out just because I felt sorry for it. The Thanksgiving holiday seems to always be pushed aside and stomped on as Christmas steals its show. Over the last 15 years, however, it has become my favorite holiday of all for one perfect reason.
It centers around being thankful.
My Aunt Kim keeps a blessing book. It looks like the book above with all the notes and turned down pages, but she keeps it going all year and writes down different blessings that she’s received or witnessed throughout the year. She said it kept her constantly practicing the “thankful approach” to everything so that when something came her way that she wasn’t so thankful for, she could look back over her book and be refreshed in all the blessings she has seen or received.
They could be little things like a 70-degree day in February or even big blessings such as a car being paid off and allowing that money to be redirected toward a family vacation. A few years ago, my grandpa was put in the hospital after rolling his riding lawnmower on top of himself. She wrote: “Dad was himself in the hospital today. He witnessed to his roommate and showed Jesus in front of him. That’s my dad. He’s back!” She doesn’t write every day, but she writes enough that it takes hours for her to read through the book each Thanksgiving and select the written blessings she wishes to share.
About 15 years ago, our family started gathering together in my grandma’s living room after our Thanksgiving meal to talk about each of our blessings for that year. It has always been a special time of sharing and always turns into a bawl fest. We may walk away with red eyes and splotchy faces, but we also have a full and thankful heart.
Not everyone in my family keeps a blessing book, but this year especially my blessing book/notes look much like the above photo, bountiful. I live a blessed and privileged life, and I know that. Although this year has had its trials and times of uncertainty, My Savior and my family have been ever so faithful!
For about a year and a half, I believe, my Uncle Ken (Kim’s husband) has been awaiting a much needed lung transplant. He was diagnosed with a rare and incurable lung disease – and, no, it was not due to smoking in his past – but the only long-term option was a transplant. After going through many trials and tribulations, my uncle found a doctor and a donor list that would accept him. For the past six months, we have seen miracle after miracle happen in his life and God has shown him time and time again that He’s is in control. I would be typing – and crying – for hours if I went through every detail. Perhaps when he’s back home, I will post that as a tribute to God and His mercies as well as the path that’s led Uncle Ken to a renewed life.
Because of Uncle Ken’s transplant approval, we have already done Thanksgiving with my family. As I detailed above, this year was no different. We’ve all had huge obstacles to overcome – attitude, finances, work, friendships, church issues – but God has been by our side day after day and I’m ever so thankful.
This year, my thanks was centered around my move with Jimmy. We moved to Ravenswood – back to WV – and, yes, the move was really centered around me. We found our “for now” dream home that’s in the perfect location for the both of us. We’re 20 minutes to both of our families, 20 minutes to our church, and I’m very close to the interstate for work. Truly, we couldn’t pick a more perfect “for now” location and home to grow into.
However, since moving to Ravenswood, I’ve fallen more in love with the farm. Don’t get me wrong, I love our in-town house, too, but there’s something calming about our farm. I long to spend my weekends there, to see Jimmy’s face while he’s puttering around on the tractor or mending a fence. I long to see our dream home built there and kids running around in the field below. Because of our move, I can now see how happy we both will be to raise our children on the farm. Before we moved, there would have been no way I would have agreed to that kind of a future. I would have harbored resentment and been left to wonder how our lives would be different had we lived in Ravenswood. Now I know what our family needs. In the future, I’ll be happy to make that sacrifice, which isn’t a sacrifice at all. God gave me such a huge vision for what my life will be with Jimmy on the farm, and I needed that so badly in years past. He’s a God that’s full of promises and visions. I love Him so for that comforting reassurance.
Obviously my “thanks” wasn’t the only one heard around my grandma’s living room. My sweet cousin, CaSandra, is so close with her dad, Ken, and was most thankful to experience another birthday with him, knowing that there are many more to come. Kim’s wasn’t what I expected it to be this year. She was thankful for lots of different things, but her “thanks” didn’t center solely around Ken. Ken’s was for his transplant approval, and how could it not be? My dad said that he loved going out West with Jimmy and spending days on their farm with my brother, Tyler. My mom said she was so thankful for her office staff that allows her to live life without the worry. My grandma said that she was so thankful for God’s continued restoration of my grandpa. After his lawnmower wreck, he’s stronger now than he was before! There were more than just those mentioned above – and all of our “thanks” were sentimental and worthy of praise and acknowledging – but Tyler’s touched me the most.
My brother and I are very close. We don’t have to talk every day or even every week, but we both know and understand that the one is always there for the other. As we grew up, we would find ourselves discussing more serious topics about life, love, etc. than just everyday stuff. He was always the one to tell me when I had disappointed him but was just as quick to pick his big sister up when she was at her rock bottom, and I would do the same for him. He and I have a love for one another that can only be understood by siblings.
His little girl, Milaney (Laney), just turned one on October 15th, which is also our wedding anniversary. Big tears welled up in his eyes when he started out his “thanks,” and he said “I never knew that something so little could have such a huge part of my heart.” Tyler is emotional. We all are if you’re on the Vannest side, but he also followed it up with relatable thanks.
“Now being an adult, I’m so thankful for the little things: Finances being met, gas in my car when I need to go somewhere, heat in my house, family to help at a moment’s notice, and being raised with a mentality that big dreams can become a reality with hard work. It has been a huge blessing to me.”
We all need to look at life that way. Yes, it may mean that at this current time you have very little in your fridge, in the bank, and your car is down to its last drop of gas, but you have a roof over your head, people in your life that love you, and a promise for tomorrow. We live in America. No matter what’s going on in the political realm, we’re not predestined to be this or that simply because of where we come from. We can accomplish anything we put our minds to, and that right there is a blessing to be noticed!
The other day I was driving along and I saw a man walking toward oncoming traffic. Immediately when I saw him, I wondered if he needed a ride. Maybe he’s headed to work? How far does he live from here? Does he have people in his life that care for him? I didn’t stop to ask all those questions, but I did think to myself “Talia, you don’t even know what it would be like to be without a car, to have to walk to work or to and from family and friends’ homes. You don’t have any idea what kind of life that boy may be living.” No, I don’t, but that doesn’t stop me from realizing my blessings and passing them on to others in the form of a caring conversation, a letter of love sent in the mail, a helpful attitude, or a mentality to always put others before myself.
I once heard a sermon entitled, “Praise.” You think if you’ve been to church any amount of time, praise to the Lord is a given. It was all about practicing praise in you life. Open the fridge to find there’s no milk or creamer for your coffee: “I praise you, God, for the ability to go to the store and get what I need to make my morning coffee.” You’re going to the department store to start your Christmas shopping and you see a front row spot open: “I praise you for making it convenient for me to shop today. Thank you!” You are upset at a friend for something they did or said: “I thank you, Lord, for your friendship and the earthly friends I do have. They’re plenty.” It’s about creating an attitude of thanks no matter what.
If you are not going to a family member’s home for Thanksgiving this year, just write down your blessings on a note card and feel free to copy our tradition. If you read that sentence and said to yourself: “There’s no way my family would sit down and do this.” Try it. You might be surprised. Even forego the suggestion altogether, because it really isn’t even about the sharing. It’s about the attitude of thanks.
I saw this wall hanging in a store once and it made me smile.
The same way it makes me smile now…
We’ve all heard the saying: “A thankful heart is a happy heart,” and that is so true!
This Thanksgiving holiday, I encourage you to embark on the day with true thanksgiving in your heart. If we really start to think upon our lives, we all have much to be thankful for!
Love you all,