My Thanksgiving Change of Heart
Thanksgiving has been my least favorite holiday for years. Sitting around, eating, and watching TV all day sounds terrible to me. I want to get out, but many things are closed. I want be productive, but I’m expected to sit in the living room with the extended family that is visiting. I want to exercise at my gym, but most of the time we are out of town. Basically, it is pulling me against my grain in many ways and I end up feeling very frustrated. I don’t love Thanksgiving.
However, my feelings have begun to change as my kids age and I see the tremendous value in spending a day, a week, or a month focused on giving thanks for the many blessings in our lives. So much of our lives are spent rushing from one thing to the next, rarely slowing down to be reminded of the good things God has given us. Maybe this isn’t true in your house, but in my house it is complaining that comes very naturally and giving thanks that takes intentional effort. Suddenly, Thanksgiving becomes a perfect opportunity to focus our attention on the fact that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).
This month, my wonderful wife introduced a new tool into our lives for November in the spirit of Thanksgiving. It’s a series of questions we put on small cards that allows us to reflect on the many gifts that God has given us and the good things in our lives. We pick one to discuss at breakfast and one to discuss at dinner as a family and the kids can get in on the action as they take turns choosing the cards. In all honesty, we don’t always have the deepest conversations during this time (our children are ages five, three, and one), but it allows us a moment to pause and simply consider something good in our lives so we can turn and give the Lord the praise He deserves.
I am starting to see how Thanksgiving can help to refocus our minds and hearts to live with an attitude of gratitude on a daily basis. In fact, it has allowed us to remember these two things each day:
- We are tremendously blessed with a home, warm clothes, food to eat, and a stable family—most people in the world cannot say that—so we should be very grateful. Also, we should take time to pray for and serve those who are in much more difficult circumstances, rather than complaining about our own.
- The greatest gift that we have received isn’t material in nature, but spiritual. While we take time to thank God for good food, warm clothes, great teachers, etc., we know all of those could be gone tomorrow. However, the gift of Jesus Christ is eternal! We have been adopted into God’s family and now we have the true abundant life that doesn’t depend upon circumstances. We have received this good news and now we have the privilege of walking with God and sharing this hope with others.
We have been richly blessed in so many ways. Our Father has given us many good gifts. What a great opportunity to be reminded to turn to Him with praise and thanksgiving. Maybe this holiday isn’t so bad after all…
1 Thessalonians 5:16–18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Dustin Speaks is the Mission Mobilization Pastor. He and his wife, Lauren, arrived in Columbus in the fall of 2012, after several initial ministry experiences. Dustin previously served as an associate pastor in South Dakota and as a missionary to university students in Berlin, Germany. Dustin studied history at Ohio University, where he met Lauren, and was involved in campus ministry with Cru. After graduation, the Speaks went to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Chicago) to complete a degree in Intercultural Studies. He enjoys playing nearly all ball sports—basketball, golf, and soccer are his favorites. Dustin and Lauren have three young children.