thanksgiving week

It is difficult for me to fully wrap my head around the idea that this week we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving. Because so often the Thanksgiving holiday signals the beginning of the end of the year. And it’s too overwhelming to think about this year being practically over.

For my whole life, Thanksgiving meant gathering together with all of our loved ones for multiple meals, in multiple homes, on multiple days. It meant getting full on my grandmother’s turkey and dressing and Ryan’s mom’s table full of desserts. It meant time spent with family reflecting on God’s faithfulness in the past year and sharing with hope all that we have in mind for our coming year.

But for the past two years, (this one will be our third) our Thanksgiving has looked quite different. We have stayed home for the Thanksgiving holiday so that we may travel at Christmas. When you live 23 hours from family, it’s almost impossible to make the trip for a long-weekend.

So the five of us have had our own meal in our own home. I have aimed to re-create many of our loved, family dishes and traditions. But at the end of the day, I have been frustrated and sad and lonely and homesick.

But this year will be different. This year will have a different feel. And it will be so for many reasons.

For starters, we will have Ryan’s sister and her husband visiting us from Alabama. We are overjoyed to have company (family at that) come and stay with us during this special holiday.

We will also have two families who are more than just friends, (they have become our Army family), joining us for our big Thanksgiving meal. Both of these families are moving on to their next duty stations and we are already mourning their absence from our community. Thanksgiving will be our last time of fellowship before they both get on the road.

This year and probably most profoundly, I am not going to be looking behind me at what we used to do or where we used to be or what may be going on back home with our extended families. Because when I look back at what used to be or what is going on elsewhere, I miss what I can see right in front of me. I miss the blessings of today and the moment and the enjoyment of now.

And I think that is one of the biggest things God has been teaching me this year. I can wish for and hope for something else. I could look back or side-to-side or ahead but in doing so I’d miss out on what was right in front of me. And despite what I think I may be missing or missing out on, there is so much joy and beauty and fullness presently in my midst.

From January through August of this year, I could wish Ryan wasn’t in Afghanistan, but he was. So I had to make the choice to carry on with life in his absence.

I could wish that we lived closer to family, but we don’t. So I daily make the choice to invest in my life here, where we are.

I could wish that we had a different house, but we don’t. So I try my best to make *this* house a home.

I could wish that Ryan had an easy job, or a job with a more predictable schedule, or a location somewhere else but he doesn’t. So I look with gratitude at all of the blessings we enjoy because of the job he does have.

The list goes on and on. But at the heart of it all, contentment is where I must keep my focus.

In life, things change. They just do. For me, some of those changes have taken on the feel of not putting up our Christmas tree and not sending out our annual Christmas card this year. Our schedule and travel just don’t permit it.

I have a choice. I can dig my heels in and say, “I’ve always done it this way…” or “I wish it could be done this way or that…” or I can just roll with it. And look for the joy and happiness in what is instead of what isn’t.

In life, things change. They just do.

And that’s okay.

I’m content.

I am thankful.

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” {Psalm 70:4, ESV}

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