At Thanksgiving, my family usually gathers at my grandparent's house for parade watching followed by a very traditional turkey day feast. We stuff ourselves with a plethera of very Southern, carb-loaded deliciousness like mac & cheese, dressing, sweet potato casserole, turkey and of course, pumpkin pie. This year, a spontaneous trip to Hilton Head Island, SC broke our routine. Festivities including a morning beach jog with my brother, a family zip lining tour, a good 'ol turkey sandwich for lunch (just so I can say I had turkey on thanksgiving) and a delicious seafood dinner of crab stuffed tallapia with a dill cream sauce - YUM! It was a fun change of pace although I missed my grandparents and our long standing traditions.
One thing that didn't change this year about my thanksgiving: I am truly thankful - possibly more than ever before. Living and serving in the inner city will give you a good dose of perspective quicker than my 6' 5" tall brother can scarf down a piece of pumpkin pie (and that's fast!). Here's a quick list of the goodness I'm grateful for this year.....
No ones is perfect and mine is no exception, but when it comes to unconditional love my family has passed the test. We've fought hard battles, celebrated grand victories and supported eachother every step of the way. I couldn't feel more loved or believed in - all I have to do is look around to be reminded of what a true treasure that is.
My Ganny says travel is one of the best teachers in life. I agree. Living in Nashville (my first time settling somewhere outside of Virginia) has been a good and stretching experience. As I boarded a plane to meet up with my family for our thanksgiving getaway the thought crossed my mind that most people in the inner city of Nashville where I server will never experience the thrill of seeing the world from a bird's eye view. Not only that, most will never travel at all or take a relaxing vacation.
Eating out with my family is a real treat these days. The seafood and yummy treats of my Thanksgiving break are not the norm in my Nashville life. The ministry buys some basic grocery staples for us weekly and gets food donated from a local food bank. I supplement by purchasing extra things I need, but for the first time in my life am partially living off of donated food. It's an eye opener for sure and makes me oh-so aware of the abundance many Americans enjoy and don't think twice about.
As I near the end of my year of Music + Missions I can honestly say it's been a good kind of hard. We don't grow when things are easy - we grow when we're challenged. We grow as we struggle and even as we suffer. God allows it sometimes so our character is forged and strength. Otherwise, we'd probably choose to settle into whatever feels comfortable to us and stay put. Yes, I can honestly say I am even grateful for the struggles of this year. As Romans 5:5-2 say, "...we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured our his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us."
When I was fifteen my grandmother gave me a gratitude journal for Christmas. The concept was simple: write down five things you're grateful for every day, but it's impact on my life was rich and meaningful. Spending time thinking about all the things I had to be grateful for changed my perspective on life and probably steered me away from being a grumpy teenager. Gratitude changes our attitude. It's the best way to wage war against our negative emotions that surely try to push their way into our hearts.
Take some time to ponder what you're grateful for today - and don't be surprised if it changes you