Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Yes, I know it’s January and that Thanksgiving is long past. However, these blogs will be around a long time, and maybe the lessons and thoughts are still important for us to ponder. So here goes! Just pretend you’re back three months ago….

It’s that time of year again: the kick-off for the holiday season. Food, Family, Friends, and Fun! At least that’s the American stereotype of the holidays. For the majority of us, Thanksgiving is about traditions. There is the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, the stuffing, the famous green-bean-casserole (a Midwestern favorite!), and whatever else your corner of the nation specializes in. Dinner wouldn’t be dinner without pumpkin pie! After dinner there are football games, puzzles, board games, or one of a myriad other family activities.

However, for many, this is the kick-off to a very difficult season when they are reminded of all that isn’t great about their lives. They may be alone or walking through a time of deep grief and loss. Maybe the family is so broken as to be overwhelmingly painful. Or maybe there isn’t any family at all.

Thanksgiving feels different when my husband isn’t at the head of the table with us. We remember him, and we laugh about the things he did and said…but it’s not quite the same. In fact, it’s not nearly the same at all.

When my heart starts down that pathway of thinking about all I’ve lost, I have a choice. I can CHOOSE to focus on what still remains for me and the many blessings I still have. There are kids and in-law kids; there are grandkids and soon-to-be-in-law grandkids; there’s my beautiful home and all that God has provided for me; there’s my faithful fur baby Louie!

Recent research has shown that thankfulness, and particularly keeping a gratitude journal, is the single most healing thing that you can do for your emotional well-being. It all depends on your point of view. Where’s your focus? Do you see only problems and what you’ve lost, or do you see blessings from the hand of God?

There’s a thought-provoking book on the whole concept of gratitude called “1,000 Gifts” by Anne Voskamp. If you haven’t done so, I highly recommend you read this. It will take you awhile because each new chapter has a way of challenging your thinking. It’s one of those books that you have to digest, not one that you read in a couple of hours.

Anne has suffered great loss and grief in the course of her life, and she finds a beautiful way of putting everyday emotions into words that stir the heart and lead one into the presence of God. She spends a great deal of time pondering the meaning of the Eucharist and how it relates to being thankful.

Let’s explore the meaning of this just a bit. In Luke 22:19 it says, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them….” The context is Jesus meeting with his disciples in the upper room to celebrate the Passover dinner. He is aware at that point that he only has a few hours remaining and will be facing the ultimate sacrifice – his death on the cross. In that time, what does He consider to be the most important thing? Anne unpacks this in such a beautiful way. Jesus took bread, which he considered to be a gift from God, and He gave thanks. This celebration which we do in remembrance of Him has come to be known as the Eucharist. The original word in the scripture is “eucharisteo” – He gave thanks. The word for grace is there – charis. But the original word also encompasses the Greek word for joy – char.

This deep joy is found only in the middle of giving thanks. Perhaps the height of our joy is dependent on the depths of our thanks? She draws an interesting conclusion from this: as long as thanks is possible, then joy is possible. In this we find a three-fold cord that brings life into any pain that we experience: grace (charis), eucharisteo (thanksgiving), and Chara (joy).

After giving thanks, Jesus faced the cross because of the joy set before him. He opened the door to a miracle of salvation for every one of us. Eucharisteo (thanksgiving) always precedes a miracle. What a profound concept for us to grasp.

Giving thanks changes me – the real miracle. I begin to realize that whenever or wherever I can give thanks, then joy can follow. In the midst of pain and struggle, joy becomes the real miracle. If you are struggling to find joy during this season of your life, I encourage you to ponder these thoughts. Be intentional about giving thanks. Begin with the things that seem so insignificant, and you will find that the miracle of returning joy will enter your heart. You will be changed, and that is the true miracle.

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome. You can reach me at and don’t forget to subscribe to this blog and share it with your friends who would be encouraged.


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