Encouragement, Faith, Family, Gratitude, Thanksgiving

How Do We Go Through Disappointments and Still Be Grateful?

Thankful. Photo by Jessica Bristow on Unsplash.com

In preparation for our Thanksgiving gathering, we moved the living room sofa out, rearranged the coffee table and other stuff and fit in three tables so we could be all together in one room.

Halloween used to be one of the top holidays around my house until the kids grew up and moved out. Now, there are more Fall decorations than ever before.

Not my table, but it’s pretty. Unsplash.com photo by rawpixel.com


Fall makes me think of harvest which makes me envision gathering and storing up. We can’t help but recognize the shorter days, cooler nights, moving faster toward bare trees, cold and winter.

This transition between seasons from bright to dark makes me think of the past year, globally and locally with terrorism, war, and mass shootings. We’ve had struggles, disappointments, and failures in our life or that of our own families.

How, then, do we get through so much disappointment and express gratitude?

If you want to take a Gratitude Quiz and compare this year’s results with next year’s, go for it. It might be an eyeopener.

But back to the original question: how do we express gratitude?

This isn’t easy, but with practice, it gets easier.

We remember the days of light. The getting up when we’re down. We look back at those times when we tried again or started all over.

We recall that we’ve faced the unknown before, and survived.  We’ve had family and friends die but we talk about the memories and what they added to our life.

We remind ourselves that even in the dark, we can push through and grow.

With daily practice, we can feel gratitude. Hopefully, we can express this to our family, friends, or a stranger that gave us support or showed a kindness when we went through the valleys.

A “Gratitude Journal” can get you into the practice of feeling grateful and eventually expressing gratitude. Here are some tips on how to keep such a journal.

I like what Jim Wallis says in his article “Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice” and share it here:

So in a year especially characterized by things that have made me deeply disappointed, concerned, worried, fearful, and angry, let me name my top 10 sources of gratitude at Thanksgiving 2017. (Not in any particular order.)

  1. Parents who put their children’s lives and well-being as primary in their own schedules.
  2. The indigenous people who led the way at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline and who demonstrated to us the vocation of stewardship for the earth.
  3. The women who are standing up to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault — and the men who have called out their peers.
  4. Black pastors who are willing to speak the truth to power and protect their young people from increasing racism by finding themselves in the streets and not just in their pulpits.
  5. White pastors who love their people enough to preach the gospel to them, even if their white parishioners are motivated more by the agenda of Fox News than the gospel.
  6. Black and brown Christians who have called out their white brothers and sisters who say they didn’t vote for Trump because of his racial bigotry, but for other reasons, by saying I guess that wasn’t a deal breaker for you.
  7. Global church leaders who are willing to exemplify the body of Christ as the most racially diverse community in the world in sharp contrast to the American bubble where racial geography trumps theology, and for American church leaders who are willing to denounce “America First” as a heresy.
  8. Principled Republican conservatives who have been willing to stand up morally and politically to Donald Trump — like Mike Gerson, Peter Wehner, David Brooks, and Russell Moore.
  9. Conversations with people who tell the truth like Bryan Stevenson, Michelle Alexander, William Barber, Brittany Packnett, Margaret Atwood, Valarie Kaur, Eboo Patel, Joe Kennedy III, and Mark Shriver.
  10. Thanks be to the God who loves and sustains us while we try to figure out our strategy every day!

Full article here.

So this Thanksgiving, as I gather with my extended family, the meat eaters and the three vegans, we come together to share the harvest, reconnect and celebrate another year of living.

I wish you and yours a Thanksgiving meal full of reconnections, laughter, and love. I’m grateful to you for reading!

thank you card
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


Family, Shrinking holidays, Thanksgiving

The Incredible Shrinking Thanksgiving Holiday

Every year the window for Thanksgiving Day shortens. Philosophically, we can say that thanks giving should be every day and that is something to strive for but if we talk just about the holiday, wouldn’t you agree that it has shrunk to a blip between Halloween candy and Christmas trees, with a short layover on Black Friday?

When I reach back into my childhood, Thanksgiving began a week before the day and ended when we returned to school after the holiday. During the week before, we drew pictures in class, learned what American history said about Thanksgiving, wrote essays and went to Mass.

On the day of Thanksgiving, I remember the knock on the back porch and finding a cardboard box filled with a cold whole chicken, apples, cans of green beans, a sack of flour, and potatoes. My mom looked relieved and the rest of us wondered who put the box at our door. Our holiday began that way for several years when we lived on Felicia Court in the projects. Between the neighbors and relatives, there were plenty of vegetables but they tasted so much better with roast chicken. I don’t remember anything other than the aromas, the family, and our artistic renderings of turkeys and pilgrims stuck on the refrigerator door.

By the time I was ten, I didn’t want to open the back door when I heard a knock on Thanksgiving Day. I was embarrassed. The next year my mom went to the church to pick up a food basket the night before. The next year she was able to buy her own chicken. After that, we moved up to Rose Park and we began celebrating the day at the relative who had a house, not a small apartment. That’s when I remember the noisiness and laughter of extended family, playing with cousins, sneaking more pie, and the energy from the festivities.

Once we had our own families, our holiday began after work on Wednesday night and ended with collapsing on the couch for the weekend. We alternated between homes, shared the cooking and the leftovers. Now it was whether using foil, butter, or oil was better for the moistest turkey, or which pie was the best. We ended the day with a family basketball game. If you could pick up a ball, you played. And that’s the way it was for several years—a solid ritual.

The plan this year was for my siblings in Ventura County to pack up the families and celebrate Thanksgiving in Fresno with my sister. My mom has been there since Halloween and we were to bring her back after Thanksgiving. You know what happens with the best-laid plans.

This year the holiday shrunk so severely, that our Thanksgiving Day plans are in the air. Two of my three kids are working on Black Friday, the day before turkey day, one at 8 p.m and the other at midnight. Since our time together shriveled to a few hours, I decided that our family would go out to a restaurant to celebrate. That’s been my secret wish for many years.

Now my brother’s kids want him to stay in VC. Yesterday, my sister had a major unplanned expense she can’t go to Fresno either. This is the first time in our life that we may spend Thanksgiving Day without my mother. I get a lump in my throat when I think about it. Leave my kids here in VC and go to Fresno or not? And what if my mom’s not around for next Thanksgiving? The questions whirl around me and my feelings bounce around in my chest.

Since I can remember, Thanksgiving Day was spent with family and that’s what it is about, not the chicken or the turkey, not whose house we visited, or what game we played. 

What if my family goes to Fresno on a Wednesday morning and comes back Thursday afternoon? Or the weekend? That might work, because maybe thanks giving day is any day we choose.