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God has given us all much to be thankful for

Thanksgiving — a time of giving thanks. How we love our turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked corn, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, fruit salad, and never forget the pumpkin pie! On this day each year, we gorge ourselves until we are just miserable, don’t we? After enjoying the meal, but eating entirely too much, we usually end up napping before round two — the infamous turkey sandwich slathered with mayo, the macaroni salad, and the pumpkin pie we were too full to eat at noon. We kind of pride ourselves on our indulgences, don’t we?

I fondly remember, as a child, how our family would gather together each year around my grandma’s table. Lots of smiles, lots of love, and always the same memory of my sweet grandfather — pappy. He was diabetic, but never mind that on this special day. He had his own very large, oval-shaped plate, which actually was a meat platter. Around the table he would go to fill his plate before sitting down, always with a look of victory and of love for his family. He was so cute, acting as though he had just won a million dollars and defeated the enemy of diabetes, when in actuality, he knew his numbers would reveal that he had not won that battle. Nevermind that! We knew that next year would be more of the same. Oh, how he loved to entertain his family. So many precious memories of my grandparents.

In my own family, we added a tradition of being thankful on this joyous occasion. I would give each person a slip of paper on which they were to write what they were thankful for during the year. As small children, we would later read, “I’m thankful for “smashed potatoes.” Those were keepsakes and it’s been a joy to read and reread these slips of paper written by my once little children, now adults. Sometimes the papers had very heartfelt messages, “I’m thankful for mom, who taught me to love God.” Or, “I’m thankful for dad, who works so hard to take care of us.” Tear-jerkers, for sure, but always treasured in our hearts.

In recent months, I know I did my share of groaning about our move from the farm to the mountain. But, thank you all for hearing my heart and hopefully, watching as I have grown through this experience. I have learned to see all the good in it and I’m so very thankful.

Just last evening, as I grabbed a towel after showering, the thought came to me — Thank You, Lord, for a soft towel! You see, since we moved here, I had been hanging clothes on the line and often wished I could once again enjoy a soft towel to dry with. So much we take for granted; the little incidental things of each day. I grew to be thankful for the solitude of the mountain, as I gaze out my windows each morning and watch the wildlife all around my yard. The squirrels chasing one another, the turkeys strutting by, the deer who wander into our yard, oblivious to me watching them interact with each other from inside my cozy, little mountain home.

What does it mean to grow to be thankful? We say, “Thank you” so freely and yet, think about that, thank you…thank who? To say we are thankful by saying, “thank you,” we are recognizing there must be something or someone to whom we are thanking. Are we thankful to the “lucky stars?” Are we thankful for our good luck, for good breaks, good fortune, or the good Lord, from whom all our many blessings come?

I recognize in this hurry-up world that it’s just the easiest, yet most grossly, undeniably sinful attitude we have grown accustomed to — to be thankless. I’ve mentioned in the past, just how much I love the word “grace”…God’s undeserved favor, yet, I, too, have often been less than thankful to the Lord for my many blessings.

You are aware, right? Aware that aside from the grace of God, we would be a people destined for the pits of hell! Yet, we are not! We are loved by our Father, so much so, that He gave His Only Son to die on a cross, to pay the debts of our sins, that we could be spared the punishment that is ours. What love! What a gift of His grace! Yet, so often we choose to whine rather than worship, don’t we? God help us all!

Nancy Leigh Wolgemuth, in her book, “Choosing Gratitude,” has this to say: Undeniable guilt, plus undeserved grace, should equal unbridled gratitude.” Mankind was born with a sin nature that called for the punishment of death, yet our Jesus made it possible to be showered by His grace, and because of His sacrifice, our lives ought to be lived out in sacrificial praise, to the glory of God, the Father. What more needs said? As Christians, our lives ought to starkly stand out as thankful people; worshippers instead of whiners.

Undeniably, we have much we could whine about, yet, we have so much more to be so very thankful for! Every breath we take is a gift of God’s grace. Though we often want to dictate to Him what our lives ought to be, we may need reminded that every second we tarry here on earth is one more opportunity to praise the God who made us, keeps us by His grace, and loves us enough to keep us dependent upon Him. Do we always like what we experience? Absolutely not! But do we recognize that whatever we perceive in this life as hard and painful, may also be given in love by our God who knew all of our days before one of them was yet to be.

At the time of this writing, it is the day before Thanksgiving. My mind is racing about how I’m so far behind, I ought to have had the pies made by now. I should have made the stuffing already. I need to run to the store for more supplies. There are too many things on my list for the day, yet here I am, writing. Yet, I know, it’s the most beneficial thing I will do today — to sit at the feet of my Jesus, and thank HIM, and praise HIM for the blessings in my life I’m so undeserving of…like family, friends. People of faith; my “Jesus friends,” opportunities such as this, where I can express my gratitude to my Lord, who knows what I need even before my feet hit the floor each day. He’s got a plan and all that is necessary is that I bow low, and simply praise His holy name, giving thanks for all He’s given. Thank You, Lord, for the beauty of YOUR mountain and for all that awaits me here. Your presence, Lord, is all that is truly needed. Thank You, Lord, that You love me, just as I am learning, always learning, to be Your grateful daughter. Thank You, Lord, for these moments where I can tell the world all about YOU, and how you saved a lowly sinner, by Your grace, and lavished Your love on, instead. Thank You, Lord, for each new day, for every breath I take, and for joyful moments like tomorrow, when we’ll eat way more than we ought, laugh and love abundantly, and fill out those slips of paper yet another time. I know this year, someone will again be thankful for “smashed potatoes.” I know, too, that a few will be thankful for the family they’ve been blessed with, but Lord, I will be most thankful for you and I pray that this day will mark the beginning of a thankful revolution within the hearts of many — all because You chose to give. May we live out our days with thankful hearts, that others might know You as Savior and Lord, too. Thank You, Jesus, for all the “mountains” in my life!

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Debby Renninger is a freelance writer and inspirational speaker. She is the leader of the women’s ministry at Pine Glen Church of the Brethren and also leads a weekly Bible study, “Beauty for Ashes,” in her home in McVeytown. Renninger may be reached at 250-7086.

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