When Thanksgiving isn’t Happy

photo (9)A not-so-happy, “Happy Thanksgiving,” to you. I don’t want to bring you down, but not everyone is happy this Thanksgiving. Some folks are in tremendous pain having lost a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or the very worst, a child this past year. There will be an empty place and a voice missing as they sit down to their Thanksgiving celebration. Inside of them, there won’t be any celebration at all. I have to ask you to be gentle with these grieving ones, if their tears fall, or if they don’t show up at all, overwhelmed by all that will never be again.

Others are experiencing the heartbreak of divorce, maybe a broken relationship with a prodigal child, or the betrayal of their own body brought on by illness or aging. This always seems worse as the holidays approach. There are also those who have no family to fit into. Single moms and dads who pack up their little ones and send them off to a family they are no longer part of, while spending the day alone. They act brave in front of their children, waving good-bye from the front door, but when they close it, they often feel the sting of rejection.

Some people have grown so used to spending Thanksgiving by themselves, that it becomes easier to decline the offer from a well-meaning co-worker or church friend, than to be a part of someone else’s gathering reminding them that they have no real relatives of their own. Long ago, their family might have been broken by circumstances too painful to remember.

All of these folks, even the grieving ones, are brave and forge ahead most days, trusting that God has a plan and that He does all things well. But on holidays, they feel small, weak, and orphaned, wondering what on Earth they have done to end up so isolated when everyone else seems to be a part of so much more. The Gospel tells them to go help someone in need, but they can’t even help themselves, so that becomes one more burden of guilt. Yet, their heartbreak does not go unnoticed by a God who has big shoulders, and can take it, when His children get angry that life seems so unfair. The Creator steadfastly loves them, when they are at the top of their game, but He holds them closest when they are at the bottom. Psalm 147:3Psalm 147-3

For whatever reason, if this Thanksgiving is not a “happy” one, we must be careful not to get swallowed up in self-pity, because that can open a door to long-term depression. Instead, it’s important to realize that probably half the world feels lonelier at holiday celebrations than any other time of the year. Besides, it is so easy to concentrate on all that is gone, but what remains? What is there to be thankful for? Even if the word, “thankful” might be a difficult pill to swallow right now, what is it that you can hang onto? Hang onto that, with all you are worth. You are not alone. You are loved more than you can imagine by a God who sees every tear, and even when you don’t believe He hears your prayers, He is still listening. Ask Him to help you get through this day. If you are like me, remember, “It’s [always] one day at a time!”

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Finding Hope in a Lemonade Stand

Lemonade 1For a couple years, there was what I affectionately nicknamed, “The Posse” that assembled whenever there was trouble in my neighborhood. The Posse consisted of about half-a-dozen elementary-aged boys on bicycles. One evening arriving home before sunset, the small band of do-gooders had gathered in my front yard standing upright on their bikes looking forlornly at the cornfield across the busy road. The majority of boys weren’t allowed to cross the road due to their parent’s rules, but it was obvious that something was terribly wrong.

I pulled into my garage, wanting to head straight for my living room couch and a little TV, but I could tell they needed some adult help. Remembering once having had a little boy of my own who is now all grown up, I dutifully approached the group to inquire what was happening. Animatedly talking over each other, the youngsters frantically shared that a neighborhood dog had gone missing in the nearby field. The corn was high like it is right now. The oldest boy and I, the one who owned the brown and white frisky pooch, headed across the road while the others anxiously watched. Miraculously, the curious canine came running when he heard his 10-year-old master’s voice calling his name.

On another occasion, while I was in the yard pulling weeds, a middle-aged female who was new to the neighborhood and to Ohio approached me sobbing about her missing cats. I calmly explained that we would have to call out The Posse. That particular time, even some parents got involved in the hunt. One cat was eventually recovered, but sadly the other was never found. The members of this boyhood group are older now, and seem to have disbanded. It’s been a real loss, because their camaraderie infused a bond among normally isolated neighbors.

Let’s face it, unless we’ve known someone for a long time, most folks keep to themselvesHeadlines 2 in whatever neighborhood we live. Many people are so busy. Besides, the world has grown increasingly frightening these last couple of years, and neighboring can seem like a thing of the past. With terrorist attacks in unexpected places, ongoing school shootings, political unrest, heroin addiction running rampant, racially motivated killings, and then on July 7, 2016, our country witnessed one of the greatest tragedies of this decade. Five Dallas law enforcement officers were murdered, and seven others were injured in a brutal massacre. The following morning, I couldn’t imagine how anything would cause our country to have a bright future, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in that thought. Although it was a beautiful sunny day, I wanted to lock the doors and give up on humanity.

But late that morning, I glanced out of my kitchen window, and couldn’t believe what I saw. On the edge of my yard, four or five small children and a little red wagon, a few elementary school girls and one boy sitting in miniature chairs who had set up a makeshift lemonade stand. Children I had never seen on my corner before, with a young mother watching on the sidewalk nearby.Lemonade 3

Despite my formally despondent mood, I felt hope for the future bubble up inside as I observed the kids excitedly interacting with each other. I did what any self-respecting neighbor lady should do. I told my husband who was home on vacation, we had to go outside and buy some lemonade. Even though my spouse has been dieting, I asked him to give the little ones $1.00 for the fifty-cent lemonade. Confused that I was encouraging him to drink sugar and pay double the amount, my poor hubby was surprised a second time when I told him it was best if we throw the sugary drink away once we were back inside. I explained that being a former business owner myself, I had simply wanted to encourage the young professionals that hard work pays off.

Headlines 4Even when another fatal incident happened in Baton Rouge recently with law enforcement officers being targeted again, I remembered the lemonade stand. In the midst of turmoil it remains a sign of hope that there is still a wonderful future waiting for our nation’s children, because they are the future. I saw it in their twinkling eyes as we handed over our money to pay for our fifty-cent lemonade. Dollar bills that still say, “In God we trust.” The lemonade stand was a visual reminder that in the darkest of life’s storms, we can trust that there is a plan for our tomorrows.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy award-winng freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

 

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Advice for Ministry



Jeremiah 29:11 & 13
My humble advice about ministry: God bless your heart for wanting to reach others. As for advice, pray for open doors, and then when God opens them be willing to walk through them if you sense God’s leading. Even though, they are not the doors you expected to open or wanted to open.
Many times, it will not be like you think. Try to stay humble no matter how people treat you. Good or bad. Try to stay grateful to God.
If you have a family, put them first. This of course, is first after God. Ministry can become more important than your family, and this is something God would never want.
Don’t worry about what other people think of you, but worry about what God thinks of you. When you feel that He is telling you to say, “No,” have the courage to do that too. Don’t let ministry push out a relationship with your Heavenly Father.
Always, love and forgive His people even when they hurt you. This is what He would want, but don’t allow them to abuse you. Shake the dust off then.
Take care of yourself, eat right, rest, and remember to have fun. There will be times you will be at the top and other times at the bottom. But it’s not about you, it’s about Him. Give God the credit and praise always, and rest in Him during times of failure and loss.
Never forget to pray, spend time apart, and to love God more than anything. Remember you’re not alone, He is with you even when you feel forsaken, misunderstood, and undervalued. You are loved, not for what you do, but because you are His!

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