Nov 21

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Not My Typical Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell's Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey (1917)

Norman Rockwell’s Cousin Reginald
Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey (1917)

I Wished I Could Let This Thanksgiving Pass Unnoticed

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a day I look forward to. It’s a happy day of fun with family and friend, and let’s not forget TONS of great food. Piles of turkey, candied yams, potatoes and gravy, pomegranate salad, and best of all, PUMKIN PIE! It’s a day of eating too much, loud football games, family time, and probably a good nap. For me, this year feels different. It is hard to put into words, but my eyes are opened to how hard this day can be for some.

This past year we have had more injustices done than I can remember in a long time. The last injustice was a big one and it just happened last week. Also, at this time, my cyclical health condition is in decline, and exhaustion fills every day. I might ask, what do I have to be thankful for? I’m exhausted and sick and our world keeps falling apart. One side of me wants this day to pass by unnoticed and hopefully soon to be forgotten. However, there is another side that realizes I cannot let that happen. Too many great and wonderful people, events, and even special things have crossed my life for me to ignore.

Appreciation In Hindsight

Over the course of my life I have been blessed with gifts, talents, and relationships that helped shape my life. I must admit, that some of these things were not appreciated at the time. Not until some of them were gone did I realize the special blessing they were. At first, I mourned the loss, wishing I could have them back. Over the years, I found dwelling on the past and wishing it were different is not healthy. I cannot change the past, so I must not live in it. I am coming to realize, maybe it is better to simply be grateful for the gifts, talents, and blessings that have touched my life any time along the way. I feel privileged to have experienced many wonderful things in my life, so I hold to the good memories and try to more fully appreciate what I have now.

For example: Cycling was once a passion I enjoyed almost every day. I rode my bike to work. Frequently, I went for a twenty-mile bike ride during my lunch hour, and often went for longer rides on the weekends. I loved the challenge of riding up a mountain pass and flying down the backside. When occasion allowed, I loved riding my mountain bike on snow-covered trails. The hush of riding through the snow was exhilarating! It felt like I was riding on a soft cloud.

Crater Lake, Oregon, Cycle Oregon II

Stan and Tim at Crater Lake, Oregon, Cycle Oregon II
Copyright Stan Winchester 1989

Those days of cycling are now long gone, though I still have my bikes in storage. Sometimes I like to get one of my bikes out, put my hands on the handlebars and lean over the frame. As I do this, I close my eyes and see myself flying down the backside of Mt. Hood or Crater Lake in Oregon. I see myself riding to the coast on the Wilson River Highway. In my mind I feel the warm wind on my face. For a moment, I am on my bike reliving a wonderful memory. These memories of cycling and other memories are blessings I can be thankful for. I choose to hold to these memories that define who I am.

Memories I hold most dear are ones that involve positive family relationships. I consider my Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost as very important members of my family, so any memories that include Them with my mortal family are special treasures. For instance, seeing my wife in the Holy Temple dressed in her wedding gown, knowing we were to be married for time and all eternity. I remember kneeling across a sacred altar and lovingly looking into her eyes and seeing the same love looking back. I remember overwhelming feelings of happiness when for the first time I held each of our sons after they were born. I was grateful that our Heavenly Father trusted me enough to have three of His special children come to live with us and be a part of our family. Joyful tears flow as I think of these very special days.

Today, I choose to remember the wonderful “things” God has given me. One day I will probably see our current grievously sore trials as blessings to be grateful for also. To a certain extent, this has already happened. I have seen how a trial may have protected me, for which I am thankful.

Reminded Me To Smile

This may sound strange, but I think due to my neurological illness I forgot how to smile. It was not that I was unhappy; no matter how hard I tried, the muscles would not work properly to produce a smile. A few years ago we had a family portrait and I tried to smile as best I could. I put in great effort to get the corners of my mouth to lift and form a smile. Most of my smiles were pretty pathetic, with only a few images showing moderately decent smiles. The best overall family photo did not have me smiling at all, so they “Photoshopped” a smile from a similar pose into the preferred family photo. Now, I am grateful for Photoshop!

Papa and his little angel

Then a miracle happened. Three years ago a precious granddaughter was born. During this time we were living in our son’s basement while my wife was completing her Masters degree. We had the privilege of living with and watching this little angel every day for the first two years of her life. I got to play with her. I read and sang to her and told her made up stories. The pure joy of being around her helped me to relearn how to smile. I am now able to smile BIG ear-to-ear smiles just thinking about her. Regaining the ability to smile helped increase my joy and thankfulness. I found smiling helped me to be more thankful.

Hope For The Future

With this “untypical” Thanksgiving and the challenges facing us I have had to cling to my faith and hope for the future. The Apostle Paul teaches:

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

( 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 25-26 )

I think what Paul is saying is, if our hope in Jesus Christ, including His power and influence was limited only to mortality, then “we are men most miserable.” It is Paul’s declaration that Jesus rose from the dead and not only overcame death, but destroyed it! This is our great hope to be thankful for, that no matter how hard life may be now, no matter how bleak our situation may appear, the bad parts will end. Every “enemy . . . shall be destroyed.”

Be No Afraid by Greg Olsen © 1997

Be Not Afraid
by Greg Olsen © 1997

As I desire to feel thanksgiving and gratitude, I must seek God’s peace and one of my places to go is to John, chapters 13-17. The words of Jesus during His last day in mortality touch me in very special and tender ways. Not long before Jesus’ darkest hours He teaches words that comfort me today, all these thousands of years later.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. ( John 16:33 )

When I feel God’s peace, then I can endure. When I remember these times, it helps me to be thankful, even for, “my not-typical Thanksgiving.”

Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

I woke up very early this morning and I was unable to go back to sleep. So I watched the movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader based on C.S. Lewis’ novel. It is one of my favorite movies and teaches many valuable lessons of courage, faith, hope, and God’s special place for us. In the closing credits is a very special song written by Carrie Underwood, There’s A Place For Us . I hope you will listen to her singing it in the video below.

While Carrie’s song is not a sacred hymn, there are many truths in it. Here are a few words from her song:

There’s a place out there for us,
More than just a prayer or anything we ever dreamed of.
So if you feel like giving up cause you don’t fit in down here,
Fear is crashing in, close your eyes and take my hand.
We can be the kings and queens of anything if we believe.
It’s written in the stars that shine above,
A world where you and I belong, where faith and love will keep us strong,
Exactly who we are is just enough.
(Carrie Underwood, There’s A Place For Us )

This morning as I pondered Carrie’s song, it has helped me to be more thankful, more grateful, and to remember God’s great plan of happiness. Hopefully, my “My Not-Typical Thanksgiving” will not be typical for a different reason. Hopefully, this Thanksgiving I will remember to be more thankful to my Heavenly Father and to trust more deeply that He has a plan for my life, even when I do not see the way to go. I must trust, “There’s A Place For [Me]” and be thankful, because it will be, “More than just a prayer or anything [I] ever dreamed of.”

Painting: Norman Rockwell’s Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey  by Norman Rockwell 1917 in public domain

Photo:  Stan and Tim at Crater Lake, Oregon , Cycle Oregon II Copyright Stan Winchester © 1989

Photo:  Papa and his little angel , Copyright Stan Winchester © 2010

Painting:  Be Not Afraid used with permission, Copyright  © 1997 by Greg Olsen

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  • http://www.facebook.com/deborah.j.avila Deborah Jeanne Avila

    Thoroughly loved and felt the Spirit burn in me! My holiness have radically
    altered by so many health losses as well as those who have crossed mortal
    portals, nonetheless, how grateful I am for the past that taught me,
    imperceptibly, how to handle the Present, and, hopefully this season will
    prepare me for every tomorrow God graces me with. I placed your button on my
    blog page! With abiding friendship ~Debbie