People arrive at thankfulness in a myriad of different ways. We’re not naturally born with a heart of gratitude or a spirit of thanksgiving; it’s our life experiences and influences that teach us to understand the true meaning of being thankful. For example, just as living in a small Southern town can make you appreciate big city civilization, living in a big city sure has its way of helping you appreciate the charm of a small town. While Thanksgiving Day is a time for feasting, it’s also a time for reflection—on the year that’s ending, the future ahead and the things that matter most.
If I’m being honest, 2016 has challenged my attitude of thankfulness with great opposition. Time after time this year, my husband and I have faced what seems like a never-ending stream of bad luck. Circumstances completely out of our control have brought about undue stress and grief. Through it all, I’ve cried out of frustration and struggled with the Good Book’s instruction to rejoice in my suffering.
And through it all, I can look and see all the ways I am truly blessed.
Earlier this year, when the not-so-inexpensive fuel pump in my Suburban decided it was finished functioning, my husband had the skills to handle it. When I needed a job that would coincide with my culinary school schedule, the Lord provided one less than a mile from our home. When I was in the hospital recently for an emergency gallbladder removal surgery, my husband, parents and in-laws never left my side. And when my father-in-law passed away tragically on the day Hurricane Matthew hit the East Coast, our family clung to the only thing we could—strength in the Lord and each other.
When I consider what Thanksgiving means to me, I do well to remember the times I’ve been humbled, needed help or been down and out — out of patience, money, time and energy. It’s during these times my ultimate blessings take center stage: my loving husband, caring family, genuine friendships, a steady paycheck, a good vehicle and my health.
Enduring trials provides perspective and clarity, just as traveling broadens the mind.
During college, I took full advantage of the opportunities I was given to travel the world and experience other countries. I spent the summer of my junior year in one of the poorest countries in Europe, Moldova, located between Romania and the Ukraine. I will never flush a modern-day toilet without remembering the “WC’s” (water closets). They were deplorable rooms with small holes in the floor, separated by thin panels on either side. When I ride in my automobile with air conditioning and heat, I won’t soon forget the horse and buggies that are still primary forms of transportation there today. And when I attend church for Sunday service complete with big screens, full bands and pyrotechnics, I know full well that the Holy Spirit is no less present in the little shed with a makeshift podium, six wooden benches and a dirt floor in the Moldovan Village across the pond.
The longer I live, the more I realize one can’t comprehend the true measure of gratitude unless they’ve gone without, of food unless they’ve been hungry, of warmth unless they’ve been cold. Being thankful isn’t posting a cute meme on Facebook or a saying a quick prayer before a meal. It’s taking a step back from one’s circumstances, choosing to see the good in every situation and understanding that somewhere in the world, someone is less fortunate. Even when our circumstances seem daunting, our experience could always, always be worse.
So, this year, when my plate is piled high with turkey and dressing, canned cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip, I’ll give thanks–Thanks for every perspective I’ve gained and every trial that has made me who I am today.
This article originally appeared in the Statesboro Herald on Sunday, November 20, 2016.
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Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC TV’s “The Taste,” she is the Statesboro Herald food columnist and past host of the program “Statesboro Cooks.” Lingenfelser is a student at the award-winning Culinary Institute of Savannah. To learn more, visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk or connect with her on social media by following Some Kinda Good on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.