Over the years, I’ve written Thanksgiving blogs. It’s a day of family, eating, fun, naps, games, sometimes shopping, fireplaces and reflection. This year is no different, and yet it is so different from last year’s Thanksgiving. Last year, our family was on the verge of a long, dark night as Carolyn was in the process of recovering from a surgery that we would later find out revealed cancer. We’d embark on a health journey that took us through May of this year.

This Thanksgiving, the kids are at home +1. Sam’s fiancé, Sidney Sims, has graced us with her presence, and she has yet to declare who her favorite family member is. Adelyn’s significant other will visit us tomorrow. This also adds personnel to the Annual Noble Family Yard Raking Celebration. This annual event is deeply anticipated and beloved by family members and their guests.

What I’m thankful for

Over the years, I’ve been thankful for big and small things. Sometimes it’s the small things that we need to be thankful for, like:

And big things like

Mile Markers

This year, I’m thankful for the following mile markers:

  • Senegal. I went in response to a friend’s invitation, but all along I sensed it was God’s. I was not wrong. What I saw and experienced convinced me to lead and influence others to go, serve, give and pray for God’s activity and His people in Senegal. From the arid north to the bustling capital of Dakar to a tour of the Africa Mercy ship, I was humbled and grateful. I had the opportunity to preach while there, and I also got to walk with lions!
  • Chemotherapy. Carolyn endured the worst round of chemo treatments she’s experienced in her 20+ year battle with cancer. Diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in November last year, we found out in December she also had lymphoma. Those months were hard, but this November, with a full house, we are able to breathe. There’s a stem cell transplant on the horizon for her, but right now we are able to consider chemo and cancer a blessing because the experience gives us perspective when other hardships come.
  • Discipleship. In January I led our church in a “discipleship initiative” in which I encouraged every member to participate. Six weeks of meeting in small groups focused on the themes of intimacy, humility, obedience and influence. Since January, we’ve had almost 180 people participate. For that, I’m deeply grateful.
  • Engagement. Sam graduated from UNCC/Liberty this past May, and he began serving with Young Life staff in Salisbury, NC this summer. YL has made a huge impact on Sam his entire life, and he went to Charlotte for college because of the opportunity to serve as a YL leader while he was a student there. I’m proud of him and humbled by his confidence in the gospel, contagious joy and desire to see the lives of youth impacted by Jesus. While Carolyn, Sidney’s mom and I almost botched his proposal (another story for another day), the fact that Sidney said “yes” brings great joy and gratitude as we welcome another member into the family.
  • Prayer. I have felt prayed for more this year than a long time. Whether it’s been support for health-related needs, or my crying out in the middle of “in the meantime moments” when things are not what I desire them to be, intercession for ongoing delays with our building progress, or wisdom in relational struggles, I have prayed and been prayed for. Days when I should have been absolutely wiped out, I discovered joy and strength. I have experienced depth and intimacy with Jesus when I shouldn’t have. I am weak. And yet.. I have been uplifted and undergirded by prayer. It is not prayer in and of itself, but it’s prayer that guides me into the intimate presence of the person of Jesus. I’m grateful.
  • Lifelines. A lifeline can refer to reaching out for help like on the gameshow Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or it can refer to someone throwing you a life preserver when you’re in danger of drowning. For me, it means people. I’ve had people this year stand up for me, pray for me, encourage me, affirm me and support me. I’ve had people believe me in times of confusion. That”s meant so much. They have been lifelines. Sometimes getting a simple “thumbs up” or fist bump from someone in passing means a ton. At others, it’s been a long phone call to assure me of love when I know they are also experiencing struggle. To all of you who have been a lifeline, I am thankful.
  • My parents. All year they’ve been actively prayerful, encouraging and helpful. Gayle and Marylee Noble, I cannot begin to thank you enough. Dad isn’t digital, but mom is, and yet I am confident of the constant love, cheerleading, kindness and random gifts of peanut brittle that my parents send my way. I could not ask for better parents.

I hope you’ve been able to spend some time in reflection today. Whether you’ve been with family or at work, busy or restful, I’m grateful our nation celebrates a holiday like Thanksgiving! Think of that. A cultural moment to be grateful? It’s a distinctively Christian value, after all.

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I think we are enabled to give thanks best when we reflect most. I want to be faithful to reflect upon all that God has done in and through and for me. I also want to reflect Jesus to others. To be a source of another’s thanksgiving is one of life’s highest blessings.

Thanksgiving Posts from the past:

On this day...

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Jeff Noble

Jeff is the pastor of Northstar Church in Blacksburg, Virginia. He grew up in Arkansas, loves fantasy football and is an Apple fan boy. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram @journeyguy.
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