Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Revisiting Thanksgiving Day, 1999

Have you ever found yourself less than thankful on Thanksgiving Day?

I had one such year in 1999, but I'm happy to say my ungrateful heart didn't remain ungrateful for very long, nor has it occurred since. I learned a valuable lesson that Thanksgiving Day, and I pray I never forget it. Through the years, this story has been shared in a number of forums, but I found myself feeling nostalgic this morning. So, if you'd care to take a walk down memory lane with me, the story is told below.

November sunlight lay in golden patches along the quiet neighborhood street. I sat on the front stoop watching a handful of leaves dance to the rhythm of an early morning breeze. We had gathered at my sister’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I wasn’t sure I had a grateful bone in my body.

The year 1999 had been a tumultuous one. A year filled with loss and pain. In fact, I had already named it the “year of tears.” I could not recall a single day that I had not been overcome with tears. I wondered if the storm would ever subside. Would I spend the rest of my life struggling with this grief, nursing this awful ache in my heart?

It wasn’t like me to be so wrapped up in my sorrow. I had lived through troubling times before and managed to come through with a praise on my lips and a song in my heart. And even now, there had been brief periods of enjoyment, but they seemed to vanish as quickly as they came.

As I wrestled with my thoughts that autumn morning, I suddenly remembered a day when my daughter was in second grade. She came to me one afternoon and carefully handed me four small pieces of hardened clay.

“Mom,” she said, looking dismal, “my world fell apart.”

I didn’t understand at first, but on closer inspection I could clearly see she had fashioned a world out of the blue and green mixture of clay that now lay broken in my hands.

Acting like the typical fix-it-all mother, I gently led Anna Marie into my office and, with a few pieces of tape, put her clay world back together again.

She was not impressed. “But, Mom,” she said with a deep sigh. “It’s got holes and cracks all in it.” Indeed, it did.

For years, I kept that cracked ball of clay in my desk drawer, unable to forget my child’s disappointment when her “world” had fallen apart. How appropriate that I would think of it at a time like this.

Later in the afternoon, we joined hands around the table and paused for a time of prayer. With a voice soft and low, my father said, “Children, we have so much to be thankful for today.”

I cannot tell you the impact that simple sentence had upon me. As my eyes swept around the table, I looked at each member of my family—all carrying burdens of their own. Yet there they sat, strong and in good health, all smiling expectantly, nodding in agreement.

It was then I realized that, at some point during my year of tears, I had lost touch with something vital. Deep inside, I had been crying for the One who could bind up the fractured pieces of my world and fill the cracks with lasting peace and joy. And He had been there all the time.

I knew at that moment that I would be okay, that the storm raging within would pass. Like the pieces of clay that my child had placed in my hands all those years ago, I placed the broken pieces of my world in God’s hands.

As we bowed our heads to pray, the prayer found in the third chapter of Habakkuk became my own that day: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Lord God is my strength.”

We returned home a few days later, and I decided to start a “blessings” journal. Though my heart remained heavy, I looked harder to find the good things in my life—things for which I was thankful—and I wrote them down.

The first few months were a struggle, not because there was nothing to record, but because my anger and grief kept surfacing. I could not see beyond the pain. I still wanted to hurt those who had hurt me.

Yet, in time, this simple writing exercise changed me. I began noticing things I had often overlooked, or taken for granted. The bright red cardinal perched on the ledge outside my kitchen window went into my blessings journal. And when I stood in line at the grocery store and overheard the delightful sounds of a baby laughing, I added that to my list. The intricate shape of a leaf. The smile of a stranger at the gas station. Fresh linens on the bed. The moon’s path across the water. All these simple things went into my blessings journal. And a curious thing happened. Whenever I started counting my blessings, my heart had no room for anything else.

No matter what your losses may be this Thanksgiving season, I trust you will find the courage to look around you, and give thanks for all that remains.


This article has appeared in numerous publications, including Standard magazine.

All rights reserved.

Sharing with 
Hazel Moon for True Stories
and with Juana Mikels 


  1. A BIG hug of gratefulness to you for all that you do and share with us.
    Enjoy the day of thanks.

  2. What a powerful story or should I say experience. I've been there myself. Can't add a single word to what you've said. Relevant.
    A Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  3. That was a great post, Dayle. And yes, we are kindred spirits for sure. Thanks for your visits to my blog and your comments. It's always a joy to see that you came to visit. I wish you a most blessed Thanksgiving and a heart filled with gratitude! Hugs. Susan

  4. This is a great post and to reflect that GOD was there with you holding you in the palm of his hand !
    May you have a blessed Thanksgiving

  5. Thanks for sharing your story...Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

  6. Thanks for sharing this story of hope today.
    Happy Thanksgiving...
    and God bless...
    Dee Dee

  7. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. "Count your blessings, name them one by one..." It is amazing how when we change our focus, our blessings become so evident. Hope your day is filled with simple pleasures.

  8. I remember that year vividly, and I never grow tired of reading this story. Thanks for sharing it again. Hugs to you, wombmate.

  9. Wonderful story. It is amazing how a gratitude journal really can turn your viewpoint on life around. Blessings for a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  10. That was wonderful-- I can see why it was printed. I have had a few years of Tears and happy to report that this holiday is not one of them.

  11. I love this story, Dayle. 1998 was a "year of tears" for me, but when I look back now, I see God's hand in those trying times - drawing both me and my husband closer to Him.

    I love the classic film, White Christmas, and one of my favorite songs from it is "Counting My Blessings". Each day is a blessing, a gift from God.

    May you and your family have a joyous Thanksgiving. Thank you for hosting Simple Pleasures each week.

  12. hey sweet dayle,

    i needed this tonight. i lost my mother's wedding ring tonight, and my heart feels like i've lost another piece of her. as hard as it is to feel thankful right now, i know that is what i need to do most. pray for me to have an attitude of gratefulness.

  13. I came by to link but will catch you the next time.
    Have a happy Thanksgiving.
    xo bj

  14. Thank you for this great story, Dayle. Once we open our eyes we begin to see treasures every day. We have so much to be grateful for! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving :-)

  15. "Mom, my world fell apart".
    ---the daughter

    These words grabbed my heart as I recall my own daughter saying them long ago. Middle school years the "friends" devour one another as a pack of wolves. Death of friendship would soon occur.

    But her story is not my comment.
    The words above by YOUR daughter seized me as I took the perspective of our Father in Heaven.

    St. Paul noted His feelings of us:

    "But we have this treasure in JARS OF CLAY to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body."
    ~~~2 Corinthians 4:7-11

    Well over 7 BILLION times, God has crafted Jars of Clay, only to find them in His hands, broken, busted shards. Our lives go awry; He never does.

    Your tears are the language of the heart speaking every time.
    "We don't know what to do, so we place our eyes on You"
    ~~~2 Chronicles 20:12

    In the final analysis, that is all that matters.....for all 7 bilion plus broken jars of clay.

    Broken pottery used to be used, to write messages on stones. We, as broken pottery, have messages to write on the stone tablets we find all around our world of hearts; we have Good News to others, blessings, thanksgiving.

    This post has been a blessing to me as the smell of turkey wafts the air at home.
    May you all have Thanksgiving, not gluttony as your gift to Him this day.

    Great writing and insight!
    God be with ye!

  16. Dayle,

    Sending you and your family a heartfelt Happy Thinkgiving Day wish.


  17. Hi Dayle...just wanted to pop in and wish you a very happy thanksgiving.....☺

  18. What a moving story! Thank you for sharing it with us! I am so glad that your heart was touched by Him that day. I am also glad that you found some relief in your writing! I hope you enjoyed this holiday season!
    I had a near tragedy at Thanksgiving 2 years ago

  19. A precious story written from a heart that knows the One who binds up the fractured pieces of our world.

    Our most difficult year was 2009 and trusting God through some very bleak times. Trusting Him when He seems so silent. I have heard it called the desert journey. It was a very had place to be for so many reasons. But He has continues to fill our hearts with thankfulness :)

    Blessings to you, dear blogging friend!

  20. Dayle,
    Stopping by to wish you a very wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. See you next week for Simple Pleasures!


  21. great post. I have given you a blog award... You can pick it up at my kitchen blog copy the blog award picture and post to your side bar. and be sure and pass it on! love, katie

  22. This is a wonderful story and as we take our eyes off "Self" and look around we can see others who are carrying burdens too. Counting our joys and blessings is a terrific way to lift our spirits and we know we can always count on Jesus to be there (even when we grieve.) Thank you for sharing with us here at "Tell Me a Story."

  23. Dear Dayle
    Oh, there is a place for tears and anger in this world we live in, dear one! Just as long as our anger is in line with the mind of Jesus. We know that Jesus became mighty angry at the religionists of His day. He cried His eyes our at Lazarus' grave and over Jerusalem. Those are just the instances we know of. Emotions were created by Him to color our souls, but they should also be submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. And as your father said that we so incredibly much to be thankful for.
    Blessings XX

  24. Great post! It so went along with what I wrote in my own post this morning. Amazing to me how God weaves a thread in & through these linkups. May you & your family have a blessed Thanksgiving!

  25. Beautiful story. "Yet" I will thank Him anyway! Thanks for sharing.


Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle