Happy Thanksgiving week!

In keeping with the season, I figured I’d talk about some things I’m grateful for (predictable, I know ?.) 

But I also want to issue you a challenge. 

The above photo popped up on my Facebook feed this week as a memory from a few years back. The person with me is one of my favorite people on the planet—my cousin, Nina. She and I shared a truly special bond—more like sisters than cousins—even though we’ve often lived on opposite sides of the world from one another. 

However, earlier this year Nina passed away from breast cancer after battling the disease for four years. 

She was 36. 

I was incredibly fortunate to be able to be by her side during her last hours of life, a gift that was both heartbreaking and priceless. She fought bravely to her very last breath, and it was an honor to walk with her through her journey. 

You might be wondering why I would share something that might seem ‘depressing’ during a week that’s supposed to be upbeat and full of gratitude. 

Here’s why: 

Yes, disease and death and loss and grief are hard. Life can be hard. But through this whole journey, I cannot shake the undeniable truth that GOD IS GOOD. 

When I don’t understand, there’s still a beautiful invitation to trust Him. 

When we are in heaven, trust will be easy. There won’t be sickness or pain. Our tears will be wiped away. 

There is a gift that I can give Jesus in the midst of pain that I won’t be able to give Him when I’m in Paradise. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not glorifying suffering or hoping for hardship. Not in the slightest. But walking through grief this year has caused me to relish the mundane, ordinary things that I would’ve likely taken for granted in other seasons. 

I feel grateful on a level that I’ve never experienced before. 

I’m so aware that life is a gift. 

And as much as we’d like to think we can control our future, in so many ways we can’t. 

I realize that often when I sit down to write these posts, I picture your faces and search for words—pray for words—that will reach your hearts. 

Today, I find myself wanting to gently but firmly take you by the shoulders, look you straight in the eye, and urge you to grab life for all its worth and live it to the full. 

Right now. 

I see it as a theme that weaves through many of my messages to you, but I can’t get away from it. 

ALL of us are facing hard things in life. No one has a perfect life, despite what their IG or FB feeds lead you to believe. 

But you are alive today. TODAY you have a choice about how you will show up, what comes out of your mouth (and what goes into it), what you say yes and no to, what you will believe about yourself and others.

 TODAY you have grace. 

I’m praying that this holiday season brings fresh encounters with God in ‘everyday life.’ That amidst the shopping and family get-togethers and all the ‘stuff’ that you may be having to navigate, that you’d not lose sight of the beautiful life in front of you, the one that only you get to live

I pray you’d see your loved ones (even those who are hard to deal with) from heaven’s perspective, that you’d have moments where you can pause and deeply connect with the spirit of Thanksgiving, remembering that you’re alive and breathing and as long as that’s true, you have another opportunity to embrace the goodness in and around you, because it’s there if you look for it. 

As I sign off before heading into a busy few days myself, I want to leave you with a quote from a poem I read at Nina’s funeral. It’s by Mary Oliver, who coincidentally died the same day Nina did. It’s the last two lines from the poem The Summer Day and it says this: 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

Selah. ? 

Girlfriend, I’m cheering you on. Seriously. Your life is a masterpiece, being woven together by an Artist with an eye for the details. He’s got it all under control. You are held.

Have you found beauty in the midst of sorrow and grief? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.