My most recent memories of Thanksgiving are not ones of joy. i approach the holidays hesitant to embrace them because they never feel good for me. i never fall asleep the night of Thanksgiving or Christmas feeling very joyful or whatever we’re supposed to feel. Maybe you have never experienced the weight that the holidays can bring and if so, i am so thankful for you. But, if you’re like me, i want you to know that you are not alone tonight. 

Let me repeat myself— you are not alone.

i am in a hotel room hours away from home. My dad and i went to dinner and ate delicious food and we have full stomachs and i can hear him snoring from the other room. And that is our Thanksgiving. It is important to know that i am thankful for my family. i love my dad more than anyone else in the world and i am so thankful to be in Washington, D.C. today. It is a gift. He is a gift. 

It is not my father’s fault that on holiday nights my brain feels dark and joy feels distant. It is no one’s fault that lies of comparison seep into my brain. It is Thanksgiving and for some of us, giving thanks feels a little harder. 

It is hard to give thanks when i have no traditions to celebrate but everyone else seems to. i have no family football game or grandma’s recipe or anything else to look forward to on the holidays. i decorate the Christmas tree by myself. and it sucks. It doesn’t feel good to be different from what everyone else calls joy.

Or maybe your holidays are different from mine. Maybe you have the full family and fifteen cousins and too many traditions and not enough time. But, you don’t feel merry and bringht. Joy, though that is what will be reflected in your Instagram picture, is the last thing that you are feeling. You have spent your day in a room full of people, maybe you were in the quarterback in the family football game, but you still feel alone. 

i’m going to say it again— you are not alone. 

Everything that drifts into the heaviness of the holidays is based on a feeling. That’s an important detail, friends. Yes, there are the facts that lead to the feelings but it is the feelings that ruin things. i promise. i could make a pretty long list of the facts that fuel the feelings that have lurked over the holidays for the past few years, but that will not get us anywhere. If you just started making a list, please stop. The reality that we ignore is that we get to choose whether or not what we feel defines us. 

i will be the first to admit that i often make the wrong choice.

Today, i got to explore a lot of museums with my dad. We spent hours in the Holocaust museum and i cried and wandered and it was heavy. Our afternoon was rich and beautiful; i walked around art galleries with my mouth open and tear-filled eyes because of the beauty. In the art, i saw the hand of God and i found hope and it was incredible. Let me share what i learned about us in the art museum, because these facts, unlike those that may be present in your life, are hopeful. They counter any heavy facts that could be lingering over you tonight.

Our God is an artist. He is detailed and perfect in His creation process. You, my friend, are a piece of His art.

i saw a painting today that was outrageously detailed. It was of a landscape and it looked like a photograph. It was painted in 1663 by a Dutch man whose name i can’t pronounce. Every blade of grass, every leaf on every tree, every shade of green and brown and blue was obviously thought out by the artist. The clouds are fluffy and the roads look muddy and the leaves are changing on the trees and as i thought about how proud the artist must have been of his painting, i realized how proud of me God is. As much as this Dutch artist loved painting this landscape, a million times more does God love making you. 

You were created by the same Artist that painted the Milky Way and the Northern Lights and makes a new sunset every night. And He is more proud of you than all of those things combined.

You are His created.
You are not alone.
You are loved.

Tonight, as i sit in a hotel room by myself, i will hold onto those truths. i will let myself feel the beauty that is in who my God is and allow the heavy facts drift away. i will not ignore them, but i will not dwell on them. Though my life may not be "normal" or easy, i still have a lot to be thankful for. Tonight, i want to invite you to do the same. If today has been hard for you, i want to encourage you to walk towards truth. Walk towards the warmth and authentic joy that God gives us.

If this year has been your hardest, i’m sorry. It is almost over. Maybe you lost someone this year and the holidays are causing you to miss them more than you already did. Maybe you lost your job or a relationship or a pet and trying to celebrate feels impossible. i am not asking you to give off false joy, i am just asking you to focus on what it true and good and infallible. You have the freedom to feel whatever you need to tonight, but i am praying that you do not let those things define you.

It is Thanksgiving and Christmas is coming and no circumstances are changing that will make holidays seem like they will be any better. i will never like the movie Elf and i will still decorate the Christmas tree alone and it won’t feel good, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.
Your life is so important.