I recently received a phone call out of the blue from my daughter. I was a little surprised because I knew she was at an intense retreat where she’d been invited to learn from some of the brightest and most successful leaders in the world. She explained that she had only a few moments to talk, but she had something she urgently needed to share. Nothing was wrong. In fact, the next few phrases made my day and continues to bring me joy. “I had to tell you Dad you’ve already taught me so much of what I’m hearing here. I had to call to say thank you for everything you’ve invested in me.”
Isn’t that what any parent longs to hear? You can be sure I was teary-eyed by the end of that call.
While my daughter was prompted to reflect during her retreat, the Thanksgiving season presents itself as an opportunity for all of us to remember and reflect. Taking time to think about the people and experiences that have molded us into who we are today cultivates a heart of gratitude. This is a practice that takes intentionality, but one that we can all benefit from.
I think of two of my mentors, one being George O. Wood. I vividly remember being a senior in college and going through a painful season in my life. Dr. Wood had preached a sermon and I went forward to pray for direction. That night, at the altar he prayed a prophetic prayer over my life that reminded and challenged me about who I was and what God wanted from me. What Dr. Wood gave me was a gift. I felt more prepared to take my next step, and I can reflect on that moment even today. Another mentor, Robert Cooley, passed away earlier this year. When I heard the news, memories flooded back of how he had spoken into my life.
This year, many of us have lost someone who was close to us, and it’s been difficult. However, perhaps this Thanksgiving, we can take a moment to reflect: what haven’t we lost that we need to remember? How can we be intentional about expressing our gratitude and recognizing the gift of someone’s presence?
We can sometimes take for granted what is most precious and dear to us–families, friends, and mentors. In the busyness of life, it can be easy to forget about those who have shaped us. That’s why my wife, Kim, and I intentionally set aside space in our calendars to spend time with family members from all generations.
While I have the pleasure of working with my dad often, Kim doesn’t have the opportunity to see her mother in person as much. This year we traveled to visit her mother, and the time spent together was life-giving. Some may say an 85-year-old woman is largely unable to contribute to society at her life stage, but I hold a different perspective. Kim’s mother told us stories that are the foundation and very fabric of Kim’s life and, in turn, my life. Her presence and guiding wisdom of our personal family history are irreplaceable.
The generation before us paved the way. I realized I’m living the life I am right now partly because of how others shaped Kim and I. I’m grateful, and I don’t just want my gratitude to be siloed to a week in November. I want to be intentional about building up others, like my daughters, my sons-in-law, grandchildren, and the many spiritual sons and daughters the Lord has given me and recognizing the gift of those who have shaped me into the man I am today. I invite you today, and in every season, to reflect on the people and experiences pivotal to your story and relay to them how much they mean to you.