Author - Keyshawn Parkman

As we rush through November, I can’t help but sit and reflect on what I’m grateful for. The holidays, especially Thanksgiving seeing as it’s my favorite time of the year as I’m met with tons of fellowship from friends and family. I’m patiently waiting for next Thursday and the chance to eat some of my family’s home-cooked food. Our table is typically dressed with everything ranging from ham, turkey, collard greens, mac and cheese, dressing, candied yams, and sweet potato pie; I’m ready for it all. I’m excited to meet up with family I haven’t seen in a while as we eat and play card games. But one of the most important family traditions we have is making sure we remember what we’re grateful for, and reflect on what God has done throughout the year so far.

Gratitude is an important concept for me, as there have been seasons in my life where I had nothing to hold on to except faith in God and the things I’m grateful for. Typically, when I’m faced with challenges in my life the first thing I look at is how bad my situation is, and my mentality and faith become affected because of these things. But around a year ago one of my mentors challenged me with the concept of gratitude. He handed me a piece of paper and told me to write down 50 different things I’m grateful for, and after around 25-30 I began to draw blanks. At this point, he began to challenge my perspective by pointing out things that happen around the world, typically in 3rd world countries that I wasn’t aware of, and after meditating on what he told me I became grateful for things I hadn’t yet thought of before.

Throughout the Bible, a common theme we see is the idea of offering praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Dozens of verses come to mind, one of my favorites being Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Or 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, “ Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in All circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Jesus Christ.” The Bible frequently talks about continual praise to God, in good or bad circumstances and I often get convicted by this. Continual praise and thanksgiving to God isn’t the easiest thing to do especially when your circumstances don’t line up to your expectations. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is setting my mind on the goodness of God when life doesn’t seem to reflect it. For these reasons I’m grateful that my mentor introduced me to this practice, every day I make an effort to bring to the forefront of my mind the goodness of God and what he’s done in my life. I’ve seen practical moments such as this be a foundation for me in moments of complete anguish.

I’m filled with gratitude for where God has me right now, even though this isn’t where I expected to be. Right here at the fellowship house lies His presence and His companionship and I’m certain that as I’m here I’m walking in His will. I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit for continually leading and guiding me into His will, convicting me and growing me, giving me the words to speak, and comforting me in times of trouble. I’m thankful for the friends he’s brought me in this season of life, especially coming from an extended period of time where God had isolated me to prune my character. There are close friends I have in my life who are literally answered prayers from God, and I’m grateful that I have the space to lean on them in times of need and laugh with them through life. I’m grateful for my parents and their continual active participation in my life, I’m thankful that they’re proud of me and where God has led me and I praise him for keeping my parents close to me. I’m thankful for my church family and the community I have there, for the ability to serve God with people that know me and love me, and can hold me accountable. I’m grateful that God has blessed me with the opportunity to teach kids at my church every week, and thankful for him trusting me with his children. But I’m especially grateful for the program that I’m in at this moment, I’m grateful for Jauhmar, Sydney, Cesar, Emma, and all our directors included.

Gratitude has become an essential thing for me, as I continue my relationship with God and follow his lead. Some days are fun and exciting and others are hard, but as I continue to build habits reflecting on what God has done for me and praising His name this becomes a foundation for me for good days and bad days alike.

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