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  • Debra McInvale

Thanksgiving in Death?

Joy in Heartache?

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

In this season dedicated to giving thanks for our blessings, why do we have to experience heartache?

Just a few days ago, we unexpectedly lost a beloved family member. Morton’s youngest sister, Jeanine, passed away leaving us all in shock and grief. She leaves behind children, grandchildren, siblings and friends who are devastated. My sweet sis-in-law lost her momma just last week too. Her family is also left with a gaping hole in their hearts.

Jeanine’s death was a total surprise, Betty’s expected. I prayed for God to give Betty one more holiday season with her family, to bless each of them with the opportunity to cherish her through Christmas. He answered no for reasons we will never understand.

Once I imagined that any death that struck during a holiday season would forever taint the season with memories of sorrow. But now I have changed my thinking on that. It changed with the death of my own parents. Daddy died on Fathers’ Day. Could there be a better day to move in with Jesus, his Heavenly Father? Momma was called Home right after Easter, the season of resurrection, to be resurrected with her Lord. Now what better time to be called Home than the season of Thanksgiving?

What is death anyway? For us still here with our feet planted on the ground, it is complete heartache and loss, yes. Always. Yet – in the scheme of life as planned by God, death is never the end for us who believe in the resurrection of Christ. This planet is not our final home. The heartache and pain of earth will come to an end. What we call “death” is simply stepping from this world into the next where weeping does not exist. It’s a change of address, moving in with our awesome Lord, Jesus, without the baggage of earthly life. It is spending the rest of forever in His glorious presence and the presence of all our beloved ones who have gone before us.

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

John 14:1-3 NLT

As Jesus told the disciples these things, He also assures us of the same. And now He has called Jeanine and Betty to be with Him. I bet you that they are having the best Thanksgiving celebration of their lives!

Life is precious. We observed it this week in two adorable calves born on Jehovah Raah Farm in Fines Creek, NC. Here I have woken every morning to the bleating of wooly sheep outside our cabin window. These calves and sheep remind me of God’s gentle care and goodness. They assure me that the Great Shepherd, Jesus, is constantly beside me.

The Lord loves you and me with an everlasting love that is unconditional and complete. When we love Him back, know He is reality, our lives on this earth are rich and secure and our hope in eternity with Him is a sure promise. God created you and me to be in a personal relationship with Him. When we are, that bond can never be broken – not in life and certainly not in death.

Our bodies might be fragile clay jars but the great treasure of the grace of Christ shines in us now and through eternity.

(2 Corinthians 4:7-13)

Death is precious as well. It is the time we move from spiritually knowing we are in the presence of God to physically being face to face in His presence. What more joy can there be than actually standing in the living presence of our amazing creator God?

Original painting on porcelain by Debra McInvale, McInvale Studios.

This can truly be a season of Thanksgiving for our families if we trust our loved ones are with the Lord. That does not negate our pain. The gaping holes will remain in us. Yet we can rejoice that Jeanine and Betty are healed, whole, and celebrating with Jesus! What better way for them to feast than with Jesus, the Bread of Life. He is so much more nourishing than turkey and dressing and pecan pies!

Jeanine, you spunky lady who brought smiles and laughter to our lives, and Betty, you angel on earth who blessed us with your caring ways – we will miss you both!

But we have the hope and assurance that we will be with you again! So, in this Thanksgiving season, we give thanks for your presence in and impact on our lives. And we rejoice that you are celebrating with Jesus.

I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6b

We miss you here, but we will see you both later! Goodbye with much love till then.

[If you have lost loved ones this season, feel alone or lost or in heartache, know you are dearly loved by God and He is right there with you in your grief. He knows exactly what you are going through and He is weeping with you. In fact, He is catching your tears in His loving hands. Hold tight to Him and don’t let go. He will never let go of you.]

Hugs, blessings and love to you,


Dear Jesus, my family and so many others are hurting this holiday season. We feel no reason to celebrate. Help us to keep our eyes and our lives focused on You instead of our circumstances. Please bless us with the assurance of Your presence and love. Bless us with Your unexplainable peace and hope today and always. Amen.


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