My First Thanksgiving as a Single Mom

I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving at my house on 803 Glenn Drive, Euless, Texas. (And that is pronounced – YOUless, Texas – not USEless, Texas.) Indeed the lessons I learned as a brand new single mom in that house were anything but useless. 

Thanksgiving was only a few days away, and I was a new single mom. My heart was devastated that my kids would not be with me but with their dad. I dreaded that day and could not wait for it to be over. Sometimes when we’re struggling, we just want the holiday-hip-hooray to GO AWAY! 

So on this particular Thanksgiving my extended family voted to gather at my table in YOUless. They thought it’d be good for my spirits, and then we girls could all go shopping after the meal in the mall next to my house. (Shopping? Oh yes, please.)

The family descended on my household with food in hand. My job was to decorate the tables. However, I realized in the process that I didn’t have enough chairs. So inside the house came the lawn furniture: torn, stinky, stained with what I thought was a ghastly disruption to my lovely fall ambiance.

That was over three decades ago; yet, I still remember when the chairs entered the kitchen. I was horrified. Maybe it’s because they represented my heartbroken life. I muffled, Lord, shouldn’t my husband and kids be in this household sharing this day – laughing, bonding, sitting on clean polished chairs instead of these tacky ones?  

I discovered much the first couple of years of being a single parent without Jason and Sara in the house. I learned that chairs don’t matter and more importantly, the children don’t either. Thanksgiving is not just about thanks living (everyone all nestled down in their jovial little families), but thanks giving (offering oneself as a sacrifice in blessing others.) So for the next couple of years, I joined the people at the homeless shelter (without my children) making that day all about serving others and living life outside of my broken dreams.

So what does your Thanksgiving Day look like? Do your circumstances resemble that scruffy lawn furniture I was talking about? Are the holidays “in your face” that you don’t have what you always wanted? Then take heart. I have news for you. Nothing ever stays the same, and God’s work for those who love Him is always on an upward move, a progressive invisible work. He IS formulating things for your good, even though you can’t see it, feel it, or taste it. You can embrace it with confidence and the ones you love knowing that God is forming in you valuable virtues that will prove USEful not USEless for a lifetime. 

Here I am many Thanksgivings later – always remembering that first Thanksgiving when I became a single parent. Maybe I should place a scruffy outside chair at my table, a reminder that in God’s timing, He brings the healing power of restoration, making all things new.

Pam Kanaly

About Pam Kanaly

Aloha! I’m Pam Kanaly, President and co-founder of Arise Ministries. But actually, I think Arise found me wanting to bless single moms years ago. Ministry was never on my mind as a kid. All I wanted to be was a hula dancer. So Mother enrolled me in the tiny tots’ class. Guess God knew I’d have two grandbabies born in Hawaii. I love the great outdoors. You might even find me spending time with my husband grizzly bear watching or camping. In fact, it was on a turkey hunt that God gave me the name Arise Ministries in 2002. I suppose it’s a good thing that I majored in Grammar in college since I love to write words of encouragement to single moms.