the one principle that can save your thanksgiving & your life — #TellHisStory

November 24, 2015 | 26 comments

I always had a habit of losing my library books. Maybe it’s because I carried them all over the house with me, reading while I walked, tripping over the edges of rugs, running into doors. I shoved books into the waistband of my pants, while I shimmied up the evergreen trees to find a high branch, disappearing into some private wormhole to shut out the world.

The books were always overdue, always lost. I’d tell Mom I couldn’t find them.

“Well,” she said, pausing the circular motion of her dish-rag on a dinner plate, “you’ll need to look for them.”

“I have looked,” I insisted.

“You’ll need to look harder.”

I probably rolled my eyes. I probably said “whatever” under my breath. I probably stomped away, and gritted my teeth.

But I did what she said. I looked harder.

And every time, I found the lost book.

The Principle of Looking Harder

I have been thinking about Mom’s words the last few weeks. I’ve been thinking about her words because it seems like we’ve lost so much lately.

The loss is immense, a hollowing. We’ve felt the loss of security and dignity and civility. Some of you have flat-out lost hope.

We can’t switch on a TV or scroll through Facebook without seeing what’s been lost. There are the children, who’ve lost everything, hiding in dark forests as they run from weapon-wielding terrorists. There are bodies in streets, and sirens wailing, explosions, and whole regions under alert.

Closer to home, some of us have lost the gumption to enter a public space, to stand in a shopping mall, to walk through an airport. We’re more worried about winning arguments, than losing friends, and as the clock ticks toward Thanksgiving, some of us are crying out: Where can I find what’s been lost? Where, in this busted-up, rancorous world, can I ever find hope again? Where is all the happiness hidden?

I can hear Mom’s words to us, today:

“You’ll need to look harder.”

And louder still, I hear the words of Jesus:

“Seek and you will find.”

The Enemy of Our Happiness

The other morning, I woke up and looked out the living room window, overlooking the thin line where earth kisses sky. The facts about our world hadn’t changed. The news stories sounded like the ones from the day before. I still felt that same pit of profound sadness that all of us have felt this past week. 

But those feelings of gloom were mixed with something else: a deep appreciation that God has not left us alone. Sometimes this is all we have, and it’s then that we realize, it’s what we need most. 

I snapped a photo of the snow outside my window, and marveled at its beauty — a thick blanket of white. I felt a sense of real hope, a sliver of light returning. And I vowed to be intentional in my thanks. I made a promise to myself: to refuse be held hostage by fear. I would boycott cynicism. I would find the stubborn beauty in this mutilated world.

I counted my blessings. I gave thanks. I looked, and when I didn’t think I could find anything at all, I did what Mom said to do:

I looked harder. 

Thanksgiving is almost here. The news may hold more sorrow than it did the day before. Your TV screens may scream with pain. Your Thanksgiving table may be missing someone you love. The pain you’ve been feeling may be unbearable. When you come to think of it, maybe your 2015 has been a really rotten year.

Right now, our most formidable enemy is hoping that we will all stop looking for the good. The enemy wants you to think that whatever we’ve lost, is irreversibly gone.

The enemy is saying, “Stop looking. It’s useless.”

But your Father is saying, “Look harder. It’s here!”

Maybe this is the way. Maybe the way toward hope and a richer vision of happiness is to fight for gratitude when it’s the hardest of all. Maybe the way toward real joy is to know that, no matter what we face, we belong to a force of such Great Good that it overpowers all evil.

What is the Gospel, if not a story of the greatest good overcoming the most imposing forces of evil? 

Thanksgiving is the fountain of our deepest joy, and it is the water for the most parched souls. Thanksgiving is a rebellious move against the tidal wave of everything awful.

Thanksgiving is the enemy of unhappiness.


Some of us wonder how we can be thankful for our blessings and our abundance, when the rest of the world is warped with pain. If that’s you, I’m right with you. In times like these, I return to these words from Ann Voskamp:

“I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives.”

This may feel like the most miserable year yet. But thanksgiving is more than a meal. It’s more than a place to park your turkey on Thursday afternoon. On your worst days? Thanksgiving is what will save us.

Looking harder is what will save us. 

And our careful looking will prove true the gospel, which tells us all the incredible truth about Looking Harder —

Our Only Hope came to this world so impossibly small, so humble, that you had to look hard to find him.
But there he was,
hope born in a barn,
hope wrapped in swaddling clothes,
hope come down,
hope for the broken world, …

hope for us all.

And to him, our all in all, we offer our deepest thanks.


Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Alyssa Howard. She beautifully shares, “When we live in light of eternity, every decision we make is affected by it. It changes the way we think and behave, and our changed lives are evident to those around us.” Find Alyssa here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer

by | November 24, 2015 | 26 comments


  1. Anita

    Thank you for your beautiful words, my friend! This has beena rotton year–but it’s been flavored with so many blessings I know they more than cover up the bad parts. I’ve lived a year of giving thanks and being grateful, and it makes all the difference.

    • dukeslee

      Oh Anita … I’m so, so sorry for your rotten year. Praying that God blesses you in all the best ways as 2015 draws to a close. Happy thanksgiving, friend.

      • Anita

        I think of it as my compost pile year ;). Lots of beautiful growth will come out of the pile of yuck! Thank you for your prayers and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours :).

  2. Tara Ulrich

    Amen! Jennifer, this post is so beautiful. I love Ann’s words. I always remember her words when she said : “The more we name our blessings, the more blessings we can name.” And I too am going to make a promise to myself. So much THIS: ” I made a promise to myself: to refuse be held hostage by fear. I would boycott cynicism. I would find the stubborn beauty in this mutilated world.”

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for being here, Tara. Have a blessed Thanksgiving. I love the quote from Ann that you shared about naming blessings. Thanks for that.

  3. Mary

    Thank you for words that reach deep into what matters. Praying we all look harder for the blessings that are still here. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • dukeslee

      Happy thanksgiving, Mary. So grateful for you.

  4. Anna Smit

    So very true, Jennifer: “But your Father is saying, “Look harder. It’s here!” I felt Him saying that to me the past week, as He opened my eyes to see what my children do daily: true wonderment for the creation around us. God is ALWAYS present, even when we are “shuffling and stumbling around” as Psalm 112 puts it! May we learnt to look up to our God, rather than down.

    • dukeslee

      Mmmmm. Thanks for sharing that … the eyes of children, yes. Have a great thanksgiving, Anna.

  5. Dawn

    Such wise words of grace. Beautiful! Thank you for leading us to thankfulness, Jennifer.
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Bless you,

    • dukeslee

      Grateful for you being here, Dawn. May you have a lovely Thanksgiving. Lets look and look and look, shall we? He is here.

  6. Tamara

    Thank you. Beautiful.

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for being here, Tamara. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  7. Being Woven

    Amen and Amen. Gratitude is what brings me through and out of this “world” more often than not. I will be remembering what your mother says, “Look harder”…and I will! Thank you, Jennifer. May your Thanksgiving Day be filled with the many, many blessings of God.

  8. Janet

    Thank you for this, Jen – I really need it this week. Hope and the knowing that it’s there – I just need to look harder. Your picture is beautiful – your words even more so.

  9. Christy

    Just said “Look harder” to my daughter tonight. She wanted to go through the motions of looking so I would, in turn, hand it to her.

    Taking this luve illustration along with what you’ve said makes me think I do the same thing with God. He wants us to seek. What is found by seeking is far more previous than what is given to us with no labor. 💗

  10. Lynn Mosher

    Jennifer, this is soooo beautiful. So touching. And so true. Thanksgiving in the midst of ravaging pain and lack is a sacrifice. It is thanks-living. I learned a long time ago I could live in all the situations of my life if I did not give thanks. Everyday is filled with thanks-living. Thank you for this wonderful post. May the Lord bless you!

  11. Rachael

    I have returned to the words of Ann and the counting once again this month. I love the depth thanksgiving goes and the healing it brings through grief. Thank you for your words, Jennifer. Beautiful post!

  12. Leah Adams

    God has not left us alone. That right there….that is everything. That is more than we deserve, and more than most of us even think to acknowledge. God is here. Emmanuel. If I can remember that, I can make it through anything. He is so faithful!

  13. Amanda Conquers

    “Look harder” Thank you for this simple reminder. (And from a girl who still loses her library books… I understand the look-harder principle well. HAHA) Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  14. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Jennifer, I needed to read this, because horror hounds us with every new show and news feed, and it howls like a fierce wind ready to blow us all to kingdom come. And yeah, I’m fearful. But you remind us that His Kingdom *has* come, and for this we can and must be grateful. His Kingdom reigns and has no end. Remembering that and thanking Him for His rule and reign gladdens our gloomy hearts. And when I saw your beautiful wintry photo with that band of rose, I couldn’t help but think of a little story by well-known author, Marjorie Holmes, now at home with Jesus, which I included as the last story of my second book, b/c I wanted to leave the readers with hope. I include a snippet here to add to the hope you are giving your readers. It’s called “The Afterglow”: “My mother always savored sunsets until the last lingering glow had faded. . . . Then after supper when the bright hues had melted into dusk and there was nothing left but a lasting stubborn band of burning rose, she would return to the porch a minute and stand there, arms wrapped in her apron against the chill and murmur: ‘The afterglow means hope.’ What could hope mean to this middle-aged married woman whose dreams must surely be all behind her? [And here Holmes recites a litany of hardships her mother had endured throughout her life.] Hope? What did it mean to her? It spoke of her marvelous ingredient that keeps men going–something that is almost as vital to man as love–his God-given hope, his belief in tomorrow, his bright expectations that refuse to die. It is surely what the Lord himself was talking about when He counseled His followers to be of good cheer, not to despair. My mother gave her children the gift of sunsets. But an even greater gift was her gift of the afterglow: the message she read in those remaining embers, burning like little fires of faith long after the sunset itself was gone, a lighted bridge across the coming darkness of the stars, ‘The afterglow means hope.'” Jennifer, this Thanksgiving, I want you to know how very much I appreciate you personally and the true, uplifting messages that you always share, those bright fires of faith that refuse to die. They often linger like an afterglow of hope in my heart and warm my days. I thank God for you.

  15. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Thank you for the poignant reminder that especially when there is so much suffering in this world…we need to look harder…keep searching for God and His love. He can and will be found by the heart that won’t rest until it beats together with His. May you be richly blessed this Thanksgiving…

  16. Susan

    Jennifer, I enjoy reading you because you are clear and concise – I am a writer of few words but I pray my words are clear and concise! I believe God is telling us every day, “TO LOOK HARDER.” And, in the gray and fog, HE IS THERE. Beautiful post. xo

  17. Sharon

    Your words really touched me today. I tend to be a negative sort, and thankfulness doesn’t always come naturally. I love the idea of looking harder for the many blessings that God bestows on us. He’s been talking to my spirit about this very thing lately. Gratitude is a choice…

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! May it be filled with faith, family, friends, fellowship…OK, and lots and lots of food!


  18. Martha Orlando

    Yes, we need to look harder, knowing God has the answers, and He will never fail us. Being thankful, even in the difficult times, will draw us closer to Him and His great comfort.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Jennifer!

  19. June

    Inspiring post, Jennifer! It reminded me of what Aragorn said at the last battle of LOR, There may be a day to give up hope, but today is not that day! As believer’s we can know that there will never be a day! Amen? Wishing you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving!



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