Thanksgiving is definitely a big family event for the Appels. My parents, my brother and I are always together, and we like to invite anyone and everyone we can to join us. Sometimes we have extended family come, other times it’s just local family and friends or singles in our area who can’t go home to their own families. We never really know who’s going to be there, but it’s always a blast as we gather a mess of people into a place that feels like home to all.
For the past few years, we’ve had a post-Thanksgiving tradition with family friends of ours from our church. They own a piece of land where they have set up a sporting clays course — one with a golf-course-like field set up with different holes to shoot at and clays being sent out in every which direction — so we bring our shotguns and ride around ATVs all day, having a great time. This has become something I look forward to almost as much as the holiday itself!
This year the Lord’s been teaching me a lot about thankfulness and contentment. I’ve realized that I can always look around and wish I had different circumstances — with better things, better health, or was in a different place in life — or I can see all that God has blessed me with and say, “Man, God, You have been so gracious to me up to this point and I trust that You will continue to be.” He’s given me an amazing family, who can all gather together back home in Houston for this holiday. We are so thankful to God for keeping us all safe from the hurricane. I’m thankful for a great group of friends who are able to encourage me and who I’m able to encourage — people who I truly enjoy spending time with. I’m thankful for the food that is always on our table and the roof over our heads. There are just so many things to be grateful for. It can be really easy to take these things for granted — to get caught up in the “more, more, more” or the “I don’t have enough” mindset — but I’ve been praying that God would continue to sharpen my perspective and make my heart humble before Him and thankful for all He does.
God’s still teaching me plenty of lessons. One of the major lessons He taught me a few years ago recently came back to the forefront of my mind, bringing me great encouragement. Philippians 4 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. In it, Paul talks about the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” He encourages us to, “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” The way we can do this is by thinking about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” Paul doesn’t say we might have God’s peace if we bring our worry to Him in prayer, trust and thanksgiving, he promises it. Paul describes how he himself has found contentment in “any and every situation” because he knows he can do all this through Christ who gives him strength. And so can we!
This passage brings me so much encouragement. It continually reminds me of God’s faithfulness and challenges me in the areas of my life where I have not been trusting God fully. Even during seasons of uncertainty, I can be hopeful and excited; I have a peace, with no room for anxiety. All these things are in the Lord’s hands, therefore I can take one day at a time, knowing that the Lord has placed me here for today.
— Mark Appel, Professional Baseball Pitcher
Mark Appel was the number one overall pick by the Houston Astros in 2013. He is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.