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Thanksgiving Stories from Our Listeners

Original Air Date 11/22/2012

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Jim Daly and John Fuller present recordings of phone calls from listeners who contacted Focus on the Family to share their Thanksgiving stories and to express their gratitude for loved ones, God's provision and our nation.

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Episode Transcript



John Fuller: Well, happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and I hope you're surrounded by loved ones on this very special day, as you reflect back on the past year and all that God has done in your life. This is "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller, today sharing your comments of Thanksgiving to God.

Jim Daly: What a great way to start, John, Thanksgiving to think about those ways that the Lord has worked in your life and those things that we need to be thankful for. It's one of the traditions we use at our family. We're around the table. Jean, to her credit, started this.

John: And you all take turns?

Jim: We all take turns and we've done it probably now for 15 or 20 years.

John: Now do you each do one thing or do you keep goin' around?

Jim: Well, if someone has more to share, they can certainly go two or three times, but it's been one of our great family traditions. You know, we're told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. And that's what we want to do today. We want folks to express their thankfulness and their gratitude toward the Lord.

And maybe you're in a valley right now. That's certainly possible, but I want to encourage you to stay tuned, because there's an amazing thing that happens when we pause to give thanks and really focus our attention on God, even in the midst of that pain. It does something supernatural in us and gives us the strength to face those challenges that seem really too big right now.

I am hopeful that today's broadcast will lighten that load for you and help you to be grateful and to have a grateful heart.

John: And I hope you'll have that mind-set as we listen to recorded calls from you, our listeners. We opened the phone lines and we're gonna start with Sheila, who called in from South Carolina and shared one particularly memorable Thanksgiving story.


Prerecorded Phone Calls:

Sheila: I'd just like to share a wonderful memory. When my husband first joined the family, he came from a family of a mother, himself and a brother. I come from an extremely large family. The first Thanksgiving he attended had 48 people. One of his comments was, "Do you know all their names?" At which I giggled and said, "Yes and soon you will, too."

But the memory that sticks out the most is that, a Thanksgiving that size there are always several turkeys. And he was the newest member to the family. He was given a turkey leg, which was his favorite meat. And we enjoyed the Thanksgiving.

The next year when it came time for Thanksgiving, we all gathered together and I don't remember the number the second year, but when it came time to be served dinner, he ended up not getting a turkey leg. In fact, he ended up getting some white meat. And much to his distress, he couldn't understand why and everyone pointed out to him, he was no longer the new guy on the block. He was, in fact, part of the family now and that meant he had to get in there and fight for himself. And it's just been a blessing to see how God has made him part of such a big family. And believe it or not, now he likes going home I think almost more than I do. It's just a blessing to see how God can make families from such different backgrounds be complete. Blessings to everyone. Happy Thanksgiving!

Zeb: I remember Thanksgiving back when I was still growin' up at home and my mom and dad had a lot of love for children and had four of their own and adopted four more. And it wasn't unusual for them to have a couple of our friends at the Thanksgiving table, friends who didn't really have family who did things the way we did it. But we kinda compare it to the Waltons I suppose. Our kitchen table had been handmade for us, 'cause we needed long benches on both sides to hold everybody, so we had a bench on each side and a chair on each end. And it was just an awesome thing to think about the times that we had so many people around the table and the love that was shared there and the way that the love of Christ was portrayed and a lot of good memories there.

John: It must have been my freshman year of college and I came home from college and it was the night before, like Wednesday night I drove in and got in about 2 o'clock in the morning. So, I slept in till 11 or 12 the next morning on Thanksgiving Day. Missed the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and the whole bit.

But I walked into the kitchen in my sweats and a T-shirt and mom looks at me like, you know, this is Thanksgiving dinner. I want you to dress up a little nicer. And so, being the smart aleck that I was, I went back to my closet and I found a tuxedo I'd worn the year before in a high school musical.

And (Chuckling) I put it on and came back in the kitchen where, you know, my grandparents had now gathered and my distance relatives are all in the kitchen and sitting down for a Thanksgiving dinner. And they just had a good laugh about it. It just, it was one of those things where, yeah, John's the smart aleck of the family and he's gonna put his mom through this.

So, it's just always fun to have those family memories around the table. I know a lot of people will share the what they're thankful for, but our family just likes to laugh. We just have so many great family memories of sharing stories around the table and that's what makes Thanksgiving special at our house. So, thanks Focus for what you do and Happy Thanksgiving.

Lisa: When we were first married, my husband's brother and his wife came to visit us for Thanksgiving weekend. And I'm not much of a cook. My husband's a good cook and our sister-in-law is a really good cook. So, I let them get things going. I made a salad and then I just kind of faded into the background. A couple hours later I came back into the kitchen and I saw that my husband had put a framed photo of me on the kitchen counter, apparently so that I could make a cameo appearance for making a Thanksgiving meal.

Barbara: I was 12-years-old Thanksgiving 1965. We lived in Northern California where it rained most Thanksgivings. My parents had recently gotten back together after a year and a half of separation. My brothers were at home from school and we were together as a family.

Just moments before our afternoon Thanksgiving dinner, I went outside to get something. For the first time in my life, I saw a double rainbow. I was overwhelmed that God blessed this Thanksgiving Day with two rainbows at one time. I snapped a photo and have it to this day to remind me of His double blessing.

David: Hello, this David from Troutman, North Carolina. A few years ago I had the opportunity to be in Botosani, Romania with a group of orphans. And these kids had never been out to eat at a restaurant or anything of that nature. And on that Thanksgiving Day, we were able to bus these kids to Suceava, about a 40-minute bus ride and gave them the opportunity to eat a Happy Meal at McDonald's.

Now these kids had never seen a hamburger. There were two sisters that were sitting side by side. One was probably 4, the other probably 6. And in Romania, you don't get a refill on your drinks. The 4-year-old drank all her drink and looked at her sister. And without hesitation, her sister, who had never been to McDonald's and probably didn't think she would ever get to go again, opened up her sister's cup and poured the remaining part of her drink into her younger sister's cup. That just tore me up.

Then the next morning, we went to the orphanage and as the kids were going to school, every single kid either had the Happy Meal box in their hand, some of the French fries, but one of the kids, a little young lady probably 6-, 7-years-old, had half a hamburger. Her friend had never been to a McDonald's or out to eat and so, she wanted to take her friend this half a hamburger, so that her friend could share with her the experience of going to McDonald's. So, it just really touched my heart and opened up my eyes to the real world, not what we have here in America, but to the real world of true love and true compassion.

Laurie: I just wanted to share that my husband and I have two biological sons and 10 years after our second son was born, we decided to adopt a daughter. The first thing is, that when they handed our daughter to us at the airport, she came from South Korea, there was this exact same feeling that we each had when they handed us our sons, when they were born. That was an amazing experience and bond of life for her coming into our family.

The other part of this that I wanted to share is just the amazing gift that her birth mother gave us, just that gift of life that, that woman, that precious woman decided that she would not abort this child, but she would carry this child to term and then make the decision to give that daughter to another family.

And of course, we know that God was orchestrating all of this for our family, but just that amazing gift. There's nothing like it that we've ever experienced. And our daughter is growing up wonderfully and we are so blessed. And so, thanks. Bye.

Delores: Hello, this is Delores Leisner [sp?] from Racine, Wisconsin. My husband and I had discovered after attending a conference that God had given us each the same challenge, to support a missionary with a certain amount for six months. The only amount matching that in our budget was the food. We spread the budget on the bed and prayed.

You'll have to surprise us for dinner, God, because we believe You want us to do this and we also believe You don't want us to starve. My family had not spoken to us for two years since we'd become Christians and yet, days after we prayed that prayer, my brother called and said he was coming to visit Sunday and would bring a chicken for the pot if that was okay.

We were shocked, but agreed. When he came, instead of a hug, he said, "Oh, no, I forgot to ask if you have a freezer." When Ken assured him we had an empty one, they revealed five coolers hidden under their luggage and blankets in their car.

My brother said he'd been butchering beef with his father-in-law when he had this overwhelming urge to bring us this meat immediately. Ken and I burst out laughing when we saw them tossing the packages in the freezer, because they were all white, blank, no writing.

Chris apologized he hadn't had time, but we said, "They're perfect, because God did surprise us for dinner every day for the six months." And when I went to open the last white package I didn't recognize it. All that was left on the shelf was one jar of tomatoes and some macaroni. The picture cookbook identified the meat as short ribs and directed us to cook it in tomato juice and add macaroni.

I'm so thankful that God gave us this experience, because we not only learned to trust Him, but we learned to appreciate everything that we have. And every Thanksgiving I think of this event and how God provides every single thing that we have.

Susan: Hi, this is Susan from Fayetteville, North Carolina. And my favorite time of year is fall and Thanksgiving, because I feel like it's a time that we can reach out to others. For about 10 years now, I have been doing a Thanksgiving time at our house on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so that my children who are now grown and have families of their own can still come and be with me for Thanksgiving, as well as have time to be with their families of their spouses.

So, it's just a really wonderful time to reach out to others and share a meal and just be so thankful for everything God has given us. I have been blessed beyond measure many times over by our heavenly Father and His love for me and for this world. And I just hope that everyone will focus their thoughts on God and what we have to be thankful for this year. Being in Fayetteville, I live right beside of Fort Bragg and I am so thankful for our troops and the safety of our nation. And I pray that God will continue to keep America safe. Thank you.

Randy: This Thanksgiving I'm just particularly thankful for my lovely bride which the good Lord gave me 4 1/2 years ago. We've also been blessed with a 19-month-old ball of fire and wind who we know as our son and a little girl that's due about the time that this broadcast will air, around Thanksgiving.

Also very thankful for the ministry of Focus on the Family and the direction that they helped our family to keep on track in honoring the Lord and needless to say, most of all for the grace and forgiveness by that sweet atoning blood of Christ.

Pearl: During this time of reflection at Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my 71-year-old mother-in-law, Linda. This year she and my father-in-law celebrated 50 years of marriage. They've raised four kids who love Jesus and have 18 grandchildren. I realize how thankful I am for her because she's always available. But at the moment, she's not within an easy phone call. She's on a missions trip to Kenya for three weeks. I'm thankful for her godly counsel, guidance and deep abiding trust in our Savior.

Her remarkable example of love for her husband has been a godly pattern for me to follow. She has lived out contentment and joy. My mother-in-law's testimony is communicated clearly from the way in which she lives--consistent to her faith, borne out each day in the things she does and the choices she makes.

Faye: I have so much to be thankful for. Some people looking on would think, you shouldn't be thankful. You've been through a lot. Let me explain by sayin' my husband left me 3 1/2 years ago. We were missionaries together and he just up and left me with my three children and my youngest was just about 3- or 4-months-old.

But I'm thankful because I have learned to know the Lord in such a closer way. I have learned to be attentive to His still small voice and to lean very, very hard on Him. Yes, there have been a lot of tears, a lot of pain, a lot of anguish and loneliness. But I have learned the Lord in a way that I never would have if I hadn't suffered. And I'm just so thankful to Jesus. He has spoiled me rotten during this time, just taking such good care of me, watching over me and the children, giving me emotional strength. I'm just thankful for Jesus today.

Deborah: I am so thankful for my three children, Rebecca, Andrew and Brianna. They're three teenagers and they are just amazing. They have God in the center of their life and they're doing His work. And I'm just so proud to be their mother and I thank God to give me this great job of being a mom. It's definitely not easy and especially being a single mom, it's not easy. But with God, you could do anything (Laughing). It is just amazing.

And I also want to thank God and for my mom and my dad. My mother has Alzheimer's and she's suffering. And my father's her sole caregiver. I help out as much as I can. And they've been a blessing in my life. But it definitely is amazing, God's hand on my life and I want to thank Him.

End of Prerecorded Phone Calls

Program Note:

John: Well, there is someone who's grateful, Deborah from Florida, sharing her blessings on this Thanksgiving day. And here at Focus on the Family, we hope you're having a great day. We're so glad that we can hear these calls that you've provided us with and you can get a free audio download of this program today when you stop by . And we'll include some extra content on the site about giving thanks and a little bit more detail about Focus on the Family, as well and how you can partner with us in encouraging families. Let's go ahead and hear our next call. It's Jennifer in North Carolina.

End of Program Note

Prerecorded Phone Calls:

Jennifer: I'd like to say I'm thankful for my two special parents, Archie and Portia Ratliff. My dad has been a pastor all of his adult life and for some reason, God saw fit to allow him to get cancer a year ago. They have been such a godly example through it all, even though this has been the hardest time in their entire lives. They not only minister to a church of around 7, 800 people, but minister to us, their family every day.

It's our turn to minister to you both now, Mom and Dad. We take you both before the Lord every day. I am so thankful for the heritage you have given us and for the testimony you have been through this major valley. I love you both so much.

Wendell: My most memorable Thanksgiving was about 65 years ago. I was about 17-years-old and was asked by the man whom we called "Uncle Elmer" to drive him to a speaking engagement at his church an hour or so west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

He was a victim of polio and his usual driver-helper was not available. I picked him up at his room at the seminary where he was a student, lifted him from his bed into his wheelchair and from the wheelchair into the car. As a young man, I loved to drive a car, so I enjoyed the trip.

The only thing I remember about his message was his picturesque description of his denominational affiliation as "Bapto-Presbyterian." This courageous man continued serving his Lord and Savior, in spite of having essentially no use of his arms and no use of his legs for the rest of the life the Lord provided for him.

Harold: Yes, I just wanted to say how grateful I am for the "Focus on the Family" program. I never miss it during the weekdays. And what I'm thankful for this season as we sit around our table Thanksgiving Day, is that my three sons, my six grandchildren and two daughter-in-laws and my precious wife all know and have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. That's the greatest gift they could give me, so that we'll all be together for eternity worshipping our God and Father. Thank you guys and gals for the job that you do. I appreciate the gals on the phones when I call in to make a contribution. Just keep up the good work and I'll keep listening.

Marjorie: Our college-age daughter had left home abruptly and she had no contact with us for many months. The anguish was overwhelming at times. I shed many tears during those long months. I prayed daily that the Lord would keep her safe. I would wake up many nights and pray for her.

I had a renewed fervor for my daily devotions and was led to start reading the Bible from Genesis through the end. Eventually our daughter made contact with her brother and some other family members. She started calling us and would leave a brief message on the answering machine.

Occasionally she would let us pick her up to visit. One night she called and was crying. She was ready to come home. Even now I read in my journal how I shed tears of joy and relief. She is now living with us and has a job. I am thankful she kept our agreement and attends Sunday school and church services with us. God is faithful to answer our prayers. I am claiming God's promise found in 3 John, verse 4. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

Cheryl: Two years ago my mother and father were going out of state for my father's follow-up appointment after surgery. And they were in a car accident and my mother was killed and my father walked away with no injuries at all. And my mother used to make Thanksgiving just so special and she was just a godly woman. Every day was special around her. She just made even strangers feel bright around her. She was just a shining star.

But I am so thankful that God spared my dad and he made it through his cancer treatments, his radiation treatments and he's doing marvelous[ly] now. So, I thank God for healing my dad and I am just so very blessed to have my dad around still. Thank you and God bless. Bye, bye.

Amanda: I was just callin' about my mom, Debbie Henry. Her and my dad have been together for 25 years. She had breast cancer Stage 4 and she survived that. And then a year later, she found out she had cancer, oral cancer and she had to go through radiation with that and now she survived that. And she's on the road. She's cancer free and through all of that, she just stayed with God and stayed and just surrendered her life to God completely, knowing that He was in control of the whole situation and everything that she was goin' through.

And I'm just so grateful and I thank God that He just gave her the grace to get through all of that and just come out on the end where now she has a testimony that nobody else can even imagine goin' through somethin' like that. And I'm just so thankful that she just would share that and share the grace of God with other people and the love of God. And I'm just thankful that she's my mom. I wouldn't ask for nobody else. She's awesome and now I can look up to her and know that anything is possible, 'cause I've seen her go through that and God got her through that. So, I just want to say that, I love you, mama. And I love you, that's all I can say and I'm proud of you.

Ramos: Proverbs 14:12 say, there's a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. And I'm thankful to God that He saved my life. He changed my thoughts; He changed the way I think. He changed the way I walk. But what I didn't know is, I didn't know that God can heal.

I didn't know that He was gonna use me as a leader in a church. I didn't know that He was gonna make me a prison ministry leader. I go to the prisons to visit the youth and I lead a team of 10 people six times a year and we take food to feed their tummies and we take the Word of God to feed their souls.

I praise and thank God today for where He has me. I've been in the ministry for three years now. I've been saved for 16 years, but it took me a while to get out of my seat. However, God has truly changed my life. I thank You, Lord and I love You, in Jesus' name.

Debbie: This is Debbie from London, Kentucky. [I'm] thankful for my wonderful family. God has worked several miracles in my life and family. First, He saved my marriage that was literally destroyed. He has restored a love and respect that had been gone for a long time and taught us how to forgive and rise above failures.

God has blessed us with three wonderful children and their spouses, one grandson and one grandbaby on the way that has been a dream for my oldest son and his wife for over six or seven years now. Several miscarriages and heartbreaks took place in years past and now we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our second grandbaby.

God has been so good to me and I want to tell those listening who have given up on their marriage. The world says the easiest thing to do is to walk away from a troubled marriage and find someone else. But I am a living witness that God does put marriages back together and restores a love between two people and completely heals broken hearts in the process. Thank God for miracles today.

Eileen: Just recently I felt like I was at the end of my rope again, just struggling with a lot of probably emotions, depression, anxiety. Just being a Christian, we're swimming upstream you know. So, we have a lot of odds against us, but thank God for Focus on the Family, because you know, I'm in my car and I'm desperate and I'm praying and cryin' out to God for some hope and the Lord always sees me through it seems.

And so often, it's been through "Focus on the Family." And I just am very thankful for this program. God uses so many avenues and I just thank God that you know, Focus on the Family is such a God-centered, Christ-centered ministry. I pray for you guys and I also want to support you, too, (Sniff) because I want to put my money where my mouth is.

End of Prerecorded Phone Calls


John: Well, Eileen, thank you so much for that encouragement and for each one of you who participated in the program so far. It's been a wonderful reminder that God works in our lives through so many different people and different circumstances. And that comment, Jim, is such an encouragement to us here at Focus, to know that people are being helped by what we're doing through this radio program.

Jim: And that is an encouragement. You know, every day thousands and that's why we do it and we're grateful to those who do support us. I loved Eileen's transparency. We really learn what it means to depend on God when we're in those valleys. I like that say, you know, trust somebody who walks with a limp. That's a valley experience and you know what, women like Eileen are being helped every day by the efforts of Focus on the Family.

And we're only able to do that, to reach these people in the valley, because of your partnership with us. And in fact, we've received some new research that shows each hour of every day, we help 22 families work through a significant crisis involving their children. And another 130,000 marriages have been saved through our collective efforts. Man, I am so grateful to everyone who is supporting this ministry and who is praying for us, as well. Together we are literally touching hundreds of thousands of people. I want to say thank you during this Thanksgiving season. I am grateful to the Lord and grateful to you for being there for those people who desperately need help and hope.

John: And we would welcome your contribution to the work of Focus on the Family today. You can donate at While you're there look for the free audio download of today's program. We've got that for you. You can put it on your computer or SmartPhone and listen again.

We have other resources, well to help you in your faith journey, to help in various family circumstances and situations and as we approach Christmas, to get into the true heart of the holiday season. Again, the download and those resources at

Well, our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, hoping that you'll join us tomorrow. We'll have Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley with us to help you navigate family conflict. Sometimes that happens this time of year and you'll hear trusted advice to help you and your family thrive.

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