The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Photo by Brooke Lark

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

This is Catherine Segars, that drama girl, and today I have a special message for those of you who are struggling in this season. Today’s story is about the hardest day of my life, which happened to take place on Thanksgiving Day. It wasn’t bad timing. God wants to show us how to be lifted from the pit of despair through the sacrifice of Thanksgiving.

For the first time in 25 years, I will spend Thanksgiving day with the man I am most thankful for in life. When I met my husband, Bryan, we both worked in a fancy hotel restaurant, the kind that serves Thanksgiving dinner for thousands of people who don’t like to cook. Every year since, he has worked that day and all other holidays. It’s been a part of his job. The only Thanksgiving tradition we know is saying goodbye in the morning and having a late dinner at night. My kids have never spent this holiday with their dad.

But this year is different. Bryan has a new job and we will spend the whole day, the whole weekend, together. For the first time ever.

There is so much to be thankful for this year.

But I am painfully aware that not every Thanksgiving looks like this one.

Mine certainly didn’t three years ago. The day started off with so much promise, so much to be thankful for as I kissed my husband goodbye that morning. We were newly pregnant with a promised child, dearly and deeply loved. I had seen her in my dreams; I could feel her in my spirit as I prayed. And she was finally here. I spent the morning at home with the kids. Then I shuffled the older three off to nana and papa’s in the afternoon and stayed at home to rest with my toddler.

At 5 PM, one hour before Thanksgiving dinner, the unthinkable happened. I began to bleed. I knew that this was not uncommon, but after four healthy pregnancies, I knew that this was uncommon for me.

More distressing still was a dream I had that very morning. In it, I had ordered baby items which arrived in the mail. I pulled out the package and the long-anticipated gifts were broken. I didn’t want to pay the full price for these crushed baby items, but I had to anyway. Thoughts of this dream echoed in my mind like the warning whistle of an oncoming train. I feared what was to come.

I hadn’t even told my parents that we were expecting. I wanted to give them an envelope with a sonogram picture in it, put it under the tree. Would there be a sonogram picture?

Bryan came home, and I leaned into his arms willing his strength to enter my failing frame. How could I possibly sit through Thanksgiving dinner with this foreboding fear flooding my heart? We had guests coming that weren’t even family, guests that I had invited. This was a nightmare! How could I pretend that everything was ok when everything was so horribly wrong?

I couldn’t hide my anguish. My mother knew right away something was awry. She took my hand and shuffled me into her room. I shared the blessed news of this child’s arrival and the broken news of her possible departure in the same breath. She gasped and covered her mouth as tears sprung to her eyes.  Joy and fear flickered intermittently in her gaze. She enveloped me like a thick blanket and we cried out to God for life and healing and peace. Then we returned to the festive table filled with a cornucopia of blessings.

My mother cleared her throat to speak.

“Everyone, Cathy is pregnant, and some things are happening in her body right now that we don’t understand. Some scary things.”

That . . . got everyone’s attention. It was not your typical Thanksgiving speech.

We used to play this game back in my theater days. It was called “Worst Thing You Could Possibly Say.” Yep. That about sums it up.

“Congratulations! You’re going to be a papa, aunt, uncle, and cousin again. Or not?”

What do you say after that? Pass the turkey?

Thanksgiving 2015 (I am 3rd from the left, obviously)

My father took the lead, offering an emphatic prayer. I didn’t hear a word of it, except for one short phrase: “We must have faith. We must have faith!” He said again and again.

It was the most awkward Thanksgiving dinner imaginable. I pushed food around my plate as I choked back sobs and blinked incessantly to prevent the scalding tears from falling. It didn’t work. People tried to converse naturally about common things, things they were grateful for while I was walking through the valley of the shadow.

Death visited me at the Thanksgiving table. In the midst of an abundant feast, my precious child was whisked away. We named her Hope. My Hope lives in heaven where all hope must reside.

 

Though it was early in this pregnancy, the loss was too great for words. Such promise and joy given for such a little time. But it did something to me. She did something to me. She fueled a fire that would not be quenched. I interceded like never before for the promise to come, for holy redemption, for beauty from these ashes. So did Bryan. We prayed and prophesied Scriptures over my womb every day for countless hours.

And the next Thanksgiving . . . I sat at a very different table. A table filled with life and promise. And a womb filled with Faith, the Faith my father had prayed for. Evangeline Faith Segars was here. The precious, promised child was healthy and whole inside me.

Evangeline “Faith” Segars (10-27-17)

Thanksgiving 2017 (I sat in the same place with my redemption.)

The next Thanksgiving, I held her in my arms.

And this Thanksgiving, she will spend the holiday with her dad for the very first time ever, along with her four siblings and me.

I’ve always found it curious, though, the timing of that horrific event. It could’ve happened the day before or the day after. But it didn’t. It happened during my Thanksgiving feast.

Why?

It seems so cruel to miscarry a child on Thanksgiving Day, and God isn’t cruel. He is kind. So why would He allow tragic loss at the very moment we are called to give thanks for our blessings?

Only a terrorist would derive pleasure from requiring the impossible in the midst of our pain.

There is an oddly upbeat song that my parents made me sing as a child. It goes like this:

“We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.

We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.

And we offer up to you the sacrifices of Thanksgiving.

And we offer up to you the sacrifices of joy.”

I didn’t really understand that song as a child. Those are some tough concepts to marry. Maybe if we had sung it in a minor key. Yes, a good, Jewish, melancholy, minor key. That might have helped. But I understand it better now.

Sometimes . . . Thanksgiving is a sacrifice. Three years ago it was. And I am keenly aware of families all around me who will experience sacrifice at their Thanksgiving table this year. Some face an uncertain future with frightening possibilities. Some have empty places at the table praying for prodigals to come home. Others are waiting for the sweet reunion that will only come some glad morning when this life is o’er.

Despite the many blessings around us, the wealth of a nation the rest of the world would die to have, loved ones that we cherish, plentiful food, freedom, Faith, and friends, thanksgiving can cause us to choke back sobs and blink in a futile effort to prevent scalding tears.

And yet, I, along with these precious friends, are called to bring a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Why?

Why would God require such a thing in the midst of our heartache and our pain and our fear? Doesn’t He have angels surrounding His thrown who supply such praise endlessly? And they sing a lot better than we do.

No. He doesn’t need our praise and gratitude. We do.

How can the pain and fear be overcome? How can the problem be surpassed? Praise. Thanksgiving. They take us to a higher place, a heavenly place where He is.

This sacrifice may not make everything right down here, but we don’t have to stay here when we praise and thank Him. We can go where He is, where our precious loved one is, where our future is, where our hope is. Praise and thanksgiving take us there.

I didn’t miscarry my precious baby during our Thanksgiving feast because God is cruel. No, in this life we will have many trials. And forever now I have this image seared in my mind that during the hardest moments, in the midst of unspeakable loss, even when there are empty places at the table and the future is unknown, Thanksgiving can take me somewhere else. Praise is the pathway to that higher place.

I must confess that have not learned this lesson well. Not yet. I have failed miserably at this discipline all too often, today even, as I focus intently on what brings me pain. But I will learn the sacrifice of Thanksgiving. I will choose to sing that oddly upbeat song, although I may put it in a minor key. Yes. I think I will. I will choose to bring a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to my God in a minor key. Because He is worthy. He is faithful. He is loving. He is kind. And He holds my baby and my future in His hands, and I want to be where they are.

“We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.

We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.

And we offer up to you the sacrifices Of Thanksgiving.

And we offer up to you the sacrifices of joy.”

A very special thank you to Kirk and Deby Dearman and Capital Christian Group Publishing for allowing me to use the chorus of the classic song We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise.

Would you ask the Lord if someone you know needs to hear this message about the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving. If so, please share it with them.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May the spirit of praise and thanksgiving ever be on your lips.

  1. Fay Wallage

    November 26th, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    Catherine, this brought running tears to my eyes as I remembered this horrible season in your life. In spite of the hurting that you experienced, your praise to the Lord never diminished. That was “key” to moving into the season you are in now, and is realized, I’m sure, each time you hold your miracle, Evangeline.
    I pray each hurting person who listens to this blogcast is ministered deliverance from depression, etc, being replaced with God’s peace, grace, and hope.

  2. csegars

    November 27th, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    Thank you, Fay! You were a huge part of our victory. Your faithful prayers paved the way, and they continue to pave the way for me now. Love you!

  3. Andy Lawrence

    December 13th, 2018 at 2:39 am

    Cathy, thank you for sharing this very difficult story. True ministry happens when we share with each other our deepest pain, grief and perplexity. I pray that God will use your vulnerability as a spark that will allow hearts to be open to His healing love.

  4. csegars

    December 15th, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    Thank you, Andy! You are so right. God uses every heartache we suffer through to help others. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your prayers and support. God bless you!

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