A Thanksgiving, Years in the Making

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have been looking forward to this thanksgiving for a long time. You could ask my students at church what I’ve been looking forward to for weeks and they would say Thanksgiving. Not only is it my absolute favorite holiday without a doubt. But this year was going to be even more special than most years. This years was going to be different than recent years.

A year ago I might have told you that there was a heavy heart at the Thanksgiving table because there was an open spot at the table. There was an open spot at the table that was reserved for one person, my brother Matt. He hadn’t been to any holiday meal in a very long time. At this point last year, I didn’t know when the next time that I would be able to speak with my brother. If you would have told me last year at this point that I was going to be cooking bacon for Matt’s dish thirty minutes before our family came to our house, I probably would have called you insane and looked at you like you had a few heads. Last year I just didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to write a post that looked similar to this

But that all changed on January 3rd, 2015 when we reconnected through the most unlikeliest of ways. But I am so grateful for the fact that we did reconnect. But I digress, back to Thanksgiving. I had been looking forward to this day since I knew that I learned that I was going to be  moving to Memphis when I took the job in April. It was going to be the first holiday that my whole immediate family would be together in 8 years.

Its been a long hard journey to this Thanksgiving. A few seats at the table for my family have not been filled, due to people passing away. But there was, for the last eight years, an open seat at the table. There was a void in my family.

But this year, this year was going to be different. This year that spot was going to be filled. By God’s faithfulness it was going to be filled. Matt told me earlier this year that he was going to be able to make it for Thanksgiving and I was excited

This week at home was a true testament of God’s faithfulness. For the first time in 8 years I sat across the table from my brother. I sat across from the guy who a year ago I didn’t know the next time I would see him. We ate stuffing, turkey, rolls, and just about anything else that was put in front of us. We drank beer and swapped beer. We played games with our family. We went on a late night Ice cream run. He even came and watched me run a 5K on Thanksgiving morning. To say that I was blessed this Thanksgiving would be the biggest understatement that was ever made.

There was not an open seat this year at the table. In fact we added a seat to the table because he brought his girlfriend with him as well. This year was different than most because this year every seat was full. (Not to mention my stomach that may have been too full.)

Don’t ever give up on God. His plan is bigger and better than anything that we could ever imagine. We are not sovereign over the world like God is so why don’t we trust in the Lord to help us out. I almost quit last year on god. I almost threw in the towel because I never thought that Matt would come home. But God was bigger and better than me like He always is.

Thad Ernst

 

Its been a minute (or 6 months) in Memphis

*Sidenote: A minute now means anywhere from an actual minute to three years, according to my students and my brother.

Next week will be my 6th month anniversary of moving to Memphis. Today is my 6th month anniversary of me graduating college. So we will just roll them all up into one blog post. A lot has happened in 6 months. I moved here to Memphis to begin my “adult” life and start my first job in ministry.I have gotten to do things that I never thought I would. I have applied a lot the my professors taught me in class that I never thought I would use. I have attended countless events to support my students. I have ordered wild drink combinations at Sonic. I have had real conversations with students who I never thought would open up. And I pray that God has been glorified through it all.

But all of that said does not mean that I have not struggled. If I told you that I haven’t struggled that would be a lie. I have struggled often to feel like I am a part of this place in the world called Memphis. I will not tell you that this past six months of my life have been the easiest. Heck, I might in fact tell you that the past six months have been some of the hardest if not the hardest six months of my life.

I have lost people and a pet in my 6 months here. I have lost two former teammates that I played soccer with growing up. Kids who I spent hours at their houses when I was growing up. I haven’t talked about that too many people but it isn’t easy when I open up Facebook and see RIP Marcus or RIP Cole. Two teammates, Two friends, Gone too soon. That takes it toll on a soul of a man. I lost my papa and my dog within a week of each other. (You can read more about that here)

At times I have felt extremely alone in this new phase of life. Its been extremely difficult to make friends here. Some of you who know me are probably saying right now “How? Thad you could befriend a brick wall.” While that may be true at times But it has been incredibly hard to find friends for me here. 6 months ago I knew only the people on staff at the church. Today I know most of the people in the church. But only have about 4-5 friends that I could call on that around my age. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that I only want friends around my age because I have plenty of friends back home that are older than me by a large amount and that is okay.¬†It is hard to do life on your own without many friends that you can call up and say hey lets go do something. Or just a friend that has lived here that calls and says “Come watch the game”. I don’t have hardly anyone that will do that. But it has been tough to make friends here which have made for a lot of questioning. Questions like “Why did I move here?” “What is my purpose here?”

Those questions and times where I have been completely alone have been tough on me. Yes, my life looks like a ton of fun. I get to travel on weekends and see a ton of friends, watch sporting events, and make so many memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. But when the light fades away, behind the posts to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, there is a guy here that has real feelings. They aren’t all positives and some days the negatives outnumber the positives. That is taxing on my morale and some days I feel like I cannot do it.

But I have been immeasurably blessed by this move to Memphis. Even in the times where I felt like what I was doing was worthless, I get a glimpse, I get a sketch, a moment. I have a boss that is a boss that I want to work for every day. He is a boss that supports me and for that I am so thankful. David Weatherly is a man among men. He took a leap of faith when he hired me, a scrub college kid who was about to graduate to be his youth pastor. He saw potential in me and has been all in for me from day one and for that I cannot thank him enough for that.

I have an unreal church family and volunteer staff that blows me away every week. They support me, encourage me, and they do not let me settle for mediocre. And I am so grateful for people that push me to be the best that I can be. But some days there is doubt. Some weeks are lonely and I don’t feel like my worth is great. The past couple weeks have been tough on me because I feel like I should have friends my age by this point of my move to Memphis but I am finding that I don’t have many. But it was this week when all the doubt came out and the questions of “Why am I here?” came out. I was not in the best spot. I had spoken with some friends back home and just said, “You know, I think I did the wrong thing by moving here.” But last night I was pulled aside by one of my volunteers and they just told me (paraphrased) Thad you are doing a great job and I mean that. It was so rewarding to hear that and the other things that he was telling me. I was so grateful to hear that and I come home and just sat on my couch in awe of what I had just heard.

So yes in 6 months I have got to travel a lot. I have gotten to experience a real job. I have written a lot of my own lessons to teach to my kids. And I have gotten to make a ton of memories with some incredible people. but I have struggled. I have doubted. I have cried. I have been pushed to my limits. I have felt inadequate. But God…

But God has been ever faithful even when I had doubts and felt like that I could not go on another day. God has placed people back home to encourage me when I don’t feel like I can do this life anymore. God has been faithful to encourage me when I don’t feel like there is any hope left for me.

Thad Ernst

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