Justin Ricklefs


Stuffed. But Thankful.

In a little over 48 hours, I gained 9 pounds. Truly.

Impressive, huh?

We left our house Wednesday to have lunch at my brother’s and his family in KC.

Ate too much food.

Then we hit the road for Columbia for a couple days to see Brooke’s brother and his family and my sister and her family.

Ate too much food.

Pizza, tacos, cake, beer, Thanksgiving dinner, pie, whiskey, coffee cake, wine, Thai food and plenty more unfortunately.  

Immediately after eating the big (and trust me, it was really big) Thanksgiving meal, my eyes were so heavy, I snuck up to the baby’s room, reclined the rocking chair and took a two-hour nap.

Gluttony at its finest. Or maybe at its worst.

I’ve talked about the Enneagram a bit on here. People like me who relate to the personality of #7 have gluttony as their secret sin or core vice.

The interesting part is that it doesn’t necessarily mean gluttony with food, though it certainly can.

Folks like me are so focused on positive memories and fun adventures, that we have a gluttony for experiences.  

The last 48 hours filled up that bucket in a major way.

Between both sides of our family, our kids have 14 first cousins. They got to spend time with 12 of those 14 in the last couple days.

In between all the food, they played baseball, volleyball, jumped on the trampoline, fed chickens, held kittens, played card games, played Fortnight, rode four-wheelers, held babies, had a fire-pit, sat in the hot tub, stayed up way too late, and a thousand other things.


These couple days were stuffed full.

I’m sure there are many factors, but this Thanksgiving felt different to me. It felt more connected and present.

Our kids are getting older, so it’s easier to sit and have an adult conversation, so that’s probably part of it.

Seeing our kids with their cousins reminds me of how I grew up with so many cousins of my own, so I’m sure that’s part of it.

Being in a healthier place with Brooke and cherishing time with her was definitely part of it.

But I think a major part of it clicked for me on a truck ride into town to grab a few Black Friday items early this morning.

We started talking about suffering.

The concept of suffering isn’t something any of us would sign up for or be first in line to post about on social media.

So as we talked, my brother-in-law told a story of a friend of a friend, a guy going through some really tough stuff.

This friend’s friend discussed how at different times and different ways, we all must spend time in the classroom of suffering.

It’s more pleasant to have good, positive experiences (I’m a glutton for them), but perhaps it’s in the seasons of suffering where the soil is churned up enough for us to grow. 

I’ll be the first to admit the suffering we’ve experienced the past couple years pales in comparison to what many of you are walking through, but it’s been suffering to us nonetheless.

Pain is pain, confusion is confusion, brokenness is brokenness. No matter the degree.

We got back from our shopping, poured some more French-pressed coffee and began talking. Just 4 of us adults.

It wasn’t scripted, but we quickly got into some deep-water conversations again. And the tears started flowing among us.

One of our nieces walked in and asked her mom, “why are you guys crying?”

My knee-jerk 7-ness kicked in to rescue the hard moment, and I said, “They’re happy tears.”

Thankfully her daddy told her the full truth.

“Sweetie, they’re not happy tears, they’re sad ones. Parents have really sad stories sometimes too and it’s important for us to talk about them. And it’s really important for us to cry too.”

He was so right.

Our stories are sad sometimes. But the suffering is much more tolerable when we’re honest about it. And when we walk through it together.

And it’s really important for us to cry. Instead of pretending like everything is always OK.

Yeah, I think that’s why Thanksgiving was so meaningful this year.

Even though I was stuffed.

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