It has long been one of my favorite holidays. Christmas is ridiculous these days. It makes my head hurt. But the capitalists have never quite figured out how to capitalize on quaint little pious people with funny hats, collars, and shoe buckles. I guess the whole concept of “giving thanks” is somewhat alien to Madison Avenue anyway. It doesn’t come naturally to any of us.
I’m trying to teach James to say “please” and “thank you.” Of course it is usually during a feeding time. As he is twisting, bouncing, pointing, and grunting for MORE, even with a full mouth, I slowly refill the spoon and tell him to say, “Please, Mimi.” Then, once I plop the bite in his mouth, I say “Thank you.” (Actually, I say it the way a baby would...“tank-tu”...sorry, Purists.) He is completely clueless. What do these words have to do with the Divine Right of Kings (and other small tyrants) to be FED? That is our first perceived need, and we demand that it be met right there on the delivery table. HOW DARE YOU NOT FEED ME IMMEDIATELY??? I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN, BUT SINCE I’M HERE, YOU’D BETTER SNAP TO IT!
We carry much of that “entitlement attitude” into adulthood. Especially in this country. We have our inalienable rights! We want what we want, and we deserve to get it! At a very young age, a child learns all about “me” and “mine.”
Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful for that which we consider a right, not a privilege. Human beings being as we are, I think it’s (unfortunately) necessary for us to live through some loss in order to develop a truly thankful heart.
Like it says in the song, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone...”
Being home, the New Reality seems like a dream.
When I arrived, my sweet husband had the house completely decked out with all of our old Thanksgiving stuff. Fresh flowers are everywhere, aromatic fall candles glow, a cozy fire burns in the family room. Even though everything about our lives has changed, it seems the same here. The halls are lined with pictures; every chest of drawers is covered with them. A relative refers to the stairwell descending to the basement as our “Wall of Fame.” All of my girls’ corny Olan Mills school pics are there, vying for space with high school and college honors. There is Katherine beaming beatifically at age 4. Awkward at 10. Aglow with life at 16, holding flowers. Gorgeous at 20, wearing crowns. Smiling, smiling, smiling, smiling...
There was so much to smile about.
Who knew that a smile could become such a rare and desperately-sought-after treasure?
I’m not going to beat myself up about having been so disgustingly unappreciative of the wonderfully good times of the past.
I can still conjure them up in my mind and savor them like a delicious meal. I can sneak back and take a peek into my grandmother’s fragrant house packed with 50 people for Thanksgiving lunch. Every surface laden with decadent dishes...uncles arguing over football in the den...kids playing football in the backyard...the women laboring over one last preparation for the feast...and the children, dressed up like Pilgrims and Indians, getting ready to sing for us. Katherine, as the first great-grand, was always the director of the motley little choir. “Come, ye thankful people come...” they sang, as feathers bobbed and collars slipped.
The irony is that when the blessings are bountiful, we tend to take them for granted. But through the telescope of change and loss, we are enabled to see them as the gold they always were. Then, finally, comes a rich, warm flood of gratitude. Since God exists outside of time and space, I like to think that retro-thanks pleases him as much as timely thanks.
I am more aware than ever that nothing here lasts.
Now the joys are sweeter than before. The peace is deeper. The gratitude is greater. I have never had so many reasons to be thankful. What could possibly be greater than the gift of a life?
But there are still reasons to be sad. That happy, smiling little girl of mine will not be eating her third piece of chocolate pecan pie today. Her Thanksgiving feast will be delivered via a tube in her abdomen. She will not be running around the house making the party happen. She will be sitting in a chair struggling to communicate, while the party flows around her.
I wish God would fix her today. But even if He doesn’t, I am going to thank and praise Him anyway. And in doing that, I will be offering Him a feast on Thanksgiving Day. I believe that the thanksgiving offered out of our places of sorrow is especially sweet to Him. “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:14-16)
I will choose to praise Him in the storm.
On this day of thanksgiving, may you know how very deeply you are loved.
It is my prayer that each of us will be enabled to receive the gift of a truly thankful heart.......even before the next earthly loss comes.
Because it will.
God bless us, everyone.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." (Hebrews 12:28)
“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:14-16)
Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers' arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us still in grace,
and guide us when perplexed;
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.
All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given;
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.
(Martin Rinckart, 1663)