Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving. No matter what.

Well here we are. Another Thanksgiving gone by, another holiday weekend enjoyed. It was a pleasant break and one which seemed longer than it really was. I keep pressing forward with school to make up for lost days during our move, but the few days we took off were well enjoyed.

We filled our days with all sorts of pleasant things. Last week the kids and I biked/ scootered to the beach from our house for the first time. Even with a scooter that busted and had to be carried, the trip was a manageable afternoon outing and one I hope we repeat with regularity. We also visited a local art museum with friends and were impressed by the collection here in our small town. Saturday, after a trip to the Farmer's Market for some local raw citrus grove honey and lunch, the kids raced around a nearby middle school on their bikes while Jon and I looked on from the side. I can just see that great big wide open space becoming a perfect place for afternoon games with friends, or workout time for me. My goal is to make our town ours-- familiar, comfortable, lovable.

A couple weeks ago, when our Thanksgiving plans were still undetermined, I heard one of my boys telling the others, "Our family doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving."

WHAT?! Really? How could he think that?

So in a calmer and less offended tone than I was feeling, I asked my dear son why he thought so. It turns out that he could only remember one other Thanksgiving, and pretty soon it became clear that all my kids had blank memories of years past. It dawned on me just then that we haven't had any regularity in our Thanksgiving traditions (except for my mother's cranberry sauce which I insist I make each year).

Here's the thing: I've worked hard at establishing fun and meaningful traditions in our family. During Jon's seminary years, far from home and family and tradition, and when our little family was growing, it became clear to me that I must take charge of deciding how we celebrate. I needed to determine what would become special to our family as the years went by. I read Noel Piper's book Treasuring God in Our Traditions, I watched and asked questions of others, I remembered things Jon and I had done with our own families, and I considered what would work well for us. Living far from family and in another country where celebrations vary from what had been familiar, I basically started from scratch.

Thanksgiving, however, did not get the attention it deserved. Generally, we were always happy for an invitation to spend that day with others. Each year varied, and our day's plans were determined by the traditions of other families. Depending on the circumstances there have been a couple years, here and there, when I roasted a turkey and put together a rather simple feast for just us. But overall, our tradition was to just play it by ear, so to speak.

But-- Oh!-- when my child is certain we don't celebrate Thanksgiving, I think to myself that something must be done! So right then it was decided that we were going to host Thanksgiving. We are blessed with a home big enough and it is a privilege to share it, and our developing traditions, with others.

Our house, however, is not quite ready for putting on a Thanksgiving feast. Without going into detail, suffice it to say that we just moved into a "fixer" house, and there's more fixing that needs to happen before the settling can take place. There's furniture where it doesn't belong, tools laid all about, boxes, and stacks of unorganized items nearly everywhere.

But we do Thanksgiving! So we invited a couple families who had no other plans and I began to prepare. Since the weather was going to be gorgeous, we set up two long tables on the deck. I decorated with table cloths and runners, sugar pumpkins, pine cones from our trees, and filled hurricanes with hazelnuts and candles. I unpacked stemware which had been boxed up for over a year, and set up chairs and a side table for a selection of drinks and hors d'oeurves.

But if the house situations was not enough of an obstacle, Wednesday my back went out again as I shuffled through boxes. I don't really know how to say it... went out again doesn't seem to be quite right. Shooting, stabbing, debilitating pain that takes my breath away and makes me feel faint-ish and crazy... those are more accurate words. It was bad and I cried from pain and discouragement.

Pride, I guess, kept me from calling Jon at the office. The kids rallied around me and helped out in every way they could. Through tears I talked to myself all afternoon, "You can do this, you can do this," and, "It's not that bad, it's not that bad." When I finally decided to call Jon, he was unreachable at the time. Over the following hours, there was gradual improvement and I was able to slowly proceed, one recipe at a time, one job at a time. Then when Jon came to help, the planning had all been done in my head and I just needed extra hands to execute.

Thursday morning was difficult, but adrenaline kicked in and our afternoon and evening company provided a happy distraction. In the very least, I was thankful it all came together, thankful that people were happy and comfortable in my own home.

And thankful for the privilege it is to celebrate God's goodness and faithfulness in our lives.

Later in the evening we went for a walk on the pier just as we did last year. Maybe a new Thanksgiving tradition for our family? It was amazing. The fog had settled and there were few people around. We lingered at the end of the pier for a while, enjoying, savoring... Then someone noticed commotion in the distance. The splashes drew nearer till just below us we watch a feeding frenzy of dolphins. Then we watched them swim and leap in synchronized fashion away into the night.


A few things about thankfulness that I've given thought to this week:

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thes. 5:18

Thanksgiving, not the holiday but the attitude, is a command. It is not about lip service or even feelings, but about obedience. And I love that in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, the writers were honest before God about their feelings-- their weaknesses, discouragement, perplexities, and all forms of human emotion-- yet they still praised God. I may as well tell God the things He already knows about me. I come before Him bare and He knows me better than I do. I must be honest and pour out my heart before Him. Yet like the psalmists, I must come with praise and thanksgiving for who He is and what He has done and continues to do. I come trusting and confident in His great and mighty Name. And in that act of obedience I lay my questioning heart and tangled mess of emotions for Him to settle. Because He is mighty to save, because He is the One who transforms, because He makes all things new. And because He is worthy of praise and thanksgiving.

Oh that my life would be marked by thanksgiving to the One who saves and transforms!



  1. A couple of quick thoughts.
    I'm so glad that you and Jon were part of some of the Price Family holiday meals. Having special guests and friends with us was one of OUR traditions.

    A walk on the pier two Thanksgivings in a row IS a tradition.

    Praise God that He graciously made it possible to have your very wonderful Thanksgiving meal in your very own home.

    I'm blessed by your post, and your thankful heart.

    1. Laurie,

      With the number of people who have passed through your home over the years, I am surprised you remember that Jon and I joined you all one year! I think that was the first year we spent American Thanksgiving in an American home (rather than a campus cafeteria or the rec room at The Empress!). It was also the year Sarah and I were both pregnant with our first babies. I remember our day well, and hope to recreate the feeling of your home and the tradition of sharing it with others.

      Love to you!


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