Norman Rockwell's iconic painting, "Freedom From Want" seems to have set a high standard of expectations for our Thanksgiving celebrations. The evidence is in grocery stores and conversations from all last week. We have shopped and chopped, shared who is coming, where we are going, what we are cooking, and what is already in the freezer ready to warm.
Thanksgiving is my favorite of all holidays because it's about being thankful, it's about God's goodness, it's about family, and I like the food. It also hasn't been terribly stained and changed by commercialism and I like the food.
"Offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving." Psalm 50:14
The last few days I have been reflecting on Thanksgiving Days of years past - especially the atypical ones. Those are the one's that have little in common with the Mr. Rockwell's famous depiction of the holiday. Those are the ones that seem to stand out in my fading memory.
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: Give thanks unto him, and bless his name." Psalm 100:4
The first atypical Thanksgiving memory was of the meal served on a hospital tray the day after baby girl number one was born. The food was most likely untouched because this new mama fainted every time she lifted her head off the pillow.
"O, give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good. His mercy endures forever" Psalm 107:1
The next one I remember was when baby girl number two was just a few weeks old, in Dallas's Children's Medical Center ICU. This mama and daddy drove to a Hotel Restaurant across town for turkey, dressing, and every trimming except the rest of the family. We ate the traditional meal with lonely, heavy hearts.
"In nothing be anxious: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God." Philippians 4:6
Several years we cleaned off the table, washed the dishes and said, "Let's go to DALLAS!" Christmas decorations were out and we shopped through one Christmas winter wonderland after another.
"Sing unto the LORD with with thanksgiving." Psalm 147:7
Then there's the one where we showed up for the family meal in our black leather pants, boots, and jackets. After the dishes were done, we headed to the Texas Hill Country on two wheels of rolling thunder. That Harley was our therapy and our healing after great loss.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I came to Texas last week to celebrate baby girl number one's birthday with a little road trip. She hosted our our wonderful Thanksgiving meal last night, because I have a ticket to go back to Papa and snowy North Dakota this Thanksgiving afternoon. While she cooked, I played with grand kids and was crowned "Really Cool Nana" by the neighbor kid who says that his Nana just wants to nap. So does this one....but I didn't confess that to him.
Last night's atypical Thanksgiving meal was a healthy cleaned up lighter version of the traditional turkey, dressing, and trimmings - turkey breast, gluten free dressing and bread, corn casserole with yogurt instead of sour cream, and veggies cooked in coconut oil instead of butter. We ate on paper plates and played games instead of washing dishes.
"I will praise the name of God with a song. And will magnify him with thanksgiving." Psalm 69:30
Our usual "I am thankful for ________" comments around the table were expanded by thought provoking questions wrapped around our napkins.
"Have you ever waited for something and later discovered that the delay was for your good? Describe why you are now grateful for the waiting time" Children, grandchildren...
"What has God changed in your life for which you are grateful?" Answers: children, grandchildren, jobs, moves...even North Dakota
"Death and loss are a very difficult part of every one's life. Share a loss that in the end brought great meaning to your life." Besides the obvious answers that brought tears, someone found great meaning to life in the loss of her DSL because there was only one game lost with it. (Insert smiley face)
"Name five gifts from God that you can see from where you are sitting right now." My answer was easy and obvious, and the answers moved down the table to the not so silly counting of fingers and toes.
"Why do you think God told us to be thankful in all things?" Because being thankful takes our focus off our problems and ourselves and onto HIM. Because he is God and we are not. Because it lightens our hearts. Because it brings us joy. Because it brings HIM joy. (I thought of some of those later.)
So in a few hours, I will pack frozen leftovers for Papa, give hugs, go to the airport, check my bag, endure the security check, and wait, wait, wait with other holiday travelers for a flight back to the frosty tundra of North Dakota and Papa. I am so very thankful to be able to travel back and forth to family.
Wherever you are and whatever you are doing....I pray you are able to do it with a grateful heart.
"Giving thanks always for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God...and let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...and be ye thankful." Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 3:15