Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Thanksgiving Table

Every family has some sort of tradition or another I imagine.  I know our family does.  At Christmas time, we gather in the living room around the tree. As the tiny white lights sparkle like promises, and the bright colored packages taunt the child in each of us, we pause to reflect on what Christmas truly means.   First we read the Christmas story, and then we take turns and reflect on what God has done for us or brought us through during the year.  There is some laughter and a lot of tears, but it is an amazing, sweet and reverent moment.  We end by joining hands, praying with and for each other and thanking God for amazing love and blessings and mostly for the greatest gift of all - Himself.

At Thanksgiving, we have a similar tradition around our Thanksgiving table.  Every year the feast is pretty much the same on our table - turkey, dressing, cranberry salad, apple salad, green salad, stuffed eggs,  green beans, corn casserole, broccoli casserole, sweet potato casserole, yeast rolls, and enough desserts to open our own sweet shop.  Before partaking of the feast spread out in front of us however, we each take our turn to express those things in our lives that truly fill us - the things we are most thankful for and the blessings we've received through the year.  Some years have been happy ones, others downright painful in fact, but through them all there has always been something to give thanks for.  We have always been able to give thanks not just for what was “on” that table, but around our Thanksgiving table.  Being close to each other around the family table has been thanks enough.  Now don’t get me wrong.  We are far from the “Cleaver” family.  We bump elbows, fuss about who sits where, laugh over some embarrassing moment at the expense of another family member; we fight over the last piece of pie, call dibs on who gets the sofa after dinner and we get on each others nerves while trying to clear the table.  But in it all, we give thanks. Even if the world has walked out on us in one way or another, family has stepped in or rather stayed in, has always been there, always supportive and loving, accepting and forgiving.

          I must admit, this year is one of my "happy" years because of the tangible blessings that God has given me since this same time last year as well as some difficulty He has brought me through.  Still I have to say, the joy and thanksgiving that I feel in my heart are not new emotions, because I've felt them each and every year that my family has gathered around our Thanksgiving table.  It didn’t matter if I had celebrated marriage or relationship and we had added a seat at the table, or if I had endured the pain of divorce; it didn’t matter  if I had been given a job promotion or a pink slip, if my food pantry was stocked or bare, if I had been deathly ill or the picture of health, if I had soared in life or fallen flat on my face; I was still met with the same love and acceptance that had been extended to me the year before and the year before and the year before.  Why?  Because what God had given me to truly be thankful for was not in what I did or didn't have, what I had done or didn't do, been or failed to be, who had come in or gone out of my life.  What I had to be thankful for was surrounding me.  I was  thankful for the embrace of my son as he complimented the food;  for the chit-chat between he and my nephew about things that the rest of us were clueless on; for the sparkle in my grandmother's eyes as she told stories from years ago; for the laughter of my brother and I as we recounted childhood memories; for the service of my mom's busy hands around the table; for the surprise look on my sister-in-law's face at stories that she may not have heard before and how she reminded me that family is not just flesh and blood.  I was thankful for the prayer of that gray-haired man with the dark eyes that was sitting at the head of the table - my dad, who had no idea what an impact he truly had on our family.  Yes, each year whether good or bad, I still had, still have and always will have something to be thankful for - God’s blessings around the Thanksgiving table.

No matter what you have faced this year or in life, take some time this Thanksgiving at “your” Thanksgiving table to express your thanks for what’s around that table.  And let it not just be an annual family tradition, but a daily way of life.  Never stop giving thanks and mostly never stop expressing and “living” thanks for what truly matters in life.  One day, tomorrow will not come for someone sitting around your Thanksgiving table (or at the table in your heart) so please, while you have the chance, let them know just how thankful you are for them - for the tangible arms and hearts of Divine Love extended to you through each person around your table...