Giving Thanks

Once again Thanksgiving has come and gone. This year was lovely… relaxed (we went to our daughter’s and son-in-law’s house, so I got a break from doing all the cooking and cleaning), quiet (there were only five of us), and fun (I love playing Apples to Apples!).

Previous years haven’t been quite so idyllic. There was the turkey still frozen inside, and others fit for offering at Solomon’s temple. We’ve grimaced through crunchy sweet potatoes, and gravy with more lumps than tapioca.

I’ve learned to handle traditions with kid gloves. One year I tried offering fresh green beans with prosciutto, caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms… only to find that my husband’s family had to have green bean casserole. Another year, the crispy green salad I made (with lots of seasonal goodies mixed in) sat and wilted while my sister-in-law’s jello disappeared. My delicious homemade whole wheat buns have been voted out in favor of Pillsbury’s crescent rolls.

We’ve had crotchety family members, loud arguments, and crying children—and years when everyone was somewhere else and I was on my own. And then there was the memorable time an unattended candle threatened to incinerate my sister-in-law’s living room. Yes, I guess we’re pretty much like any other family on the holidays.

With all the practice I’ve had, I can more-or-less nail Thanksgiving dinner. I can even deal with our family’s various allergies, blood sugar challenges, and other special diets. But still, every year, it feels as though something is missing—and it’s not the green bean casserole.

In the midst of all the chaos most of us experience on this day, how do we find the time, much less the mental focus, to thank God on this day called Thanksgiving?

We’ve tried forcing a formalized “say what you’re thankful for” roundtable, but it always seems awkward at best. More typically, people are too busy eating, dealing with kids, and asking for seconds (and thirds), to be able to hold a meaningful discussion about God’s goodness.

Then there’s the complication that comes from differing religious views. Everyone on my husband’s side of the family attends church. My elderly dad—my one remaining close relative—is at best an agnostic. How do we express our faith while honoring his lack of belief—and at the same time encourage him to consider God?

To be honest, we haven’t figured this out. The best I can do is get up extra early and spend some time on my own, reflecting on who God is and what He has done for me. I’d like to do more. I want something corporate, something that reflects our unity as the body of Christ. I want something meaningful, significant, worshipful. I want God to say, “You’re welcome.”

Yes, we enjoy the turkey dinner (you really ought to try my cornbread stuffing). And we enjoy one another’s company (for the most part). But maybe we need two separate holidays. Maybe we need one day for Thanksgiving and another day for eating a huge turkey dinner, watching a balloon parade, and cheering for our favorite football teams.

What do you think? How do you include being thankful in your Thanksgiving celebration?

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