1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sweet baby Jesus, but Thanksgiving is it for me. There are no gifts to buy or open, no fancy dresses with matching shoes and little girls pulling up their tights with each step into the sanctuary. No elf with elaborate set designs. Just time with family and invited extras. There are always extras. Thanksgiving is never about the place settings or the trendiest recipe. It’s not even about my corn casserole or my momma’s stuffing and they are so stinking good it could be. It’s always been about the people around it.
One Thanksgiving my mom made us, or should I say, gave us the opportunity, to go around the table and say what we were thankful for and a family tradition was born. Some years, it was shared around the table after our meal, often through tears. Some years it’s been penned directly on the tablecloths. “I am thankful for light sabers and basketballs,” from one of the cousins. “I am thankful Dad beat cancer,” after a year filled with fight. “I am thankful for my trip to Africa,” spoken after the fruit of a lifelong calling to go. “I am thankful this year, I’m a mother,” from a sister after a decade of infertility. “I am thankful I have a family,” when the loss of one is still fresh in your veins. There have been countless celebrations announced and victories won spoken around that table of thanks. Some years it’s been written on leaves of construction paper and hung on small branches from the yard serving as a centerpiece. This year, in true Pinterest fashion, we will write them on a pumpkin.
There has been really difficult, grasping for air as you come to the surface kind of years. There have been year’s of fighting cancer and grieving lost pregnancies and dumb choices. There have been times when the struggling marriage sat around that table, the father in law losing his words to dementia, the friend fighting addiction, the new member at church that feels isolated. Seated at the table has been a wife beaten by her husband and an exchange student thousands of miles away from home. The mother that gave my youngest children life sat there with us the last time she chose to see her children…needing to witness the love firsthand before she gave herself permission to let go. Each year we are one family. A broken bunch of crazies striving to love one another well. Each year there is something to be thankful for, appreciative of; even in the pain. There is redemption around the table. Each year there is a harvest. Around that table sits forgiveness, reconciliation, perseverance and strength. Patience and faithfulness are seated there. Love sits there. Big, messy, we are in this together kind of love.
There has never been a year I’ve not had something to be thankful for. There has never been a year that anyone else has had to exclaim, ‘nothing to say, no blessings this year.’ Each year. Each year there are blessings. Each day. In abundance. There is always appreciation and gratitude and the time to reflect on those moments, those gifts, brings joy to the faces seated around me. Where there is appreciation and thanks, there is praise.
At that same table, throughout our lives, we were taught thankfulness. It’s how this day looks so beautiful now. Messy beautiful. Thankfulness was an intentional way of living, an intentional attempt at grace and joy and praise. In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp talks about the eucharisteo. “And he took bread, he gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them … ” (Luke 22:19 NIV). In the original wording, ‘’he gave thanks’’ was translated from the word eucharisteo, meaning grace and joy…the gift of grace and joy at the table of thanksgiving.
There has been some tough stuff in my family this year. Sitting at the table might even be hard. Maybe you’re in the same situation. Our circumstances may change but thankfully, our God does not. He is the same. We will give thanks because of who HE is, not how we feel. We give thanks, because even if not, HE is still good. He is ever present. He is always with us. He is the gift of grace and joy. He gave us that example when He carried the cross through town and in the midst of unconscionable pain, praised God anyway. That is thankfulness. And after that thanksgiving, the miracle came 3 days later. It is our gift back to Him to remember. Out of our love for Him, we remember. Because of His love for us, we give thanks.
Voskamp writes, “The Eucharist is the central symbol of Christianity. One of Christ’s very last directives He offers to His disciples is to take the bread, the wine, and to remember. Do this in remembrance of Me. Remember and give thanks. This is the crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks, eucharisteo. Eucahristeo always precedes the miracle.”
And for that, I am thankful.
May your Thanksgiving table offer grace, joy and praise.