Saturday before last, we celebrated an early Thanksgiving with our son, Steve, and his family. Usually I prepare most of the meal, but, because of my health problems, our daughter-in-law, Sophia, hosted the occasion. Every year we enjoy the traditional American feast on a date prior to November 15 when their family participates in the Greek Orthodox Nativity fast.
I contributed to the meal with my southern sweet potato soufflé and corn pudding to add to Sophia’s feast which included turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes.
After we took our seats around the table and blessed the meal, our plates were soon heaped with the sweet and savory foods. The grandchildren made sure we knew which dishes they helped prepare and which foods were low-carb in case anyone besides our son was interested. The stuffed mushrooms were a hit with everyone.
Once we were enjoying the delicious meal, Sophia, asked if we had a special song that related to Thanksgiving. I looked around at the colorful autumn decorations and my eyes landed on a plaque on the wall. “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart,” it boldly declared. The song, “Give Thanks,” written by John Jackson and sung by Don Moen came immediately to mind. I sang the words to them and thought about how wonderful to remember a worship song that had been popular many years before. Sophia Googled the song and let it play through while our forks returned to the tasty meal.
Over pumpkin pie and spiced tea, our sixteen year old grandson, Pavlos, reminded us that we hadn’t taken turns expressing what we were thankful for over the past year. Someone mentioned that it wasn’t really Thanksgiving. His response, “We get to give thanks twice!” The simple tradition passed down from my own parents has remained a Thanksgiving exercise whether we are celebrating early or late, or in Virginia or five hours away in New Jersey with our daughter and her family.
Long after the evening ended, my mind continued to consider the idea of a grateful heart. In Life Group we recently studied Soul Keeping by John Ortberg where he suggested that a healthy soul needs to be thankful to God and others–an attitude of gratitude. We even had exercises to encourage us to be thankful. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine . . ..”
This wasn’t an easy year for either my husband or myself and my heart at times was far from “merry.” The only medicine came from the pharmacist and the side effects failed to produce a merry heart.
Over the summer, Charlie went through several medical procedures requiring anesthesia, including two major surgeries. During the same period, I underwent two cardioversions and a heart ablation. Our lives took on the appearance of a “new normal” that left a bad taste in my mouth.
For days, the only people we saw were medical personnel. But just when we were beginning to feel detached from our friends, something–a card, an email, a Facebook post, a phone call or a visit–would remind us that we are loved, supported and missed. Now that we are both on the mend and feeling better every day, I realize how important it is to be thankful, even when we don’t feel like it.
Forrest Gump surmised, “. . ., life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” God didn’t promise that every situation would be perfect or that we would be healthy, wealthy and wise. But he said he would be “our Shepherd, our Rock, our Shelter, our Fortress, our Peace, our Healer, our Strength, our Deliver, our Provider. We could go on for several more paragraphs, but most importantly, he promised to be with us.
Despite the wind and the waves, the trials of life or the weakness of our bodies, he is always there. When we stopped looking down at the circumstances and looked up to him, our hearts overflowed with gratitude and we felt his comforting, healing presence.
This afternoon, we return to our son’s home to feast on a fast-worthy meal that will include fish and other seafood dishes–all made without dairy, meat or eggs. As our plates are filled, our hearts will overflow with the goodness of God. We will look into the eyes of our loved ones and express our gratefulness to them and to God for another year to share, to love and to worship.
Will you join us this Thanksgiving Day in giving thanks for God’s abundant blessings?