As a child, I remember our family spending Thanksgiving in many locations. Whether it was in North Carolina or Washington state, Ohio or Arizona, the location varied as much as the people with whom we spent the day. Sometimes we celebrated with families we barely knew, and sometimes we celebrated with just us (along with any extra travelers we had with us).
I have always had a special spot in my heart for Thanksgiving. This holiday does not contain all of the rush and stress of the Christmas holiday, where we run around like maniacs, searching for that perfect gift or buying that last-minute stocking stuffer. You still get all of the same delicious food, but you have more time to reminisce and enjoy the season.
For some reason this year, my memory keeps slipping back to a specific Thanksgiving we had one year in North Carolina. The church where our bus was parked next to provided a “Thanksgiving Basket” for us. Most of the items were frozen foods. Because we had no oven on the bus, we had to use the church’s kitchen in the fellowship hall. If my memory serves me correctly, the kitchen did not have an oven, either, but they did have a microwave. We heated our food, one item at a time . . . a process that seemed to take forever. I remember that the building was not very warm. But we were together and we made memories.
Then came the day we built a log home in West Virginia. Now we finally had a permanent location to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and the occasional summer family reunion. The cabin fairly bustled with activity: a blazing fireplace and pungent cedar log walls and towering beams and half-circle window and wrap-around porch and sparkling lights and dashing children and sisters chatting and brothers joking and Dad’s deep-fried turkey and chocolate pies and . . . always, always the rousing music. And then the cousins and aunts and uncles came and we laughed and sang and made up crazy songs about the first Thanksgiving and corn and Squanto. Those memories fill my mind and heart now–the long-ago microwave Thanksgiving dinner receding into the distant past.
This year, I will be far from that cabin and the noise and the family ties. A sharp ache throbs inside and the sweep of loneliness envelopes me as I think of being so far from home. But deep in my heart the memories will remain, cherished and protected. And as I stop and ponder, I realize I have a host of family members around me still.
My church family has become my family now in so many ways. Parents and sisters and brothers and grandparents and too many nieces and nephews to count. And I will be happy to spend the next few days with a dear friend and her family and extended family, sharing food and fellowship and friendship.
The last few days, Colossians 3:15 has quietly challenged me:
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
Be thankful–no matter where I am or what I am doing. Be thankful in the hectic moments. Be thankful in the quiet moments. Be thankful in the good circumstances and the bad circumstances. The command is clearly stated. Not “Maybe you should be thankful,” or “I would suggest that you be thankful.” Be. ye. thankful.
And when I do stop to give thanks, joy fills me. After all, who says I cannot have a little Thanksgiving all on my own, deep in my own heart?