Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Transformative “Thank You”

Wow, Thanksgiving is already upon us. School is out for all of next week, academic pressure is off for a little while, and many will travel for family gatherings.

For years and years, my sister and I have prepared a very formal Thanksgiving meal at her gracious home in Plano for the extended family. The best linens, china, silver and crystal emerged from their normal storage spots to endure the yearly washing and preparation time. This year, after a rather tumultuous summer and fall for both of us, and the growing realization that what people really wanted to do was snack in front of the TV and watch football, we changed our plans. Everything will be disposable—when the meal is over, we’ll pick up the four corners of the plastic tablecloths and tie them up and place all in the trash can.

Clearly, this will be much easier on the cleaning crew (read: me), but I also know we are putting behind a cherished tradition and will miss the beauty of the exquisite table settings and the quiet and extended conversations that often took place around them. However, in the last 13 months, four of the five elderly people who sat around that table have died. Both of my husband’s parents, my father and my sister’s mother-in-law have all gone on to new life in the glorious and unveiled presence of God. My mother is the only one left, and frankly, she always thought my sister and I were a bit crazy to put on such a show anyway.

So I suspect that tradition has now passed. And other things are different. Traditionally, my three sons have all managed to get back to the Metroplex for this holiday. But my oldest son’s wife has just given birth by C-section this week to their second son and the trip will be too much for them. Middle son, wife and five month-old daughter should make it, but they rightly need to split time with her family. Youngest son needs to explore the seriousness of a relationship he has formed with a lovely young woman and so will celebrate Thanksgiving with her family in Florida this year.

Changes, changes, changes. They happen to all of us. And I hope that each of us will take time this week to ponder them and say “Thank You” to God for each of them, no matter how welcome or unwelcome those changes may be. A “Thank You” like that is a transformative experience. It slows us down for a moment, encourages just a bit of reflection, and reminds us that, while we may not be able to direct our lives just the way we’d like, we can still receive life’s experiences with grateful hearts and find the goodness and hope in them.

So my prayer for all who read this post: “May the love of God the Father, the grace of God the Son, and the communion of God the Holy Spirit surround each of you in your time of thanksgiving, family, food and fun. Go in peace, dear friends, and find all joy in this holiday. Amen and Amen.”

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