The holidays are upon us and I find myself reminiscing of Thanksgivings past. When I was younger we would eat at my Grandmother’s house and there was always more food then we could fit on the table. Then there was a football game on the television for me to sleep through. And at some point in the afternoon I would find something fun to do outside right around the time for the dishes to be done. This was our tradition, or at least as I remember it. But when I turned 14, my Thanksgiving would change and never be the same.
That particular Thanksgiving I remember my parents telling my brother and I that we would not be having a traditional dinner, but we would instead be serving meals to the less fortunate. I was annoyed with the idea of not having the big glorious meal that we had grown accustomed to in the past. We awoke early to pick up the trays of food from a local restaurant. We went and set up a huge tent with tables and chairs and a really long serving table. We were in an area where crops were being grown and migrant workers lived with their families. They came by the hundreds and it seemed that I couldn’t scoop the green beans fast enough. I remember the looks on their faces, it was of pure gratitude and love. They were so thankful for someone to take the time from their traditional family day and serve others. I was only 14, but it touched my heart.
The next Thanksgiving we were in Guatemala and had all of the missionary families over to our house for dinner. I remember it being comical that we couldn’t find the traditional dishes there in the supermarkets. But it was a fun day of stories and laughter. Although we weren’t with our family, we were surrounded with friends and it was a nice way to spend the day.
The next several Thanksgivings would prove to be the hardest. I moved back to the States just before turning 17 and several months before Thanksgiving. My brother was in college a few hours away from where I was living at the time. Our parents were still overseas and our grandmother was no longer able to cook for us. So instead we would go pick up Grandma and take her to lunch somewhere. Morrisons, Piccadilly, and The Clock Restaurant became our destinations for our little family Thanksgiving. It was the best we could do and made us feel like we had enjoyed the traditional meal even if we didn’t have the big gathering that so many enjoyed.
One year some friends from school invited my brother and I over for Thanksgiving. I remember their mom served a gravy that looked unusual with boiled egg swimming in it. As a picky eater, I was very worried about the whole meal. But to my surprise the meal was wonderful, and the gravy was my all time favorite. The best part was listening to their family as they told us stories and laughing along with them as if we were a part of their family all along. These friends of ours didn’t realize what that meal meant to us at the time, but I will always remember the sacrifices they made to include us.
When I met my husband, he automatically began inviting me to his family gatherings since my family was still out of the country. The first Thanksgiving I attended with him was in a church fellowship hall. There were maybe 70 of his family members present. It was an all day affair. There was enough food to feed an army. There were games to play, football and basketball, a nursery for the babies to nap and more food to eat when the fullness began to wear off. It was fantastic. I remember my husband (boyfriend at the time) apologizing for his big family get together. Little did he know that it was exactly what I needed to fill the void that I had previously felt because of being away from my own family.
Now 22 Thanksgivings later, we continue to go to my husband’s family for Turkey Day. This year we have 3 additional children to take with us for a day of eating and playing games. And I begin to think about these 3 precious lives who have probably had their own share of unusual Thanksgivings. This year they will spend the day with their new forever family. The food may be different than what they are accustomed to eating. The games may be new and require some learning. But the group of people they will be with will share stories of their daddy’s past and make them feel like they were there and a part of things all along. Then when they spend time with my family over Christmas, they will experience the same crazy fun family activities.
This Thanksgiving let’s all think about the foster families who will be making memories with new children each year. Let’s remember the college kids who sometimes can’t go home. Let’s pray for the widows and widowers who no longer have their spouse to spend the day with. Let’s reach out and ask if anyone would want to join us. We so often get so caught up in our own traditions that we over look those hurting and lonely around us.
As a mom of 6, I make large meals on a daily basis. It is never a big deal to make a little more if we are having more people with us. So our table is always open for more. It is the very least I could do after having so many great people open their homes for me. But I have to admit that I get caught up in all the busy and forget to look around and see if there are those around me that need a home to come to for dinner or a holiday. I pray that God would help us all to be more aware of those around us who could use our help or even just some family time this season.
Deuteronomy 10:18- 19, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner among you, giving them food and clothing. AND YOU ARE TO LOVE THOSE WHO ARE FOREIGNERS, for you yourself were foreigners in Egypt.”
Enjoy this Thanksgiving Week, no matter where you may be!
*Party of 8*