A few years ago at Thanksgiving, we hosted the family meal at our home. All our guests chipped in by bringing tantalizing dishes of food. We had the usual turkey, southern cornbread stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes. In addition, we had all those other good things that most adults enjoy, fresh cranberry relish, a garden salad full of crisp veggies, candied yams, the traditional green bean casserole, and other favorites such as deviled eggs, sweet yellow corn, and yeast rolls. All of that and we haven’t even strolled by the dessert table laden with pies in flavors of pecan, lemon meringue, pumpkin, cherry, and chocolate.
About thirty minutes after the meal, when we adults cleaned the kitchen, sipping on our final cup of coffee to top off our very full stomachs, my grandson, 6-year-old Adam, came into the kitchen. His appetite more matched to McDonald’s menu than Grandma’s Thanksgiving feast, he opened the refrigerator door, and took his time looking over the bounty of leftovers.
He stood there long enough for the cold air to seep across the pine floor to where I stood. He looked but saw nothing to satisfy his appetite. He finally shut the door, and said in a voice full of resignation, “Grandma, do you have anything to eat in here?” Adam had bypassed a feast that day and thought that my home held nothing tasty within it.
I’ve told you that story before, but I wanted to mention it again because many who have suffered this year may relate to Adam’s statement. A death in your family, job loss, a devastating personal relationship – if you’ve suffered greatly, you may feel that life doesn’t hold as many good things. Perhaps you, like Adam, hold the door open and long for something better, but you most often see only leftovers.
A Bible proverb states: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (13:12), or I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrasing of that proverb: “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.”
Some refer to life as having mountain moments and valleys, but life is really more like a railroad track. Right alongside, parallel of sad things are such good things as your next breath, friendships, a pasteled sunset, a family dinner, or the giggle of a child. We’ve all experienced twofold moments of sunshine and rain.
During this joyous time of year when many in the world remember the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ, you may lack the joy to join the celebration. If so, I encourage you to do two things: Start a list of your thanksgivings and take yourself to a Remembrance or Blue Christmas Service. Author Ann Voskamp wrote a book “A Thousand Gifts,” but long before the book was published, Ann learned to write a list of daily Thanksgivings, she started doing that because a friend suggested the exercise because of an early trauma Ann had experienced. As Ann wrote down her thanksgivings, her life became less fearful and more joy-filled.
A mother of six, a pig farmer’s wife, she learned that written thanksgivings brought happiness and restored hope into her chaotic life. Ann says the discipline of writing down her gifts opened her eyes to things unseen before. She worked on her list “one-by-one, up to a thousand gifts. Not of gifts I want,” she said, “But of gifts I have.” Healing begins, when we practice thanksgiving. Start your list. Perhaps you, too, will be surprised by how quickly it can grow to hundreds of written blessings.
Second, Remembrance Services or Blue Christmas Services allow people to gather with others who are suffering. This past Tuesday, Sam Houston Memorial Funeral Home hosted their annual Remembrance Service and “Doc” Hiram Jones, Father Ed Kucera, Jr., and I spoke. Doc and Father Ed shared some very helpful ways for coping with loss during the holidays. Several area churches will host Blue Christmas Services, including Montgomery Methodist Church on December 18, Sunday at 7:00 p.m.
I pray that the God of all comfort gift what you need during this Christmas season.
Index card verse for week 49: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).