With the Thanksgiving feast only hours away, I’m reminded of the celebrations we’ve experienced over the years. For the first few years of our marriage with small children, we joined nearby family for the traditional meal. Then we began living away from family. What now? Would “Thanksgiving” end because we were no longer surrounded by parents, siblings, nephews and nieces? Not so! Our first year in Canada we were delighted to discover our new friends celebrated the holiday on the first Sunday of October and our church even had a church family meal together. Six weeks later we were invited down to Washington state to celebrate with Ehle/Toles family members we’d never met. Our children thought it was great: twoThanksgivings that year! It was also in Canada that we began enlarging our traditional Thanksgiving dinner table to include others who lived far from their own family circles, especially our unmarried friends. Soon Thanksgiving without “strangers” seemed odd.
A few years later we moved to Germany and the international friends we were making all worked on the “real” Thanksgiving Day, thus unable to celebrate on the designated fourth Thursday of November. Soon, the hectic pace of ministry becoming familiar, we discovered that by the end of November we were tired and needed a break. With the beautiful North Sea coast in Holland only three hours away, we found a small hotel—more like a bed and breakfast—where we could relax, then tour nearby villages and bundle up to walk on the windy coast. Great preparation for the busy Advent and Christmas celebrations ahead.
But what about our children? How could they possibly properly celebrate Thanksgiving without us?? We now laugh about the time we (mostly I) worried about our daughter in far off Southern California. When we called to discover how she’d fared, she described in glowing terms how she and her brother and his almost-fiancé had walked in the nearby mountains and had a “glorious” day! Years later while living in New York City, she wrote (pre-email!) that she decided she needed a day alone so slept in, had tea and toast before walking in Central Park. Mm-m-m-m, it seemed that family, turkey, sweet potatoes and homemade cranberry sauce weren’t actual necessities.
This year we volunteered to invite single or married military men and women to our home but discovered that they’d all found a nest for Thursday. (Colorado Springs is a welcoming city.) So—after the Macy’s parade and before the Detroit Lions football game, while a small turkey roasts—we will walk in a nearby park, then return to a table set with lace cloth, white napkins, candles and laden with all the traditional food. And be grateful. Not just for Thanksgivings past but for this one where we enjoy good health, beautiful blue skies—with maybe a hint of snow—and the abundance of God’s provision and presence.