Thanksgiving (and Christmas)

Bill and Margie were looking at a quiet sort of Thanksgiving in Alaska.

Their beloved trio of grandsons have moved from the far north to the American southwest with their parents. The boys had an especially close relationship with their grandparents (and vice versa), but a job opportunity called both parents back to the Navajo nation. As well as missing the boys, Margie was still grieving the loss of her sister earlier in the fall. On top of everything, they had just returned home to Alaska from the funeral of her brother the previous week.

They were tired from their travels. They were grieving again. After spending a week with their grandsons as they said good bye to Margie’s brother, I imagine that they were missing those boys even more keenly than they had before the trip.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Bill heard a great clattering on the deck. Since moose visit their backyard on a regular basis, this clatter was a little bit alarming so close to the house. He walked swiftly into his livingroom and in the midst of the swirling snow, he was greeted by the broad smiles of his three grandsons who were shouting “Happy Thanksgiving!” and “Surprise, Grandpa!” and “Let us in!”

He was dumbfounded. He had just left those little faces in Arizona, yet here they were. “Margie!” he shouted, “Come quick. Our grandsons are here!” But Margie was simultaneously answering the knock at the front door where she was being swept up into the arms of her son and daughter-in-law.

It turned out that the family had planned this surprise for a month. Three little boys kept that secret for the week that Margie and Bill were in Arizona, an unbelievable feat since little boys are not given to secret keeping. But amazingly no beans were spilled and Bill and Margie became the most astonished grandparents in Alaska almost as soon as they got back home.

Bill posted a picture of a stunned Margie in the middle of a group hug from three excited boys. Their parents stood in the background smiling broadly. As I looked at the picture from a whole continent away, I could feel the joy of it and it made me smile too.

Another story that made me smile at Thanksgiving was a bit closer to home. For a few months now our church has been encouraging two of our own as they began the adoption process. In the beginning there were recommendations to be written and prayers to be said and then the whole thing began to sort itself out in a divine sort of way. Out of all the stories that they heard, out of all the children and young teens that they met, one story and one boy caught their heart and did not let go.

In the following weeks, it became increasingly clear to them that this was the boy that God had chosen to be their son. Amazingly, at the same time, it was becoming clear to the boy that this was the couple that God had chosen to be his parents. For the first time, the week before Thanksgiving, James was able to come to visit the new place that he will be from and early in the morning of Thanksgiving a new father posted words to the effect of these: “The barn is cleaned, the animals fed. My wife and son are upstairs still asleep in their beds. God is so very, very good.”

As I read these simple words, I could feel the joy of them. I knew that Andrew was smiling as he wrote them, and they made me smile as I read them.

Tim and I got up early Thanksgiving morning and headed out to help other willing hearts prepare 240 hot meals to be delivered to shut ins around the county. Probably 20 people worked together cheerfully. Just about the time that the last pan was slid into the oven, we heard a loud click. We all froze as the lights went out and then we all said, “oh no!” in unison.

It turns out that a red squirrel chose to shuffle off this mortal coil by dancing into a transformer, simultaneously killing himself and the power to the church. The idea of moving all that stuff to another church with a commercial kitchen seemed like an overwhelming task, but what else could we do? There were people expecting dinners. One person made a few calls while the rest of us tried to plan the move.

I looked out the window and said, “There’s a Penelec truck in the parking lot,” and someone shot out the door to meet them. In amazingly short order, the problem was resolved. We showed our gratitude in pie and then went back to work. Somehow, although we were about an hour behind, we still managed to get everything out the door only minutes behind the original time line.

Thanksgiving was the kickoff to another holiday season. Someone commented that it is a difficult time for them, personally, and asked for suggestions on how to get into the holiday spirit.

I’ve been thinking about it. Based on the commercials, you might begin to believe that the holiday spirit is something that can be bought and paid for at some store, that it’s about finding the perfect gift. That’s part of it, I guess, but there’s a lot more to it.

No matter what you call the holiday that you celebrate at this time of the year, they all seem to have something in common. They are a celebration of traditions and love and reaching out to others. It is a time of celebrating what was and in rejoicing in what comes next.

Let’s get into the holiday spirit giving the gift of ourselves and our time. Let us share what we have with those have less. Let us be kind. Where ever we are, whatever we celebrate, let us celebrate it with our whole hearts. Let us become part of the story that makes someone else smile.

Merry Christmas, everyone!