Blessings and Memories

As we prepare our homes for the upcoming holiday season, I’m grateful to have one special day set aside to give thanks to God for His many blessings. Gratitude is a daily practice for me, but there is so much in life that I take for granted.

Once Upon a Time

Holidays weren’t always as complicated as they are today. Before the arrival of the internet, cell phones and video games, Thanksgiving was about bringing family together. It was all about the food, the chatter around the table, and friendly football rivalries.

Thanksgiving brings back so many fond childhood memories for me. Sometimes we traveled to my grandparents’ house. Other years we drove to visit my aunts and uncles. My mom was always busy in the kitchen with her sisters, while my brother and I played with cousins we rarely saw. But my dad was always the odd man out. Being an only child, he never seemed comfortable around so many relatives. Making matters worse, he hated football, and that was the only thing on TV after the turkey dinner.

When it was our turn to host Thanksgiving dinner, our living room became a makeshift dining room. Card tables were joined together from one end of the room to the other, laden with fancy glass platters and bowls of delicious foods. There was a lot of laughter, and many stories shared from the “olden days”. It was also a day to catch up on family news while the coffee percolated in the kitchen. Sometimes my dad pulled out his slide projector and we re-visited vacations and holidays from years gone by. (That was social media, 1970’s style.) And he was happy because there was no football. The tables were blocking the view of our black and white TV.

Fast Forward

This year I am looking forward to another Thanksgiving with both children at home with us. Still, it will be a bittersweet day because there will be an empty chair at the table. My mom is no longer able to leave the nursing home to spend holidays with us. Her memory has declined further this past year, and any change in routine can be very stressful. She remembers some faces, but few names. Mom’s absence will be painful, especially for my brother. He has been her caregiver for many years. But in her honor, we will continue one of her favorite Virginia traditions. We will decorate our Christmas tree after dinner.

Life is always changing. I’m sure there will be years with more empty seats around our table. But there will also be years when tables are once again placed end-to-end to accommodate growing families and new friends. There will be laughter and reminiscing about my “olden days” and the ancient technology of the 1990’s, pre-Instagram. And sorry, Dad, but there will always be football.

While we cannot slow the march of time, we can control the pace of our holidays together.

  • Create new family traditions, but hang tight to the old.
  • Play a game together that doesn’t require batteries or a controller.
  • Dust off old photos albums and replay childhood videos.
  • Have that second cup of coffee and another slice of pie.
  • Enjoy the laughter and conversation. (The dishes will wait.)

This Thanksgiving, as I linger over every last bite of turkey, mashed potato and apple pie, I plan to be fully present with my family.

I wish you and your loved ones a Thanksgiving full of grace and abundance.

Prayers from a Stranger

Last week was busy . . . and stressful. My list of projects at home and at work had become a bit overwhelming. By Friday morning, I was was completely worn out and ready for the weekend.

I really didn’t have time for visitors in the office, but our sanctuary is always open during the day, especially for those wanting to pray. A pastor acquaintance brought some friends by to see our church, and to pray with them before they left town. Happy for even a brief chance to stand and stretch, I greeted our guests, and walked them to the sanctuary doors. The friends were siblings, a brother and sister from India, committed since childhood to lead others to salvation.

I was delighted to meet Brother Joe and Sister Jessie. I learned that their travels later in the day would take them to Dallas, Texas for a prayer gathering. Our church was their last stop on the way to the airport.

As much as I wanted to sit and hear more about their ministry, I needed to get back to work. They prayed together in the sanctuary for about 30 minutes, and then stopped by my office again to thank me before leaving. The exit doors clicked shut behind them, but a moment later I heard the door open again. Sister Jessie shyly came into my office and smiled at me. “May I pray for you?” she asked.

Heaven Sent

I have no idea what may have prompted Jessie to return and pray for me, but I know who did. This godly woman, who I had met only moments earlier, was prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray for me.

Sister Jessie stood by my side and gently laid her hand on my shoulder, praying words of love, strength and encouragement over me. It was like a soft, soothing rain shower falling on the parched desert floor. Tears of gratitude welled up in my eyes as her prayer concluded.

What do you say to someone who prays into your heart? I could only thank Jessie, and hope that she knew how her prayer had touched me. She asked me if I had ever been to India, and invited me to visit. We exchanged hugs and contact information, and then she was gone.

Connected by Faith

The rest of my day went smoothly. By 5:00 p.m. I had completed every project that had been weighing me down all week.

Kind words and a simple prayer — offered by a stranger — helped to lift the burdens that were weighing me down. Those healing words from Sister Jessie’s heart were a powerful reminder of the connection I share with all my sisters and brothers in Christ worldwide. We may be separated by the physical boundaries of distance, but our hearts are joined by our faith in Jesus.