The Priority of Gratitude

On November 13th, our daughter was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The moment she received that phone call, our three busy lives came to a screeching halt. Since she lives at home with us, my husband and I went into immediate quarantine, while she began 10 days of isolation in her bedroom.

We are grateful that our daughter’s illness was relatively mild and did not require medical intervention or hospitalization. I am praising God that my husband and I tested negative, and remained symptom-free throughout our quarantine which ended on Thanksgiving Day. We are slowly getting back to some semblance of “normal”.

Giving Thanks

Our family is not unique. At any given time I’m sure you know a family that is quarantined. And if you have not lost a loved one to the pandemic, you probably know someone who has. The isolation and separation are painful as well. My mom is in a nursing home 30 minutes away, yet I have been unable to see her since last February.

When this pandemic hits so close to home,  you learn to appreciate the people we often take for granted.

Thanksgiving was a time to reflect on what matters most:

  • Friends, Neighbors and Relatives
    During our time in quarantine, we were called, emailed and texted daily by so many people who were concerned about us. They offered to shop or run errands, and one neighbor delivered a plate of warm cookies to our doorstep.
  • Church Family
    In the early days after our daughter’s diagnosis, we weren’t sure what to expect. We were worried, not just about her, but about our own health. During those 14 days away from our faith community, we were covered by prayers, and we felt every one of them. We knew we were never alone.

Then there are the “extras” in life that we seldom think about as we use them day-to-day:

  • Internet Connection
    Many of us adapted to the challenges of working from home last winter and early spring. I am grateful that I was able to connect to my church and still fulfil my duties as Office Manager remotely. Thanks to a reliable internet connection, I sent emails, updated our website and social media, and uploaded videos for Sunday worship.
  • Online Shopping
    For two weeks, I had to forgo my Sunday afternoon ritual of shopping at Wegman’s. (Yes, I actually enjoy grocery shopping.) It’s not quite the same, but I was able to load my virtual shopping cart using their app on my phone. Two days later I arrived at the curbside pickup, popped my trunk and received my order without leaving my car.  Technology is truly amazing!
Blessings in Abundance

My family is blessed beyond measure, and giving gratitude has become a top priority.

Our daughter is mostly recovered. Her symptoms were relatively mild and her company paid for the time she needed to isolate. She still tires easily and has occasional headaches, but she was able to taste all her favorite dishes at the Thanksgiving table. (Losing her sense of taste and smell was the first indication of her illness.)

Tomorrow I will return to my office in person. It’s a special time for our church as we enter Advent season, and we also anticipate the arrival of our new pastor. And as today is the first Sunday of Advent, we lit the Candle of Hope during worship. We take shelter in the hope of the Christmas season, and we anticipate the birth of our Savior who brings light to a broken world.

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.