The night was cold and my heart was heavy. We had just left the basketball game at the Christian academy where our son, Buddy, had scored more points and made more rebounds than anyone else on the team. I shouldn’t have been feeling so dejected.
We’d all been invited to the home of another player for an after-game celebration. It was the weekend before Thanksgiving and we were at the lowest financial ebb of our married life. With four children at home we were behind in the rent and I couldn’t even buy socks Buddy needed for his next game.
The hostess, who had become a good friend that year, welcomed us at the door. Behind her, I could see a fire blazing and a tray of hot cider ready in mugs on the coffee table. Tears sprang quickly and I did my best to hide them. It had been years since I sat before a fire and the setting touched a deep place of need in me that night.
Some time later I found myself alone before the blazing logs and I thanked God for bringing me to such a welcome place on an evening when I felt so alone and hopeless. I sensed the Lord say, “Cathee, I prepared this for you tonight because I know you needed comfort. Some day you’ll be able to do this for others. Things will not always be as they are now. Do not lose hope and remember to give back when your time comes.”
That was thirty-two years ago and the memory is as fresh as yesterday. I never forgot that night or the promise the Lord made and kept. Over those years I have entertained many at my own fireplace or around the dinner table or on the deck strung with tiny lights. I love throwing great dinner parties – not as some believe because I love to cook – but because I’m praying that the gathering will touch lives, change hearts, communicate love.
What you serve Thursday is not half as important as the purpose of coming together with those you love and sharing an occasion of giving thanks together.
Maybe this year, instead of everyone around the table saying what they’re thankful for, you might try something different. Ask each person to say something they appreciate or admire about the person to their right. If it’s not someone they know, they can speak a blessing or state a wish for that person.
Even though the guests are probably family members, no one really knows what is going on in anyone else’s heart at the moment. Pray ahead of time that God will direct this life-giving practice and use it to bless your guests and allow them to see how they impact each other. Who knows what walls may crumble and healing of relationships begin?
The secret to creating a life-giving Thanksgiving is to be purposeful but not controlling. It’s about finding ways to affirm and appreciate those we love in an authentic way that makes the turkey, candied yams, and pecan pie taste oh so much better.