A Family Gathering
When the extended family gathers for holidays or weddings or other special events, there is great expectation and not a little anxiety about how we’ll all get along. For a couple of years, we have had the privilege of hosting family for the Thanksgiving Day Meal. Last year, we were comforted by each other’s presence as my wife and brother-in-law had lost their father and mother in the period of five months. We circled, held hands and gave thanks prior to the meal and felt God’s gentle presence. Most shed a tear or two as we thanked God for the love of parents, in-laws, grandparents and friends.
Prior to this year’s gathering, I sent an email suggesting a pot-luck-ish menu and provided a preview of what I’d like for us to do with our time after the meal. As a way to expand the simple “what am I thankful for this year”, I suggested we share something we are thankful for from each decade of our lives. There were a couple of jokes in the replies about those of us who would be telling stories that would bore the more youthful, but I didn’t know what to expect.
There were 20 of us who ate together on November 22nd ranging in age from 22-80. As we progressed through the meal and moved to dessert, I reminded folks of the multi-decade thanksgiving exercise and that we should probably start. My sister-in-law and brother set the early tone. They had worked on their lists and began to share deep heartfelt stories of growing up, friendships, love, children, challenges and victories. They confessed before all of us their love for each other and for us. Next, my Mother chimed in with some of the stories of her life. Wow, this is on! Folks were sharing their life stories with laughter and tears and “you may not have heard this before…” and so on.
After only a few had shared, it was obvious that this was a special and powerful time. Not to be forgotten. The friendship, love and support or our family was affirmed repeatedly.
There was in just about every story times of challenge and difficulty that in retrospect were times that we were now thankful for and could see God’s hand in. From the oldest to the youngest, everyone had a powerful story to share. My youngest son, 22, shared about his life now in another city and the happiness of being able to ride the public transit bus to his job he enjoyed each day and to go shopping, to a movie or to a concert with friends. Things that weren’t even dreams five years ago.
In Proverbs 17 we read that a cheerful or merry heart is good medicine. I can testify that our time of giving thanks through the stories of our lives was very good medicine as our hearts were cheered. As you gather with family and friends during the holidays and listen to the story of Jesus’ incarnation, listen too for echoes in the stories of your family. And give thanks; it’ll do your heart good.