Thanksgiving Sets a Table

Thanksgiving precedes the miracle.
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I am thinking of pecans.

I remember my Thanksgivings as a little girl at Maamaw's. My family would pile into our ocean blue station wagon, yes with wood paneling, along with a thermos of Sanka, three Lucky Strikes and a cooler of pimento cheese sandwiches.

My Daddy drove to get there. Our mission was to make the six hour trip from Texas to northern Louisiana with no stops. I don't think we ever completed that mission, though our little kidneys tried with all their might through the piney woods of East Texas. Either one of us kids reached DEFCON 2 in bladder spasms, or my little brother needed to throw-up somewhere near the paper mill in Carthage.

But once we arrived at Maamaw Crump's wooden house in town, there was plenty of fresh air and colorful relatives like the fallen leaves; so many we crowded the rooms of the little bungalow and spilled out onto the wide porch and down the front steps with plates on our laps. As a little girl, I could never quite grasp how we were all connected. But the grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all seemed to know me and just where I fit in, so I rested in being known.

I remember buttoning up a green plaid wool coat to meet the frosty day. My Daddy and I picked pecans from Maamaw's side yard into a basket so she could make another pecan pie dark with molasses. Daddy taught me how to shell pecans on Maamaw's broad front porch steps, getting the unbroken meat out of the shell in beautiful halves. That may be why I love pecans to this day.

Recently I was cleaning out my kitchen files when I came across a talk I gave a few years ago. Ok, it was ten years ago. I spoke with a group of young mamas called "Hearts at Home". At that time I was on the giving end of the podium, but twenty years ago as a much younger mama, I sat at a round table with a heart like a thirsty land praying for rain. My four whippersnappers were 7, 5, 18 months and 3 months. I needed rain!

I found these collages. I had made them back when the whippersnappers were 18, 16, 12 and 10 years old. Turns out these pages are little time capsules from the year 2006. Not in a pop culture way, in an artisan way, in the way of their hearts. I had traced their hands and chosen seven words that captured what I saw in each of them; favorite things, a physical quality, a nickname or a way they saw the world. Then I added their age.

Sean

Kate

Kyle

Ryan

Sitting on my kitchen floor, reading them again, I am struck by how timeless they are a decade later. With God's help, I feel I captured something true. I remember at the time studying each child, their hearts, and praying to know each one individually. I was trying to dive into their deep waters, shining lights below the surface. I hope you know that kind of thinking time is never wasted!

What does this have to do with Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is about being known.

When I am cozying up my home for fall, hanging wreaths on the front doors, putting pumpkins on the porch and filling the mantel with gourds, my heart is already set on Thanksgiving and thanksgiving. Both that full-table feast and a heart of gratitude.

Being grateful is so much more than saying thanks, though that is a fine place to start. Gratefulness is worship, trust, kindness, loyalty, grace and knowing. If I hope to count my blessings, I must know what or who they are in fine detail.

These pages were my attempt to know the souls sleeping under our roof and gathered around our table every night and day. Sometimes we work harder to know and serve and forgive our friends and neighbors than those we live with everyday.

Knowing includes Love and love, authenticity and deep-in-my-bones familiarity. I want to know and be known by both Love and love; the Love of God and the love of his brokenhearted people. Because of Jesus, we get to do both. Because of Jesus, we can slip into the Father's arms and know Love. Because of Jesus, we can risk love.

Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Psalm 29:1-2

One thing I appreciate about Thanksgiving is that it's a GATHERING, GIVING, REMEMBERING holiday without any shiny, store bought, wrapped gifts. Thanksgiving is a time to give love, praise, welcome, grace, the best of your heart and strength all around the dining table and spilling out to the front porch steps.

Our giving heart should change us from the inside out. Eventually, our thanksgiving heart must spill out onto the front porch steps, but we start at home, with our own heart and family. You can express grace everyday of the year, but Thanksgiving gives us a day and time to do it up. Find a way to make your family feel known next weekend: make a collage, a bullet list of thanks, write one thing you love about each person on their place card, say it out loud, make their favorite foods, forgive an old wrong, say you're sorry or give a piece of God's word chosen just for them.

I am savoring autumn, but in this thanking season I am already cultivating my heart for the Christmas manger where God's grace became known.

I have come to see that if Thanksgiving is about being known, then it sets a fine table for Christmas.