Thanksgiving dinner in our family is a feast of wonderful tastes while we enjoy talking and laughing with each other. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry salad – with marshmallows, sugar, and cream is a delightful way to serve cranberries – potatoes, never enough gravy, and an assortment of pecan, apple and pumpkin pies. It’s delicious.
But it makes a mess.
The above photo is a nice picture of elements of a Thanksgiving meal. It’s lovely, but it only lasts for a few minutes. There are plenty of pictures of beautifully set tables with dishes untouched, like above, but that’s not reality. That picture perfect moment quickly transforms into the joy of eating, passing, spilling, laughing and eating some more. It is all delightful, but sooner or later, it’s clean up time. The photo below is more representative of reality. It’s a mess.
This Thanksgiving I’m thanking God for his work in the middle of the mess.
Last year, the whole family got Covid after celebrating Thanksgiving. We were the poster family for what not to do during a pandemic, but no one had a difficult case, we all survived, and there are no lingering effects. We are grateful. I’m tired of Covid, but I am thankful for miraculous vaccines and quality health care.
My family has had a roller coaster year. We gave a party in June for my dad’s 90th birthday and my parents 67th wedding anniversary which was amazingly well attended by cousins from all over the country. Fabulously fun! Shockingly, a few weeks later my mom was in hospice care. We gathered, prayed, had sleepless nights, sat by her bed, and noticed that Mom was slowly improving. She miraculously recovered enough to go to a rehab facility, and after several weeks in rehab, she went home. All was well for a bit, but a fall, broken leg, and surgery sent her back to rehab. Sigh. She’s home again. The list of what I’m thankful for during these months would take too long to itemize. God was very present during all of it and I’m beyond grateful for my mom’s recovery. I’m thankful for a genuinely loving family, for doctors, physical therapists and overlooked CNAs, for pastors and friends who often stopped by to visit Mom, and for my mom and dad. I could go on.
In other news, Evangelical churches have taken some hits over the last year, but I’m thankful that God is opening our eyes to things that had previously remained behind closed doors and that God is present among us. Many people are taking a hard and honest look at their beliefs, and I am grateful that if they are sincerely seeking truth, they will find it. God promises that, and he is still the head of his Church.
Racial issues remain prominent, and I’m thankful for the writing and research that is available. I’ve had an education, and I’m grateful for it. The following books were my teachers: The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby, Reading While Black by Esau McCaully, White Too Long by Robert P. Jones, Rediscipling the White Church by David W. Swanson, Let Justice Roll Down and One Blood by John Perkins, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Awareness is the first step toward improving racial relations, and the more people who read books like these, the better equipped we will be. Christians should be first in line.
Partisan politics is always frustrating – I don’t know why everyone doesn’t see things my way – but I’m thankful that even in times of great disagreement we are free to express our opinions. Social media has amplified extreme positions and spread misinformation, but I’m thankful that it has also been used to keep us connected over the last couple of years. That has been invaluable during a pandemic.
These messes, and others, have been on my mind over the last year, for there is never a shortage of messy disasters. I know that many of you have faced heartbreaking losses and serious challenges, and my heart goes out to everyone struggling to find meaning in a mess.
God is lovingly, graciously and mercifully working, even in the middle of a mess, and I am grateful.
What messes have you encountered this year? Have you been able to thank God for anything in the middle of them?