Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stories of Thanksgiving

When Joe was in his first year of law school at the University of Kentucky, we were unable to travel to visit our families for Thanksgiving. It was our first year on our own for the holiday, and a sweet family from church invited us to join them for the day. That Thanksgiving still stands out for us as one of our most special holidays, as we were welcomed with open arms and introduced to several lovely new traditions.

Although there were no little ones in their family at the time, each year our hostess read a children's book to everyone who had gathered for the meal. After our feast of traditional Thanksgiving dishes and regional fare, we enjoyed a devotional in the living room. Then we all shared what we were thankful for. That day was such a lovely expression of gratitude and celebration, and Joe and I knew we would want to carry those traditions with us for the years to come.

The next year, we bought our first house, a charming little Cape Cod style cottage. We lovingly painted, decorated and made it our own. We were so thrilled to host Thanksgiving in our home that in the weeks before the day, I practiced every recipe on the menu just to be sure everything would be perfect. And it was. Warmth filled our home as we prepared a simple yet tasty meal.

The mood was festive as family trickled in from all over the South. Praying for each guest during my preparations leading up to the day helped me feel a special closeness to each one and increased my anticipation for being together.

This was my first opportunity to serve as hostess for a family holiday, and I had butterflies in my stomach when we all gathered round to offer a welcome and bless the meal. Looking at the loved ones gathered in our living room -- Joe's parents and grandfather; my parents and brother, sister and brother-in-law, grandmother and aunt -- I was so thankful for each one.

Joe led our prayer, and before the meal I read a delightful childrens book I had discovered that year called Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' by Eileen Spinelli. In this charming story, a series of funny and unfortunate events ruin the Thanksgiving menu for the Tappletons. But the family soon discovers that the meal is secondary to thankfulness and love of family. Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' set the mood for our first holiday, and many years later it is still one of my favorite stories. The photo above shows the original cover of the book, but in looking online to see if it is still in print, I found that the book has been newly illustrated and the humans are now a family of wolves. You can find the book here and here.

After that first Thanksgiving meal we hosted, we gathered in our living room to read Scriptures about thankfulness. Then we went around the room to share what we are thankful for. Although the idea of speaking before the group initially met resistance from a few family members, in the end our share time was a blessing to us all.

So this year, as Joe and I prepare to host loved ones in our home for Thanksgiving, I'm reflecting on the special holidays we enjoyed early in our marriage. And I'm hoping to carry forward some of those traditions established long ago: prayerfulness during preparation, warmth of family and friends, a menu to delight the senses, and a spirit of thankfulness throughout. We will all take time to share what we are thankful for, and most definitely, we will spend some time in God's Word after enjoying Thanksgiving at the Tappletons'.

And what a happy story of Thanksgiving it will be.

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