Yesterday, my cousin Amy sent a text to the Howard cousins. A student had reminded her of the wonderful memories that we made growing up. Amy’s students really missed out, because she would certainly have told funny stories the whole class period; if they hadn’t had a test to take. Later she saw an add for the kind of cookies Aunt Veva always made. She knew that it was time to reach out with thanksgiving and stir the rest of our memories.
One such memory seems like just a few years ago, instead it was more than 15 years ago. We gathered at Aunt Mary Lee’s house. Grannie Bea had her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all around. Three of the great-granddaughters were about the same age, and all were wearing jumpers. Between their outfits and jumping in the leaves, they nicknamed themselves “The Jumper Girls”. We made ornaments for each family – glass balls with snowmen made with our fingerprints. There was lots of laughter and teasing. Family jostled to find a spot to eat. Most of Daddy’s generation ate inside; my generation gathered on the porch and tried to manage our young children and enjoy our meal at the same time. With our growing families, in-laws, and busy schedules; those gatherings started to fade away.
This year my family makes one of those big transitions. Sarah and Matt will head to the low country and Daryl and I will meet Ben at Mom’s house. I’m not quite sure what it will be like this year. There is an air of uncertainty, but I still find myself deeply grateful.
Paul understood our need to be thankful for our blessings even in the midst of uncertainty and difficult times. He wrote his letter to the Philippians from prison. The letter indicates that leadership of the young church was trying to navigate conflict and build a foundation for the future. After mentioning two women, who he hoped would come “to one mind”, the letter shifts to advise on how to live during these times of uncertainty and struggle.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Paul knew that they could rejoice and be less anxious if they remembered to be grateful for what God had already done. Focusing on what is good and true would inspire them to move away from petty arguments and complaints.
It is easy for me to slip into the “negative Nelly” mode. Maybe that is why I enjoy Thanksgiving so much. When I remember all the many things for which I’m thankful, it is impossible not to rejoice.
This year, I give thanks once again for the support of this congregation through the ordination process, for all the help with Sarah’s wedding, for times when I see your compassion knock down walls of differences of opinion, and for the opportunity to be in ministry with you. Mostly, I’m grateful for the wonderful people in my life – my family, this congregation, old and new friends and for the grace of God.