There is this pumpkin still sitting on our porch and a boy who thinks we can carve it up, pull out some superhero garb and have a re-do of that holiday with all the candy. He’s drawn the face on it already and, if I will go get the knife, he’s sure we can call tomorrow Halloween again.
Another boy sits next to him, still sneaking Halloween’s loot, but working hard on a list a mile long for that guy at the North Pole.
And, I stand in the middle, sweeping out leaves that have blown in from the windy cul-de-sac. “Guys, no, it is time to give thanks.”
The little one looks up from the pumpkin, “Oh yeah, next is that holiday where everyone comes over and we eat a rooster with the Indians and we have pie. I like that holiday, it’s a good one. Can I dress up as Batman?”
What? Roosters and Batman for Thanksgiving?
It seems he cannot put a name to this holiday sandwiched between the candy feasting and holiday list-making. This holiday that demands our gratitude, but then propels us forward into the season of gift giving.
What is it about Thanksgiving that causes us to look backward or forward, but never right at the place where we are standing?
“What are you thankful for this year?” I ask.
They play along, “This house, Gatorade, our friends, Daddy’s old car, teachers, God, Jesus, basketball . . .” Their lists cover a lot of ground, momentarily reassuring me that they get it.
“But how come we can’t make a new jack o’ lantern?”
The questions start; the lists are done.
“X-Box, Mom, that’s the only thing we want Santa to bring us this year. Can you have a talk with him about video games?”
Their voices trail off. They are done giving thanks; done with their lists of happy things. And it stops me in my tracks. Because my heart recognizes itself in this reflection.
I am an expert at the lists of things for which I am grateful: the good, the shiny, the sweet.
I say thank you and am humbled for the blessings that fill my days.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. (James 1:17)
Easy, gentle thank you’s rain down for these.
But. A friend calls to say her job is gone and another that her marriage is right broken. And I struggle hard in a dear relationship, hurt and angry.
What about this stuff of life? Into what column on the “thankful-for list” do we place these things? How do we spin them and pin them onto the brightly colored turkey feathers?
I take the halting hurt of my friend’s words and the promise that God will make it good. I attempt to straighten the uneven circumstances of our places and search for the point. But it falls flat, and is this really how we are called to be thankful?
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
In all circumstances — the lost job, the broken marriage, the hurting relationship? I struggle with how to give thanks in those places.
I need to twist and squeeze the hard out of life before I give thanks.
Because seriously, my ordinary Wednesday, the lost job, the whiny kids, the shattered relationship — look right at those and say thank you?
God whispers this reminder slowly: Jesus will be called Immanuel — which means God is with us.
Immanuel in the shiny and delightful, and Immanuel in the broken and upside down. God with us. We do not have to find the good. He is the good.
So can I say it, hushed and quiet in the hard? Thank you.
The boys run out into the blustery day, and that old pumpkin with his crooked smile and rotten spots is left on my Thanksgiving table amidst the finely crafted china and the silver. Entirely out of place, but there he stays.
Because life is just like that; glorious and muddled, lovely and rotten all falling together into the same moment.
And that’s where I want to stand this year. Real and honest, in the middle of the way things just are, with the roosters, the Batmans, and the pie — giving thanks for it all.