When I was asked as an adoptive mother and foster-care advocate to reflect this season on what it means to be thankful, I had to look up the meaning of thankful. According to Websters Dictionary, it states, conscious of benefit received, expressive of thanks, well pleased: GLAD.
I have had to be intentional about what I am thankful for during this past year. The many experiences missed because of the quarantine. We have all experienced, in one way or another something, that was on the calendar, cancelled. Whether they were vacations, mission trips, sporting events, school, etc. The following verse took on new, applicable meaning for me:
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”1 Thessalonians 5:8
Even in pandemics and widespread lockdowns, I can still find a reason to give thanks.
As a mom, I feel the weight of ensuring that my family’s needs are being met. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually, whether they live at home or not. Seven of our nine children are adults and live on their own, but they still have needs. We utilized FaceTime, Facebook groups, and the infamous Zoom to schedule a time to be together. We celebrate Birthdays, Holidays, and to check in on the day to day. For those who live close to us, we enjoyed delivering groceries or a meal to their homes.
Leading up to Thanksgiving, I have been reflecting on my feelings regarding past celebrations. Also, memories that my children have shared with me, can apply to this year. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Through the years, I wanted each child, each family member to know how much they were loved. How grateful I was that God brought us all together. I would get up early in the morning to begin preparations with a goal. That we would all joyfully sit around two or three decorated tables (there were usually 14 – 20 including extending family) with a nameplate at each seat at one p.m.
No matter my preparations, I was always surprised that it wasn’t always possible for me to meet everyone’s expectations of the day. Someone would be upset about who they were sitting by. Or that they were at the kids’ table “again”. Another would rather be at a friend’s house. While, yet another didn’t want to get out of bed. Or come to the table. No matter our age, we all have expectations, and most of them are not verbalized. I remember feeling disappointed that I couldn’t make each one receive what I wanted them to that day.
I asked my kids to share with me their favorite memories of Thanksgiving. This list is what they remembered:
- Longing to sit at the grown-up table, only to find out that when they were old enough, it wasn’t as fun as they thought it would be. The “kids table” was indeed the favorite memory.
- Being fancy with wine glasses and sparkling grape juice.
- Turkey Trot 5K – Dad would take the kids who wanted to participate and walked with those who were walking. Always a cold run or walk!
- Always a space for anyone who needed a place to be on Thanksgiving.
- Learning to love Stuffing – one year at a time!
- Making turkey character cookies made from Keebler fudge striped cookies, chocolate frosting, Reese’s peanut butter cup, candy corn with a strip of red licorice to put at each person’s plate.
- All the family together!!
They do not remember the things that I thought were disappointments to them. They remember that they were safe, loved, had plenty to eat. That they had a family for this holiday and every holiday to come. As I read their responses to my question, I hear words that echo the definition of thankful above: conscious of benefit received, expressive of thanks, well pleased, and GLAD!!! Yes, glad!! My heart swells with thanksgiving to God for how He has grown our family through adoption. While it felt imperfect, the gift of time, faithfulness to be present, and love has knit our hearts together to be a family.
The One Who Does Not Change
So, in a year where everyone’s expectations have been pushed aside. And uncertainty lurks around every corner. I will be pointing my loved ones and myself toward the One who doesn’t change.
For I am exceedingly glad ant thankful that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)