Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Candy Corn Reflections

[what's brewing: gratitude, does that sound corny?]

One of the family Thanksgiving traditions that I particularly cherish is the time that we take to reflect genuinely on all that we are thankful for. Each guest at the Thanksgiving table has a simple garnishing of three pieces of candy corn waiting on their yet-to-be-filled plate. With everyone in their seats, each guest shares three things that they are particularly thankful for, one per piece of candy corn. As a young child, my siblings, cousins and I usually had fairly similar ‘thankful’ lists: family, God and the opportunity to go to school or something along those lines.

One favorite memory is of my little brother sitting down at the table, dressed up as a Native American with a fully feathered headdress (made of construction paper). Studying Native Americans in school, he was particularly excited about Thanksgiving that year. He proudly shared with us that he was thankful for God, for his family, and “for Squanto who became friends with the Pilgrims so that we could have this yummy Thanksgiving dinner, except for mashed potatoes that make me throw up.”

I remember shifting a bit uncomfortably when aunts and uncles, parents or grandparents would shed a few tears as they talked, so moved by the gratitude they were expressing. I knew that I only cried when I was sad, and I was too young to have any alternative understanding of those tears. I knew I was growing up when I came home from college to celebrate Thanksgiving and found myself tearing up as I expressed my gratitude for my family after saying goodbye to several friends who preferred to stay alone in the dorms than willingly subject themselves to the chaos of their family life.

This year I find that I am impacted again by the experience of moving to another country and engaging in such challenging and rewarding work. My understanding of gratitude has been shaped and molded by the many answers to prayers we’ve experienced, as well as the many unanswered prayers that have left us wondering and waiting. The fickle nature of my own heart in the face of seemingly unheard prayers has been challenged by the song Gratitude by Nichole Nordeman. The chorus of this song brilliantly depicts the gratitude of a heart in the face of unmet needs:

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain

I confess that I struggle to give thanks despite the continued suffering and sickness around me, but this song has been a reminder and a guide as I seek to expand my gratitude in the midst of unmet needs.

This week my family will be gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving, starting with their candy corn reflections. We’ll be celebrating here, carrying on the tradition in a far away land as we express our gratitude together. My candy corn reflections of gratitude for this year are:

1. Living here in the city where we fell in love, surrounded by reminders of those blissful summer months, I am continually grateful for Jason. He is my husband, counselor and best friend. I think I would have gone home by now if it were not for him.

2. Living thousands of miles away has given me a new awareness of the depth of gratitude that I have for my family, for the ways they love and support us so well even from a large distance. My gratitude for my family has deepened exponentially through our work with orphaned and abandoned children who do not know the safety and comfort of being loved and protected by their families.

3. Our work with these children, each with traumatic backgrounds, and involvement in a community afflicted by poverty makes me grateful each day for the redemptive work of Christ and the hope for the future that this provides even in the face of unmet needs and unanswered prayers.

What are your candy corn reflections this week?


Anonymous said...

Wow - that song is amazing. Absolutely amazing.

It's hard to narrow down my 3 things this year. We had a pastor on Sunday encourage us to think of 20 things we're thankful for this year. I put my 20 on my blog... it's really a great exercise! But, my top 3 would probably be - my husband, the friends I have who are also missionaries overseas, and the internet (so I can keep in touch with everybody so easily!!).

ugachick said...

Thank you for posting the song and video. Very moving. I have had that CD for many years and never really "heard" the song. The video really drove the point home.
I am thankful for God's unfailing love, for my husband and kids whom I love dearly and that this year we get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my extended family since we are on furlough. When I consider the many blessings, I am overwhlemed, especially when I look around me at the hurting world.

Grammy said...

Thank you so much for the goodies they will be enjoyed by many.
My 3 things I'm thankful for:Besides a merciful God
1.my husband of 34 years
2.my children and grandchildren
3.many friends
Diane aka Grammy

Kirsten Nelson said...

What a wonderful idea for Thanksgiving. We used to just put one or two thanksgivings in a box and then take turns reading them. I think I like your candy corn idea even better! Great song too! I am so thankful for the wonderful Christian music we have to listen to. On my morning runs I find the music on my ipod really is a great way to sing praises to God (even if the Ticos look at me like I am crazy as I sing and run). I am thankful for my wonderful husband and children that have helped me during these first difficult months in a new culture. Lastly I am so thankful for the mercy God grants me every day. Even when I am frustrated and ready to go home, He still loves me, picks me up, gives me a big hug with a glimpse of sunshine (it's rainy season here), or a beautiful rainbow, or just a brilliantly colored bird landing on the tree outside of my school classroom. Thanks for the chance to share!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tradition.

First comes the relationships that enrich my life.

Next would be the time that I have before me though not promised hoped for and happily anticipated.

The third would be the experiences that have shaped me.

Happy Thanksgiving, Coffeegirl.

Anonymous said...

OK, here are my three candy corns (not that I have ever seen one):
- just before thanksgiving a year ago, I returned to the field but without much enthusiasm. I am thankful how the Lord renewed my vision and my strength during this year.
- another thing (nearly the only thing that I was looking forward to last year) for which I am thankful is the fellowship of the "Bamako Singles" group.
- the third one, which changed a lot of things to the positive for me, is my move to the capital where it is easier to have a routine and do more concentrated work than in a village setting with all its challenges. Without the last one I would not even have internet access and therefore not been able to join the Coffeegirl blog role.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

E. T. Tenna said...

First, I have to say, CANDY CORN IS MY FAVORITE CANDY!!!

Ok, that's out of my system! LOL

Next, my colleagues and I had a casual time of sharing the word and thanks this weekend.

I'm thankful for (among many other things):

1. God's healing (I was sick for over a year with an illness that sapped my energy, now feeling almost normal again.)

2. God using this time of weakness to make me willing to accept help from others, in particular help I previously didn't really want to accept!

3. God used this year to help me count the losses of so many childhood moves so that I can better handle the various losses of challenging cross-cultural long-term ministry as an adult.

Thank You, God!

E.T.Tenna at My Asian Side

Becky Aguirre said...

I agree...just three is hard! :) Here we go...
1. God's grace...Psalm 130:3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? Comparing where I am this year to the same time last year...wow! God is good.

2. Family-firstly my husband...I am so thankful for this man in my life! We are approaching 13 years of marriage! Secondly...my children, God's gifts that I'm not sure I deserve some days... (Okay, so I squeezed two in one...LOL!)

3. For ministry...these last couple of years have been rough as we saw the end of our ministry in one country and transitioned to another. There were days when we just felt like giving up, but here we are and God is good.


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