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
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?