photo © 2009 Kate | more info (via: Wylio)We live in Virginia but our family is in Texas. Being apart from family can make holiday’s feel somewhat empty. So this Thanksgiving, I decided to spend some time with my spiritual family in Hillside Court and I recruited my girls to go with me. We spent Wednesday baking cookies and this morning delivered those cookies to six families whom I am honored to think of as my extended family.
What struck me about our visits today was the level of gratitude expressed by all those we visited. Each of my friends shared stories with us of something they were grateful for; some small and other miraculous. Anjernette shared how the retreat sponsored by Messiah Church a few weeks ago had touched her. Mildred shared how grateful she was to have her daughter close this year. Antionette shared a story of healing for a foot condition she has suffered from for over a year. Debra shared how grateful she was to have her friends from Embrace looking out for her. But the greatest gift was shared by my friend Al who shared that he is in remission after battling stage 4 lung cancer.
I live a blessed life. I often take for granted my family, our health, and our material blessings. I have never had to wait a year to see a specialist like Antionette did. I have never lived apart from my children like Mildred has. I have never battled a life threatening illness like Al. Somehow in seeing their gratitude for the gifts of health, friendship, and family they helped me appreciate more deeply the many blessings I so often take for granted.
Several months ago I attended “Reconcilers Weekend” at Duke Divinity School. Christine Pohl emphasized the role gratitude plays in spiritual communities formed at the margins of society. She recognized that those of us who have many material blessings are strengthened by our new friends and their gratitude for everything. She pointed to Karl Barth who stressed that grace and gratitude belong together in our expressions of the Beloved Community. Pohl pointed out that gratitude and affirmation are in short supply in our world and that dissatisfaction is poison to a culture of gratitude. Pohl encouraged us to build a cultures of gratitude through celebrations that include heartfelt prayer, a time of thanksgiving, great food and space for lament.
It is often hard to make Thanksgiving celebrations special when we are apart from family. I am thankful for my beloved Hillside court family who made my Thanksgiving extra special this year. I pray you all experience gratitude as you celebrate this Thanksgiving with your family; both biological and spiritual.