As the holiday of Thanksgiving approaches, memory after memory have been flashing in my head, recalling events that have been indelibly impressed on my mind, never to be forgotten. For the Smith family, Thanksgiving was the holiday that was always eventful. When our boys were younger, before my husband went into the ministry, we always traveled to South Carolina to be with family for the holiday. It was a joyous occasion for us. We would all gather at grandmother’s house with all of my husband’s family and all of the grandchildren. It was quite a crew, with 5 children and spouses and then around 12+ grandchildren, plus Great Grandmother Easterlin. We all had a great time being together.
“O give thanks to the Lord for He is good for His steadfast love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34
One Thanksgiving the refrigerator was not cooling properly and everyone staying in the house, except Aunt Ann, who had not eaten the turkey, contracted food poisoning. My husband and I were upstairs with all of the cousins. I recollect that there were 8 of the kiddos with us. One by one they woke up scampering to the bathroom to throw up. I remember helping one of the kids throw up in the sink, while another was at the commode, as another was at the bath-tub throwing up. I felt as if I was living in a nightmare coming to life. It was unbelievable! I just prayed that my husband and I wouldn’t get sick, because we needed to take care of the kids. No such luck! I was thankful that the scourge hit us last.
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is God. His love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
Another year during Thanksgiving, we were having a wonderful time with the family and suddenly I started coughing and shivering. I didn’t have a cold, so it was very bizarre. I took my temperature and it was 104. My mother-in- law called her doctor and we hurried to his office. He listened to my lungs and said that I had pneumonia. He immediately sent me to the hospital. I was seriously ill. The hospital couldn’t find an antibiotic that would be responsive to my infection. Finally they found one, but I was in the hospital for a week. My husband needed to get back to NC to work, so he found an ambulance that would take me to the hospital in our hometown. We decided that he would drive the boys home, while the ambulance was transporting me to our hometown hospital.
As I was led out to the ambulance from the hospital, I was shocked to see that the ambulance was an old hearse! The two men who were to be my transporters did not seem like that they were skilled technicians. In fact, I felt that I was back on an episode of Andy of Mayberry with Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle. The men rolled my bed into the vehicle with me facing the back window. As we started driving down the road and were on I-95, I was terrified that the back door was going to open and that I was going to roll out and slide right into one of the sixteen-wheeler trucks that I was facing. All I could do was pray that God would get me home safely. I had no phone to call my husband, since cell phones were not in existence at that time.
Suddenly I looked down at my I-V and I saw that it was backing up with blood. I motioned to one of the men in the passenger seat in front and pointed to the I-V. The men pulled the “ambulance” off of the road to look at the I-V. When they scoped the situation out, and began discussing the circumstance among themselves, I came to the realization that they had no medical training and that they had no idea what to do! I was absolutely horrified!! My prayers were intensified that God would take care of me. He did. We were close to Burlington, NC , where they took me to the hospital emergency room. When we got there, the nurses, and doctors were fussing at the drivers, about their negligence in treating me. I truly saw the reality of my danger at that moment, and how God had taken care of me. I also was whisked back to Mayberry again and visualized these drivers as the two bumbling men, Barney and Gomer, attempting to do a task that they were in no way qualified to do.
The doctor and nurses at the hospital attended to me and we were quickly back on the road. Within minutes I was in the arms of my husband at one of the hospitals in my home-town. God had taken care of me in the worst of situations. I had so much to be thankful for. I remained in the hospital for another week and a half, but the time that I had in recuperation was time that I will always fondly remember. It was a time when I feasted on God and His Word and drew closer to Him.
“Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.” Psalm 95:2
One recollection that I have had this year was that I would always read my sons books about the first Thanksgiving, about the Pilgrims and why they came to America. We would delve into the history about what really happened long ago and then talk about why we still celebrate Thanksgiving today. It is even more important that parents read and discuss this now with their children, because in the public schools today, there is very little time to teach about holidays and the history of them. Therefore, parents need to do the teaching on this important topic, especially Thanksgiving, because of its religious roots. There are a lot of different books that are good for different ages. Here are the names of a few:
- Thanksgiving Day- by Gail Gibbons
- Magic Tree House Book – Thanksgiving on Thursday– by Mary Pope Osborne
- Pilgrims Research Guide- by Mary Pope Osborne
- On the Mayflower- by Kate Waters
- The Story of the Pilgrims– by Katharine Ross
Another tradition that the boys and I established was that we would chat about all of the things that we had to be thankful for: all of our clothes, our toys, our house, our food, everything that we owned. We discussed that God had given us all of these things. Then I talked with the boys that there were other kids who didn’t have all of the things that we did. There were other kids who didn’t have enough clothes to wear, who didn’t have enough food to eat, who didn’t have enough toys to play with. I asked them how they felt about that. They were very sad about it. We talked about what we could do about it. Together, we came up with the idea that we could give some of our clothes, some of our food, and some of our toys to other kids.
Accordingly, what we set out to do, was the following:
- We sorted through all of our clothes. Some clothes we knew were being passed down to our brother. Some were too worn out to give. Some clothes were almost like new and never worn much because the boys didn’t particularly care for the style or color. Those were the ones we decided to give away. We also decided that we were going to choose names from the Angel Tree at church and buy new clothes and toys for the kids we chose.
- We looked through our pantry and chose cans and boxed items to give to the Food Pantry at church or to the one at their school that was collecting for families in need.
- Then the most difficult job of all! The boys categorized all of their toys. They chose the toys that they would keep. There were some toys that they wanted to give to specific people. They collected other toys that they were going to give to kids in need. This act of going through toys also gave the boys an opportunity to get their toys organized and get game pieces back in the right place.
As we engaged in these different activities we would discuss how we were thankful for the clothes and toys that our grandparents had given us, or our aunts and uncles had given us. We had enjoyed wearing the items or playing with them. But, now some of the items we had outgrown, some of the toys we had enjoyed playing with, but now we were going to give them to other children so that they could enjoy wearing the clothes or enjoy playing with the toys that we had.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17
In my favorite devotional, Jesus Calling written by Sarah Young, the author writes the devotional from her quiet time with God. The part she writes is Jesus speaking to her as she has read His Word. Her writing about thankfulness is very inspiring. She states: Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. You give Me thanks(regardless of your feelings) and I give you Joy(regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience. Those who obey Me are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain. Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective. It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting of adversity.
The following resources may be useful during the holidays.
May God keep you in the palm of your hand.