“Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18
It was never about the spiced maple turkey for her. Nor did the sausage stuffing, carrots, mashed potatoes, or cranberries define the day. She had to admit that Thanksgiving would never have been the same without Pecan Pie and Pumpkin Cake.
To her, being able to sit around a table lined with family - that was simply magic!
Thanksgiving Day began early, with Martha’s family gathered around the kitchen table for a special, once-a-year breakfast. Between bites of fresh cinnamon rolls and sips of eggnog, they’d record the year's blessings on notebook paper: “landing a new job, making a new friend, getting a driver’s license, earning an ‘A’ in Algebra.” No item was too small for the list.
Once they’d filled their pages, Martha would reach for the family's “Thanksgiving Journal” that contained lists from the past 37 years. As they sifted through the pages, they’d recall key milestones: moving into a new house, starting their own business, entering college, marriages and grandchildren.
Tears and laughter flowed freely as they read about a 4-year-old's appreciation for a new bicycle, the swing set inherited from a family at church, their first dog and memories of loved ones who’d since passed away.
Shortly after breakfast, the turkey went in the oven, the card table transformed into a puzzle area and football entertained those inclined. But the heart of their Thanksgiving happened despite the day’s chaos - when they added the year's memories to a growing collection of God's blessings.
Martha’s eyes fluttered as her dreamlike state shifted to reality. She first became aware of the musty air and a mattress as lumpy as oatmeal. She sat up and took in the homeless residents around her. Waking up can be really harsh, especially if your dreams were better than reality.
Her life had changed dramatically when her husband passed away last spring. Since then, she’d lost their home and business, a storage unit with a lifetime of assets, and been sexually violated. Her string of back luck didn’t end there.
While sleeping in a friend’s car a few weeks back, Martha became very ill and was rushed to the hospital. When she was well enough to be discharged, they’d accidently thrown away what few belongings remained. She left the hospital in scrubs and a threadbare blanket.
But on this Thanksgiving Day Martha was fortunate enough to secure one of the 30 beds the Baldwin Shelter made available for the night. And tomorrow, they’d share a holiday meal of processed turkey, candied yams and mashed potatoes.
The shelter was clean and warm; the staff kind and nonjudgmental. And she had her FAITH. If she still had the family’s Thanksgiving Journal, she’d add several pages of the things that she was thankful for right now despite the setbacks and disappointments.
Dear God, I’m thankful for all of it. The highs, the lows. The blessings, the lessons. The setbacks and the comebacks. The memories. The love. But most of all, Your grace! Amen ~ Martha