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Why Thanksgiving is my Favorite Holiday

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Thanksgiving

Just saying the word conjures up special images and memories for each of us.

Turkey and dressing. Pumpkin pie and Pilgrims. Football and family. Tryptophan and nap time.

In our home it goes without saying that Thanksgiving Day is my favorite holiday. My wife Debbie is an amazing cook, and usually Wednesday evening will find me getting anxious to smell the wonderful things she will prepare for our family. As always, we will have turkey and all the trimmings along with just about anything else one would expect to see at a Thanksgiving feast. Come to think of it, I believe I’ve already asked her 3 or 4 times if she has everything in the house for the big day.

Of course, she teases me that the only reason I like Thanksgiving so much is because I love all the great food on our table. I’ll admit to the food being a very special part of the day, but there’s much more to it than that for me.

Thanksgiving is a Heart Thing

As a young boy growing up in rural Ohio, Thanksgiving was a time for family. My family would spend days in preparation, making sure of every detail, right down to drying the bread for my mom’s stuffing. Once the big day arrived, our home would be packed with relatives who had made the journey from as far away as 50 miles (no small sacrifice in the early 60’s).

All my aunts and uncles, cousins, and even people who I had never heard of before would gather in our home. No one even thought of watching TV, even though if the weather cooperated we could bring in two and a half channels. No, Thanksgiving was for catching up on each others lives around our huge dinner table.

Instead, all of us kids would be sent to play outside until it was time for dinner, which gave me the opportunity to show off to my city cousins a life they didn’t know existed.

For instance, we used to stand corn stalks up to make what is called a corn shock. These were made in the shape of a teepee and were wonderful hiding places from my girl cousins (and annoying sisters).

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From there I would take them on an adventure that rivaled any zoo they had ever seen. At our home we had cows, pigs, and chickens, none of which my city cousins had ever seen up close and personal. Boy, my cousins sure seemed to scare easily when they would hear a made-up story of how dangerous those animals were.

Back then, the men in my family always went hunting in the morning, returning just in time to eat dinner. How well I remember when I was deemed old enough to tag along with them. I had no gun, but it didn’t matter a bit because I got to be with my dad and uncles.

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When at long last my mom would announce that dinner was ready, we would all head towards the kitchen. Since there were so many of us, the grownups would fix our plates and we would then sit at the “little table”.

I really disliked those little card tables because the only people sitting there were us kids, and all of us knew that the “big table” was the place to be. I remember every year asking if this was the year I finally got to sit at the big table. I got used to being told “NO”, but still I had to ask.

I can still see what had to have been the biggest turkey in the store resting on a huge platter. Spilling all around it was the stuffing that we had prepared all that dried bread for. A gigantic bowl of mashed potatoes, along with an even larger bowl of chicken and dumplings sat on one end of the table. Bowls of green beans, cranberries, gravy, and other yummy things I can no longer remember filled the rest of the table.

I can remember eating so much food that my relatives would tease me that I was going to blow up. I didn’t care because being a skinny kid I could eat as much of anything I wanted and never gain a pound (oh for those days!).

After we had finished eating our dinner it was time for dessert, and I’m here to tell you that I could eat some dessert, especially my aunt Laura’s chocolate pie. I can remember there being apple pies, peach pies, blackberry cobbler, raisin pie (my dad’s favorite), and of course aunt Laura’s chocolate pie.

Those wonderful memories are tucked safely away in my mind. Those carefree days of family and friends are never far from me, and at this time of the year I think of them often. Though the years have created separation and distance in my childhood family, those are some of the best years of my life.

I regret not having had the opportunity to enjoy more of those years, but as fate would have it my dad passed away when I was 12 years of age, and for all intents and purposes life was never the same after that. Therefore, those memories are indeed precious to me.

Today, of course, things are much different. Thanksgiving is largely thought of as a day off from work and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. What a shame, because in the rush to buy someone something a lot of memories are not being made around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

It goes without saying that I am one of those that has a really hard time with seeing Christmas trees showing up in October, and as we get later and later into November the inevitable deluge of advertisements for Black Friday start showing up, as if we needed one thousand reminders a day.

Around my house I’ll be the one asking a hundred times “wait…what about Thanksgiving? Why doesn’t anyone think of Thanksgiving like they used to? Why is it so hard for us to celebrate the idea of thankfulness”?

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So, while I am grateful for the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians celebrating the very 1st Thanksgiving way back in 1621, I can’t say that it was that event that sparked my love for Thanksgiving.

Neither was the Congressional resolution that resulted in President George Washington proclaiming Thursday, the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” instrumental in instilling my love for Thanksgiving.

Even President Abraham Lincoln, who declared in 1863 that the last Thursday in November would become a federal holiday and a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” isn’t responsible for my fondness of all things Thanksgiving.

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While all those events are important in our nation’s history, the real reason that I love Thanksgiving is because in my mind I get to be that kid again. I get to be surrounded by the people who mean the world to me, and I get to add more memories to an already overflowing basket of thankfulness and gratitude gifted me by our Lord.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

“You know better than that”

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As a child and into young adulthood, I heard those words from time to time. Specifically, I heard them nearly every time I did something wrong and couldn’t squirm, weasel, or outright lie my way out of it.

Come to think of it, saying I heard those words “from time to time” isn’t completely true. I heard them far more frequently than that.

The inference, of course, is that I was raised to know right from wrong, good from bad, and so on and therefore should have known better than to do the thing that got me in trouble.

Looking back on those carefree days of my early childhood, I can safely say that I liked to see how close to the edge I could get before hearing my name called out. I came to understand that when I heard a loud “RONALD!” I had fallen off that edge and it was only a matter of time before the hammer would fall.

Like the time when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I started a small fire on the floor in the hay loft of our barn. Actually, I prefer to think of it as a ‘controlled burn’ because I went to great pains to make sure I had cleared the immediate area of any excessive hay that could catch the barn on fire.

Which, by the way, I never got the proper credit for.

Anyway, all was going according to plan until one of my two younger sisters who were there with me ‘somehow’ managed to burn her finger and headed to the house, crying like a baby. Captivated by my advanced fire making skills in the middle of the barn floor, my other sister and I never gave her a second thought.

That is until a few minutes later when I saw my dad’s head at the top of the ladder. What followed next can only be described as “other worldly”, because it is simply not possible for a human being to move as quickly from the top of a ladder to where my small, ‘controlled burn’ was.

In a nanosecond, with super human skills that would make Jason Bourne envious, my dad had leaped off the ladder with a single bound, extinguished the ‘controlled burn’, grabbed me and threw me across a bale of hay, and proceeded to give me a whipping for the ages with a strap of leather that was hanging on a nail just seconds prior.

Thankfully, the years have dulled my memory to the point where I cannot remember which was the loudest, the thud of the leather strap across my body or the screams coming from the deepest recesses of my soul.

After what seemed like a good 30 or 40 minutes at the hands of my inquisitor, (though in reality it was not quite that long) I was released from the ‘hayloft turned torture chamber’ and sent to the house with strict orders to go straight to bed.

No supper. No TV. No bath (yeah!). No nothing. I still remember my mom coming into the bedroom to check on me, and her pleading with my dad to at least let me eat supper. That wasn’t happening, of this I was made sure. Now THAT hurt!

Later on, my sisters snuck into my room to see if I was still alive. Either that, or they wanted me to know that the chicken leg, mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits that was supposed to be my supper did not go to waste, thank you very much.

So, I stayed in my room until the next morning. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do know that at some point that morning there was a very stern discussion, I mean LECTURE, about the dangers of playing with matches in a hay filled barn loft.

Even after all that had happened, I tried to plead my case by saying how responsible I had been by clearing away the hay and choosing the best place for my campfire. My dad, however, was hearing none of it. Knowing how to start a fire on the river bank was an admirable skill it seemed, while in the barn, not so much.

I can’t recall how many times the phrase “you know better than that” was used during THE LECTURE. No doubt I heard it many times that day, as well as the ensuing days when I was assigned some type of hard labor as further punishment for my foolishness.

I’d love to be able to say that this escapade forever changed my thought process, and from this day forward I was never again to engage in anything so dangerous and foolish. Yes, I would love to be able to say that.

But I can’t. Oh, to be sure I never played with matches in the barn again. But I did many other, equally dangerous things through the years as I was growing up. When my dad died when I was 12 years old, I went through a rough period of several years of living as close to the edge as I could get. Things like riding in a friend’s car doing 145 MPH on a two-lane country road, for example.

And worse. Much worse.

I suppose though that all of us do things we know better than to do, which I guess is why my Princess reminds me from time to time that I still need ‘direction’.

No doubt, it’s in our DNA to push the envelope. I believe that is how our Creator made us, to push the boundaries, to explore the unknown, to be curious enough to try something for the 1st time. Not destructive things, mind you, but things that require us to reach beyond ourselves. Things that require us to reach out to a Power far beyond our own.

When we do things that we know are wrong, or dangerous, or destructive, there is a still small voice that reminds us that “you know better than that”. It isn’t a condemning voice, but rather a Father’s voice, born of concern and love for His children.

My prayer is that we will come to know that Voice, and that we will allow it to be our guide when making life’s many decisions.

Trust me on this, it sure beats the consequences of acting on our own impulses!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Has life paralyzed you?

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My wife and I were recently discussing the impact that her father’s death has had on her mother. Married for over fifty-six years, she has never recovered from the death of her soulmate five years ago.

Nearing eighty years of age and in very good physical health, she still goes to the store, still goes to church, still does a few of the things she’s always done. The difference however is that while she may still function at a certain level, in essence she stopped living the same day that he did.

Gone is the joy, the spark of life, the passion for living.

Of course, everyone processes grief and trauma differently, and it’s for certain that one can never place a time frame on how long it will take to begin really living life again. What must become our “new normal” takes time to adjust to, and we are all on a different clock in that regard.

Let’s face it, life will sometimes put you in a difficult place. Whether because of your own actions and choices, or those of others, the end result may find you incapacitated emotionally or physically.

In my own life for example, I still vividly remember the day my father passed away. As a 12-year-old boy who thought his dad was Superman, I was devastated beyond words. I remember like it was yesterday the feeling of numbness that enveloped me.

Little did I know that this feeling would last for many months, and in some ways for years.  Nothing was the same, nor would it ever be again.

I was hurt, bitter, depressed, and angry. That one event haunted me for many years, even well into adulthood. I cannot begin to tell of the poor decisions I made in life, many of which I want to think could have been avoided had my dad still been alive to guide me.

I struggled for many years with being able to deal with my emotions regarding the loss of my father. In those days, one didn’t go to a psychologist or therapist for advice or treatment. My “therapy” consisted of being told to ‘suck it up’ and get on with my life.

So, ‘suck it up’ I did, immersing myself in work, the lives of my kids, and anything else that would help me to move on from the pain of my loss. For several years I worked two jobs, including weekends and nights in a vain attempt to keep my mind busy so I wouldn’t have to continually replay the thoughts of what was, and what could have been.

At some point in our lives however, we come to a fork in the road where a decision must be made. Either we stay in a place of despair, or we climb out and begin to live again. For me, that happened when at 22 years of age I gave my life to Jesus.

Only then did I realize that God had a purpose and a plan for my life after all.

I learned that if I were ever going to overcome adversity, I had to learn to trust again. And that trust started with the Lord. I had to learn to lay aside the hurt and anguish that was consuming my life and grab hold of something much bigger than I, trusting that He knew better than I what was best.

Bit by bit, I came to see ” that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” [1] and that there was an antidote for the paralyzing baggage I had carried around for so many years.

After many trials and failed attempts in my search for answers, what I found that helped me more than anything was God’s Word.

His Word became my lifeline. More than once when I was on the edge of despair I found comfort in one verse or another, as God made his word come alive in my heart. Despite the storms of life that have raged, He has provided hope and comfort like no other, and he has proven himself to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. [2]

Perhaps you have experienced some type of trauma or a devastating, paralyzing loss in your own life. If you have, may I encourage you to take one small step in His direction?

I promise you that if you will trust Jesus with just a tiny portion of your hurt,doubt, and fear, He will in no wise cast you off.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

As you begin to trust Him more, you will begin to understand that in spite of your circumstances, it is the Father’s plan to give you a future and a hope. [3]

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

[1] Psalm 34:8

[2] Proverbs 18:24

[3] Jeremiah 29:11