Pillar and support

I’m usually a very grateful person, but this Thanksgiving found me mired in sadness and pain. Even after a lovely brunch with my dear friend and her family, I was hurting. After dinner with my husband and my youngest son, I was a wreck. Shortly after dinner, I had a meltdown.

It all started with the lack of stuffing.

As a child, I always looked forward to my mom’s stuffing. It was my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner, and my brother and I loved to have it for days afterward–heating it up with eggs over medium and a warm tamale. One year, she got fancy and tried a new recipe; I seem to remember it was some sage and sausage something-or-other. My brother and I were merciless in our critique: it simply was wrong. Didn’t matter that it tasted good–it wasn’t the right stuffing and it ruined Thanksgiving. We were horrid.

This year, I knew my older kids wouldn’t be home for Thanksgiving. My husband and younger son don’t eat stuffing, so I figured, why bother? I found a gourmet wild rice stuffing recipe and gave it a try, figuring I was the only one who’d eat it, so it was time to try something new.

It was awful. And the worst part? There would be no leftovers for me. I sat at the dining table and sobbed.

OK…it had nothing to do with stuffing. I was grieving the empty table–the sad little three plate arrangement, the no-pumpkin-pie (they won’t touch it) Thanksgiving. I was in mourning. My husband tried to comfort me, but I was disconsolate.

Two days later, I went to our martial arts studio to teach. One of my students, a lovely Christian woman, shared with me how absolutely fantastic her Thanksgiving had been. I steeled myself to hear a story of laughter, good food, and familial love. She shared with me how only one of her children had made it home. She’s divorced, so it was only the two of them. “It was so lovely,” she beamed. “I just decided I wasn’t going to think about what I was missing. Instead of cooking a big turkey and all the desserts I’d normally make, I made each of us a game hen and stuffed it. I made my favorite desserts in little tarts–just enough to have all the things I like, without a bunch of leftovers that wouldn’t get eaten.” She went on to tell me that she normally starts listening to Christmas music on Thanksgiving, but instead of listening to the CDs she usually listens to, she bought new ones. “I know all the songs on the old ones,” she told me, “but mostly I know the order of the songs. I didn’t want anything to remind me of past Thanksgivings–I didn’t want to be missing the past.”

I soaked up every word.

This, then, is what Paul describes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:14: “…the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (NASB). This was my friend being Jesus to me in that moment: gently instructing me in a better way. No harsh finger pointing. No judgment. No shaking His head at my ingratitude. Instead, the household of God, tenderly instructing one of its children in a new way of seeing life. My friend had no idea how God used her at that moment. All she was doing was sharing the glorious day she’d had with her son, and the way she had redeemed that day in a fresh and profound way. I found both “pillar and support” in her words. I thanked God for His kind teaching, and used that lesson to move through the holiday season with newfound joy.

I’ve learned that my current life–with one child left at home and the others busy with their own adult lives–is beautiful. The fact that I don’t have the holidays I used to have takes nothing away from the past: they are treasured memories I will never lose. It doesn’t make my holidays today any less: they are just different. I can find joy in this new way of celebrating, relishing this season of my life in all its transcendent newness.

And I will make my mom’s stuffing every year.

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