As we gather

With Thanksgiving less than a week away and so much happening in the world and in my own life, it's enough to make a person grateful. I've been thinking of all the dear people in the Philippines and how devastating their last couple weeks have been. To think that they will rebuild and recover, with the knowledge that this could all happen again. I'm exceedingly thankful for organizations like World Vision who have responded so well with disaster relief.

Just last weekend my family celebrated the baptism of Elsie Camille, my firecracker of a niece who has brought such spice and joy to our family. While we prayed blessings and peace over her little life, tornadoes ripped through central Illinois and thousands of homes were destroyed. I've been haunted by a gentleman on the news the night of the storms who said he lost his wife two weeks earlier, and now his home. With deep sadness and tears, he said, "I'm done."

We celebrate the gift of a life. And in the blink of an eye, mourn so much loss.

This is a week of feasting. Our tables will be laden with vegetables and breads, turkeys and pies for the taking. There is nothing I love more than cooking and eating with my family. When we have Thanksgiving at home, my mom and I spread out our recipe books and pencil in dishes, until we have the perfect blend of old and new. I'm in charge of Parker House rolls, a spinach salad with pomegranates and feta, classic apple pie, and a new dish I'm really jazzed about: Sweet potatoes with stilton and walnuts.

With so much happening around the world, sometimes I struggle. Feeling shamed for being so excited about sweet potatoes, guilty for gathering around such a fine feast. I wonder, what is the place of something like Thanksgiving in the midst of a tornado or a typhoon? The show must go on, right? I believe that God made the world and called it good, so that we might enjoy it. So that we might revel in his creation and live without lack. But the truth is, we are broken. All of creation is broken. And so we must learn how to live in the tension of a Thanksgiving feast and devastating disaster, trusting that God threads hope through our lives with a purpose.

We have an abundance, so much to give thanks for. I have been in the midst of so much, big decisions and sleepless nights. It has made me so grateful for my family, for warmth, for a job and a home, for even the short number of hours that the sun appears, for the numerous people I know I could go to if I lost everything in a typhoon or a tornado. I pray that I won't forget it, that I will be reminded that this very life is a blessing, that I will be plagued by a sense of presence, that I will speak and move with kindness, generosity, and thanksgiving. And that I will be compelled to live with great joy, compassion, and mindfulness.

I remember Job's reply to God, after losing everything:

I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

I do not know why the Philippines were struck by a typhoon, why so many 3rd world countries are plagued by disaster. I don't know why just hours south of my city entire towns were leveled by tornadoes. But I  pray on this eve of Thanksgiving week that the Master of the Universe would reach out and hold our spirits high if we cannot. That he would plant a seed of hope, that we would seek a mind of thankfulness, and that those of us who have much, would give much. May we remember, as we gather around the table.

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