Finding Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was never a holiday that my family celebrated all that much. The timing was usually off, coming at the end of deer season, and we would have other things to do – like cutting up deer, butchering pigs, mixing, stuffing and smoking sausage – whatever was needed to be done in preparation for winter. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we would always stop for a meal – it just wasn’t necessarily a holiday that brought together all of the family from the four corners of the Earth. Just those of us lucky enough to still be home.

So I have to admit that I’m a little distracted by the hubbub that’s being caused by the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday hours. Now, don’t get me wrong…I understand the importance of time with family. And I know how important it can be to have a reason to get together. But let’s take a little closer look at it.

Future Farmer

Thanksgiving isn’t just for one day…it’s for every day.

I’m now going to read to you every scripture that talks about God’s commandment for Thanksgiving:

 

 

That’s right…not once in the Bible does God say anything specifically about Thanksgiving, and yet our society is up in arms about the unfairness of businesses being open on that day in particular.

And yet…Exodus 20:8-11. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Oh, and then there’s Deuteronomy 5:12-14. 12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.”

So why is it that we are so willing to stand up for a holiday that celebrates an event that should be done every single day – and yet we are so willing to go against what God has specifically commanded us to do?

Now, don’t get me wrong – as a farmer’s daughter, a farmer’s wife, and a mother of four, I completely understand that life throws you curve balls on occasion. Animals need to be fed, people need to eat, crops need to be brought in, and sometimes the only day in which the weather cooperates is Sunday. Truthfully, the only reason I mention it at all is because we need to be aware of the convictions that we have and the reasons that we have them.

Perhaps, instead of criticizing those that make decisions that are different then our own, we should focus on what Thursday is supposed to be all about. Let THAT be our message to share with the world – instead of commercializing the holiday even more.

First of all, why is it that we need one day out of the year to get our families together and give thanks for the gifts we’ve been blessed with? Is this not something we should be doing at a minimum of at least once a day? If not almost every minute of the day? I don’t believe that there is a single person in this church that doesn’t tell God how grateful we are on a regular basis.

We see these gifts every where we look – we just have to be willing to open our eyes. Like we read in Hebrews 12:28, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…”

I haven’t always been a thankful person. I didn’t grow up in the most prestigious manner. I didn’t have a church family that I felt I belonged to, and my upbringing was unconventional at best. Some may call it the school of hard knocks, I just call it a lesson in reality. You win some, you lose some – and most importantly, only you can decide what your future may bring.

But my outlook and heart had a pretty drastic change following the events that began in the spring of 2009. For those that may not know me that well, that was the year in which our youngest son, Eli, was born.

None of my pregnancies were easy – and I will openly admit that Eli was no different. I had problems with my kidney, as well as undergoing emergency surgery in my fourth month of pregnancy to have my gallbladder removed. I was grateful that there was a planned end in sight, with a c-section scheduled the day after my own birthday. Eli came into the world at 9 pounds, 10 ounces.

As with all of my boys, it was love at first sight. And even though I never once questioned my love for him – I did question his health. For weeks, and then months, I kept having a nagging suspicion that something wasn’t quite right. He developed jaundice late, and it hung on for weeks. He wasn’t gaining weight. I always joked that he looked like the saggy-baggy elephant.

Finally, I took him in to see the on-call doctor – and the events that unfolded from that moment on became a roller coaster for the next 18 months. I shudder to think what may have happened if my family hadn’t pushed for answers. If Eli would have been the oldest instead of the youngest. Would I have been so willing to keep pushing? Would I have listened to my instincts?

But the fact is, none of that matters. And after Eli was diagnosed with his condition, and I saw him finally starting to grow, and develop, and become the child you see before you, I realized that the path we took to get here may not have been the easiest, but I’m grateful for the experience.

You see, we can’t always change the events that happen around us. The diagnoses we receive. The actions of others. The hours that a business sets. But we can change our response to it. We can change our attitude. And with that, we can change the world.

Thursday is Thanksgiving. But true thanksgiving doesn’t happen every year at the end of November. It’s not marred by a business trying to improve their bottom line. It’s not determined by whether or not a family is sitting down for a meal together.

Thanksgiving happens in our hearts – every day. It’s in the gratefulness we feel towards doctors and the advances we’ve been blessed with in science. It’s in the wonder we feel when we watch our families gather. It’s in the strength of a person who faces adversity with tenacity and determination. It’s in the eyes of a 6-year-old who defies the odds that science has set.

Thanksgiving doesn’t happen once a year. And it doesn’t take place at Walmart at 6 p.m. on November 26.

And for that – I am thankful.

Advertisements

It doesn’t take distance

I recently traveled with my boys on our first “real” vacation. It was a blast, and I have to thank Miss A for planning 99.9% of it. I seriously do not know what I did to deserve her, but I thank God every day that she’s been in our lives.

A vehicle of love and fun...no matter where we're going!

A vehicle of love and fun…no matter where we’re going!

After returning, I started thinking about the trip and what it meant to my family. And then a comment was made to me that really got me thinking – do we really need to get away to love each other?

Now, hear me out before you judge what I’m saying.

I love my boys dearly. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. And they knew that, whether or not we went away on a vacation. Our relationship did not improve, nor did it change, just by leaving the farm. All that the vacation did was give me some amazing memories and removed a few distractions. It didn’t strengthen my love. It didn’t change how I felt. It wasn’t a magic cure-all.

Because it doesn’t take distance to know how you feel. Your heart knows…whether you travel a mile, or 1,300 of them.

The same can be said for anyone in a relationship, whether it be husband-wife, sisters, friends, etc. You don’t have to go anywhere to make someone feel loved. Does it feel good to sometimes “get away” from it all? Sure. But it shouldn’t change your feelings towards the people you’re with. No, going on a vacation just relieves a few of the pressures. It eliminates that nagging feeling that there’s something else you “should” be doing. It makes it easier to just enjoy the moment. But it doesn’t change the heart.

Do I love my boys more now that we’ve returned? Nope. But I don’t love them any less, either. My love was never based on the place where we were located.

Because the distance between two hearts is no greater than the space you allow.

The power of Grandmothers

An amazing woman recently passed away. She was not only a caring wife, mother, neighbor…she was, by all accounts, an exceptional grandmother. And although I know that she is now without pain, and no longer trapped by a crippled body, my heart aches for those left behind.
Her passing hit close to home for me; not only because she was a neighbor, but my own grandmother passed away Aug. 11, just a short three years ago. I still miss her so much, and I still catch myself dialing her number when something is going on and I need to talk to her.

Valerie Lynn Brandenburger and Vivian Lorraine Brandenburger - peas in a pod.

Valerie Lynn Brandenburger and Vivian Lorraine Brandenburger – peas in a pod.

And so, today, I’m writing a list of things that only Grandmothers know how to do…at least mine, anyway.
1) Grandmas know how to make the world go away. It may take a homemade cookie, a walk in the garden or a “job” that needs to be completed. (Sweeping out gutters, anyone?) She knows that sometimes we just need a mundane task to work out our aggressions, or a simple snack to give us a second to think. Somehow she just knows.
2) Grandmas know how to keep secrets. Whether it’s a cookie too close to meal time, staying up too late, or the name of a crush that’s been on your mind…when you tell Grandma not to tell anyone, you know her lips are sealed.
3) Grandmas make special moments even more amazing. Going shopping? Take Grandma with, and it’s always good for a few amazing memories. Especially if your Grandma is anything like mine. She loved clothes. LOVED. In fact, for her 80th birthday she wanted a pair of leather pants. It was my mission to find some for her, and to this day, one of my favorite pictures of her is her standing in her yard, all decked out and ready to rock bingo. That lady had an amazing sense of fashion.
4) Grandmas know how to be brutally honest, all while having your best interest at heart and making off-handed compliments that could be taken in several ways. For example, my husband would always chuckle over stuff my Grandmother would say, that would probably land him in the doghouse for a few days. Such as, “That outfit looks much better than the one you wore yesterday,” or “Do you have a recipe for this? If not, don’t bother writing one down.”
5) There isn’t a problem in the world that doesn’t seem less daunting when you’re holding Grandma’s hand. Whether it is crossing the street for the first time, healing your first broken heart or saying good-bye…there is powerful medicine in those fingers. It’s the one thing that I miss the most.
I’ve heard many people comment that the reward for having children is getting to be a grandparent one day. I look forward to that opportunity (many, many, many years from now!), and hope in my heart that I am at least half as good at being a grandmother as mine. Although, I’m pretty sure I won’t go through a leather stage…
Or maybe I will.