Leftover Thanksgiving

“I’ll still be here,” he whispered as he climbed back into bed next to me.

The sun still slept outside the dark window. Chill replaced the warmth of good-bye hugs, of little arms around my neck, of wet kisses on my cheek. The car door’s final bang echoed in my ears. Like hundreds of times before we’d smiled and waved them goodbye, then crawled back into bed, cheeks wet with tears and hearts dulled by a blend of tired-sadness and filled-happiness.

Changed and flavored with different spices, children begetting children, our imperfect family still fits well. Like worn puzzle pieces making an ever bigger picture when put together, we carry unique characteristics, our own familiar humor, reshaped by additions and circumstance. We lay out our lives, adventures, work, problems and possible solutions along with cranberry sauce and stuffing on our Thanksgiving table.

We cry when its over because we separate around the globe, and our partings aren’t until the next holiday, but often until another year.

Our children’s upbringing spread across cultures and countries. Perhaps because of our vagabond missionary life it’s possible for them to fly far apart, like dots on a map connected by invisible lines and then come together again taking up where they left off. Boundaries of a different sort distinguish their lives, not geographical lines. Theirs is so very different than my own childhood experience growing up on a farm, in close proximity with friends and family where ghosts of generations dwelt.

A week together with four children, their spouses and twelve grandchildren reminds me that a thankful heart is a disciplined heart.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord…”

It brings determined gratefulness, a discipline that forgoes first impulse whining for what-I-wish-but-can’t-have, for too-far away and gone-too-long complaining. A thankful heart resists the urge to compare my life to others’, to bemoan the distances or allow selfish desire to manipulate God’s leading so that my own needs can be met.

In our communion of football, Settlers of Catan, and leftover turkey I see God’s finger traced on our family. In spite of uprooted and somewhat disjointed ministry life, we come together in faith, tight and solid, richer not diminished by our pasts. At the end of the Thanksgiving season, after the busyness, before the mad dash to Christmas, I make time to be truly thankful. I unlock my heart’s treasure chest and lovingly hold the moments before I place them away, a sweet scent of lingering memories.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High…”

I will savor the accomplishments of my children’s independent lives and acknowledge that even when adult children leave home, it still hurts. I will be grateful it does.

My husband’s words, “I’ll still be here,” reminds me that salty tears represent blessings and sorrow’s foundation reflects His goodness.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night…”Psalm 92:1-2 (ESV).

In the velvet pink pallor of first light I give thanks. A melody plays sweet in the background of my mind. In morning shadow, I’m awed by the steadfast love of “O Most High,” His sure faithfulness, because at the end of the day, He will still be there. Unchanging.

We are two again, the expanse of embrace reduced to a clinging couple thankful and bereft all at once.