Thanksgiving Traditions

By Joy Keith –

The Good:

This year the Keith Clan is heading to Gardnerville, NV to be with my hubby’s mom. We Keiths don’t have many traditions. Each and every year our nomadic family talks to each of the Grandmothers and one another to determine what the best Thanksgiving plan is. Will we go to Arizona to be with my mom, or NV to be by his? Will either one of them be able to come to CA? Are the grown kids able to get off work? Are people sick this year and can’t travel? Will we spend it with friends not too far away who we don’t see often enough? All these things seem to get thrown into the recipe of what will be the plan this year. So, our tradition seems to be that we have a lack of tradition. This is true concerning everything but what food we will eat. The menu is the same and a tradition: turkey, mashers and gravy, beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry and my absolute favorite––STUFFING, followed by the exquisitely baked pumpkin (and one alternating dish which is “TBD” by me each year) pies!

Some of you have the luxury (or expected presence request) of your family being at the same location year after year and eating Aunt Shirleen’s cranberry sauce and Uncle Ron’s famous mashed potatoes. You may even sit and listen to the same old arguments and laugh at the same story that the most seasoned members of your family seem to tell at every family gathering. (We are grandparents now, and I think I’ve caught myself more than once retelling a story; sucks to get old.) The kids grow up a little more, and they hope to be able to sit at the adult able. Traditions abound each one of our families similarly at Thanksgiving.

The Bad:

And yet, here we are in this broken, sinful world. We are surrounded by its nasty stain everywhere we look. We can’t just throw it in the washing machine with Shout and hope that the stain of our sin will come out. Some family members haven’t talked in years because of the sins not forgiven and trust not restored. The internet and news are full of it by the depressing buckets-full. People are unhappy, and people are distraught about this and that. Then there are the individuals who have lost loved ones and people who hurt on the inside ashamed to ask for help and forgiveness. Some of us haven’t been to a family gathering because of things said or done to us, or what we did to others many a year ago.


Further, many of us haven’t darkened a church’s door because we haven’t seen the need to go. Our lives are just fine the way they are, or so we tell ourselves foolishly most days. We like to think that we have it all together and we gaze into our own navels admiring the lint that has accumulated. But this day we are just a little more alert to the reality. We feel broken. We feel empty. We will not be with “those” people. We remember that time when we laughed with that person who no longer speaks to us or we don’t speak to now.  We recall that family member who isn’t going to be at the table sitting across from us because of things said or done or because the ultimate separation has happened because the wages of our sin is death. Sorry to be the downer in the room, but we can’t just keep acting like it’s okay and everything is fine. We do have this doubt and emptiness in our gut that even the tastiest feast can’t fill. Your brined, baked or barbecued turkey cannot quench the longing we have in the pit of our bellies.  Do you feel it? Do you have a thought of sadness? Are you missing someone who won’t be at the table?

Here it comes:

Jesus came to fix that. He was born in the flesh to walk, talk, eat and drink with us sinners. He told us stories and sat at tables. He walked in our way and yet He did it perfectly because we couldn’t and still can’t. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, they did what we all would have done. God created us to love Him, but He didn’t want us to love Him as robotic automatons. He wanted us to do it genuinely and because we wanted to; He wanted a free love. You know, how you want your children to freely and honestly love you.  But to have it that way we had to be able to choose.  We blew it, and we still blow it every day. Even in that blowing up of the whole kit and caboodle, He still chooses us. Will you ever not love your kids? Would you not give them everything just to help them? He does, and He does it every gosh darn day! It’s apparent in the sunshine and the clouds and in the food that is in your bellies. God gives us everything including the forgiveness through His son’s life, death on the cross and rising into new life so that we may one day rise too! He died for all those things, like the lack of forgiveness you have for others, and even the lack of forgiveness you won’t allow yourself to hold. He forgives you today. It’s done! It’s yours! And, it’s free!

So Now:

Serve and be served. We give thanks for the many blessings we are given each and every day. This Thursday, or whatever day you celebrate and give thanks, may it be filled with lots of interesting conversation, laughter, and hopefully some thankful thoughts, and maybe some forgiveness too. May your travels be safe, and your food be tasty. May your stories be repetitious, and your hearts be light knowing that you can smile and laugh and be merry in that abundant grace and undeserving gift that He will give you as long as the sun goes up and down each day. His tradition is greater than ours will ever be. It happens every day, not just once a year. Thanks be to God for His constant giving!