“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Dear Auburn Friends and Family,
As I write this, the first snow of the season is dusting the ground. Thankfully, it will be short-lived today, but we know more snow will be coming! Snow in November always reminds me of the song, “Over the River and Through the Wood,” which is actually a Thanksgiving poem written by Lydia Maria Child published in 1844.
That bit of trivia surprises me for some reason. It fits with our Thanksgiving celebrations, however! The poem and song contain quite a few verses, including these below:
Over the river and through the woods,/To grandfather’s house we go;/The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,/Thru the white and drifted snow, oh!
Over the river and thru the woods,/Oh, how the wind does blow!/It stings the toes and bites the nose,/As over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood,/To have a first-rate play./Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ling!”/Hurray for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood,/Now grandmother’s cap I spy!/Hurrah for the fun!/Is the pudding done?/Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
My family celebrated Thanksgiving in a similar manner for much of my childhood. My dad’s family lived in northern Minnesota near Bemidji, and we would make the long and lonely drive up through the woods and snow every Thanksgiving. When we arrived, I remember being thrilled with all the wonderful food prepared for us. It was a feast!
One year in particular stands out to me. My younger sister was about 18 months old and she knew how to appreciate food. As we sat down to the meal, offered thanks to the Lord, and started to tuck in, my sister began quietly humming. Then she grew a little louder, and a little louder, until she was constantly humming, “mmmmmmm” in between every bit she took. It was like a lawn mower was in the dining room with us! We were all a little taken aback, since there was no way to converse. I don’t think any of us were sure what to do. Should we stop her? Just listen? Talk louder?
All of a sudden, we heard my grandfather begin to laugh. He laughed until he cried. He was a huge man, 6’7” tall, and it was impossible to ignore HIS laughter. I will never forget the picture of my tiny sister “mmmmm-ing” with the lungs of a long-distance runner, sitting next to my giant of a grandfather guffawing with laughter, his whole body shaking as tears streamed down his face, while the rest of us just stared in stunned silence until we, too, began to laugh. My grandfather finally was able to compose himself enough to say that at least the cooks for the day should feel much appreciated! THAT was gratitude!
My sister’s child-like gratitude for a good meal has served as a good reminder to me of what it looks like to be grateful. She wasn’t worried about a long drive home at night in the woods and the snow. She wasn’t concerned about what the next day, or even the next few hours, might bring. She was simply and wholly grateful for the delicious meal she was given. Her gratitude brought all of us a great deal of joy.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he encourages Christ’s followers have this kind of gratitude, a thankfulness that extends to all circumstances. Paul wrote that letter in prison, so he really means ALL circumstances. Being thankful, Paul writes, leads to peace, the peace of Jesus Christ. In turn Christ’s peace leads us to live lives of contentment, regardless of our circumstances.
This Thanksgiving and extended holiday season is shaping up to be another difficult one, with Covid-19 cases continuing to grow, outbreaks in schools, and nursing home and assisted living communities still needing to limit visitation. We may not all be traveling “over the river and through the wood” to be with family. Some of us, my family included, may celebrate the holiday apart from our extended families and friends. It is a source of grief. In these verses from Philippians, Paul offers us hope and guidance in how we can remain thankful, whatever challenge this holiday brings. With gratitude comes peace.
As my husband and children and I sit around our much smaller than usual Thanksgiving table this year, I will remember my sister happily humming her appreciation at that Thanksgiving meal so long ago, while my grandfather laughed. I will strive to embrace her open-hearted gratitude and the joy my grandfather communicated so well.
My prayer is that each of us in the Auburn community will find those moments of gratitude and dwell in them, giving thanks to God for the gift of Jesus Christ, in whom we find our peace.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
In the Spirit of Christ’s Love,