Thursday, November 19, 2009


Yes that is actually my Thanksgiving "Tom" Turkey from 2008! :-) I do love to celebrate and this is a little tradition passed down to me by my Dad's Mom, Anna Kalis. We never sat down to Thanksgiving dinner without the bird being "dressed" with buttons down his chest (cranberries on toothpicks) and wax paper booties on his feet. I have no idea where she got the idea from but as you can see it has stuck with ME! While most people laugh pretty hard at this tradition, it does make a rather pretty picture, don't ya think? :-)

Any one who knows me a bit knows how much I love to celebrate anything and everything, but especially the holidays! On Thanksgiving, my hubby and I usually don some type of "pilgrim" attire to remember our founding fathers the pilgrims who thanked the Lord with a feast after losing many loved ones on the voyage here aboard the Mayflower and then throughout the hard cold winter. In spite of their grief and hardships they celebrated.

Are you going to celebrate this year or are you going to mourn? Holidays are joyful and fun for some but for many holidays are dreaded and painful and emphatically punctuate their sorrows. How can we celebrate when our heart is broken and we've experienced brokenness in a precious relationship - or when our hearts are grief stricken over loss of a loved one - or a tragic diagnosis has just been handed out. How do we celebrate when "happy family time" just points out to our own hearts that we are alone and broken and struggling? How do we celebrate when family is fractured and relationships are strained maybe even abusive? The joy on the one hand augments and emphasizes the pain on the other?

Always we have a choice of how to deal with the holidays. We can choose to run away and avoid all the pain. We can choose to drown ourselves in some diversion. We can put on a "mask" and pretend away that we are not hurting. We can make everyone else uncomfortable with our sullenness and silence. I would like to suggest to you, there may be a better way.

First we must acknowledge and own our own pain. Why do family times make me so unhappy, uncomfortable? It is ok and even healthy to identify the wound. It is ok to say this hurts. Talk to someone you can trust about your pain. If you've lost a loved one in the last year, each one is grieving in their own way. There is comfort in shared grief. Most importantly take your wounds to Jesus. Jesus is trustworthy with any ugly wound you are trying to cover up. He is the GREAT PHYSICIAN. He is actually the only one who can heal your heart. Jesus wants to heal your heart more than you want it healed yourself. Wounds do not heal under wraps they need to be cleaned and exposed to the air. Invite Jesus into your pain, He will dress the wound, ask Him to heal the wound. It will take time - while wounds heal, pain is ongoing, but the pain from a wound that is in the process of healing is bearable.

Family is so important in our lives. We need our families. Our families need us. The greatest gift we bring each is other is ourselves. Yes we are all imperfect and struggling with life - but we are still here and still able to provide comfort and laughter and "home" for one another. So often we are tempted to look at others in our families and think if I were only like them - they have it all together - most of the time that is not even true - they have their own heartaches and struggles just like we do. Home and family is where we need to share our hearts. Now I know you cannot trust everyone with your heart - but I want to suggest to you to find at least one safe family member and take a little time to address your concerns and issues with the holiday stuff! Put a plan in place. If Uncle Joe bugs the life out of you when he starts his rants, create an out for yourself. Take a walk, help in the kitchen, play with the kids - they grow so quickly, sit and listen to grandma or grandpa, they may not be there next year. Actually, we never know when it might be the last opportunity to all be together as family. Life has no guarantees.

There's a little saying, "If you'll think, you'll thank." Stop and think of happy memories you share with your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grand parents, etc. No one else loves us, knows us, gets us, and yes maybe annoys us, like our own family! Joy is a choice and its up to us to choose it. We can choose to go on as "poor me victims", "blame mongers", "woe is me", absent ourselves, or we can choose to focus on the blessings. I'm not suggesting we deny our pain but rather that we face it. Face it, embrace it, release it. You will enjoy your family and they will enjoy you. If you knew it was the last time you'd ever be able to celebrate together, your words would be tender and gentle, you'd listen carefully and intently to one another, you'd laugh heartily at family humor and you'd come away comforted rather than depressed and oppressed.

I pray that no matter what is going on in your heart and life, you will celebrate a Joy filled Thanksgiving. I know the pain of celebrating after brokenness and loss of loved ones. I've allowed Jesus to heal my wounds and I've chosen JOY. You can too. If you are hurting and would like to talk with me further, or have questions, please email me at .

When I was a girl Thanksgiving looked like this:
Mom got up early put the turkey in the oven
We all got up and dressed for church
Thanksgiving Service was a big deal - well attended - anyone who came was permitted to share whatever they were thankful for (we had to participate too) - no preaching - special music.
Then home for a feast with relatives and friends and oh joy it was not a Sunday so we could play and when we were older even watch some TV!
Grand mom Kalis dressed the turkey before we sat down to eat it. :-)
At the table we had place cards with our names on them and Bible verses my Mom had written out by hand that had the word Thanksgiving or thanks in it, which we all had to read aloud and then say what we were most thankful for. Someone prayed a long prayer before we ate.
Unfortunately it was all ruined by the heaps of dishes to wash up and put away!

Today Thanksgiving looks like this:
I get up and put the turkey in the oven
We watch the Macy's Day Parade, of course!
Then I cook a lot more food than we can eat
There are a lot less relatives to cook for - many are already in heaven.
We still take a turn and thank the Lord for our many blessings.
We sit and talk a lot longer than when we were kids.
We all help clean up.
Hubby watches football.
I like to end the day by watching "Miracle on 34th Street"
Mom and Gerda go off to Chinese retreat.
Alfred and I go down to Lancaster to meet up with more family on Friday.

Psalms 89:15: "Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance." Whatever or however you do it, CHOOSE JOY and have a truly Happy Thanksgiving!

Joyfully yours,
Ruth Joy

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