Several years ago, with Thanksgiving approaching, I sat down to write a letter to our four children. I’d made a practice of sending out a group e-mail regularly letting them know what was new on the home front. I was not a happy camper – all of them were scattered around the world, and they would not be home for Thanksgiving. Poor me!
So I began: “Dear kids, What with Thanksgiving approaching, I thought I should start this letter by listing some of the things for which I am grateful...” Two pages later, I still wasn’t finished, and I was in a much better frame of mind. I discovered that an attitude of gratitude is self-perpetuating. The more you give thanks, the more you want to give thanks. I discovered what psychologists have known for a long time: gratitude is good for your physical, spiritual, emotional, mental and social health.
This week, with Thanksgiving approaching, I thought it would be a pleasure to write a warm, witty, light-hearted post. Something along the lines of Why I Love Thanksgiving or even Why I Don’t Love Pumpkin Pies (for your chuckle of the day, google images for Why I Don't Like Pumpkin Pie.)
I had a good quilt piece already made that fit very nicely with the theme. I created this piece, featuring a cornucopia full of words, 5 years ago, as part of a quilt celebrating the year I turned 60. It’s a true and accurate picture of my feelings at the time. That Thanksgiving Day, we were celebrating family and blessings together. It was good, very good, and
my heart was full and overflowing. Around the cornucopia I wrote “Oh
give thanks to God for he is good.”
But yesterday, I got some bad news. Someone who is dear to many people, including us, has just been given a very bad cancer diagnosis. My grief at the news reminded me that life is not always warm and light-hearted, and that writing something witty and clever for Thanksgiving would be a cop out for me. Thanksgiving plumbs depths much deeper and darker than sweet sentiments can express.
How do you celebrate thanksgiving when parts of life are so wrong, when the World Trade Towers fall, when the tsunami kills 16,000 of your countrymen, when your spouse is coping with a devastating disease, when the environment is going to hell in a handbasket? I still believe God is good, but I have so many questions, the same questions that all of humankind has been asking since the beginning of time: Why? What’s this all about? I don’t understand. I grope toward answers, and lean on my belief that this good God is with us through it all. But the bottom line is that life is a mystery, and we won’t have definitive answers this side of eternity
What I do know is that life is a mixture of sunshine and shadow, gold and garbage, joy and sadness. Amongst the cornucopia of blessings we experience – and there are so very, very many – we need to acknowledge the black ribbon that is woven through it. We rejoice with those who rejoice, but we also mourn with those who mourn. And in the middle of it all, though we do not give thanks for the tragedies and perplexities, we can give thanks in them.* We can choose to focus on the grace amidst the garbage, to see shafts of light in the darkness, and to give thanks for all that is good and wonderful in this life.
And the prayers of thanksgiving we utter in the dark times will help us through to the light.
I made a new quilt piece for this post, a new cornucopia to fill. I have written words on the scrolls and tied them with ribbons of varied colours. I placed these prayers of thanksgiving in the basket, saying thanks for good times, but also for the good that I found in the bad times. What’s in your cornucopia today?
* Thanks to Charleen for this insight – she is blogging about her father’s illness which has turned their lives upside down. In her blog, she began listing what she is thankful for, and like me, it was hard to stop once she got started.
The prayer that is inscribed on the new cornucopia is an excerpt from one by Vienna Cobb Anderson, plus ideas and thoughts of my own. You can read Anderson’s prayer at www.beliefnet.com/Prayers/Christian/Gratitude/Prayer-Of-Thanksgiving.aspx