"If you could only have two foods on your Thanksgiving plate, what would they be?" This is a game we play in our family of foodies, and my answer is stuffing with gravy, and roasted vegetables - brussel sprouts and green beans with bacon, rosemary, and lemon. (In case you want to challenge the rules of our game, gravy is a freebie and doesn't count as a separate food item. And we make sure there is lots and lots of gravy.)
Thanksgiving in our family is definitely about the food. We host our extended family at our home, and we start the day with brunch (which is every bit as important as the turkey dinner). Midday, we have a traditional potato-peeling contest, which I've found is the only way to get a hundred pounds of potatoes peeled and have fun while doing it. My sister Deb is a rockstar at peeling potatoes. When she steps up to the sink, the rest of us watch in awe and there is lots of hooting and hollering.
My eldest daughter, Kate, has fallen in love with pie-making, and my middle daughter, Claire, is my stuffing soul-sister who loves cooking it almost as much as eating it. Our youngest, Brenna, is not a fan of cooking or stuffing - she likes the sparkling juice. And the rolls.
Every year, my sister, Kari, makes her husband's favorite broccoli casserole which involves velveeta cheese and ritz crackers, and usually forgets the homemade cranberry sauce until we are gathered in the kitchen for grace.
Our gathering changes and evolves every year, because life is constantly changing, and families go through stuff. There are empty chairs at our table because some of our loved ones are gone. Relational changes mean some people are not coming and others are. Illness keeps some of our loved ones away. We miss those who cannot be with us and we are happy to welcome new faces. Our family, maybe like yours, can get a little messy. Families can be complicated. Most are far from perfect.
But through it all, through all we have been through and all the challenges and changes we've weathered together, we have found God's grace to be so much greater than the mess. We've found His love and comfort to be stronger than the pain of loss.
When we gather, the food is a big deal. But more than that - way more than that - it is about the relationships. Siblings reconnecting. In-laws bonding. Cousins becoming best friends all over again. Stories told and retold - often with embellishments. Trying to get the gravy to taste like Grandma's and the stuffing to taste like Mom's. Heavy doses of laughter and forgiveness and acceptance. Because we are family. And no other people on the planet share our history and our stories. It is an absolute gift that our home is the space where all this gets to take place.
If you have an empty chair at your table this year, I pray for God's healing comfort. Take time to grieve. Be kind to yourself. Maybe this article can help - I wrote it about our first Thanksgiving after Mom was gone. https://www1.cbn.com/devotions/when-cancer-takes-your-loved-one