Thankful for 'this'

by Neil Greathouse

Sometimes when I see a movie or TV show where the whole family is together celebrating Thanksgiving, I can’t help but wonder — what planet are they from?

The turkey is golden brown and everything is steaming with savory perfection. Dad is wearing his evening jacket and all the kids have on white turtlenecks or a blouse that is right out of a catalogue. Mom is beaming with joy because everything is just perfect. But you and I know better, right?

The Thanksgiving holidays I remember started off with mom handcuffing us to a table to make personalized placemats with construction paper and crayons for all our guests. If I had to make another turkey by tracing around my hand on a paper plate, I was going to go on strike and picket! As we sat there, trying to remember the names of all our relatives, we tried to prepare mentally for the “big moment.” You know the one. “Let’s all go around the table and say what we’re thankful for!” Yeah, that one.

Mom was in the kitchen working on Thanksgiving dinner, and we all knew it was a big deal. My siblings and I were used to eating whatever the crazy schedule of life would allow on a week-to-week basis.

Cereal for dinner? No problem. Tater tots out of a bag and some frozen fish filets made of “real fish parts?” No thank you. But that was the pace at our house.

So, Thanksgiving was the one time of the year we all got some of our favorites that Mom only made on a special occasion. We could forgive the few times that year we’d been served a grilled cheese sandwich with the plastic wrapper still intact. We’d look past the homemade pizzas with canned mushrooms that looked like slugs. Because today, we ate like kings!

Yes, inevitably the rolls were all burned. And occasionally, we’d get someone at the table who’d say the wrong thing at the wrong time and sabotage the whole day. Or a crazy relative would call in the middle of Thanksgiving Dinner and leave something on the answering machine that would be wildly inappropriate while we all listened.

But when it came time to say what we were always thankful for, I could never articulate it. I wish I’d said one simple word — “this.” This is what I’m thankful for, and I don’t ever want to forget it. The chaos, indigestion, John Madden talking about Turducken and my family. All messed up and together. That’s Thanksgiving.

Proverbs 1:8 says, “My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.” I thought that meant we’re supposed to pay attention when we’re in trouble, but now I realize that it means when things are going right, too. I want those moments for my family now, and hopefully, we can give it to them. Just without the turkey being raw on the inside. Nobody needs worms on Thanksgiving.


Neil Greathouse is a pastor at New Life Church in Conway. He and his wife, Gina, have three kids. Neil can be reached at [email protected].