Please be patient … this post is still undergoing final writing.
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day 2018, my husband and I were blessed to be able to gather in our home with our sons and their families to celebrate the holiday a little early that year. That morning, we got the day rolling with a special, fun brunch and then went to church together as a family. The rest of the day was spent eating a big, traditional turkey dinner with all of our family’s favorite trimmings; sharing a special time of giving thanks; and watching as many televised football games as possible. By Tuesday, though, the atmosphere in our home was quite different. Despite the calendar’s indication that this year’s Thanksgiving holiday was yet two days into the future, the count at our house was that Thanksgiving was two days behind us, but the good news was that Christmas was coming!
So that day I put away all of my fall decorations and began to unpack my Christmas ones. But among the fall items were two that could not be packed up with the rest: a ceramic pumpkin vase with cut autumn flowers was one, and a good number of small gourds and pumpkins was the second. Had either of the two items shown any sign of decay, I most probably would have simply tossed them all in the trash, as I have done so many other times in the past. But this year was different. Because the items still had such a vibrant appearance, I wanted to give someone an opportunity to enjoy them further. But I didn’t know to whom I might offer to give them.
Wednesday arrived with the flowers and gourds still in my house, as I still hadn’t made a decision. Then, from seemingly out of the blue, a particular family suddenly came to mind with such strong conviction, that it immediately ended my “to whom should I offer the decorations” dilemma. The strange part of the matter was that, not only did that family not live in my neighborhood, but I didn’t know them, for I had never even met them! The only reason that I had that day for even know ing of the family, was due to one woman who just so happens to participate in the same adult Sunday school class as I attend, just so happens to be one of my very good friend, of a woman who had mentioned the family during a recent Sunday school class. My friend was coordinating a project that our that she would soon be getting in touch with that family with regard to a particular matter that our class had been discussing.
That wasn’t much, but it was apparently all that I needed to know right then to have a way to move on. I then sent a text to my friend, explaining why I wanted to get in touch with the family. Minutes later, I received her reply. In it was the family’s phone number and I immediately dialed it.
After only one ring, my call was answered by the person to whom I was hoping to speak: “The Family’s Mom” (TFM, hereafter). When I told her my name and my Sunday school affiliation, her silence told me that neither one of them had any meaning to her at all. But at the mention of the name of my friend, TFM made the connection between me and her that made it easy for me to offer her the gourds and flowers that were left over from my family’s earlier Thanksgiving celebration. Her acceptance was so quick, that I told her that my husband and I would be glad to take the items right over to her. That was when our conversation suddenly turned in a direction that I never anticipated.
TFM explained that she wasn’t at home right then; nor did she expect to be until much later that evening. Then in a sadness of voice that hinted at the news that was coming, TFM said that her aunt had unexpectedly died quite suddenly on Tuesday. So when I called TFM on Wednesday—the day before the day calendars marked to officially remember to give God our thanks that year—she wasn’t at home preparing food or festivities. But instead, TFM was respectfully gathering with other family members, not at one of their family places, stockpiled with family memory upon memory, but at a funeral home, of all places. They were there to give thanks to all who had departed from their own plans that evening to honor the life of her aunt, who could no longer take part in this world’s family holiday celebrations.
Tuesday to Wednesday, and then Wednesday to Thursday, was the time I was given to adjust to the fact that the day for remembering to give God our thanks had passed. It was also the time when I needed to focus on the coming day in the future when God would remind us of the day in time when He had given us the Gift of the Christ child. What a difference a day in this world can make.
TFM’s announcement so surprised me that I was momentarily silenced. Then I offered TFM my condolences, and I asked her if she had been close to her aunt. Again, she said, “Yes.”
The instant when I heard her answer, I immediately “checked out,” so to speak, loosing my conscious awareness of my physical location. It was similar to what one experiences when entering a daydream. But different than any daydream that I have ever had, this event gave me a generous dose of reality from God, that He allowed me to experience through my physical senses to assure me that the event did actually happen. I felt it: a warm, glowing sensation from deep within my abdominal area rise up to reveal itself through the tears that I wept as compassion for TFM that arose from God the Holy Spirit in me. I saw it: an image of me, standing, bent slightly forward, arms loosely hanging, hands cupped around my abdomen, where there was an image of a structure that was identified, by the name “well” that I heard spoken.
I then asked TFM one final question. I wanted to know if there was anything that TFM or her family needed that, if they were to receive it, would make a difference to them at that specific time in their lives. Without hesitation, she replied, “Oh, yes… anything!”
Yes… such a thing did exist. But what was it? The word anything covers a lot of territory, from the least to the greatest of every possible offering. So how then could anything—any one single item chosen by me, at my own discretion, out of the endless number of possible choices that were given to me the instant when TFM had replied, by saying the word anything. Amazingly when she gave me that choice she wasn’t asking for any of the things that we might expect someone to ask for at such a time in their life. But instead that what would help her and her family was to just know without a doubt that someone somewhere cared enough them and their grief to do something — anything — that would show that really do care.
That need is one that we share unequivocally. We all want to know that the hurt and pain that we experience in this world matter so much to someone—anyone (even a stranger)—that someone somewhere will willingly do something—anything (whatever possible)—to provide tangible, compassionate assistance in some manner, that affirms to us personally, that we are never alone in our sufferings.
That is precisely what God did for all of us in this world. He gave us His Son in the most incredible Sacrifice, revealing a love for each and every one of us who are born into this world, that He gave His Son as proof of that love.
Even then before my conversation with TFM ended, I already knew what I was going to do. That is why a couple of hours later, in addition to the fall decorations, my husband and I handed a pumpkin pancake, sausage and maple syrup breakfast to TFM’s children. Why a pancake breakfast? Because that was the first and only thing that immediately came to mind, as something that I knew that I could make immediately with the ingredients that I had on hand.
I can’t really say, because I don’t fully know what all TFM and her family may have received in the exchange that occurred between us that evening. But I do know without any question or doubt that in the dark parking lot of the funeral home where the exchange took place, there I received true thanks-giving in TFM’s heart-felt embrace. The thanks that were being given were mine; and they were being given to God. Then TFM and I said our final goodbyes that night and headed back to our cars, our lives continued onward in their own separate directions.
That wasn’t though the end of the story. Here’s what happened next.
On Tuesday of that week, I had briefly spoken with my husband about a different Thanksgiving matter. As he and I had already eaten a big turkey dinner with our immediate family just a few days earlier, we had to decide what the two of us were going to share for our “second” Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. When I asked my husband what he wanted to eat for Thursday’s dinner, he responded with a very short answer. He said, “I really can’t think of anything in particular, but for some strange reason I am really hungry for coleslaw. So whatever else we fix, let’s have coleslaw with it. I’m not sure, though, that we even have any cabbage left in the refrigerator.” I couldn’t help but chuckle as I honestly then said, “It’s funny you said that, because I was actually just thinking the very same thing. I really want coleslaw, too; but… I know that we finished the cabbage, and there’s none left in the refrigerator.”
The following evening, after we were done delivering the things we had for TFM and her family, my husband and I were both hungry, for we had not yet had any dinner that evening. So we pulled out of the funeral home parking lot and then almost immediately back into the parking lot of a restaurant that is located just down the street. But as we were parking, we couldn’t help noticing that our car was the only car in the lot. At that point in time, we weren’t sure if the restaurant was open or not. So we checked their times and saw that the place closed at 8:30 pm; and, when we looked in the windows, we could see that the employees were cleaning. But since the time right then was 8:28 pm, my husband tugged on the door handle. The door promptly opened, and we walked into the restaurant with two minutes to spare.
Several of the employees whom we had seen cleaning, stopped what they were doing to take, cook and bag our to-go order. Just as they finished filling the order, the manager came out and made us an offer. “I know that this is going to sound strange,“ she said, “but would you like to take home this bag of fresh cabbage that we cut up for coleslaw beyond what we needed today? I really don’t want to throw it away, if you can use it for your Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. All that you have to do is mix in whatever dressing you use. It’s already chopped and ready to go. So here, If you want it, it’s yours. Take it with you. You’ll have a head start on your dinner tomorrow.”
I laughed aloud, as I thanked her and then turned to my husband. By then he was carrying the two small bags of burgers and fries that we had come for, plus the surprise: a large, clear plastic bag of chopped cabbage that looked sufficiently large enough to provide us with coleslaw for not only our “Second Time Around” Thanksgiving dinner the next day, but also, most probably, for our diners the entire next week!
“God! It’s God! He did it again,” I said, smiling, as we headed back to our car. “There’s no other way. God did it again… And this time He did it with cabbage! Cabbage! Do you believe it?”
That is the question that is on the table, and it must be answered. Do you believe it?
Absolutely! Who but God could have orchestrated these events from start to finish with the absolute perfect timing that was required for success? Think about that. Then go back through the story, and see for yourself. Note the importance of every relevant decision that I and others made with regard to this story being the story that it is.
And if you do choose to do that, then keep this fact in mind, also: Other than my husband and me, God is the Only One who even knew that we wanted coleslaw. In thinking back through our forty-five years of marriage, neither my husband nor I can remember us ever having prepared coleslaw for a major holiday meal, because the vast majority of our immediate family members don’t eat coleslaw. But this year, the two of us together mixed, served and ate coleslaw at our second-time-around Thanksgiving Day dinner on Thursday and, then again, every day afterward for more than a week.
Praise God alone! He showed Himself again, both able and willing.