The Tradition

Well, Thanksgiving 2017 is in the books.

For over fifty years, my family has traveled up to the Paso Robles area of California to celebrate Thanksgiving. As a girl, we stayed with my grandparents for the holiday. Later, my parents built a house next door to them and the tradition continued even after my grandparents passed away. As my siblings and I got older and had families of our own, our group grew bigger. And bigger. And bigger! Eventually, some of our kids married and started their families.

About eight years ago we realized that something had to give. My parents’ home was just too small to hold all of us. So, we ended up renting a huge house surrounded by rolling hills and ancient oaks not too far from Paso with plenty of room for everyone.

Not everyone can come every year. On lean years, our crowd numbers about twenty-five for Thanksgiving dinner. When everyone comes to celebrate, we cook for close to forty people!

This is a big production and we pretty much have it down to a science. We all have our food assignments. We spend Wednesday through Saturday together. We cook and eat tostadas for dinner on Wednesday night. Thursday breakfast is casual, usually cinnamon rolls, bagels, cereal, and everyone fends for themselves. And then it’s all day Thursday preparing and then enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Here’s a sample menu:

Thanksgiving Day Appetizers (Pre-Feast Stomach Stretcher)
Spinach Dip
5 Layer Dip
Artichoke Dip
Jalapeño Cheese Poppers
Chips and Salsa

Thanksgiving Day Feast
2 Turkeys (one roasted, one deep-fried)
Two types of dressing (one traditional, one gourmet)
2 hams
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Broccoli and Cheese Casserole
Sweet Potato Casserole
Fried Okra
Macaroni and Cheese
Green Bean Casserole
Creamed Corn
Deviled Eggs
Cranberry Sauce
Yeast Rolls
Homemade Chocolate Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Coconut Cream Pie, and Pumpkin Cheesecake

But wait, there’s more!

Friday morning after Thanksgiving Day, we prepare a huge breakfast. Bacon, ham, eggs, biscuits and gravy (including white and chocolate gravy… yes, you read that right, chocolate gravy), and fried potatoes. Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch and dinner on Friday. Saturday breakfast this year we enjoyed chorizo and eggs. On Saturday after breakfast, we say our goodbyes and everyone heads home.

That is a lot of food and a lot of people. A lot of cooking and cleaning up. Kids everywhere. It gets noisy. It gets messy. Some turn in early, some stay up late. A few of us are up at dawn to watch the sunrise and drink our first cup of coffee. Others sleep in. We talk and reminisce. Sometimes, we cry. We laugh, play games, take walks, and have time to do our own thing. Everyone helps and everyone contributes. I’m convinced that our commitment to Thanksgiving together is the main reason our family has remained close over the years. And for that, we can be extremely thankful.

In March of 2013, my mom passed away. Although her absence is profoundly felt by all of us, we honor her at Thanksgiving by making the pilgrimage to Paso Robles each November.

I hope The Tradition never ends.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. -Psalm 107:8-9 

Blinded by the Now


No one is immune to difficulty. Financial concerns. Car problems. Marital issues. Worries about children or elderly parents. Loneliness, addiction, physical or mental illness. This one has a son who serves in the military, currently stationed a little too close to a certain mad man in North Korea. That one is going through a divorce. Another one is dealing with the pain of losing a loved one in the recent Las Vegas shootings. A dear friend of mine just lost her husband to cancer.

To be sure, even in the midst of suffering there are moments of joy. But the point I’m trying to make is that anxiety and fear serve to keep us laser focused on the problem at hand. We become blind to everything else.

At least in my life, I miss out on so much because of worry and fear. It’s like there’s always a worst-case scenario running in the background of my mind. It’s exhausting.

I, we, desperately need a glimpse of the eternal perspective:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day
Nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
He will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out
And coming in
From this time forth and forever more.
-Psalm 121

The words of this Psalm and Scripture in general make no sense if the context is not eternity. In fact, without the broadness of eternity undergirding them, these words would only seem to mock us in our suffering.

The truth is that our existence this side of Heaven will always be a mingling of sorrow and joy. God’s promises do belong to us, but will only be perfectly realized in the glorious and real future that is ours in Christ.

Lift up your eyes, indeed.