Happy Thanksgiving, friends and family! My plan was to link my Wake Forest Today column in today’s post, but I’m not sure it will be up in time. So – with apologies to my editor – here it is (and please visit the excellent WFT site anyway…). – DEREK
Thanks-Gratitude and Peace
– DEREK MAUL (for Wake Forest Today)
This week marks the first Thanksgiving in over thirty years that Rebekah and I have not hosted a wide assortment of family and friends in our home.
We’ll be celebrating with family in Greenville, and part of me is looking forward to the shift from overworked host to relaxed guest. But at the same time I’m going to miss the deep joy of standing in our kitchen, every square inch of counter space covered with amazing food, welcoming 25-30 people, asking the crowd to bow their heads, and giving thanks for our many blessings.
That’s why, over the past three decades, I have been calling this week “Thanks-Gratitude.” It’s a theme that continues to define my life.
FLORIDA: Back in Florida we’d borrow three long tables from the church and put two end-to-end on our screened porch. That would seat 20-ish, then we’d set one more on the grass. The meal would last all afternoon.
The highlight, of course, was the moment – usually between the main courses and dessert – when we all took turns sharing one thing (but usually more) we were thankful for during the past year. At this point there was always laughter and tears pretty much in equal measure.
And there would almost always be unexpected guests. Like the year Rebekah told an “open table” story from the pulpit and several people showed up unannounced. Or the Thanksgiving I drove to the Navy base to pick up a sailor, and he asked if his three friends – standing right there – could come too.
One unique feature at a Maul-Hall Thanks-Gratitude has always been the hard and fast “no television” rule. I know, the idea of no football is hard to swallow! But seriously, people, can’t you watch football pretty-much non-stop at least four days per week somewhere from late August through early January? But when else do we have a house-full of people we love?
PEACE: For me, there was always a point in the late afternoon where I would stand still for a moment, lean on the kitchen counter, and take in the overwhelming understanding of peace and blessing. Here’s what it looked like:
I’d be in the kitchen, doing dishes; pots, pans, fine china, crystal, sliver wear, leftovers; mess upon mess. In one corner, four people are engaged in a lively conversation. On the floor by the bookcase, various grandchildren and cousins play a noisy game. To my right, in the front room, Jesse is pounding out a song on the guitar. On the porch two more groups are sharing stories. On the dining room table, another handful of guests work the 2,000 piece puzzle that will take the rest of the evening.
Two of my sisters-in-law are nosily gathering plates and helping the assembly-line action in the kitchen. Somewhere, a baby is crying. The house is a soundboard and there is a cacophony of noise.
It is the sound of peace.
Peace is often misunderstood as a negative value: no noise, silence, the absence of conflict, having everything neatly in order. But it is not; peace is so much more than that.
Peace is the presence of love, and good intentions, and tolerance, and understanding, and goodwill. Peace is the confluence of family, friends, faith, and noise. Peace is disagreeing, but in love; it is loud, but respectful; it is wrestling, not fighting; it is disorder, yet working together; it is unity, not uniformity.
So I will miss the particular iteration of Thanksgiving we have come to know as Thanks-Gratitude. I will miss standing at the epicenter of peace in our home. But we do plan on bringing a carload of it with us over to Greenville.
And I don’t plan on doing any dishes, not this year.
Peace, Thanks, and Gratitude – DEREK