As a food blogger, I appreciate Thanksgiving as a beautiful day of enjoying food. Succulent meats, sweet desserts, rich mashed potatoes, and savory green beans are a feast that can be enjoyed by all ages and generations. Our “ideal” picture perfect Thanksgiving shows a table burdened with food in a very nicely decorated room, with a joyous family gathered around. It is a happy picture.
Yet this beautiful feast’s history is steeped in dark times.
The iconic picture we have for the first Thanksgiving feast is the Plymouth pilgrims sharing a meal with the Wampanoag Indians. In that time, calling for a “feast of Thanksgiving” was common among the Puritan people when they recognized a good gift from “the Lord”. Yet, this feast happened after half of their party had succumbed to starvation and disease. In the more clear vision of today, we can look back at that party of Pilgrims, fleeing from persecution, and see some of the seeds being laid for persecution of another party – the native Indian groups. However, in a lovely picture of unity and thankfulness, they shared food and drink together at this moment in history.
Life was not easy for them. Death had been all too present, but a harvest (thanks to local tutoring they received) gave them hope for the future. And so they feasted – and gave thanks.
Skip ahead to 1863, and the United States of America is not so united after all, but waging a bloody war which amounted to more people being killed than in any other American war. Family members were fighting each other on opposite sides of the conflict, primitive doctoring probably killed more people then they saved, and there was hardly a family that had not known deep loss and sorrow because of the war. It was hard to see the light of hope during these very dark years.
It was in these deeply dark days that Abraham Lincoln made the Thanksgiving Proclamation. In it, the president pointed out what they did have to be thankful for (peace with other countries during a time of turmoil within, a harvest uninterrupted from the war, and abundance from mines). He also called for repentance for personal sins, as well as prayers for those widowed and orphaned among them. This is where our National holiday began; it started in some of the darkest days of our country’s history.
The next time the President made a change to Thanksgiving (ironically to appease retailers who wanted more time to sell Christmas gifts) was after long years of The Great Depression. Unemployment, hunger, despair, and dusty farmlands pervaded our country. It seems our Thanksgiving feast can’t come up without being at the tail end of some catastrophe.
But the point is this; many of us are facing hard times. Unemployment is high in our country right now, countless have lost homes or are displaced right now because of the hurricane. Many have lost jobs or are working jobs that hardly pay enough to keep food on the table. To take a day to feast (all that money going to food!), to take a day to cook extra food (think of the work!), can seem the last thing we would want to do. Yet, it is in dark days that our souls probably need a day to sit back and count the things we do have to be thankful for. When we are most discouraged, we need the most encouragement. Too often our sorrows overshadow our blessings in our mind. For that reason, I am gong to try to keep my contributions to the meal simple enough that we have time to really talk and enjoy the day together (and not simply work the whole day preparing for it!).
There is always going to be death, sickness, lack of money, sorrow, worry, and pain while we are on this world. Some of us are living through especially difficult circumstances. But let this upcoming day not be a day of trouble and inconveniences, but rather a day to count our blessings, as few or as many as they may be. In doing so, we follow the example of those before us who also choose to give thanks during very difficult times.
Perhaps your meal will be simple, but you will be sharing it with those you love. I think of the Hebrew proverb “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, then a stalled oxen and hatred.” Perhaps you will be working on that day, away from those you love, but your work helps keep your loved ones financially afloat during lean times. Perhaps you will be spending this holiday alone in the quietness of home (both a home and quietness can be a blessing – or so says this mother of two loud little children!).
I think that thankfulness during hard times is so important because it helps give hope for the future. When you can find nothing to be thankful for, then what is there to live for?
On a personal note: This Thanksgiving, we will be thankful for our loved ones, both those who we have now, and for the time we had with those before we lost them. Thankful for food on our tables, and roofs over our head. For giggles and sweet stories between two little girls in between their petty arguments. There are many circumstances that are painful or imperfect and we expect more of them in the years ahead, but we are thankful that our hope is not in this imperfect world because of our hope through Jesus, and we thank a kind God for the good gifts he has given us.
I’d love to hear from you! What are you thankful for this year? I’d also love to hear ideas of how to bring thankfulness into this important day! Any traditions you’d like to share?
Photo Credit: tuchodi/flicker
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You said it well! There is simply nothing to add.
Such a great history lesson and so beautifully stated. I found your blog this year after the birth of my fourth child, Naomi Joy. I expected my fourth to be easy, fall right in with the others. Because of her dairy allergy, which took me a few weeks to pinpoint, she spent many weeks crying day and night. It was a helpless feeling to watch her writhe in pain. I have cut dairy out of my diet since she is exclusively nursing. It has made a huge difference. She’s such a happy girl now. Your blog allowed me to find tasty recipes that did not make me feel wanting. I do very much miss goat cheese and cannot find a suitable substitute but everything else I don’t miss. I am thankful this year for abundance. Although in my little world I feel as if I am sacrificing but in reality my family is fantastically blessed. My children are well, I am loved, my husband and I have great jobs, I have genuine friends, and a loving, forgiving Father. Looking forward to your recipes to create a lovely meal. I’m working Thanksgiving as a nurse in postpartum. Thankfulness emanates generously on my floor. Thank you for your guidance this year.
Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet
I am so glad that my blog has been a help to you! I know how challenging a crying baby is. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
Melissa @ Dyno-mom
I can’t tell you how much I agree. I linked to this from my personal and blog Facebook pages because I wanted to share your thoughts. Thanks!
Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet
Thanks, Melissa! That was so sweet of you to share this post with others. I appreciate that.
Thank you Kimi! Well said! Your healthy food blog has been a true blessing of encouragement! We are very thankful for family and friends–true blessings from our Lord Jesus! We will be sharing a traditional Thanksgiving meal along with older family members—loving on them while we still can!! 🙂
I Peter 1:13 in the original Greek says that there is no room for pessimism or despondancy if we rest our hope in the wonderful Grace of God. He is sovereign and is working everything together for our good and His glory. It doesn’t often look that way but that is where faith comes in. Thank You for pointing us in the right direction as we think about giving thanks and pray for those who are suffering right now.
So very well said. I appreciate your words.
Thank you so much Kim, this is such a beautiful and wise message, and with such perspective that. I appreciate your sharing such a heartfelt and profound inspiration. Blessings to you!
Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet
Thanks, Mashubi. 🙂
What a great reminder! I have had plenty of reminders of the importance of being thankful! I am thankful for a God who loves us and cares about our every need and I am thankful for the blessings He bestows upon us! I am also thankful for the family He has blessed me with!
Today I googled ‘soaking corn’, and it led me here, after bookmarking your polenta recipe, I clicked the ‘Home’ tab and read this deeply touching post, tearfully, you have a new follower!
Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet
Thanks, Karen, for letting me know you found this post touching. 🙂 That was kind of you. As you can see, I get distracted from simply sharing recipes.
And welcome to my blog!
Hi Kimi! I wanted to comment on blessings, as I post quite a lot about them as well. It is easy to become distracted from what really matters in life, but sometimes God speaks and reminds us that this life, and all of it’s moments, easy and beautiful, or challenging, come wrapped in a blessing. It may take a while, like a child, for the blessing to grow and become apparent, but it is always there, nonetheless. Our God is an awesome God whose goodness is apparent to all those who seek it.
Blessings of peace to your family~Wendy
I unexpectedly lost our baby this year, and throughout it all, God has been faithful. I am thankful for Him.