By Janet L. Jackson
Thanksgiving always brought joy to my heart and stomach when I was a small child. The wonderful smells wafting through the house and the anticipation of Grandma and Grandpa soon arriving with Grandma’s prizewinning mashed potato yeast rolls were cause for this excited youngster to dance and sing around the house with my five brothers and sisters. Mom and Dad were frantically working in our tiny kitchen and occasionally scolded us for being rambunctious. All the clatter had to irritate Grandma and Grandpa who were accustomed to their quiet domain. But they would simply smile and love on us.
When all the other family members would finally arrive, we sat down to feast and fellowship. The bummer was we kids still didn’t get to eat at the “big” table. That was a small price to pay considering the delicious food and good company. And being outside direct adult supervision probably allowed the ornery ones to get by with more shenanigans.
The Baton Is Passed
I grew up and married my high school sweetheart. In our college years, Grandma told my husband, Bill, he would become a pastor. We chuckled since he was an accounting major. She never spoke of it again—just smiled that knowing smile. Bill accepted the call to go into the ministry several years after Grandma passed away.
A few months after Grandma’s death, I had the opportunity to visit Grandpa as he lingered in that realm between life and death. I whispered in his ear my thankfulness for him being my example of a God-fearing man. He squeezed my hand and drew his last breath.
We celebrated the Thanksgiving feast a few more years at my parents’ house, and I eventually mastered the art of making the mashed potato yeast rolls. We knew it was just a matter of time before Bill and I would inherit the privilege of hosting the celebration in our home. That time has now come.
Last Thanksgiving my father decided to pass the baton, and we humbly accepted the challenge. The Thanksgiving feast was held, for the first time, in the Jackson household. Twenty family members and friends gathered to eat, fellowship, and compare this new tradition to the past. Would we pass the test? To our delight, everyone’s critique was satisfactory, and we are allowed to continue with the honor this year!
Just Like Grandma and Grandpa
Now that the challenge of preparing acceptable food is out of the way, I’ve contemplated how Grandma and Grandpa made Thanksgiving more spiritual. How did they make this a time not only for feasting but for their loved ones to reaffirm for whom they are thankful? Our family consists of varied ideologies ranging from liberal to conservative. To avoid a conflict, the unspoken rule is not to discuss religion or politics. Hubby is the DRP (designated religious person) for saying grace—the tolerated limit of spiritual awareness to which all are comfortable.
Why did I always get the sense, as a youngster, that our time together was Christ-filled? I think it was just the presence of Grandma and Grandpa. We all knew where they stood in their faith. They didn’t do anything special to make Thanksgiving more spiritual. They simply loved us. I know their love led me into the arms of Jesus. Our family’s love can still have that kind of power.
Sometimes we fret and worry about what we can do or say so each family member desires an authentic relationship with Christ. What else can we do but model it and love them? Just like Grandma and Grandpa did. We can let God do the rest.
Janet L. Jackson is retired from teaching in special education. She is the author of Jesus Didn’t Fit In: Raising Nontraditional Children.