Assuming you live within the United States, you may be feeling the not-so-subtle coma effects of tryptophan. Your kitchen may look like the scullery of a Victorian home following a dinner party. Depending on your family traditions, maybe you play pick-up football games at a local park, or maybe you gather around a television to watch the Detroit Lions eke out another loss.

By the time you read this, gratitude and family may be the last thing on your mind if you are part of the masses trying to seize on the commercialized wonder that is, Black Friday.  A once one-day event of mass purchasing that has become more of a monthly event.  I’m thankful for this trend since I am in the market for some tools that Home Depot just happened to mark off this month.

But here I am, sitting in the early morning dark next to the Christmas tree covered in ornaments that tell the story of thirty-plus years of memories. Memories of family and community and of crisscrossing the globe in ministry. These tokens were all the more memorable because we only got to use them every few years when we would be Stateside for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sitting here is the perfect place to reflect on gratitude.

Wednesday evening after work I ran into a friend of ours at the grocery store. Their son recently moved away to the east coast and this would be his first Thanksgiving away from home. She said that this was his favorite holiday because the focus is getting together as a family and there are no gift expectations, just community. I love his assessment of Thanksgiving. The one holiday without expectations (and I would add as an aside; as long as you are not preparing the meal). 

I have parents that though imperfect, did everything they could to give us a stable and loving home. It didn’t matter if we were walking into our bare, rough, and unfinished concrete home on a muggy night in Ghana, or stepping into a pre-fab asbestos house in a mountain village in Lesotho or returning to a temporary home in Mitchell, South Dakota, it was home. I cannot speak for all of my siblings, but I felt some stability in a life that from the outside at least, looked anything but stable.

I have three sons of my own now, and I cannot imagine how difficult that must have felt at times. To create a foundation in the middle of chaotic circumstances.  To maintain that level of focus year after year through bouts with malarial fever, armed robbery, poverty, heartache, and loss seems, upon reflection, nearly superhuman. I of course knew nothing of this because I was home and for that, I am so grateful.

It wasn’t that my parents were perfect, or that they always did everything right. If you asked any group of people at random, our life was anything but idyllic. But it was idyllic because my parents created a home based on their deep and unwavering faith in Christ and what He had done in their lives. 

So, like my friend’s son, what I am thankful for is the intangible thing. A legacy of deep faith and a stable home regardless of circumstances. 

I don’t know what the future holds for my family, but if all I do is provide my sons with the same family home for 20 years and a stable socio-economic platform and nothing else, then I have failed miserably. However, if they can look back like I do on the legacy of a mother and father who served Christ above all else and through every circumstance, parents who loved their children enough to discipline and guide them and place boundaries in their life, then maybe one day my sons can sit next to a lit Christmas tree in the pre-dawn hours and say, ‘Thank you.’

Sorry, mom, I couldn’t find the picture with you. You must have been taking them.

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