Dear Lake B Family and Friends:
Where did I learn the importance of giving thanks?
My mother raised us to be thankful in all circumstances. No matter what. To find a way to give thanks to God - even if it was just for waking us up in the morning; for a warm home; for their jobs; for our car; for school clothes; for our health; for our family; for a chance to have a decent education. She told us many stories about growing up in Samoa where there was no electricity or indoor plumbing. I remember that my parents had a kerosene lamp in their bedroom for many years, because that was how they had light at night "back home” in Samoa. I never asked her why they didn’t just turn on the light. Something in me knew that they were still getting accustomed to this “new” life in the States.
In comparison with their own children, my parents didn’t have much growing up.
Even today, it’s hard to imagine the kind of life they lived. It was imperative for my mother to have her children be thankful for everything that came our way. And not just for the good things, but even more so in times of need or even when things were difficult. She modeled for us a posture of constant thanksgiving before God. She was familiar with suffering, deep grief and hardship in her 87 years. I believe those things produced in her an awareness of God’s sustaining presence over a lifetime, and she thanked God for them - time and time again. God’s presence.
I have thought continually about both of my parents during this COVID season. Part of me wonders how they would have negotiated this time of social distancing, masks and quarantining. One thing is certain: my mother would have been steadfast in giving thanks to God - even during this time. She would’ve gathered and centered us in words and prayers of thanksgiving.
We know this Thanksgiving and Advent/Christmas season will be very different. It’s not likely we will experience fully what we are accustomed to: gathering with friends and loved ones; sharing meals; exchanging gifts and attending parties; times of worship together in our beautifully-decorated sanctuary. Even as I write this, I am scaling back my holiday plans to include much less than the usual Thompson clan celebrations.
So many things have changed since February.
Many of us have experienced the great pain of losing loved ones. We have faced unexpected changes in employment. Our homes, schools and workplaces are filled with unparalleled stress. Significant relationships have shifted. And we are rightly angry about unjust systems that persist in upholding inequitable policies and practices. We see how they create, sustain and entrench disparities in our community, further alienating especially our black and brown siblings from participating in the fullness of life that God intends.
Yes - it has been a v-e-r-y long almost-ten months.
I still hear my mother’s voice: Avatu le fa’afetai I le Atua i mea uma (“Give thanks to God in all things”).
Sometimes I am not sure how this is supposed to work. Perhaps it’s more about cultivating a life, a posture, a culture of gratitude over time. Gratitude rooted in God’s presence with us and for us. Gratitude for the power of the Holy Spirit who is always at work and inviting us to into joy and transformation. May God’s Spirit do her work in each of us - now.
With thanksgiving for each of you, and in anticipation of the Christ we seek together in Advent,