Thursday, November 22, 2012

Kinship with the Pilgrims -


You finally sit down, your heart calming after rushing around all morning to get things ready, and you wait for everyone to settle down for the prayer. You look down the long plank table, and notice the little things that you missed earlier, some sweet girl gathered wildflowers and tucked them near that platter of venison. The little boys are poking each other with sticks and pretending to re-shoot the turkey and roasted birds like little boys do. The breeze wisps in and out through tucked up hair and send delicious smells everywhere from the steaming platters of food. 

Children are eyed with the look to be silent and lay down their toys. They wiggle and squirm, and put foreheads against hands, eyes alight with the promise of feasting and celebrating for several days, of free time and games and playing with friends. Fathers sit next to sons, and daughters sit next to friends, Mothers sweep back hair and wipe hands, and a moment of pause before the prayer causes a quietness to fall. The Indians look on, more of them than of yours, and in their eyes you see an understanding of your loss. They too, have lost, and they too, have served you, taught you, watched this life.

The breeze moves through again, and tears wet your eyes as you look again at those gathered to rejoice.  Your heart breaks all over again. There is an empty spot between those brothers where their older brother sat. Husbands are missing their wives, and children are sitting not quite so quietly without a Mama's hand on their back, loneliness lighting their eyes for brief moments. Children missing fathers, fathers missing children. There are empty places where people should be, your friends who you raised your children with are gone, sisters and their husbands mourning the loss of their babes. 

It has been so hard. Harder maybe than you thought it would be. And you ache for all the families that are missing loved ones today. It's a small group that go to bow their heads in prayer. Tears slip unheeded down your face as you listen, and you hope no one notices. You quietly open your eyes for a brief moment and see you are not the only one. A few children down, a father has crushed his little ones to his sides in a loving embrace, heads huddled together. A mother has pulled her little one onto her lap, and her shoulders shake with emotion. Children have grasped hands with each other instead of folding in prayer, and here and there among the parents are choked back sobs. 

You listen to every word, it resounds inside, and seems to burst in every part of you, as the "Amen" is raised from every pair of lips.
You lift your head, and through the grief, all you can give is praise. 

Because God has preserved you. You know He is taking care of you. He has not led you to this land and to minister to these friends for nothing. He has given you freedom for the very reason you bowed your head. Prayer. Praise. Worship. Eyes alight, you eat the turkey, the corn, the pudding, the fish. You rejoice and you laugh and you love hard. It has been hard, but oh, God has been good

~ A fictional story, as I imagined sitting at that 1st Thanksgiving ~ 


I read the statistics last night, and I think we forget how much hardship those Pilgrims went through before they celebrated their first harvest. "Of the 102 emigrants, forty-five died the first winter and were buried on Cole's Hill. Additional deaths during the first year meant that only 53 people were alive in November of 1621 to celebrate the First Thanksgiving. Of the 18 adult women, 13 died the first winter, while another died in May. Only 4 adult women were alive for the Thanksgiving. 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans."(Wikipedia)

As I read that, and thought about that first Thanksgiving....my sympathetic heart hurt. As I sat at my computer, and closed my eyes; as I imagined myself sitting there with them, I imagined a holy pause in the chaos, a lengthy prayer, and I couldn't imagine that first Thanksgiving without tears. There must have been tears on at least one face as they remembered those they had lost. Missed friends in the celebrations. There would have been tears on mine. I imagine many would have been surprised how much their hearts responded in praise after going through so much suffering. 

But praise was there. Because the Holy Spirit was not silent. 

And this is where I feel a kinship with those first pilgrims. Granted, I have not been out every day in work, tending the crops and learning Indian language and caring for children whose parents have died, or gutting fowl and fish for meals. I haven't been wiping tears from children's eyes as they cry to sleep and I have no answers, and I haven't been hoeing the corn and praying that it is a good harvest. I haven't been in the incredibly cold and terrible winter that caused so many deaths.


I have been to way too many funerals this past summer and fall. I've wept along with friends and family at the loss of their loved ones. I've wept over my own losses. I've spent sleepless nights wondering what the Lord is doing, and how will we all ever survive. My heart breaks at the thought of the missing person at the Thanksgiving table, the missing laughter and jokes, the missing hugs and the missing person in the family picture.

I usually hold back tears during the Thanksgiving prayer. My voice usually catches and breaks when singing the Doxology. I hold hands much tighter in prayer, and I usually sneak a peek to save the memory. The Thanksgiving prayer is usually long, and my mind usually plays flashbacks of past Thanksgivings while I try to savor every word.

I've looked forward to Thanksgiving more this year than past years. Yesterday I realized for the first time that the places in my heart that have fallen quiet have produced something unexpected - Thankfulness. This came as a wonderful shock. :) I have learned a long time ago not to push thankfulness, but to rejoice in the Lord I love, and thankfulness will come. This doesn't mean I'm not overwhelmed with sorrow, but it does mean that when I think of Avery, I whisper a "Thank you, Lord.", that I was so blessed to love him and hold him in my arms.

Thankfulness spills over in the places where Georgia and David and Henry have stolen my heart, it sings with a fervent joy in those places, it is unbounded in the ways the Lord has moved and worked with many situations and friends, and I'm constantly thankful for my family and friends and their families and friends.

But it is in the quiet places that it is the sweetest to find thankfulness. To find joy. 

Because it was once a place that I deemed so quiet that even my own heart could not understand the dark. It is ... one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received. And it is something that I turn to give to the Lord. He gave me a gift that I will give back to Him.

Praise is here. Because the Holy Spirit has not been silent.



I too, have loved ones buried on hills.
I too, bow my head in worship.
I too, raise it again in thankfulness.

This life is so hard. Harder than I ever dreamed. But oh, God has been so good.

As you bow your heads in prayer and thanks, remember the families among you that for this Thanksgiving, it is their first without their loved one. Please keep them in your prayers, as well as the families for whom it is not the first, but the third, or the 5th, or the 13th.

With much love to you all -
~ Jean Marie ~ 

1 comment:

Bethany Rachel said...

Amen, Jean Marie. He is so good, so very good. There were family members missing around our table yesterday, but our hearts are so thankful that they are not lost to us forever. One day we will sit together in glory at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb... a glorious day of thanksgiving and praise!

Bethany