Most people have good memories around this time of year. It is the time to be ‘thankful’ – to appreciate what God has given us and remember.
However I am very aware of the fact that some people do not have good memories of this time of year, family trouble, death of a loved one, etc. This holiday as well as Christmas can leave people feeling lonely and sad.
I have mixed feelings when reflecting back over the years. Most of them are great – but I do remember one that did not have warm fuzzy feelings for me.
Greg and I were recent college graduates – had been married for a couple of years and were new in ministry living in Juneau, Alaska. We were on staff at the church there and for Thanksgiving that year we were going to go, as a staff, to a kind home of someone in our congregation. The pastor’s wife was organizing the food and asked a couple of us ladies what we wanted to bring. Without hesitation I said, ‘I’ll bring the green bean casserole‘ – knowing that dish had been a staple on our table
Green Bean Casserole
at Thanksgiving – and a favorite of most everyone. The pastor’s wife had a look of alarm as she looked at me and said, ‘No one eats that stuff – way too heavy for Thanksgiving – bring a plain vegetable’. Now I’m sure, looking back – that she did not mean to be mean or rude. She was a meticulously dressed – sharp tiny lady. She probably never ate anything fattening her whole life – and she wasn’t about to start at Thanksgiving. But that comment to me was like a slap in the face. I was only 22 years old and very impressionable. Instead of seeing that this was probably a standard in other people’s homes and on their tables for Thanksgiving – she dismissed me as being self-indulgent and having no personal discipline. By the way I was very skinny in those days (before children) and could eat anything I wanted and never gained a pound. She made it seem that no one would ever think of bringing anything so ridiculous to a Thanksgiving meal. And I almost believed her.
Why do I tell you this story? I tell you because for me – it cast a shadow over Thanksgiving for years to come. I was somewhat validated every year when I would see that others always had green bean casserole for Thanksgiving too – but the sting of her words has always stayed with me – and I must confess I have had to fight the negative feeling every year since then.
I had never even told my husband before today. It seemed silly. So I buried it. Then sitting around eating breakfast this morning – we were talking about memories of this holiday – and before I knew it – I was telling him of this event – that happened 27 years ago today. He looked at me dumbfounded. He had never heard of anything so crazy in his life. Maybe I should have told him when it happened – not sure if it would have changed anything or any feelings I had – but it might have. I’m a ‘stuffer’ by nature. I tend to stuff and bury bad feelings or things that have happened – I am learning to voice them and do the tough work of recalling and dealing with them one by one – but it is difficult for me.
One thing I have learned. It takes a lot of work to empty ourselves of the voices of the past – especially the negative ones. It takes courage to push past the ridiculous – and forge our own path even while those negative thoughts threaten to dominate us. And I have learned that there will always be people and things in life and around the holidays to try to steal our joy. And I refuse to give in.
And there has not been one Thanksgiving where we have not had green bean casserole as a part of our meal. I make sure I always make it – or have someone else bring it. I am specific. It must be the one with the mushroom soup and french fried onions. This year my own lovely daughter is bringing it – we just can’t have Thanksgiving without it.
I am praying for all of you this season – that if you have a bad memory from the past that you will take action against the negative voices. That you will push past and do something positive in its place. Maybe you need to have green bean casserole on your table this year – it always works for me. I see it sitting there and I know I have beat this thing. This dark negative shadow that has been with me for years. And it makes me smile.