An Open Invitation

When was the first time you remember sitting down at a formal meal? We’re talking the decades old bone china with gold inlays (the stuff you have to hand wash),  stemmed crystal water glasses with a gold rim, matching coffee cups, two forks, and a real napkin! I will always remember the thrill of my first real Thanksgiving; I was fourteen.

We have celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday in some form in America for as long as there’s been an America. Lord willing, this day of celebration and thanksgiving will continue until the day of Christ’s return. Then, there’ll be one final celebration supper. For me, Thanksgiving invokes memories of my adopting family who opened their hearts and home to me—giving my life a strong foundation.

I’ll always remember with great joy and unending gratitude the day God brought me my forever family. My Dad was a mountain of a man with rough mechanic’s hands; offset by his warm, inviting smile and peaceful nature. My Mom, a small, energy-filled woman, taught me through her example to greet the world with a smile and a kind word. Among my favorite memories, is how exciting our first Thanksgiving together was.

Perhaps it was all the different pies mom had spent the previous week making, but I think more it was the lifetime example my parents gave me. That first Thanksgiving showed me what gratefulness meant. While I did not yet fully understand what being a Christian entailed, I remember my parents showing it by the way they lived their lives.

My folks often made charitable gestures to help others. My Mom and Dad showed how important caring for others was by their examples. Often, Dad would quietly pickup up a restaurant tab for a patron of our service station when he knew times were tough. He always did so in silence; asking the restaurant owner not to tell them who paid for their meal.

Other times, we repaired a vehicle on credit so someone could travel to work, paying when they could; or donating to those in need. These were the examples I saw after my adoption. I watched my mom and dad do these things even when it meant they went without something for longer; because they purchased what someone else needed. Whenever I would ask Mom why they did those things, she referred me to Colossians 3:17 (NKJV). “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Among my fondest memories of holiday meals with my family is that I can scarcely remember one where we didn’t have a guest. Sometimes it was a single patron of our service station who had no family, a widow, or one of my brother’s friends and their family; it didn’t matter. We always made them welcome in our home. A passage that always reminds me of home is Luke 14:13-14 (NKJV); “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

It seems the “welcome mat” was always out at our house. I sometimes wonder how many families open their home to friends, guests, widows and orphans, or those less fortunate at this time of year. If you’re a Christian, I wonder how you cannot. I prayerfully ask you consider in what ways you can show your faith by helping someone this year.

In what ways can you extend your joy and thanksgiving to others this holiday season? Click To Tweet

My favorite memory of that first Thanksgiving was how Mom and Dad sat the stage. They had moved to Florida less than a year earlier, and this was the first time I had ever eaten in a formal dining room. Mom put out all her fine china. We had gold-plated utensils (passed down through generations), and fine goblets with gold trim. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting.

I can picture it now; mom and dad, my little brother Paul, my brother Raymond and his girlfriend (now wife) Darlene, Charles Holland, and me. Charles was a young black man who was a customer at our family’s service station. I always chuckled at how whenever he saw my folks he would call them “Mom and Dad” and always gave my mom a big hug. Since we all called them “mom and dad” at work, I guess it just came natural. Over the years, Charles became part of our extended-family. I miss his smile.

When Thanksgiving Dinner was served, I witnessed what it truly meant to be thankful. It was then my Dad, sitting at the head of the table, asked us all to hold hands and bow our heads. What came next moves me to this day.

As we held hands, Dad began praying; giving thanks to God for all the many blessings our family had received this year. My oldest brother Richard was away at seminary with his wife; and my sister Sue was in Massachusetts with her husband. Dad thanked God for his children, their health, and how much he loved each of them. When he included my name in that list, my brother and best buddy “Paulie” gently squeezed my hand. Dad continued praising and thanking God for his wife, business, health, our guest, and on and on he went—listing all the blessings of the past year.

When he finished, Mom began. And so it went, around the table, each of us giving praise and thanks to God for His blessings. I came to learn this was a family tradition passed down by his Dad; and one I continue to this day.

I have many reasons to be thankful this year. My family suffered few losses, we remain relatively healthy, and my writing found many more acceptances than rejections. I was included in two published compilations and published many articles and devotionals.

I am ever-grateful for my wife and family; humbled God still sees fit to use my meager talents for His glory. I rejoice knowing that He is still on His throne and I remain His dear child. Click To Tweet

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Even if you don’t celebrate this unique American holiday in your country, know my prayers for a wonderful and joyous Christmas season and New Year go with you. I will remember each of you in tomorrow’s prayer of Thanksgiving.

God’s blessings,

36 thoughts on “An Open Invitation”

  1. Precious memories and thanks. This sounds so much like my mom, who would invite a couple from church, who were struggling and needed a boost. she ouwld get out the old special plates, the glasses and so on, real cloth napkins and such, make an outstanding meal and so much to remember, even the aura of aromas from her old kitchen, praise the Lord for the generation which set an example and amen

    1. Thank you Mr. Terry. I somehow think these are the same values and lessons you and your dear wife are teaching your little ones my friend. Happy Thanksgiving sir. I can almost hear mama singing in the kitchen as she busily prepared the feast. Oh how she loved a good party! 🙂 I miss her terribly; and miss her mincemeat pies too! And chocolate, and cherry, and blueberry, and pumpkin, and coconut cream, and strawberry rhubarb, and persimmon, and apple … 🙂

    1. So kind of you to say Ms. Ann. My mom and dad were very special people indeed. Mom is awaiting us in heaven and dad is in Florida with his oldest son now. I was, and am, very blessed indeed with the amazing family God blessed me with.

    1. It’s funny Ms. LuAnn, but I can honestly remember praying that I would one day have a family that loved me simply for being me. I didn’t truly know God then, but he knew me; and He loved me enough to move a family from MA to FL for me. 🙂 God’s blessings; and a special blessing to those families who have enough love in their hearts for another.

    1. Thanks Ms. Karen. I wasn’t there when my family lived up in MA naturally, but from all the stories told through the years, it seems like Mom and Dad almost always had an extra place setting or six for unexpected guests. I know firsthand, mama never turned anyone away. 🙂 Even a scruffy, foul-mouthed, fiercely independent kid who was afraid to experience the love and family he had prayed so long and hard for.

    1. Nursing colds here, but Ms. Diane and I had a lovely day caring for each other ma’am. Thank you for your kind words; they are precious memories indeed. God’s blessings Ms. Melissa.

  2. Your parents sound like amazing people. Wonderful memories. James and I were once eating dinner at a restaurant. The server said that an anonymous customer had paid for our meal. (I wish they had not, because we didn’t need it nearly as much as other people might.)

    1. Amazing is an apt description Ms. Robin. As for your restaurant patron; that, my young friend, is the blessing the giver receives. I’ve never felt blessed more than when I’ve done something in private for someone deserving. It isn’t always based on a monetary or physical need, but the Holy Spirit senses other needs in people and He prompts the giver. A quote I dearly love is “Those who give must never remember. Those who receive must never forget.” When I think on this wisdom, I realize it is the formula for becoming a cheerful giver. We give from the love God has placed in our hearts. We receive gifts with that same reverent, agape love. Wishing you and your Mr. James all the very best in the days ahead. God’s blessings sweet friend.

    1. Thank you for such sweet comments Ms. Barbara. So appreciated ma’am. I enjoyed reliving those precious memories my friend. Prayers for you and your family as you face the coming challenges this next week. Will be praying ma’am.

    1. Aww… Thank you Ms. Sylvia. I enjoyed revisiting those special Thanksgivings with my family. We speak of them often; reminding us of how blessed our family has been through the years. Our faith rewarded far more than deserved I think.

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