Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20
It was crazy but worth every mile. For years my side of our Taylor tribe held a family reunion. It all started after the death of both of our parents and just seemed like the right thing to do. Fortunately for all of us, we had some very committed and caring siblings that made sure it happened. While the date bounced around, for a while we held it on Thanksgiving weekend. I know for us that was a good time. Being a pastor, each year was a more of a maybe than a definite yes or no, so we didn’t make every one…but every one we did make was, well, special.
I remember one year someone in the church family had died and I needed to stay and officiate at their service. To me honoring life after a death is not an obligation but an honor so if I can I try to be there, both for the one who has slipped into eternity but especially for those left behind. That meant on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that year, we had a service and rather than leave town on Tuesday, we stayed and held the service and left as soon as it was over…about noon as I remember.
Now everyone knows that Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest, the busiest, the craziest travel day of the year and that year—the Taylor tribe from Illinois discovered that truth firsthand. We had no more gotten on the interstate highway—less than an hour from our home— and we ran into heavy traffic. That song about “over the river and through the woods” was more than just a song. It seemed that everyone in the world, or at least the Midwest, was going to grandmother’s house and apparently, she lived down by Atlanta.
There was not a time that there wasn’t traffic and a couple of times there was just one of those standstills. That is when, for no apparent reason, in the middle of nowhere traffic just stops. There was not an intersection, there was not an accident or a broken-down vehicle—it was like people just decided to press pause. Now if you know anything about me, you know I don’t do traffic well but this time, well, I did better than average. As the day pressed on, as the traffic got heavier, as day turned to night, as the clock ticked off the minutes and hours, as we got more and more tired…well, average disappeared.
By the time we were on outside of Atlanta on Interstate 20 heading west, it was about 1:30 am. 1:30 am…think about that. I can still remember the fact that the interstate, every lane, was packed with traffic…bumper to bumper…at 70 miles per hour. I didn’t believe it then and as my fingers press the keys…I can’t believe it now. Where in the world were all these people going at that time of the night…uh, make that morning? Of course…they were going to grandmother’s house.
Well, we finally arrived at John Tanner State Park at about 2:30 am. We were tired. We were exhausted but all that didn’t matter. We were there. We opened the car doors and stumbled out of the car and into the lodge. Waiting for us was a was a beautiful moment of clarity. There in the “living room” of the lodge was a big chunk of the Taylor tribe. Instead of going to bed, they had waited up to greet us and it was at that moment it was worth it all. Just then I had an epiphany…this, this was family. While they couldn’t drive the miles for us they could be there and greet us and simply say “we are glad you made the drive.”
Well, we all quickly went to bed and woke up a little later the next day. The morning was spent preparing the feast and what a feast it was. We told stories, we laughed, we shared and we ate…a lot. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was worth every minute in the car and every mile in traffic. Well, that was many years ago and the family reunions don’t occur that way anymore. And, too many—and even one is too many—of our family have changed their address from this world to the next. And while I wish I had more of those memories, I am so grateful for each and every one that I have.
While this Thanksgiving will be different than those and for many, different even from last year, let’s strive to make this one worth remembering too. Let’s remember the key word in the holiday—thanks. Paul, the guy in the Bible, said, “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As always, he was spot on. Like Bing Crosby sings in the movie, “Holiday Inn,” let’s remember we have plenty to be thankful for…because we do. And, if you are struggling in the gratitude department, just take a look around and count your blessings and then remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne