By Cara Nicklas
November 22, 2023
Like many families, mine does not settle for just one Thanksgiving dinner.
On Thanksgiving Day, my husband’s side of the family comes to our house for a lovely meal. We cook the usual dishes. We all sit at our dining room table. My brother-in law prays. As we pass the many different dishes around the table, it is quiet and calm. After the meal, we wonder if we should eat dessert right away or wait until we are not so full. No one ever waits. The rest of the day is a relaxing day of football, board games, and discussion of Black Friday sales.
The day after Thanksgiving, we drive to my parents’ house a couple hours away. And then on Saturday morning, while the deer hunters are hunting, my mom, my twin sister, and I prepare to feed a small army. We wonder, will we have 20 people this year or 37? It’s anybody’s guess. After the day’s hunt, family members spanning four generations begin to trickle into my parents’ small house set on 30 acres of pastureland. As the hunters and other family members join us, the decibel level slowly rises. But then there is a sacred hush. We gather in one large circle to pray, giving thanks for all the blessings God has poured into our lives through his abundant grace. Then we experience the joy of a great meal together. And with lots of little ones, it becomes loud and chaotic; we would not have it any other way. To be sure, it is a day in stark contrast to my earlier Thanksgiving Day celebration, but I cherish them both equally.
I don’t remember a Thanksgiving with drama or conflict or crisis. And I don’t remember a Thanksgiving that stood out as extra special. Each year is pretty much the same, a precious time of simply being in the peaceful presence of loved ones. We rarely take pictures, but there are snapshots in my mind that I will hold dear for the rest of my life: rocking the newest baby in the family, laughing while peeling potatoes, retelling stories, saying goodbye for thirty minutes before actually getting out the door. All quiet, simple blessings we sometimes take for granted.
The older I get the more I realize the consistency of these family traditions are not merely a matter of routine; the consistency is a powerful tool for building strong family bonds. Regularly engaging in shared activities fosters a sense of belonging and unity. It creates a unique language of shared experiences, jokes, and memories that contribute to the formation of a family identity. And this shared history becomes a source of strength during times of adversity, reinforcing the idea that no matter what challenges arise, the family stands together.
As we launch the new Global Methodist Church, I appreciate the return to an emphasis on our Wesleyan family traditions. This past Sunday, the new church plant I am a part of declared the Apostles’ Creed and experienced the sacredness of Holy Communion. We had a guest preacher because we have no pastor at the moment (nor a name, nor a permanent location, nor a worship leader). There was nothing spectacular about the worship service except that the Holy Spirit was so near in the simplicity of it. There was no drama or conflict or crisis that hovered over the worship experience. There was a sweet, sweet spirit in the place. We are beginning a shared history that will serve as a source of strength and peace during times of loss, grief, and adversity that this family of faith will surely experience later.
I see our Thanksgiving days full of peace because I see the days through the lens of the Prince of Peace. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3.15).
How, when our Creator has given His very life for us, can we not be thankful? How can we not have peace? As believers, we hold Jesus in us. Peace in us. And the peace He gives, we offer to others. Let peace reign. Happy Thanksgiving.
Ms. Cara Nicklas is the Chairwoman of the Global Methodist Church’s Transitional Leadership Council. She lives and works in the Oklahoma City area.