A few weeks ago, we invited readers to share some of the blessings they're received during seasons of Thanksgiving, past and present. Contributions poured in — heartwarming, humorous, inspiring. Here are just a few of them.
My first Thanksgiving
By Christina Sloan
I'll never forget it. It occurred when I was in my teens, and it changed the course of my life.
Our family "home" in the south western United States was a battleground of alcoholism and violent verbal warfare, as well as psychological and sometimes physical abuse toward me, the only child. Thanksgivings were mere formalities. What was there to be grateful for in that mess? Christmases were waking nightmares. I was desperate and lonely.
The Sunday School I attended didn't offer me any lifesaving message. So I began to frequent my classmates' Sunday Schools in an urgent search for something better.
At 13, I began to take refuge in the make-believe world of theater, which I studied after school hours. This led to a job as an apprentice in summer stock theater in California, and it was there that I met the star of one of the shows, Ginger Rogers, the person who was to have the greatest impact on my life.
Shortly afterward, I started my first year of college in New York, where Miss Rogers was playing on Broadway in Hello, Dolly.
When we'd met in California, she'd quickly sensed a troubled adolescent in need of a lot of help. And despite her Broadway schedule of eight performances a week, Miss Rogers took me under her wing. Twice a week, she gave up her rest time between shows to talk with me in her dressing room, And it was there, backstage at the St. James's Theatre, that I heard for the first time of a God who is all good, and of Bible stories that relate in practical ways to people's lives today.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Miss Rogers and her husband invited me to join them and some guests at their rented home on the Hudson River. When I arrived on Thanksgiving morning, she said, "Baby girl, you can either stay here and enjoy the quiet, or come with us to church."
Not wanting to be ungracious, I chose the second option — and it transformed my life. Never before had I seen faces that glowed so warmly with peace and joy. I was used to mostly drunken, angry faces. Instantly I knew that what those people had found in that church, I wanted — I needed.
Although much of what I heard in that service sounded like a foreign language to me, one phrase really caught my attention — "the healing power of the divine Love." Only some weeks later did I learn that the author, Mary Baker Eddy, was referring to her hopes for a "... happy day, when man shall recognize the Science of Christ and love his neighbor as himself, — when he shall realize God's omnipotence and the healing power of the divine Love in what it has done and is doing for mankind" (Science and health with key to the Scriptures, p. 55).
"That's the kind of healing I want," I thought to myself. And, in time, that's what I got. When we returned home after church, and before we all sat down to dinner, I pulled Miss Rogers aside to speak heart to heart with her. Relating what had happened to me at the church service, I said, "I've decided I want to become a Christian Scientist and learn about that divine Love that heals. I want to radiate the peace and joy I see in you and in that congregation." She was overjoyed.
During Thanksgiving that year, I felt I had truly come home. For the first time in my life, I really gave thanks to the Lord for His mercy and His great goodness toward me. Study of the Bible and Science and Health soon helped me to find the happiness I thought I had been deprived of. As I began to discover the gentle presence of God's Mother-love, the prophet Joel's promise was fulfilled in my life. God did "great things" for me, restoring "the years that the locust [had] eaten" (Joel 2:21, 25).
In due course, I was lifted out of my family situation and learned to forgive those who had been involved. Ever since, my years have been measured from Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving in Japan
By Doug Brown
When I worked for 12 years as a sales representative in Tokyo in the 1980s and 1990s, I enjoyed several Thanksgiving celebrations there. Our American Thanksgiving Day happened to coincide with a Japanese holiday, Kinro kansha no hi, so the people I knew — Japanese, Australian, French, Canadian, Swiss, and American — all had the day off.
Those of us who were far from home would invite our new family of friends to dinner. Someone with a large house and a spacious oven would play host. Small turkeys — Japanese oven size — were available at an international market, but we were more ambitious and got hold of the real thing with the help of someone stationed at a nearby US military base.
Our guests — many of whom traveled by train — would bring a dish from their own cultural tradition and join the crowd in the kitchen to help with preparations. It was there that many dishes got their final stir and seasoning.
The small rooms corralled everyone into conversations. You'd hear two or three different languages or accents. It was a real treat to get together on a crisp, fall day in the middle of a city hushed of its everyday hustle and bustle. The atmosphere was peaceful and soothing. It really felt like home.
When the time came for dinner, what struck me was the ease with which we each gave thanks for something that had enriched our lives over the past year. Despite our different cultures, sharing gratitude was natural and effortless. We could all trust that our feelings would be appreciated and understood by this group of like-minded people coming together spontaneously to celebrate universal goodness.
There's never a shortage of love
By Ann Cummings
When my teenage daughter and I moved to a new city after my divorce, we needed to watch every penny. Even with child support and my small income, I found it challenging to cover all the expenses involved in the move, establishing a home, and settling my daughter into her new school.
Early in November, a new friend invited us to spend Thanksgiving dinner with her husband and their children. Other families new to the area were invited as well. My friend asked me if I could bring two pecan pies as part of the dessert menu, and I immediately agreed because I love making pies and sharing them with others. However, when I hung up the phone, I wondered how I could afford to buy even the pecans.
As I had done previously in times of need, I turned to God for ideas. I considered how much of this event was about love. My friend's love had prompted her to invite us and the other families. My gratitude for her love had prompted me to accept the invitation and to contribute to the menu.
I thought of that simple Bible statement, "God is love" (I John 4:16). I reasoned that because God is Love, and because He is infinite, there could never be a shortage of love. It wouldn't be the pecans alone that made the pies delicious, but the expression of divine Love involved in every aspect of preparing them — from the invitation to the presentation.
Something written by Mary Baker Eddy reverberated in my thought: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment" (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 307).
As I considered these ideas over the next several days, my confidence and peace grew stronger, even though nothing had changed in my financial situation.
Two weeks later, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, another friend, who knew nothing of my quandary, surprised me with a visit. As she strode up the driveway, she said, "I've brought you some 'Georgia gold.' " She handed me a paper bag and said, "Go ahead. Open it." Inside were enough pecans to make several pies — not just two.
A notebook of prayers
By Susan Omar
Soap bubbles can fill an entire bathtub and spill over the sides; but toss a bar of soap into the water, and the foam melts. It's a quick process. I had a healing that felt like that.
For several years I had stopped praying. Most of my family had passed on, and I thought I was handling the loss pretty well — except at the holidays. I took medication for depression and anxiety attacks.
Then things got really bad. Work became a torment, and I was battling a recurring ear infection that didn't respond to antibiotics. Also, my marriage was in trouble.
Needing a quiet place to go on my lunch hour, I ventured into a Christian Science Reading Room just up the street from the school where I worked. Sometimes I only had 20 minutes. but I went every day and was comforted by the kindness of the staff.
I didn't always understand what I read in the Reading Room, but I would copy a sentence or two from the bound volumes of the Christian Science periodicals into a little notebook I kept in my purse, and I would read through those words again at night. Soon I realized Bible verses that had never made sense to me before were now forming the central ideas of my prayers. I found I was praying all the time. I would take my little notebook with me everywhere and read it while standing in line or waiting for my order in a restaurant.
When November came around, I decided to start a new notebook relating to the themes of "Christ," "Christmas," and "Angels." This season, instead of dissolving into a black depression, I found myself feeling very calm.
When our family went on vacation for Christmas, I packed my little book and some Christian Science magazines. One morning I had such a severe earache that I couldn't go on the day's outing. Instead, I stayed in the hotel and called a Christian Science practitioner. I asked her to pray with me, and within two days, without antibiotics, the ear infection was healed, never to return. As a result, I began a serious study of Science and Health, and I stopped taking the medication for depression.
My husband and I separated shortly after that, and we went through some difficult times—as did our son, who was away at college. However, by praying constantly, I faced down the constellation of problems that circle a failed relationship.
One night I was slammed by a panic attack that came out of nowhere. I couldn't breathe. I made it to a chair, but while reaching for the phone, I missed and grabbed my notebook, tearing off a corner of a page. The fragment of words on it didn't make any sense by themselves, but they turned my mind to the healing truths I knew were in my notes. And at that moment, I realized how much I loved God. With that, I felt a sudden lightness, as if I were being lifted up. The fear and pressure of that attack just melted like soap bubbles, and I could breathe again. I have never had another panic attack to this day.
After that, daily prayer became a way of life for me, and soon even the resentment I had felt toward my husband melted. When Christmas came around, we decided to spend some time together as a family.
At one point, my husband walked into the room where I was sitting alone reading the Bible and, holding out divorce papers, said, "I don't want to do this." I wasn't surprised to find myself saying, "Good. I don't want to, either."
I moved back home, and we resumed our marriage of 22 years as if nothing had ever happened. The soap bubbles had gone.
Thanksgiving dinner at the cafeteria—a sweet reminder
By Gloria Harrison
My husband and I had just been to a Thanksgiving Day church service and were headed to our local Luby's Cafeteria for Thanksgiving dinner. This was the first time in my life that I was unable to be with my relatives for the holiday, and I was feeling so sad I had no desire to go home and cook for us. My family had always cooked together and made the most delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings . . . and lots of homemade pies. And there were always plenty of leftovers for more good eating the next day. We had such a good time celebrating together. And here I was missing out on all the fun . . . and the home cooking.
I sat at the cafeteria table engulfed in "poor me" thoughts, trying to eat. After struggling through most of my food, I began to look around me. Then I began to listen to some of the people sitting nearby. Most of them were older people, and as I heard what they were talking about, I became even more unhappy. Most of their conversation was about how sick they had been, or were, and who had died, or was about to die.
At first I thought, "Oh, I've just got to get out of here!" But right after that I thought, "Wait a minute! What am I thinking? What has come over me?"
At that moment, I saw how self-absorbed and selfish I had been. And I also saw that I was certainly not loving my neighbors. None of the things I'd been thinking were from or about God, and it was time for me to take back control of my thinking. Right then, suddenly, I felt that I was with family—that these fellow diners were my brothers and sisters, and that I loved them.
But even more important, I knew that God loved them, and had always loved them, and would never stop loving them. I could see that we were all right then in Her house having a grand and beautiful Thanksgiving dinner right there together. And I silently reminded myself that there was no sickness or death in all of God's harmonious and perfect creation, and that there were not two creations—one imperfect and the other perfect. There was only one creator and one creation filled with all of Her beloved children.
I sat there quietly with these beautiful thoughts while my husband headed over to the cashier's counter. As I got up, I saw that a group of people were just outside the front door, all huddled together staring at something. I hurried to the front door keeping my eyes on the group. Once outside, I followed their gaze . . . to a woman lying flat on the sidewalk. Her husband had put her handbag under her head, and he was hovering over her, speaking to her. No one was going near them.
I went right over to the woman and her husband. Her eyes were expressionless, lifeless, and she was very pale. She was not responding in any way to her husband. I kneeled down by her and spoke clearly into her ear: "Don't you know that God is right here?" She moved her eyes and looked right at me. Then, she sat bolt upright on the sidewalk. "Yes, but I needed to be reminded!" she said to me. She started to get up, and her husband and I helped her. She got herself into the car, and off they went.
I never saw that woman again. I have no idea how she was after she left the cafeteria. I know I was changed, though. All I could think was, "What a Thanksgiving! Thank You, God. What greater love could You have had for me today than to have placed me here with my wonderful family."
Every Thanksgiving Day since then is a sweet reminder of what I learned at the cafeteria that day about who my family really is—and how much our Mother loves us.
By Barry Huff
In the fall of my senior year in high school, my life definitely didn't feel like a Thanksgiving feast. For several weeks, I'd been feeling depressed because I was waiting to be happy until I knew what college I was going to, what part I was going to get in the school's musical theater production, whether I should apply for a school trip to Grand Teton National Park.
This sounds ridiculous now, but it definitely made sense to me then that I should be depressed until I had my whole life figured out.
Then one day I read these words, which had been familiar to me all my life, in a new light: "Shepherd, show me how [italics added] to go / O'er the hillside steep" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Feed My Sheep," Poems, p. 14). This, I realized, doesn't ask God to show us where, when, or why to go. It asks Him to show us ". . . how to go."
How is a question of attitude: Was I going to live my life in grateful trust, or was I going to go in a spirit of complaint?
The poem also asks that we be shown, "How to gather, how to sow, — / How to feed Thy [God's] sheep." Normally, you sow and then you reap. But the author, Mary Baker Eddy, put the reaping, the gathering, first. Did she mess up? Definitely not. Being thankful for the fact that God's goodness is everywhere, regardless of what our circumstances tell us, is a healing prayer.
Well, that was the wake-up call I needed. My attitude was transformed through these ideas.
I love the thought that "If you want to deal unhappiness, complaint, etc., a death blow, go ahead and enjoy where you are each moment." I decided that regardless of what was happening around me, I could rejoice each moment. What a difference that made. Pretty soon, all of the things that I'd been agonizing over began to resolve themselves naturally.
First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says that praying without ceasing and doing God's will are not arduous tasks; they are the joy of thanksgiving. Here St. Paul urges us: "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
When we're living the prayer of gratitude, our lives are a Thanksgiving feast. Have a great Thanksgiving—every moment.
A harvest of love
By Janet Clements
We had just moved into our house the day before Thanksgiving. But there was our Thanksgiving dinner on the table anyway, complete with homemade rolls and pumpkin pie. All of us were bowing our heads in silent prayer and gratitude as we sat at the table. But I was wearing a wide grin. I was in awe of God's incredible goodness.
A few years before, my head had been bowed, not in gratitude, but in tears of sadness, grief, and fear. Both my mother and husband had passed away within a short time of each other, and I was struggling with grief even while trying to learn how to cope with the responsibilities of being a single mom. There were times when waves of uncontrolled loneliness would roll over me.
But I found a way to turn that sadness into compassion and love.
The turning of that tide came when I took to heart a statement that became my lifeline: "As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life" (Science and Health, p. 497). I asked myself, Could the Bible be my sufficient guide to understanding more about the eternal life of my mother and husband? Could it bring the deep comfort and peace and purpose that I was yearning for?
I decided to take a look. Actually, it was more than a look. I spent about two years in this study. And it was worth every minute. Yes, I found inspiration and insight into eternal life, but one of the most helpful ideas was this—"Divine loving is how divine Life is expressed." Jesus' answer to a question about how to inherit eternal life was to love God and love your neighbor (see Luke 10:25-28).
With my whole heart, I began loving God more. When waves of loneliness would roll over me, I answered with hours of prayer for humanity, for those who were homeless, widowed, sick, afraid, abused. Tenderly, I began mentally embracing everyone in God's love and precious care.
Even when I was out doing errands, I would pause in gratitude and love for all those around me at the moment, cherishing them as the loved children of God.
I remember the joy I felt when I realized that because I was the reflection of God, I had all of God's love with which to love everyone in the whole universe!
God's love could never run out, never be withheld, never be selective. I found that satisfaction, coming not so much from receiving love from someone else but from my actively loving others. Soon I was helping others through prayer.
One night I realized I had found a new way of expressing life . . . to love everyone divinely. At that moment every shred of sadness just dissolved, and I felt fully restored to wholeness, full of the light and joy of the Life that is God.
The next day I received a call from someone who was facing circumstances similar to what I had gone through. I shared with him my insights and inspiration. This caller and I became friends. Eventually we got married. We began our new life together with a new family, new home, new work.
That's what brought such a smile to my face on our first Thanksgiving together. My heart was singing, "Thank You, God! We have all of Your love to love everyone in the universe."