Have you ever seen the opening scene to the movie Home Alone? You know where there are about a million McAllisters all under one roof and the burglars come in pretending to be the police? People are running from here to there, there is loud chaos and constant movement. Well, if you have seen that scene or you understand what i am trying to convey then you have a tiny glimpse into what my Thanksgiving looked like. All in all there were about 35 of my family members in one place. Crazy does not even begin to describe it. But in complete honesty I would not have changed a thing (well…except maybe when the electricity went out and then we were a very smelly 35 under one roof)
We gathered in probably my favorite place in the world, western North Carolina. Amidst the beautiful mountains I celebrated with my sweet, crazy, loving family. This year in particular was a special year for us as we lost my grandfather Jimbo in April. He was one of the strongest men I have ever known. He was not perfect, but he was beautifully flawed in a way that made him human. Had he not had his flaws he would have easily looked like a super hero through my eyes. He lived a life that was worthy of respect. He more often than not inconvenienced himself in order to serve those that may have been less fortunate, or that the world may have written off. He loved my grandmother in a way that I can only one day hope to be loved. In his late years the two of them really did appear to be a single unit rather than two individuals. So, this Thanksgiving we all gathered in North Carolina in his home atop a mountain to say goodbye and to spread his ashes. As each member of our family got a small mouthwash cup (rather appropriate for a man that spent his life as a dentist) they dispersed to give him back to the mountain that he loved so much. I have to admit though that unlike my family, I did not give him to the mountain. I poured him out onto the porch.
To be honest, this seemed like a great idea at the time. Jimbo and I spent much of our time together sitting on that porch. He would often call me out to the porch to discuss theology or politics (it was not until my twenties that I realized that this was not a norm for grandchildren and grandparents) . It was out on that porch that he challenged me to think deeper. It was out on that porch where he challenged me to think outside of the box that I had placed my mind in. It was out on that porch that he encouraged me to serve others. It was out on that porch where he laid the groundwork for my call to ministry. It was also out on that porch where he introduced me to butter popcorn flavored jelly bellies (my favorite), challenged me to countless games of cribbage, and told me that if he ever caught me smoking a cigarette he’d cut the lips off my face (kid of ironic for a man that smoked a couple packs a day). So, it seemed like the best place for me to put him….onto that porch so that when I sit there from now on he will join me. It seemed like a great idea until I realized that we were tracking him into the house and sweeping him up while cleaning……luckily one of Jimbo’s greatest qualities was his sense of humor….so I think he thought that was amusing!
So, my thanksgiving was a little crazy. I mean, with 35 family members with big personalities how can it not be a little crazy. But it was a good crazy. It was a crazy that lead us to having a talent show, playing card games and talking by the bonfire late into the night. It was the the kind of crazy that made me appreciate the calm serenity found on my Friday hike in the mountains. It was the kind of crazy that delivered lots of hugs and laughter amongst people that I know will always love me. It was loud, hectic, and crazy but it was my family. I can’t help but believe that Jimbo would have loved that gathering.
I don’t know what your Thanksgiving was like. Maybe it was like mine, or perhaps it was like mine have been the last few years where I ate cold turkey out of a to go container and worked…… but either way I hope that you were surrounded by love like I was. The holidays can be a very happy and exciting time for some. However, I recognize that, that is not always the case. The holidays can also highlight our loneliness and darkest times. Nevertheless know that you are loved this season. Know that I love you….and even more than me the God of the universe loves you. The God that placed each star in the sky and created the mountain that I stood atop loves you. He loves you so much he sent his only son to this earth to be born in a stable……and then to suffer and die. My heart cannot contain that kind of love.
So whether or not your house was like the opening scene of a classic christmas film, know that you are loved with a great love. Now, that is a love that is worth celebrating this holiday season.