My husband and I were middle-aged divorcees when we married. Trying to mesh two worlds of traditions presented some challenges, but nothing too difficult. However, at one of the first Thanksgivings while dating, Austin not only ruffled my feathers, but also those of my two sisters when he tried to introduce something new to our well-established menu.
We have gathered for Thanksgiving at the family ranch in Central Texas since 1979. Dad used to be the chef for our traditional feast—he wasn’t very good at close relationships and interacting with the family, but he was a master in the kitchen. After he became ill (and later passed), my sisters and I took over. Before long, we had a scrumptious set-in-stone menu.
When anyone else offered to bring something, we gave them a simple task, such as a dessert or condiment, but nothing that interfered or competed with any of our dishes. When Austin said he was going to bring some dressing that first year, I tried to discourage him. My sister Rhonda prepared that side dish and my family loved hers. We didn’t need a new recipe introduced.
Austin’s wasn’t just any dressing—it was oyster dressing! Ugh! I knew that no one in my family would eat it, but if it was so important, he could bring a small dish. Rhonda still prepared her recipe and we reluctantly accepted his addition to our perfect menu.
We obviously had a different idea of what constituted “small,” and he prepared a 9 x 11 pan of it. I was right. No one else in the family touched it. Oysters at Thanksgiving? Not in my family. When it was time to go home, he insisted on leaving the leftovers with my sister Nancy (who lived at the ranch), and she was anything but thrilled to have that yucky stuff in her already jam-packed refrigerator.
The following year, I was asked to kindly persuade Austin not to bring his oyster dressing. He abided by my request and never fixed it again—until Thanksgiving last year, over ten years later. It had been part of his family’s traditional meal before meeting me, and my sisters and I had shamed him into never bringing it again. Austin decided that even though no else liked it, there was no reason he should continue to go without.
When we walked into Nancy’s kitchen, I told her what Austin had prepared. She thought that fiasco was a one-time thing. Nope. He did it again. But to our amazement, others actually ate it! My oldest son, who now loves oysters, thought it was wonderful. I actually tried some myself. And when it came time to pack up the leftovers, my mother, of all people, asked to take some home.
For years we had lovingly joked about that dressing, and Austin had been a great sport. But this time when it reappeared on the table, we were all more receptive. Considering all the changes that have transpired in our family, a little pan of oyster dressing was really no big deal.
Even taste buds change over time. Now oyster dressing is considered an acceptable addition to the Thanksgiving menu and it will be served again this year. How silly that my sisters and I got so hung up on “our” traditional meal that we weren’t very opened-minded to a minor deviation in the menu.
A change in the menu is one thing, but for younger moms, how will you cope that first holiday your college student doesn’t come home? What happens the first time your son goes to his new wife’s family for Thanksgiving or your daughter wants to go visit the boyfriend’s family? Are we ready for those deviations? As moms, are we ready to let our kiddos go and make their own new holiday memories? I am so grateful God prepared my heart for those changes differently than that first oyster dressing incident!
As our children continue to grow the family through marriage and babies, when we move and loved ones pass on, family gatherings start to look different. When adjustments to holiday traditions must be made (not if, but when), be prepared to listen as God calls us to something new.
Looking back over the years, I can certainly acknowledge that “something new” can be a good thing, specifically the dramatic transformation of my own life. I have so much praise to offer up to Jesus for His power of redemption and salvation, and am overflowing with joy for that gift.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).
Thanks be to God that I listened, allowed Him to change my heart, and accepted His invitation to that “something new.”
It’s not the date on the calendar or the traditions or rituals that make Thanksgiving special. The attitude of love in our hearts makes a holiday—and every day—a blessed gift from God, worthy of offering Him our gratitude and adoration for everything He has bestowed upon us.
Holiday gatherings and feasts may be subject to change over the years, but hopefully words of thanksgiving and praise will always be a staple on my prayer menu. Let us embrace the new that might challenge the status quo of the old, but also exalt the one and only constant in our lives—the One who never changes.
Let’s sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:19-20)—the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).