Norman Rockwell and Thanksgiving

rockwell

In our house, we like to joke that Thanksgiving is about “family, food, and football.” Although when I think about it, maybe we aren’t really joking! Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time when we ought to reflect on all the things for which we are thankful. I truly do have so much for which to give thanks; God has blessed me far more than I deserve.

As I look at this Norman Rockwell painting, I wonder how many of our Thanksgiving celebrations even resemble this picture any longer. Do multiple generations of the same family dress up and gather around our table to enjoy a scrumptious feast? Last Saturday, I gathered with multiple generations for a pre-Thanksgiving feast, but it was served on paper plates rather than china. And we were gathered in my grandmother’s assisted living facility, not her house. Did that make it any less a time for giving thanks? Absolutely not. It was a delight to see my children enjoying time with their great-grandmother, and to see her face brighten just to be at the same table with us. 

Last week, we gathered with three other families from our church small group and enjoyed another pre-Thanksgiving feast. While none of us are related biologically, we all share an even deeper family connection through our faith in Christ. Our family in Christ may not look like a Norman Rockwell painting, but we shared a time of giving thanks nonetheless.

We will gather tomorrow for our “official” family Thanksgiving. The china will be out, the turkey will be scrumptious. But the faces will be varied – maybe just the four of us in my immediate family, perhaps some far-from-home college students, perhaps a few of our neighbors who decided not to be alone for the holiday. Again, not Rockwellian, but worthy of thanks still.

I don’t know what your Thanksgiving feast will look like. If your table is full, rejoice. If it is not, find others who may also be lonely and share your thanks (and your food) together. What is it that fills your heart with thankfulness this year? Share that with those gathered round you. Make memories; be thankful. 

If this year should find a once-filled chair now empty, don’t hide from the sadness. Remember the times that you shared and find joy in the memories. I pray you may find comfort in the God of all comfort. 

“Oh give thanks to the LORD for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1)

 

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Batter Up — Risks are Rewarding!

When my sister and I started talking about her husband Tim’s 60th birthday party, my hair stood up on end– and I’ve got a lot of hair–it was only a month away. My sis being a terrific supporter, said “how about a painting”? Hmmm, that would mean I’d have to paint it, get it framed and ship it to Virginia. In my mind I was seriously considering an easier path with less risk, like a personalized t shirt.  Anyway as the conversation progressed, we started to narrow down the playing field: landscape–no, still life, no, abstract hmm.

Her suggestion: a baseball player! Tim, years earlier, had his own radio show called “Talk’in Baseball.” She sent pictures of Tim’s favorite players. My heart sunk. A figure and worse a baseball player, what I know about baseball could be stuffed into a golf ball. Plus…dum, da, dum, dum, it was totally out of my comfort zone. The obstacles of time and subject matter intimidated me, which is why I decided to accept the challenge!

I said an internal “yes” to my doubts. I’ve learned that the more I place myself in accountable positions that are slightly uncomfortable–I grow! Now I’m not saying I like having deadlines or doing things I really don’t know how to do. I have found out that I could accellerate my learning curve by making mistakes. I’m not a brain surgeon, so no one will die if it doesn’t work out. I’m learning to overcome the “I can’t” and failure label. If I make a mess, well, I’ve made a mess, it’s all a learning experience.

Slugger1

Comfort and fear are fantastic fences that keep me right where I am. Comfort doesn’t take you to the next level, comfort is momentary happiness.

The other reason I chose to risk this painting was that my brother in law stepped up to the plate and ran for the U.S. Senate with no real experience in politics. He didn’t win, but the risk changed the direction of his life and his mission. He and my sister have birthed One Generation Away:  www.onegen.org

Risk has a way of expanding our horizons. Do you approach your challenges as an adventure? Do you cringe when faced with a new project? Try reframing your thoughts to “how does this strengthen me?” Challenges can be a blessing and an opportunity!

As it turned out this painting was a joy, fun, and I’m ready to do more of them! I’d love to capture your favorite: whether it’s your child, grandchild, soccer, baseball, hockey, golf action player, etc. I’m open. We can have a terrifc 11 x 14 ready for Christmas. It’s unique, better than a computer game or laptop and it will last a lifetime. Give me a call so we can create together.

 

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Who is at your table?

boating party

It’s November, so I guess that officially puts us in the “holiday season.” Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and there are only 43 shopping days left until Christmas!  Although this is supposed to be a time of celebration, it seems that what I hear more often is how busy everyone is – parties, shopping, school activities, recitals, dinners, decorating… The list goes on.  In my home, we have no shortage of those events, either.

But I want to challenge us all with something this holiday season: Are we focused on ourselves, or can we make room for others and invite them in? Into our homes, our celebrations, our lives.

This delightful painting by Pierre August Renoir is called Luncheon of the Boating Party. I have a rather large framed print hanging in my dining room. It was a housewarming gift to me many, many seasons ago from some dear friends when I graduated from seminary. Since that time, it has graced the wall in my dining room in seven different homes. It is one of the first pictures to be hung once we move into a new home. Why? Because it portrays the type of home I want to create. 

Look closely – all kinds of folks are gathered together enjoying what I imagine to be delicious food and drink. From those most lavishly dressed to those most humbly attired, all are together talking and enjoying one another. I just feel happy when I look at this painting. 

I want my table to be a place where folks of all types gather, where good food is savored, conversation enjoyed, and memories made. My home doesn’t need to be large; its walls need not be ornately decorated; the furniture does not need to pass a white-glove inspection. It just needs to be welcoming. My food doesn’t need to be fussed over for days. It just needs to be presented with affection.

As we enter into a time of celebrating all for which we are thankful and the birth of the One who gave us everything, who will be at your table? Look beyond those with whom you always gather; see those there that might be forgotten, for whom there is no boating party, no welcoming spread. Set a place for them at your table; invite them in; be the aroma of Christ to them. Then tell me about the joy that filled your home as a result.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2).

 

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Attracting Abundance?

Our society is over the top when it comes to attracting abundance! It’s the nature of humans to want more, bigger, better.  So what does an onion have to do with attracting abundance? I painted one onion, this lone Allium cepa (Latin “cepa” = onion). I could have painted a whole passel of onions: green onions, yellow onions, sweet onions, red onions, white onions, and…….shallots, Spanish, purple, pearl, cocktail, Egyptian, Walla Walla, Red Wing, Welsh. 

Onion1

 

Well, isn’t more better? We all know the answer to that–not necessarily. It has been said, that variety is the spice of life though. Epicurus said “Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” Now, I am not advocating a life of reckless pleasure as Epicurus did, though there is nothing necessarily wrong with happiness or pleasure. 

But I think he has a point. Can we find pleasure in 1 onion, 1 mate, 1 whatever, instead of desperately seeking alternatives? 

It’s great to find joy in little things. The abundance of a child’s laughter, the love that endures, a beautiful hike through the woods. 

Stop, look , listen and try cultivating the state of enjoying what you have. Concentrating on what we have is truly an exercise in the abundant life. It’s much more filling and fulfilling than trying to magnetically rake in more money.

Today, focus on enjoying what you have already been given by the Creator: His creation, this day…and an onion! 

What do you consider the abundant life to be?

 

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