Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Thanksgiving Memory...

For much of my married life, I have lived physically far from family. Because of this, I often have been unable to celebrate special holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and birthdays with those most special to me.

My husband was a pastor at three different churches in our early years of marriage. Our first church was in Loomis, NE. Loomis was 700 miles from our parental homes in WI so we traveled "home" only during the summer when we had some vacation time.

We had moved to NE in early September, 1972. Our only child at that time was 15 months old. As Thanksgiving neared, my thoughts turned to family and I longed to be able to spend the holidays with them. I wanted our son to be hugged, kissed and pampered by the special people who were so fond of him. But we had a new "family" and now our responsibility and privilege was to experience the holidays with these friends.

Though I would have dearly loved being with my own family, we had been very warmly welcomed by the congregation in Loomis and I looked forward to memorable moments with them also. But would there be an invitation to join someone's family for Thanksgiving or would we be alone for the day?

The answer to that question came soon because of a special woman named Alice Dahlstedt. Alice, who had never married, was old enough to be my grandmother. More importantly, she was wise and loving enough to shine God's grace all around Loomis and especially into the home of the new minister and his family. By Thanksgiving, Alice was already smitten with our 15 month old son and her generous gifts of time had often lifted my mothering load.

Alice and I had a discussion in early November about Thanksgiving. She diplomatically inquired about our family's plans. I told her I didn't know what we would do but I had been thinking that since we didn't have family nearby, we'd like to share the day with others who may be in the same situaion for the holiday. Alice's face lit up and to this day I can see her joy as she said, "I'll provide the food if you provide the home!" That was a magnificent idea. She knew the people who would be alone so together we invited about 10 individuals all of whom were delighted to accept our invitation.

It was a lovely day. Our son napped in his own crib while we prepared the food and when he awakened all the guests showered him with hugs, kisses and pampering which filled him with exuberance we could hardly harness. The sincere gratitude and joy expressed by each person is a memory I still treasure.

We stayed in Loomis for three years and most Thanksgivings and Christmas's were spent hosting a group of people who might otherwise have been lonely except that Alice cared about them and taught me through her generous thoughtfulness to care for the lonesome and marginalized as well.

From Loomis we moved to Brooklyn, NY. Again we were too far from family to celebrate the holidays with them. Alice wasn't with us but we had her example and training so Thanksgiving 1976 was opened to those who would have been alone without our invitation. We included Richard that year. Richard was reluctant to come as he carried the scars of inner wounds we could only glimpse through his troubled demeanor. He frequently dismissed himself from the table to be alone in our basement. We did our best to share our lives with Richard that day and in the days that followed. In time, Richard was ready to embrace the God we sought to serve, share, honor and glorify. His letter of gratitude years later mentioned the life changing invitation to join our family for Thanksgiving in 1976.

With these treasured memories resurfacing in 2008, I am thankful for Alice who loved my family in ways that allowed me to learn the privilege of caring for lonely people who need the touch of a friend. And I'm thankful to God who is the only friend whose touch is the eternal cure for loneliness.

I am participating in a Thanksgiving Celebration as described in the
following invitation which is extended to you as well.

You are cordially invited by L.L. Barkat to join a Thanksgiving Celebration. Just post about a Thanksgiving memory, something you are thankful for this year, a special family Thanksgiving tradition, your favorite "thanksgiving" bible verse, or anything else you can dream up. Be serious, spiritual, creative, beautiful, humorous, whatever... it's a celebration and good celebrations welcome all kinds of expression!


L.L. Barkat said...

Alice... what a special teacher, love at her side... and then you, releasing the same kind of love as you moved on... beautiful.

Linda Worden said...

Your words bring warm delight - nourishment for my soul.

Tom Thompson said...

Thanks for sharing, I have heard so much about Alice. To this day many people in Loomis continue to talk about her love and grace especialy for the children. I will post this on my blog as well.

Pastor Tom Thompson
Loomis EFC

Linda Worden said...

Thanks for the note. I have quite a few stories I could relate about Alice. She was so godly, hard-working and faithful. Besides children, she paid much attention to older saints in Loomis - shopping, mowing lawns, home maintenance...she tackled whatever was needed.

Jennifer Dukes Lee said...

Linda, This is simply beautiful. You've defined "family" beyond the "blood family" but to family as defined by Christ -- by including those who share Planet Earth at your holiday table. What a dear soul you are. Happy Thanksgiving! P.S. -- I'm not so far from Nebraska. I live up here in northwest Iowa.