Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, and in my family, that means counting off our blessings with kernels of corn. We toss them into a basket that we pass around the table, letting the pile collect as we listen to friends and family tell snippets of stories from the past year.
When my sister and I were young, my parents would have to remind us to reach beyond the immediate physical “stuff” around us—to give thanks for friendship instead of just our new dolls, to think about what it means to live in a free country instead of just what it means to go on a field trip to the zoo.
In later years, almost all of the blessings we named were the more abstract sort: family, health, a sense of belonging, the ability to dream about the future.
This year, I have my list ready, and near the top is this: I am thankful for story.
And not just because I enjoy being entertained by happy endings. In fact, I think stories can sometimes be the opposite of cheery escapism.
In the psalms where the people of God are crying out for help, one thing they often do is trace back through their history, reminding God and themselves of those times when He was faithful, against all odds, in spite of their fears and weaknesses and failures (see Psalm 106 and Psalm 136 for good examples of this).
When thanksgiving was hard and lament seemed more fitting, they told stories.
It’s true that the books we talk about here on the blog are fiction. In a strict sense, they never happened. But in another sense, they happen all the time. They are memoirs of our struggles and triumphs, our heartbreaks and joys, because they describe people like us dealing with very real emotions and problems. Fiction stories may have different plots and settings, but we love them, at least in part, because they are our stories. And often, these stories portray both good times and hard ones.
It reminds me of this quote from Sarah Loudin Thomas’s Miracle in a Dry Season:
On the bountiful years, when you have to prioritize your blessings to know which ones to mention, when you can laugh from someplace deep inside of you, when all the people gathered around the Thanksgiving table are happy to see each other, God is good.
And during the hard years, when there have been more hospital visits than weddings, when you have been hurt and have hurt others badly enough that you don’t know how to fix things, when there is an empty chair at the table, God is still good.
Or, as Psalm 43 says, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Welcome to the Bethany House family Thanksgiving table! Pull up a chair.
If I were to pass you a few bits of corn, what blessings would you name with them?