Art by French Press Mornings, lettering by Alyssa Martin
Holiday Traditions. They’re like the thread that runs through a quilt, connecting the squares, the years, to each other telling one grand story. Every family has them.
On my Dad’s side of the family, one such tradition has developed and stuck around most years. I don’t remember exactly when it began but it has become something that we all expect every time we’re at my Grandparents house for Thanksgiving.
After gorging ourselves on the best food of the year (go ahead, take a deep breath and smell that turkey cooking in your oven), we all gather around in a large circle, kids on the floor, adults in various chairs around the room. There are usually anywhere from 20-30 of us, stuffing the room as full as our stomachs.
Once everyone is settled, a basket of small, white, candle-sticks is passed around. They’re the same kind used at candle-light services at churches, paper hand guard and all. Each person, every person, takes one.
My grandpa usually starts. He lights his candle and says something that he is grateful for from that year. When he’s finished, he lights the candle of the person next to him and they follow suit. The flames jump around the room, candle to candle, carried forward by the words of gratitude from the mouths of all.
As each person shares, another light is added, until slowly, the room is bright, aglow in candlelight. Flames of gratitude are held under each chin. Shadows of thankfulness dance across the ceiling.
Those candles that we use are the same every year. They have been lit in years of death and in years of birth, in years of celebration and in years of crisis. But always, those candles come out.
Every year, after we enjoy the fullness of God’s blessings in our hearts and at our table, the room is transformed by candlelight. As soon as those flames are lit, everything becomes softer, more peaceful, prettier by the light of each tiny taper.
Candlelight sets a tone unlike any other form of light. It’s ambiance can be romantic, peaceful, subtle, yet powerful as it pierces the darkness and illuminates the room with a soft glow. The shadows it casts are fluid, dancing like a joyful child or a couple in love. It fills the room with beautiful and rich aromas as the scent of the wax is melted into the air, a perfume that’s unavoidable and all encompassing.
Gratitude is like candlelight.
It sets a tone in your heart unlike any other attitude. The ambiance it creates is peaceful, subtle, yet powerful, piercing the darkness of discontentment, illuminating life with a soft glow. The light of gratitude can’t help but cast shadows that stretch onto your face, shadows that dance and flicker like a sparkle in the eyes of someone laughing.
Once lit, gratitude can burn for hours, it’s flame burrowing deep into your heart like a wick in wax, causing pools that are soft and fluid; a heart that can be poured out and reformed, a life that can be stamped with the seal of the Savior.
And just like candlelight, gratitude is transformative.
My mom has candles all over her house. She used to light them right before we got home from school so that when we walked in the door, it felt like home. Cozy, comfortable, smelling like all things good. She used them to set the tone. I do the same thing. As soon as those candles are lit, something in me shifts to a place of comfort and peace, like I can exhale. My surroundings haven’t changed but the light in which I see them has.
As soon as we decide to let gratitude take flame in our hearts, suddenly everything is under it’s glow. The bad, the frustrating, the scary, the ugly comes under it’s light, it’s spell, it’s authority and just like darkness must yield to light, so discontentment must yield to gratitude. Suddenly, we are more content in the life that we are living. Our surroundings haven’t changed but the light in which we see them has.
I think that God desires this for us in all things. His word says to:
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4 NIV
The presence of God is to be entered with thanksgiving. And, as David put it, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7 NIV). The answer is nowhere. He will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is a God who is near (Psalm 145: 18). So we should have a heart full of gratitude at all times.
It is in choosing to let gratitude shine in our lives that we enter deeper into the presence of God. When gratitude is the light that we see our circumstances in, His face is more visible, His goodness is more tangible, and His grace is truly sufficient. In the darkest of circumstances, He is there.
Even when things aren’t as good as they could be, in years of sadness or hardship, those candles should still come out.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 NIV
So light those candles, fill the rooms of your heart with the light of gratitude. It creates an ambiance unlike any other. You’re circumstances won’t change but the light in which you see them will. Let gratitude be the light that leads you into the presence of God. Let it set the mood for the time you spend with Him and with others today because hey, I think Jesus is into ambiance too.
Happy Thanksgiving friends!
Photo Credits: Kelsey Lasher
Best Ever Green Bean Casserole
(Makes 12 servings)
4 (14.5 ounce) cans French cut green beans, drained
2 (10.75 ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
2 (6 ounce) cans French Fried Onions
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste (I like lots of pepper but use a light hand on the salt since the cheese and French fried onions provide a good amount of salt)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Mix green beans, soup, cheese, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
- Transfer to casserole dish.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Remove casserole from oven and sprinkle with French fried onions, covering the top. Bake for another ten minutes or so or until onions are browned.