What Is The Meaning Of Thanksgiving?

Nov 19, 2012 by

What Is The Meaning Of Thanksgiving?

Got your turkey out of the freezer yet and into the fridge so it can start thawing? That’s probably not where you thought this post was going from the lead, but I’m throwing it in for free.

As you begin to make preparations for Thursday’s holiday here in America, I want to ask you about your meaning of Thanksgiving?

In years past, in many ways for me, it has been a gateway holiday, kinda like a gateway drug.  It gets you started, but very soon you need more to get to the good stuff–the granddaddy of them all, Christmas.

First Thanksgivings

I remember being in Northern Michigan, with snow on the ground, and mom having cooked the meal.  I can’t recall if dad was home that year or Arc Light in B-52s. Little else about it do I remember.

I remember being in kindergarten and living in Northern Indiana at my grandparent’s house while dad was in Vietnam a second time circa 1970 or ’71. I remember making a pilgrim’s belt out of construction paper and seemingly a black hat, too. I remember our kindergarten field trip where they took us to a turkey farm.  I don’t remember the meals. (Though my mom has shared a story with me about how there were conflicts between the Sheptak and Claxton meals in regard to how large or small the celery was cut for the stuffing….)

But that’s about it. After that, Thanksgiving largely turned into a day that opened the doorway to the Christmas season.

Later Years

When I began putting up Christmas trees and decorating for myself, it became a tradition that the tree would be up before Thanksgiving. That way we got to celebrate the Big Deal twice, as it were. The thankfulness part largely got lost, it was just something we did to eat a big meal and be ready for Christmas and all. Then we’d watch the Cowboys football game. And later still in life, came a friend whose family would be up for the Black Friday sales–something I’ve never seemed to have the extra dollars to go partake in, let alone, the interest.

Then Came The Second Divorce

In my second marriage, Christmas and Thanksgiving became harder holidays to enjoy. My second wife really didn’t like much of either day. Her dad would come into town from Washington state and stay a few days. That brought stress upon the house because somehow we all had to present more of what we weren’t than what we were or something, I still don’t comprehend nor ever will.  There were always mean verbal words that were exchanged for reasons I still don’t understand, doors slamming, and extra naps. The best part was time sitting with my out-of-town mother-in-law who took it all in stride, was patient, caring, and actually fun to be around. I miss her.

Throughout the months of November and December I would be trying to excite the kids about the holiday season, while my ex was trying to get them to think about something else.

We had the house decorated from top to bottom, inside and out.  It was a very happy time for me, in spite of all the undertow.

When I moved out in 2010, I lost a  lot of my accumulated Christmas fare. With the agony that came from a second failed marriage, and subsequent things I’ve learned since, it got hard to enjoy what has always been my favorite time of the year.

Thanksgiving 2012

Time, they say, heals all wounds. I don’t know about them being completely healed, but this year, for certain, I’m doing all I can to see Thanksgiving and the holidays in a new light. One which I’ve lost touch with, and maybe never really quite understood.

The Meaning of Thanksgiving--Count Your Many Blessings

The Meaning of Thanksgiving–Do you ever Count Your Many Blessings?

Yesterday I went back to church for the first time in months. And like often happens, when you sit there in church and you hear a message, somehow it seems like God was waiting for you to be there in that perfect spot to share with you just the very words you needed to hear.

All weekend long, I spent cleaning up the apartment here and getting ready for Thanksgiving. And yes, I put two trees up Saturday night, put out my animated, mechanical Santa and Mrs. Claus and began to settle back into life and my “home,” as I have not been able to do since before I met my second wife, before we got married, before my world got majorly turned upside down.

So yes, the potential is there to make Thanksgiving 2012 a “going through the motions event,” but there’s more afoot here this year.

Count Your Many Blessings

We didn’t sing Count Your Many Blessings yesterday in church, but this weekend I hanged a sign from my mom above the door that says THANKFUL, and in cursive over that, is Count Your Many Blessings. I’ve been singing the song over and over in my head all weekend. If you don’t know the song, here are the lyrics:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

Refrain

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

Refrain

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Over the past three years, I’ve let the weight of all that was wrong, all the wrongs that had been done to me, all the misfortune, all the sadness, all of what was wrong in the world, become the overwhelming force in my life. Last year, we didn’t even put up a tree here in the apartment–well, we put up the Charlie Brown Tree–and of course, a lot of that had to do with the fact that we were supposed to be getting back the house–one we found had been trashed, appliances removed and the mortgage hadn’t been paid on since July of 2010.

This year, I’m rising above all that.

I have so many things in life to be thankful for. Things that in many ways I’d lost sight of.

I have my three, beautiful and very intelligent daughters, whom I love beyond words. Each amazes me daily with their many special talents, insights and inner strength. Because of decisions I have made, my girls have had a tough road at times.  But through it all, they have grown stronger and are more prepared for the hardships that this life can cast upon us than I was in so many ways.

Albeit my weight is still an issue that brings me down and troubles me daily. Going swimming five days a week for the past three months hasn’t seemed to help; it’s just made me hungrier!  But I have good health in spite of it all. I can get up daily. I can walk. I can run.  I can work out and I can be productive. I can also eat less and healthier.  It’s my choice. It’s something I must own up to and I must face.

I have some of the greatest friends I could ever have hoped for, many of them scattered around the globe.  Some are closer than others, and that’s okay.  Each has just the right impact on my life.

The list goes on.

This Thanksgiving

My girls are coming Thursday and we’re going to spend the day cooking. We’ve got a great big turkey in the freezer right now and it’s about to make the drop into the fridge to start thawing. We’re going to have healthy and unhealthy snacks during the day and we’re going to have a fancy meal together Thursday afternoon. Every year while chopping onions and celery for stuffing, I tell myself that next year we’re all going to be in NYC for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Though I was told by a friend the other week the best vantage point for that remains on my living room TV set. Maybe next year, we’ll see.

And no matter what’s happening outside of my home, no matter how much I owe to this or to that, how much I have been hurt by this person’s actions or that, how much I wish there was snow on the ground or my family or dearest friends were closer, I’m going to be counting my many blessings this holiday season.

God has given us so much to be thankful for, and really, only a few years to enjoy it down here. The promise of Heaven afterward is something I’ve often lost site of these past few years.

So what is your meaning of Thanksgiving?

What do you have to be thankful for?

 

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2 Comments

  1. Susan Miller

    Donny, that was beautiful. I hope you and your sweet girls have a wonderful day together and that your turkey turns out just right!!! Much love and thankfulness for our friendship and the good memories we share from our years on the second floor of the Alabama State House.

    Susan

    • Donny Claxton

      Thanks, Susan. Not sure what the world would’ve been like without you in it and I’m darned glad I never found out!

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