A couple of weeks ago I met with my spiritual director, and as my continued reflections on sabbatical spilled out of me, he looked at me and said, “I keep hearing, over and over, your gratitude for all of it.”
Yes. Gratitude for the gift of time, for experiences for both my family and me, for the people who stepped in to support my time away, for a chance to embrace wholly what I love, for dreams and goals lived and accomplished. Gratitude for the way it gave me new perspectives on life, for the renewed energy I find for ministry, for the relationships I strengthened, for God’s grace weaving through it all, goodness upon goodness, over and over.
During my time on the Isle of Iona, in intentional Christian community, our group shared every meal together and took turns preparing and serving the food. What I grew to love the most about our meals, along with the fellowship and delicious food, were the graces offered by Iona staff before each one. Every meal was prefaced by a new grace, some spontaneous, others from various books and cultures. Each grace affected me more powerfully as I heard them over and over, morning to night. (And I learned the joy of tea multiple times a day. The Brits laughed at me when I expressed how overwhelmed I was by the sheer amount of tea I was offered throughout the week. “Tea’s what you offer when you don’t know what to do for someone. It’s the answer to everything. When you’re unsure, you ask if someone wants a cuppa,” they told me.)
A couple of days ago, for our council devotions, I offered a reflection on food and friendship from Blessed Be Our Table, a book published by the Iona community. I then asked the council members to share stories of memorable meals in their lives. I expected stories of family Thanksgivings, and while a few people shared about family holidays, many also told stories of holidays and meals away from home. They regaled tales of college Thanksgivings scraped together with multiple phone calls home for directions on how to cook a turkey; a middle of the night sled ride followed by turkey soup by a fire on a high school youth trip; a last Thanksgiving with a beloved relative; a Thanksgiving meal of turkey schnitzel in Germany with friends; an “orphan Thanksgiving” with each guest asked what he/she needed for it to feel like home (the answer being red jello with canned fruit); hurtling home from grandma’s through a blizzard.
And gratitude through it all, for the ways we’re connected across tables and cultures, for new friendships and the deepening of old ones, for the abundance we find in surprising places, for cherished memories that sustain us in difficult times. Goodness upon goodness, over and over. Amen.