I love being in the kitchen, knitting molecules of food together, feeling the sense of wholeness that it brings to me to prepare a full feast with someone I love, my sister, and laughing and consulting and feeling everything become whole and warm inside. Everything is transfused—the chicken broth seeps into every unseen crevice of the carrot, and what was sweet becomes unbearably savoury. That’s what we do. We mix and match, throw a little of this in, a little more of that, and every scent and smell and texture that is different in every way fuses together and changes completely. A chemical change. We create a feast. We use every dish in the house, even though none of them match. Every dish is laid out, all the varieties of colors, everything we’ve made from scratch (and perhaps one or two things not made from scratch). And we thank God for the feast, the fellowship. We eat. Breaking the molecules apart, and suddenly I feel broken, especially the next day when it’s all over.
But then I have heard since my earliest days a story floating around like the whisper of something great that’s going to happen. It has passed from the lips of Christians in the church, passed with a smile of relief, and an absent-minded look, as if the speaker isn’t entirely there. A continual feast. No brokenness, no end. Everything is whole, all the time. Feasting on joy, feasting on wholeness that remains whole, feasting on gratitude and love. This is what was in our food, and yet, these things when they’re on earth, they disappear. Love disappears so quickly, and is replaced with lust and passion. Gratefulness sinks into criticism. Joy slowly digresses and is replaced with discontentment. These things are gifts, and we fail to retain them all the time.
The wind blew cold today, and it blew freshness into my hot soul, and a new kind of life into my lungs. The slap of the waves on the sea as they rush up to wash around my boots, and I leave my hands open and free, seeing how long I can go with them cold, how long before I must tuck them into the warmth of my wool sweater. The cathedral, every single grave is bathed in a flitting sunlight that flashes here and there, but through the dark clouds above, warms me, and makes even death seem golden. To the North, the hills are capped in snow. Winter is coming fast, I sense it in the wind as I sit in its breath writing my gifts.
Can I think of one thousand gifts? Can I even think of one gift? During Thanksgiving season, all over Facebook, all over blogs, I see people being thankful for one gift every day. And after Thanksgiving—are we done being grateful? Why is it so important only during this season? I wish we could spend all the time in the kitchen, stealing time to take a walk above the fields and stopping for a moment to write down a thought, a story, but returning to the kitchen, always, making feasts every day, washing the dishes every day, baking again, knitting molecules again, creating wholeness. I wish we could do it every day, and I wish that every day we could celebrate this Eucharist, even without the food. Why are we so quick to overlook the opportunities for joy now, here? Why are we so eager to accept brokenness and depression? And finally, what does it mean to live a good life?
I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy. – Anne Frank
I wake up smiling, thinking of gifts now, because I feel like I should. A good life. Living a good life. Being grateful, truly grateful, and living out thankfulness. That quote up there—I am convicted about it, and feel myself wanting to weep. That I should be unhappy and ungrateful when I have a life with no misery, while Anne Frank who lived a hunted life filled with horror and blood should be grateful, and happy!
Embrace your life. Live your thankfulness, not only during November, but every day, all day. Live slowly, purely, live well. We always talk about this—about living thankful lives. But don’t just say: “I’m thankful.” Think of what you’re grateful for. Think of your gifts—gifts that have been given to you. Material and immaterial. Individual things. On one piece of paper, on a chalk board, or on your heart write one gift—only one. And then, continue writing. Write these gifts for the rest of your life, and live the thankfulness you feel for them, and for the One who gave them to you.
In heaven there’s a feast for the saints, a feast that will not end, and there will be no end to our thankfulness.