Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and the scripture that I think of in advance of it is Philippians 1:3-11. Here are my highlights: “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you… It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart… And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best, so that you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”
The focus of my heart and mind this year will be my step-mother Marilyn, who died on October 10 at the age of 92. She was safe and happy in a memory care facility in my hometown for the past three years. We visited her in August and spent an hour laughing and being fed by her bright smile and playful personality.
My “mother” was Jeanne, a beautiful and artistic woman who died from pancreatic cancer when she was 41, and my younger brothers and I were seven, four and two. A year later my Dad married Marilyn, who was a divorced mother of three teenagers. We became a family of eight in an older house with four bedrooms and just one complete bathroom. Imagine that!
For the past 56 years, Marilyn has been my “Mom”. She willingly took on the physical, emotional and spiritual task of caring for three extra children. I didn’t fully appreciate her dedication and flexibility when I was young, but I certainly did as the years went by. Her greatest joy was having us return home for visits, especially when we brought our spouses, children and grandchildren. In the language of Philippians… she held us in her heart.
So many of you have both Mothers and Moms. We have that one person who distinctively gave birth to us. We also have those others who said “yes” to the opportunity to love us in the most tangible and symbolic ways. We are the beneficiaries of the blessings that are sparked by God and flow through these beloved figures. As we gather together this week – for food, football and festiveness – let’s give thanks and smile for the dear ones that we hold in our hearts.
Dr. Mike Marshall
Associate Pastor of Leadership Development