Being back in Arkansas is like going back in time. No, I do not mean the Natural State is old-fashioned or stuck in a time warp. Rather, it is like being back in early October 2014, weather-wise. Not impressive in the way of time travel, but walking around my in-laws’ neighborhood today, I gloried in the clear, blue sky and the ridiculously tall coniferous trees. After experiencing such prematurely harsh winter weather in the Midwest upon our return from Arizona, the mildness of the southern late fall is a beautiful thing. Here, the dried leaves of the backyard maples are still shedding their leaves.
Many of us are pinching pie crusts at this time, anticipating the arrival of relatives and friends. My mother-in-law is pulling apple pies out of the oven even as I compose these words. She sets the green beans to the side, preparing the space for her to snap them. Family is coming over tomorrow for a noon time feast, family I have not seen in years, some since my husband and I first married eighteen years ago. Some of the children we will be seeing for the first time. These are third cousins to A, S and G. We have spent their lifetime training them for moments like this- how to speak to unknown adults, how to use polite manners, how to conscientiously excuse yourself from a large gathering that inevitably makes you want to bury yourself in the dark and never come out, at least until it is quiet, or until the guests have all gone home.
I have no doubt my boys will behave admirably. I hope they enjoy having other children around close in age, even if not close in acquaintance.
The truth is we all spend a lifetime training ourselves for moments like these, don’t we? A room full of people, whether related or not, can place a strain on the best of us during the holidays, but for us introverts the strain only seems compounded.
So, instead of thinking of myself and my own awkwardness, I pray tomorrow I will be concerned with reaching out to others. Planning ahead, I make mental notes of ways my words may bring encouragement and blessings tomorrow. It will be a day of thanksgiving. It will be a day full of gratitude to God. And we all need that kind of day.
As I help set the table, mingle and answer the door, or listen to family stories, as I interact and eat the apple pie,
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14