Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Heavenly Hot Rolls

Heavenly Hot Rolls

    For the past twenty years I have been in Arkansas for Thanksgiving except for the year Ashley Hamm was born on December 1, 1999 and Isaac Kelley was born on November 27, 2003, which happened to be on a Thanksgiving day. We are in Virginia this year and celebrating with the Hamms and the Dunlaps (no relation) and I am happy to be here, but I will miss seeing everyone this year. I wrote the below story several years ago and thought it appropriate for this Thanksgiving. To all my Arkansas Family:  
   

    Every Thanksgiving Day our family gathered at my sister Sarah’s house for a time of reconnecting around a bountiful table laden with foods prepared with loving hands.  Since this tradition started, about twenty years ago, our two older brothers have passed on and their absence is still deeply felt. 

     During these years our children have all grown up and started families of their own.  Realizing how important family is they continue to make the trek to join us no matter the distance they must travel.  We may have as few as forty or as many as sixty in attendance depending on individual circumstances.  In the past few years we’ve begun taking a group photo.  When I look at this photo I think about Mother and Daddy and wonder how they would feel to see the results of their sweet union.  Mother died without seeing her children grown and Daddy only lived long enough to see his first few grandchildren come into this world.

     The first year we celebrated Thanksgiving together was such a success it evolved into a yearly reunion.  As with all families we never know who will be there.  From one year to the next a new baby can be added to the family causing much joy and a lot of oohing and aahing.  But from time to time we come together with sadness at the passing of someone that was with us last year but has passed from this world and gone on to Heaven.  This year will be the latter.  My sister’s husband John went to his eternal home on May 4th of this year and I know his absence will leave another gaping hole in our celebration. 

     Thanksgiving Day will come regardless of our circumstances and it is up to us to get through the day with as much grace as possible.  It will honor John’s memory because he loved this time together as much as any of us.

     Those of us that make the journey come from Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas.  Other family members, though they live in Arkansas, still have a three hour drive as they crisscross the state to partake in the feast of food, laughter and great conversation.  It is typical family fare as we exclaim to each other how much the children have grown since the year before while watching them reconnect with each other on the way to the barn to check out the animals. 

     My sister’s daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband Chris, have been gracious enough to host this event for the last few years, indicating another generation is taking the lead.  They live at the end of a lane in a comfortable one level home with a spacious covered back porch overlooking a grassy knoll where games of football take place or good old fashioned chase.  Sometimes when geese land on the pond at the back of the yard it becomes a day that seems to have been ordered from a storybook.   Across the road is the barn which inhabits a large pig or maybe two and much to the kids delight, a few chickens and rabbits. It’s an idyllic setting and they lovingly open their home where their generosity gives us all a feeling of one big happy family.

     The menu is southern comfort food and always includes turkey, chicken and dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and the list goes on and on.  But the one item on the menu that MUST be there is my sister’s yeast rolls.  Whether or not we will have them is not up for debate, it is a given and very much expected.  She is famous in the family and around her community for those yeast rolls.
     Last Thanksgiving I made a grave mistake.  I suggested that instead of making them from scratch we purchase Sister Shubert’s rolls from Sam’s Club.  It would save my sister a lot of work.  The phone conversation with my oldest son went something like this.

     “Mom, when will you be here?”  Darin asked.
     “The weekend before Thanksgiving,” I reply.
     “Talked to Sarah Sue a couple of days ago, she was wondering when you were coming.”
     “I need to call her, I’ve been thinking about how hard they all work to make dinner for so many people.  Even though some of us try to bring a dish they ultimately prepare most of the food.”  I tell him.
     “Aw Mom you know she loves doing this,” Darin said.
     “I know she does, but I don’t know how she makes so many hot rolls.  I think we should go to Sam’s Club and buy the frozen rolls,” I suggest sweetly.
     An awkward silence as I wondered if we’d been disconnected.  But then…
     “Mom, are you crazy?  What are you talking about?  Frozen rolls!  Have you lost your mind?”  He’s yelling at this point.
     “They really are good.  I buy them all the time,” I say, unconvincingly.
     “Mom, did you know you could be excommunicated from the family for saying stuff like this?”  He said with emphasis on each word and very, very seriously.

     I am not making this story up.  That is how important my sister’s hot rolls are on Thanksgiving Day.  He would toss out his own mother for such a suggestion! Now I know deep down he really wouldn’t do that…I hope.

     There are many places in this world where we can be excommunicated, cut off, tossed out, thrown out or simply shunned.  Sometimes this does happen in families and sometimes it is for reasons as frivolous as the type of rolls we have for dinner.  But I belong to a family that will never do that to me.  I belong to the family of God.

     God sent his one and only son to be nailed to the cross for my sins.  Your sins were covered too, and you and you and you.  All of us can have that wonderful gift of forgiveness if we receive it.  When we receive that forgiveness we become members in God’s great family of believers and we can never be excommunicated, cut off, tossed out, thrown out or shunned.  He promises in his word that we are forever his.  In John chapter 10 this passage confirms that you are being held firmly in the hand of the Savior.

     John 10:22-30 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem.  It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.  The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one. (NIV)


     How glorious!  He will give us eternal life, we will never perish and no one can take us from him.  We will live in a heavenly family that knows no bickering or disagreements. We will only know harmony and peace.  If you haven’t accepted the gift that Jesus offers to you, don’t wait another minute, take it, not only will it change your life, but hopefully your earthly family as well.