Thanksgiving this year coincided with our fourth wedding anniversary, which made it even more meaningful.
Ideally, we would attend Thanksgiving mass and receive a blessing from Father. In reality, the husband had a deadline to meet, and lunchtime mass overlapped with baby’s nap time. I managed, however, to invite a non-Catholic friend to join baby and me for the Thanksgiving feast at the Catholic Center. We devoured the turkey our chaplain generously and skillfully roasted for us. The smell of turkey greeted us from afar!
Our little family did enjoy a Thanksgiving feast put together a week earlier by our housing office. They even prepared a kid-friendly table with coloring pens and hired a babysitter for the occasion.
Whilst grateful for the volunteers that made both Thanksgiving dinners possible, I felt guilty that I could not offer any service opportunities this Thanksgiving. As an afterthought, I guess helping to organize a friend’s baby shower counts somewhat. I even indulged in Black Friday shopping (although I would like to think I was prudent in my purchases).
My real Thanksgiving moment came unexpectedly during the Solemnity of Christ the King mass today.
Baby managed to remain silent and entertained by her mass kit (filled with Christmas cards, prayer cards, and seminarian photos etc.). So I caught parts of today’s homily and it hit home.
Father divulged that he spent the four worst years of his life in our institution, and how as a relatively new priest, Bishop appointed him chaplain of our school. He proudly declared he has spent the best four years of his life here. God is amazing! Aside, he is the wisest priest I have encountered and he has, by God’s grace, inspired many to become seminarians.
His point was how God can use the negative events in your life for His/ our good:
“We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good.” – Romans 8:28
It touched me to tears because at a silent retreat in March this year, I confided in my spiritual direction session with this priest regarding the decision to terminate my studies after toiling for four and a half long years.
It was a painful decision spurred by my debilitating surgeries which caused me to re-examine my life priorities.
His response was clear, simple, and profound.
“God sometimes calls us to start things but not finish them, and we may only know the answer in the future (in God’s perfect timing).”
Praise be to God on this feast day because this was my REAL Thanksgiving moment when I could fit the missing piece of the puzzle. I realized letting go was the pruning I needed which freed me to sow seeds in other life-giving areas of my life, some of which have borne rich fruit.
For instance, I was given the luxury of being a stay-at-home mother although the stay-at-home part was not of my choosing. It is a life situation I struggled with for the last three years, wrestling with the realities of a non-working visa.
Because of this state of life, however, I could fully embrace my vocation of motherhood and devote my energies to our little family.
I could witness the baby-turned-toddler’s every milestone, and am proud of her achievement of walking to church today :).
There are, of course, areas of my life I am still grappling with. Keeping up with my assignments for my online theology course, being committed as a Catholic writer, and even more fundamentally, maintaining spiritual growth.
These months have been incredibly exciting by worldly standards (a lot of traveling and new experiences), but it has not exactly been spiritually enriching. So God is His infinite goodness, pierced my heart today (through our chaplain’s homily) when I least expected it.
And to top it off, there were Thanksgiving leftovers after mass so our little family enjoyed it with our beloved community.