Faithful Living: Find joy in serving all year

Here is the truly Christian life, here is faith really working by love: When a man applies himself with joy and love to the works of that freest servitude, in which he serves others voluntarily and for naught; himself abundantly satisfied in the fullness and richness of his own faith.

— Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

I know for a fact that not one man among the Thanksgiving crowd who will descend upon my house Thursday has made a list. If you are the meal organizer in your household, you know exactly the list to which I am referring: The one detailing who will be attending; what housekeeping needs to be accomplished before the crowd arrives; the ingredients necessary for the main courses, side dishes, desserts and beverages; the order in which the dishes must go into the oven; the table accoutrements that need to be purchased; and last but certainly not least — the time the meal will be served.

Ah, it’s nearly Thanksgiving and the females in my family are on the phone about as often, to strategize and plan the meal, as a whole lot of men were some weeks ago when hunting season opened. Such an acknowledgement would have bothered me some years ago when I didn’t want to be constrained by social/sexual norms. But I’m over that now. I like it that my husband will get up early with me and wash and dry the turkey because it’s heavy and cumbersome to work with in the sink. I like it that I will hurry around all day and be the last one to sit down to the table. That way I can gaze at those seated, acknowledging that deeply embedded in the feast prepared for them is a message: Extra effort has gone into creating a tasty meal because they are appreciated and cherished and oh, so loved. It’s about being fueled by faith.

What will your Thanksgiving meal look like this year? What must you eat for it to feel like Thanksgiving? These are questions I enjoy asking the high schoolers I work with because it’s a great way to engage students in conversation, even if they don’t know me well or find adults in general not the coolest people on the planet with whom to converse. Discussing food, however, can be a great unifier. It produces smiles and … hold on to your hats — some sentimentality, which is usually avoided at all costs if you were born sometime during the last two decades.

In case you were wondering, it seems the turkey eaters and the ham aficionados are evenly divided. But there is a united front when it comes to potatoes: the great majority of the kids long to dive into a huge mound of mashed potatoes, then have some gravy nearby to slather across the top. There are a whole lot of pumpkin pie fans out there as well. Most prefer a dollop of whipped cream as a garnish. Some can take or leave the cranberry sauce, but more than I would have guessed will be thrilled if those of us cooking will put together an apple crisp, served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

Now you are in the know.

I happen to be a huge fan of dressing, baked in a separate dish and not inside the turkey to lower the fat content. And it must be cornbread based, if you please — with pecans, onions, water chestnuts, celery, sausage and fresh parsley. It needs to be fluffy on the inside with slightly crispy edges.

The men in my life are easy: All they request is a green bean casserole with fried onions across the top and floor space when the meal is done. They are a rather predictable group and do not care when the meal is ready. They do, however, insist on nibbling samples as the food is being prepared without having to always grab a fork. They also relish in the one day the cooks will happily build a plate of leftovers for them so they can revisit the tastes of Thanksgiving while continuing to watch movies and play video games or cards.

Is it OK to purchase a pecan pie and canned gravy? Absolutely, just as it is more than OK to cook a frozen lasagna if you are feeling unconventional. And what if you don’t cook at all? Maybe you can contribute by hand washing the crystal or offering to bring the holiday-styled paper plates. You might even consider hanging up the towel this holiday and volunteering at a community Thanksgiving meal, instead. The joy comes in the serving. It will speak volumes of your love and enrich your own experience with faith.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is

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