Tag Archives: traditions

White Rabbits

Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once. ~Audrey Hepburn

I don’t know how it started. No one does. But many years ago, probably 25 now, a Christmas package wrapped in a tin was offered to someone at the family Christmas celebration.

The box was a used candy tin from some of my father-in-law’s Chinese students. Whether the candy was tasty is long forgotten, even what was given in the tin that first year is not remembered.

But the tin . . . We remember.

You see every year, the tin is filled with a new present and given to someone else in the family. Everyone waits expectantly to see who will receive the “White Rabbit” gift that year.

It isn’t a large tin; the present will be something small . . . a gift card, a notebook for your purse, a pair of underwear. Really the present isn’t what we care about. It’s all about getting the White Rabbit tin.

There was a lull in White Rabbit giving for several years. We noticed its absence, but we didn’t know what had happened to it. Had we given the tin to someone out of the family by mistake? Had it been inadvertently thrown away or sent to a thrift store? Like Alice’s White Rabbit, it seemed to be gone.

Then, after many years, it reappeared.

My sister-in-law, new to the family tradition, had not known its importance. We failed to tell her of its significance. She received the tin, but never passed it on. Finally, by sheer luck, she placed a gift in it one Christmas.

There was great rejoicing in the house. The White Rabbit tin was back. Again we have no idea what the present was; but we remember and rejoice at its presence. Like a long lost friend, the tin reminds us of Christmases past.

Josiah was a child when he became king of Israel. After reigning for 18 years he sent to the temple to make repairs. The priest passed on a book he had found by chance.

It was the Book of the Law.

Josiah read the book and mourned that its contents had been forgotten and ignored. He spent the rest of his days trying to bring Israel into a right relationship with God.

Someone, somewhere, had put the Book of the Law aside. They didn’t know its importance, or the great present that it held inside. For many years it sat unopened, like a White Rabbit tin that was misunderstood.

God told Josiah that the Israelites would still suffer because of their faithlessness, but Josiah tried to make it right anyway. He wouldn’t let the present be forgotten again.

You, too, have an opportunity to open a long-forgotten present: The Bible. It’s not an old family tradition of forgettable presents in an unexceptional tin. Neither is it a book of laws condemning us to suffering and shame.

It’s a new present, filled with the Love of God. It brings joy, excitement, peace, and comfort every time it’s opened.

Don’t ever forget what’s inside.

And don’t ever stop giving it to others.

Shaphan read it, then went back to Josiah and reported, “Your officials collected the money in the temple and gave it to the men supervising the repairs. But there’s something else, Your Majesty. The priest Hilkiah gave me this book.” Then Shaphan read it out loud.

 When Josiah heard what was in The Book of God’s Law, he tore his clothes in sorrow. At once he called together Hilkiah, Shaphan, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, and his own servant Asaiah. He said, “The Lord must be furious with me and everyone else in Judah, because our ancestors did not obey the laws written in this book. Go find out what the Lord wants us to do.” 2 Kings 22:9-13 CEV

The Great Sloppy Joe Debacle of ’88

gourds-949112__340The turkey is deboned, the china back in its place, and pie crumbs swept away. Our family celebrates Thanksgiving as a small affair, just the four of us. We dress for the meal, talk and eat, share what we are thankful for, and stare across the family table at the ones we love and sometimes love to hate.

Family. Family is what Thanksgiving always meant to me. Our feasts included both sides of the family when I was very young, and later, was spent with my mother’s side of the family. There was no traditional annual fare, no particular time of sharing, no special game to play. Just family.

So in 1988, when several family members were unable to meet, we just sort of canceled Thanksgiving. It wasn’t mortifying. I wasn’t scarred, sent into a spiraling hole of dark depression. We just agreed not to meet.

Then, schedules were unexpectedly revamped, and Thanksgiving was back on again. I asked the guy I was dating if he would like to go to my family’s house for Thanksgiving. His family was meeting at his grandparents’ house with his brother and parents and his all male cousins. I think it was an easy decision for him, to be honest.

We pulled up to the house, cars lined in the large, grassy yard. “Hello! Come in,” everyone called as we walked in the front door.

I was hugged, the young man introduced, and the family “catching up” commenced. It went well. The usual stragglers came in fifteen minutes late and we gathered round the long table to pray. Then everyone took a seat and started passing the food: green beans, salad, apple sauce, pasta salad, and sloppy joes. Store bought pumpkin pie finished it off.

Happy Thanksgiving!

On the ride back home, the young man asked if that was a regular Thanksgiving for my family.

“Pretty much. Why?”

“Don’t you have turkey? Or mashed potatoes and gravy? . . . Maybe lima beans?”

I’m pretty sure his voice quivered.

“Uh, well, yeah, usually. But not limas. It’s just that we weren’t planning to have Thanksgiving this year so it was a sort of last minute thing. There wasn’t time for a turkey and all the trimmings.”

Poor guy. It was his first time to miss Thanksgiving with his family and it was NOT what he had expected. He had given up his traditions: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, limas, and  . . . blackberry pie. Homemade blackberry pie. His grandmother’s homemade blackberry pie.

I pulled him back from the precipice.

Life went on for both of us. In fact, life went on together for both of us. So I guess it wasn’t the end of the world, which is the way he tells it.

He has never missed turkey, potatoes and gravy, or limas since. I have made sure of it. His Thanksgiving always includes a blackberry pie. Yes, homemade. We even have cranberry sauce, even though no one else in the family likes it.

Because this is our tradition.

Today as I sat at the table surrounded by my children, eating the same meal we have every year, I realized that my family Thanksgiving and that young man’s Thanksgiving have merged into a new tradition. One where we treasure each other’s company above our own wish for a particular celebration.

Sloppy Joes may not be what you expect for Thanksgiving, but like that first ramshackle Thanksgiving meal four hundred years ago, they bonded us together forever.

May you find your own traditions to bind you to those you love.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wear Beige

groomI have several weddings occurring among my friends and family this year. I was sharing with a friend that I have no need to worry about weddings when the time comes for our family because I have been blessed with two sons. That relieves me of any duty other than a dinner after the rehearsal. I’m thinking a cookout; I hope they don’t marry in winter.

In fact, where I come from the life of the mother of the groom is very simple: Show up, Shut up, and Wear beige. Three easy rules that I can handle. That is if they marry girls from where I come from.

My friend told me that is not acceptable in the South. No one is to wear beige because it is too much like white, which is of course reserved for the bride. Hmm.

There have been lots of issues like this over the years. Matt and I have moved all over the country and each place has had ideas, traditions, and customs that were foreign to us. I suppose it isn’t surprising if you consider that our country is nearly the size of a continent. Each state is like a mini country with its own peculiarities.

It’s the same sort of issue that the church has. Each branch of the family tree has different beliefs and “druthers” about the way things ought to take place. Some of us look at branches and say that is all wrong, or we cling tightly to the branch we are on and refuse to see it from any other point of view.

Jesus said, “I am the vine. You are the branches. If a man remains in me, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) He gave us some latitude in our traditions and customs. He allows us to show up in beige if we desire, or to wear a tie-dyed t-shirt if it suits our fancy. No matter what I choose to wear to the wedding, the one main factor that doesn’t change is that the bride and groom are married by the Father of us all. Just like the church is the bride of Christ, no matter which congregation you attend.

So whether you wear beige at a wedding, pull to the side of the road for a funeral procession, or sing at family reunions, or even leave meat out of your chili, know this:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21