There’s been a flurry about the air these beginning weeks of November and we haven’t even seen our first snow fall.

Photo by Andrew Nevins on

With endless lists to complete of gift giving, meal planning, and travel arrangements, we have stirred up a snowstorm of busyness and crowded the streets, the stores, and aisles of all kinds, and the weather of our holiday conquering isn’t letting up anytime soon.

With mere days until we families take our seat at the Thanksgiving table, I dared walking thru the doors of the local grocery store for last minute items on my part of the menu just yesterday, not dressing appropriately for those flurries inside.

Photo by Michael Burrows on

It was just a few days earlier when the weather was calm and quiet inside the Uptown coffee house where I regularly share a café mocha extra hot with a dear friend over conversation for two.

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With not a snowflake in sight, the still and quiet of the morning greeted me as I walked thru the doors and took my place in line; noticing my friend of over thirty years already seated at our familiar place by the window overlooking the streets of our town.

Photo by Robin McPherson on

Placing my café order and about to insert my debit card, the barista stopped me before I could as Thanksgiving came early from an unknown patron paying it forward to complete strangers for the duration I was sitting there and beyond.


This unexpected kindness caught me off guard, and for the remainder of the day, my thoughts kept returning to a stranger who chose to slow down, notice and touch the smiling, the hurting, the unemployed, and the numb during a season we are meant to enjoy and celebrate, while some are just trying to get through.

Returning back to the snowstorm of buggies jammed up in traffic of the grocery store aisles, I thought of my sister and her family trying to get through their first Thanksgiving dinner with the empty seat of her husband and their father / grandfather pulling their heartstrings for another meal with him.

Did anyone slow down long enough in the grocery aisles to notice my sister’s heaviness of heart in the meat section struggling in her first attempts to find the turkey her husband used to select?

What about the other first-time widows or widowers?

What about those recently losing a child or job?

What about those with a newly discovered diagnosis?

Did anyone look up from their scribbled grocery list and notice these just getting thru the holidays and pay it forward with a smile, a comforting word from a stranger, or maybe even a swipe of their debit card for a customer who’s struggling at the register with insufficient funds.

Sometimes those paying it forward come when you least expect, yet at a time when you need it the most…

My sister Debbie in her own words.
 Today I decided to go shopping for Thanksgiving and get my turkey.

 This was the first time I ever bought a turkey without Andy.  Picking out the turkey, cooking it, and slicing it up, has always been his job.

 You think you are fine for the moment, but grief just creeps up on you out of nowhere.  I was fighting the tears, and my heart was getting heavy as I was trying to pick out a turkey.  I was just feeling lonely and alone.  I found what I was looking for and headed home.
 When I got home there was something waiting for me by my front door.  A fall flower arrangement from two dear people in my life; almost made me cry.

 Thank you both so much for loving and caring about me on a difficult day. 

 God ALWAYS knows.

 Somebody thought of and paid it forward to my sister and made a tangible difference in her Thanksgiving holiday.

During the snowstorms of November and December when the season might not be merry and bright for a complete stranger in the traffic jams of the grocery aisles, oh that we would notice and take off our mittens to be a hand of hope and pay it forward a joyous act of our kindness for someone struggling just trying to get thru.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on


The November Door of Thankfulness has been unlocked and opened for just a few days, yet Mother Winter surprised us with our first snow before those fall leaves could take our breath one final time during their encore burst and presentation of color, foregoing some leaves their chance to perform before we raked them into fall’s good-bye.

Things happen which catch us off guard and unaware and make it easy to miss an opportunity to be grateful.  I must confess though, my husband and I had hoped for a few more sweater wearing afternoons seated together for a stolen moment on our couple’s bench listening quietly to music the wind was playing while running its fingertips through the chimes.

Sadly, the theater of fall has had its final curtain call a few days ahead of schedule, closing its doors until opening day next year, with a reminder to be grateful no matter the season.

November weather may be crisp from the kitchen window I allow to be open throughout the winter season to usher in the sounds of life outside to keep me company.  No need to worry though; a space heater warms me during my tasks at the kitchen counter, much to the raised eyebrows from my husband paying the bills.

Nothing stokes the embers of gratefulness in me more than the songs of Christmas and holiday baking.

I’ve never been one who celebrates the holidays according to their order placement on the calendar.

Whenever I am missing my mother terribly and that little girl inside longs for the Norman Rockwell greeting card ambience mother presented for her five daughters and one son every year during the month of December, I recreate mother’s Christmas kitchen to bring me a bit closer to her.
Oh, if I could go back into Mother’s boxes and set aside an apron or two for holiday baking before we sadly packed up her house.  While I’ve never worn the old-fashioned aprons while baking, I wish mother would have dressed us in aprons during those memory making moments while teaching her children to cook.

  Mother needed her aprons as in her excitement, she stirred up a windstorm of flour while rolling out sugar cookies and pie crusts and leaving her indelible handprint of grease onto the recipes she followed.  I was always grateful for this hilarious visual of mother; even more grateful when it wasn’t my week to do dishes during holiday baking.

My sister Denise inherited mother’s cookbook of traditions she gave us during the holidays.  The Thanksgiving meal and memories of stuffing, sweet potatoes, turkey and gravy and all those pies remain in mother’s recipe box, albeit some were handwritten on lunch bags or the back of envelopes.  Yet no matter how we followed each menu item to the final tablespoon, there was always one special ingredient missing: our mother.

 The invitations of holiday’s past remind us that mother’s name has been absent from the guest list going back three long years, with our Thanksgiving table being the first to sadden our hearts with mother’s empty chair.
As the years have passed us by, so has a few of the traditions mother instilled into our family scrapbooks.

Mother would be mortified to witness her son ‘n law Brad baptize Brother Tom into a deep fryer instead of her method of roasting the turkey throughout the day beginning at the start of Macy’s parade.  Thankfully, mother’s daughter Denise kept the tradition in place and another turkey was prepared for those family members who liked their memories just as they were.

Though we loved mother’s stuffing recipe when she prepared it, a new stuffing has made the holiday table; a recipe I learned from my children’s southern grandmother in Kentucky.  This will be our family secret.

The card table has a new shark to take mother’s place, albeit by force and coercion.  Turns out I proved to be a great competitor in mother’s chair; oh, she would be proud.

We laugh, and still cry at times for our mother during the holidays when we remember the angel on the Christmas tree she was to our family.  She lit up our lives and our memories, and neither has been the same since her untimely good-by.
So, whenever I am missing my mother terribly as I was just the other day, and that little girl inside longs to reminisce her Norman Rockwell greeting card presented every year during the month of December, I recreate my mother’s Christmas kitchen to bring me a bit closer to her.

My efforts might fall short to mother’s homemade pies I recall as a child, which is probably the reason I am never assigned the pies for holiday dinners.

But I’m forever grateful for the kitchen memories she gave us during the holidays.

They are always worth remembering.


Honoring those families,
those loved ones not taking their seat at the holiday table this year.
We celebrate you, we miss you, we honor you this season of change,
The Empty Chair.

We welcome in the holidays,
Festivities begin.
November to December end,
These days are penciled in.

TABLE Holiday Thanksgiving

TABLE Holiday XMAS 2018 alicea xmas kids 14
The list of things to do is long,
With many meals prepare.
And tables set to celebrate,
Those seated in each chair.

TABLE Family Thanksgiving

TABLE Family Xmas
The holidays, they dare to change,
In subtle ways appear.
When looking back the portrait of,
The family then last year.

LAST Thanksgiving Portrait

Emotions indescribable,
Without you seated there.
Your smile and sweater worn remains,
Our mother’s empty chair.

TABLE Mom Picture Sweater

So many tables set for us,
Remember all you do.
Our mom who gave us memories,
In turn, we gave to you.

thanksgiving with dad2018 alicea xmas 8
When gather for a family meal,
Remember what we share.
And treasure those we’re seated by,
Who occupy each chair.

TABLE Grandkids Anniversary TABLE Grandkids Jake Crystal
Because the portrait might just change,
From what we’ve always known.
The table set this holiday,
Could find one all alone.

TABLE Ate Alone

Forgive us if we tend to stare,
Our mother’s empty chair.

TABLE Mom Picture Sweater

And see her with a deck of cards,


Or love her grand-kids there.

IMG_4762 TABLE Grandkids Cumbees
Another table has been set,
Another home reside.
Though missing you this holiday,
With Christ you sit beside.


Mere words or thoughts could dare convince,
Her absence us prepare.
How much we miss our mother’s chair,
And see her sitting there.

LAST Thanksgiving Portrait TABLE Mom Picture Sweater


Everyday life sets before us a
Table of Thanksgiving.

Surprising guests from meal to meal, life serves a different special from the menu,
Always confirming though one’s reservation at their
Table of Thanksgiving.

Every guest dining prefers their favorite table by the fireplace,
Where the warmth and coziness from the quaint flames stokes the ambience of the evening.

Life by the fireplace is tranquil and calming to the soul.
The lighting is dim and easy on the eyes.

The Table of Thanksgiving is clothed with fine linen and adorned with coordinating tableware and centerpieces to compliment.

Dinner consists of a choice meat accompanied with delectable sides and warm buttered bread; a meal to truly satisfy a hungry palate.

Coffee and designer deserts complete a full meal and a full heart with much to be grateful for seated at this
Table of Thanksgiving.

Sometimes though, life sets your Table of Thanksgiving in the overflow section as the rush hour crowd has occupied the preferred seating, leaving only the available back table near the door, with a bit of warmth though from the bright afternoon sun to salvage the mood, still giving thanks though with a slight attitude from the inconvenience.


Then there are those unexpected days where the guest list is terribly overbooked. A waiter’s apology for the least desired location of this Table of Thanksgiving, and gives his regret for the limited menu about to be served.

At this particular table there are no fine linens or centerpieces to adorn the table. The ambience is lacking with the glowing wood burning embers a room away.  Conversations carry a bit further in this seated section.

Though life has still prepared for its guests a special from the manager’s menu, the blessings are only appetizers and bite size finger foods served from the kitchen tonight, with a few guests chewing on bite size bits of disappointment at this
Table of Thanksgiving.


This holiday, and every day,
God has seated us and prepared for us a table
where there is something to be thankful for,
something praiseworthy at our
Table of Thanksgiving.

There are many days life serves a banquet, a glorious feast.
Our plates are heaped in blessings from appetizers to dessert.
There isn’t a chill in the room seated by the toasty fire of his love.

God’s blessings are evident in its abundance.
It’s easy to give God praise being seated at this
Table of Thanksgiving.

Sometimes though, life serves us leftovers from dinner last night.

The day old bread isn’t as soft or warm as when it is served hot and fresh from a baking oven. Day old designer pastries lose their fine appearance and the meal itself leaves the palate unsatisfied, and while God is still faithful in this meal, our silent grumbling and complaining shows itself in the small tips of our praise at this
Table of Thanksgiving.

Every now and then a seat at the kid’s table reveals the heart of our praise. Do we praise Him when the dinner plate we are served is not the three course manager special, but cold snacks from the Kiddie Menu instead.
ethan praying
Wherever our table is located in the restaurant called life,
Give Thanks,
Give Praise,
Have eyes to see God’s faithfulness,
regardless the meal that is served.

Will we praise him “in all things” when the hunger of our desires stirs up ungratefulness for more.

God longs and listens for his children’s praise…every praise..

Every Praise
By Hezekiah Walker

 Every praise is to our God,
Every word of worship with one accord,
Every praise, every praise is to our God…

May we find something to be thankful for this holiday season.
May we see God’s hand of blessing in whatever is served at our
Table of Thanksgiving.

May we praise:

In every circumstance,
Give Thanks…
1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV

May we always see God “good”.
May we see God faithful; see Him taking care of his children in every situation.

Remember, and know deep down that God is good all the time.
Regardless the blessings or lack of appearance of blessings,
Our plates are full,
our cups overflow at our
Table of Thanksgiving.


Another holiday season is greeting front doors everywhere and gathering around Thanksgiving tables as done in Thanksgiving pasts will be families, friends and loved ones giving their heart-filled thanks for those seated beside them.

Families will share a meal over turkey, stuffing, candied yams, pumpkin pies and all the trimmings, and the bustle of life stops for a brief few hours when personal inventories are taken when you look around the crowded holiday room and remind yourself how blessed you truly are.

While a Hallmark Christmas card doesn’t quite paint the picture perfect family behind most front doors, mine included.  The sentiment of the season though rises in the hearts of most who treasure family and its gatherings.

Holidays are also viewed though thru windows that peek into our family sadness when traditions change or grief and loss that overcomes with that empty seat at the dinner table for the first time this year.

For adults who remain “kids at heart” holding onto those family members who gave them their Norman Rockwell memories, it’s hard to turn the page to a new chapter of holiday traditions, when they cling to the old ones like a favorite teddy bear.

Holiday change is inevitable as our grandparents and parents age before us, passing the holiday torch to the next generation in their inability to keep the traditions going.

While this year isn’t a holiday first for our family, after finally disbursing the treasures of mother’s home though after being in storage for a year, the reality has finally sunk in that we as a family won’t be going “home” for Thanksgiving and Christmas anymore.

The face and heart behind our family Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions has had an address change needing twenty-four hour medical care, ending her reign as the author of our holiday picture albums.
face of our holidays

As ‘tis the season of being thankful, this “kid at heart” takes ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of  “home” during her Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations past.

At mother’s house you are always welcome.

Whether friend, family or stranger; announced or unannounced, mother lit up when the door bell rang.

Her humble home, a single wide trailer shared with her husband Roger until he passed away a few years before she closed the doors for good, was “home” nevertheless.

Every room spelled m-o-m as her touch was in the details of her things.
I love mom

Family meant everything to mother, whose love had no bounds.

She adopted her daughter’s best friend as her own who in turn called her mom.

This friend with small children through their years into adulthood, referred to our mother as grandma.

We adopted into our hearts this friend’s parents who we loved deeply and embraced as nanny and papa.
Because of love, our family tree bloomed and thrived enlarging hearts and family ties.

Mother raised her children to love and serve God, the foundation that gave our family hope during those storms of hard times.

But it was during the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas when going “home” re-opened the storybook of our childhood memories each year.

I still see dad watching the Macy’s Parade on TV in his recliner while mom prepared the turkey and all the fixins in the kitchen.

Like yesterday, I imagine the dinner table decorated and set in dad’s garage, seating all of us and our grandparents on both sides.
thanksgiving pic when I was a kid USE

Growing up our Christmas tree wasn’t filled with expensive toys wrapped beneath it.  With six children there wasn’t money enough for that; but there was so much more.
my christmas with matching jammies

The traditions of a kitchen full of elves making various batches of homemade cookies with sprinkles landing everywhere.

There were those fifty-plus glittered Christmas cards we received in the mail and hung on a red chain down the railing of the stairs.

Sure can’t forget our church Christmas plays and getting that brown sack of miscellaneous nuts, fruits and holiday candy as you left the sanctuary.

Mother’s homemade coffee cake served warm on Christmas morning became a holiday favorite memory, a tradition I passed to my family.

The gift of Christmas around the tree with my four sisters, brother and parents was the best gift wrapped that day.

Thanksgiving and Christmas past replay in the back of my mind as this grown up kid enjoys the seasons of holidays when her children were small.

Holidays that replay in my mind with my adult children who now have children of their own.

Hearing the electric knife carving our holiday ham and turkey is the dinner bell reminder that a feast is about to be served.

For a family our size in a small single wide trailer, tables are set up in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. There’s the senior table, the kid’s table and the table for everyone else.  A bit crowded but you’re “home” and that’s all that matters.

So many faces to see during the holidays, some arriving when the military allows, or sadly arriving on Skype instead.

On Christmas Day there are all those presents to unwrap.

Then there are those hilarious relatives who never pay attention during gifts.

Can’t forget about that game of cards for anyone who dares to sit opposite a card-shark grandmother after dinner.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas though without that angel found sitting in her Lazyboy;
the centerpiece of our holidays.

Mother taught us how to make the holidays magical, and now our children are making the seasons bright in their own homes, all because our family matriarch had a special heart for Christmas.

Two years ago at this time, mother’s address changed as so did our holidays and traditions.

Holidays are now shared between the sisters with this year being at my house, and while we decorate, bake, serve the best feasts and still shuffle those cards after dinner, nothing comes close or compares to going “home” for the holidays.

Before handing over the keys of “home”, my heart needed ONE FINAL HOLIDAY WALK THRU of mother’s house.

Walking through the halls you were deafened by its silence.  The walls were eerie quiet with nothing to say, when before the decibel level was joyfully loud.

Aching over the empty rooms I couldn’t imagine life without our family there to enjoy them.

How I wanted to set out mother’s Christmas decorations just one more time.

We as a family grieve over the empty chairs of loved ones we once shared the holidays with, whose health or life with Christ keeps them away.  We miss them so  terribly.

Sadly, mother’s “home” is all packed up now and the front door has closed for the very last time.
boxes of moms stuff

Something shifts when the tradition torch is passed to the next generation.

The magic and the memories remain in your heart, but a shift takes place and has to make room for the new traditions beyond the Christmas present.

My heart overflows with thankfulness nevertheless this Thanksgiving season with the joy of the Lord, as He is the source of all my true hope and love.

I am thankful for my memories.

I look forward to new traditions and memories also.

I am a blessed woman.

This Thanksgiving I will once again take inventory of all my blessings and rejoice for the riches of heaven in my home.

I pray that my mother’s holiday legacy lives on in my brother and sister’s lives as well as mine passed to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren and beyond.

May we all be thankful for what God has done and is still doing in our life.

May we remember and hold close to our heart the true


Which is Christ Jesus our Lord.