Halvorsen Gatlin: A new take on Thanksgiving

You can believe me when I say that when living in this world has nearly ripped my heart out and everything inside feels shredded — my gracious, beneficent God has more than once put me back together again.

By Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin

For The Vidette

I turned 73 years old earlier this month. How did that happen???

I was born November 5, 1946 — that’s how. And my “claim to fame” was that it was Election Day that year.

No, I didn’t vote; neither did my mother. Interestingly, though, my birthday this year was again on Election Day. Neither were presidential election days, but I need some kind of claim to fame.

Thanksgiving is also in my birth month, and turkey is my very favorite food! I think I could have it every day without tiring of it — of course all the other goodies that come with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner also add to the enjoyment. My other favorite is the pumpkin pie!


We know of, of course, that Thanksgiving is about much more than the food. Thanks to the Pilgrims, who, after a dreadful beginning in the New World that included the deaths of more than half of the Mayflower’s passengers, still celebrated their first successful fall harvest the year after arriving in the New World on Nov. 11, 1620. As we know, the three-day time of rejoicing also included their new Indian friends.

Actually, some of those Pilgrims are almost certainly ancestors of mine, including John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. But that’s another story … . I need to do a bit more research to verify that, though I know the lines of my ancestors nearly back that far already. But I must avoid that track now, or this month’s column will be a genealogy romp instead of about my original topic.

America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, to be repeated every November after that “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” his proclamation says.

All these years later, I’m still reminded to consider my blessings and thank my loving God who bestows them on me so generously. This year, interestingly, I am especially cognizant of the fact that counting those many blessings can include some things I haven’t been given, but more correctly have been spared from.

As I write this, a very dear friend of mine lies in a hospital bed suffering from extremely serious complications of diabetes. But I’ve grown to trust my Lord enough not to quibble about who gets sick and who doesn’t — and why, or why not.

Genesis, the first book in the Bible, is clear that God was not the author of sin, which led to the “Fall” in the Garden of Eden. The perpetrator there was actually mankind, through which all sickness, death and every other woe in the world was introduced by their disobedience to God.

And that gracious, merciful God also sent the cure for that — that’s what the cross and Resurrection are all about.


Nevertheless, I’ve had a year or more that’s included a variety of medical issues, and two of my sons have already died in the last half-dozen years at 48 and 50 years of age. Other problems have arisen, as well. But there are also countless things that have never made an appearance.

Among the items on my thankfulness list are not having a home that either leaks or freezes. And my daily food supply has never run out. I’ve seldom had even a minor problem with my nearly 20-year-old car, but when I do, I have great mechanics available.

Though I have lots of degenerative kinds of physical issues, through an amazing process, I now have a hospital bed to lay my weary bones in every night. And it was a gift that was offered to me seemingly “out of the blue.”

Recently, I went through a crisis connected to a neurological disorder that has dogged me nearly all my life. (Make that “another” crisis). But when I became almost temporarily not able to function, countless folks in my Sunday school class and church tenderly reached out to me in such loving ways that I might write a column about that another time. (There’s not enough space in this one.) And that love is still being poured out in ways I’ve never experienced before.

Even the crisis itself has worked in other seemingly miraculous ways. I think of it as a sort of “breaking” experience.

You can believe me when I say that when living in this world has nearly ripped my heart out and everything inside feels shredded — my gracious, beneficent God has more than once put me back together again — and always in ways that make me far better off than I was before.

To reach columnist Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin, send an email to rhoda1946@yahoo.com.