"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
November 25, 2015
Giving Thanks
by Marian Stoddard

There are few times in our busy, overstressed world where we all come together, but this week is one of them. It matters little whether you are religious or not, but Thanksgiving is a universal holiday. Other nations may have differing dates, but most countries and cultures have some sort of communal celebration for a successful harvest, a time of feasting.

I want to give thanks to my Father in Heaven for his gifts and blessings. I acknowledge his hand in my life, and I am grateful for so many things.

I am grateful for this place he found for us to live.

Leaving behind the home where we had lived for more than thirty years, and where we had raised our children, was hard. The timing was forced on us by circumstances that were not of our choosing, but he carried us through.

I give him thanks often that we were able to have a house, and were not stuck in a small apartment. This little house isn’t fancy, and it has its quirks and shortcomings. Nothing is truly level, or square, and maintenance on the outside had been rather lacking. The kitchen is certainly old.

But there are fruit trees that hang over our fence that we have had the picking of, because the people behind us don’t care. We had no idea, until we saw fruit forming — but he knew.

The property, though tiny, is situated so that its orientation is optimal for growing a garden, which has been both a balm and an adventure for me. Since it sits on a corner, the southern exposure is not shadowed by another structure but is open, and gets the sun.

In fact, I love the light in this space, and the vestibule window that fills with flowering trees through the spring, and now with golden leaves that have yet to fall. That’s my glorious view when I sit down with a book.

I’m grateful for family.

I’m grateful that my parents are still living, and that I grew up with testimony and service as examples of how to live my life. Even before them, I was given a legacy of faith and devotion.

As I expressed once to a friend, all my family stories are gospel stories. What a difference that has made. I cannot separate my identity from my faith, which is as essential to me as breathing. I have learned truth through my own experience, but the beginning point was here.

My brothers and sisters and I all enjoy being together, which doesn’t happen as often as we’d like. There are no estrangements, for which I’m grateful. We are on good terms as well with each of our children, and that’s a blessing not everyone has.

I’m grateful for friends. I have kindred souls to love, who love me as well. I get great hugs. What a remedy that is for loneliness.

I’m grateful for wonder.

I love to share discovery with little children. It’s such a delight to spark an eye-widening, smile-spreading moment on a young face, or to observe one that comes without any need of me. The whole world is new for them, and new again to us as we simplify our attention away from our demanding, jostling, grown-up world.

There is wonder in the power of stories, as words on a printed page become events and characters that reach right into the heart and linger long after the book is closed. They might also unfold on a stage or a screen, and become real and sometimes transforming.

Or the alchemy of notes marked on a score, where ink and paper adding fingers or pushes of air on the instruments become sound that may weep, or rise in majesty, or contemplate many emotions; or voices which bring music and words together as one.

There is such beauty and variety in this world, and I love that. There is the wonder of created line, shape and color. There was an extensive exhibit of Thomas Moran paintings in Seattle several years ago, and to stand in a final room filled with enormous canvases, Yellowstone landscapes as large as twelve feet wide by eight feet tall, was to be immobilized by awe.

I’m grateful for an enduring marriage.

We’ve passed the forty-year mark now, which is a pretty good start on eternal togetherness. I’m married to a good man who is patient, dedicated, and has a generous heart.

I am the rare person who got to keep her first real love forever. We have been through trauma, heartbreak, joy, help, and all the craziness of life, but we share an unbreakable testimony. We have received and raised six children, survived the transition to an empty nest, and life together now has quietly become sweeter.

I have so much to be grateful for.

Matthew relates that when the multitude gathered, too intent on hearing Jesus and too far from home to gain food, he collected the seven loaves and a few fishes that his disciples had with them. They didn’t understand how so little food could answer such a great need, looking at the vast numbers who must be fed.

He took what was there, and gave thanks; then broke the bread and pulled the fish in pieces and sent them out to distribute it — and all were fed. Not only was there enough, there was more left over, after everyone had taken what they needed, than what had been in hand before the miracle.

We may never have such a miraculous occurrence in a physical, tangible sense, but Christ himself demonstrated the principle that in stopping in the middle of our anxious concerns, and giving thanks, we open the windows of heaven. We trust him and open our hearts to see his hand blessing and watching over our lives.

Even in difficulty — for he also, at that last Passover, took the cup and gave thanks — thanks (I think) that they were gathered in momentary safety, thanks for the purposes he knew were soon to be accomplished, notwithstanding that he was about to go to the agonies he had promised to bear for us, though in that moment his apostles knew it not. All was under the hand of his Father.

“Give thanks in all things.” (1Thessalonians 5:18) This is the admonition found in every book of scripture. Giving thanks is a universal counsel; gratitude is a universal strength and help. It opens up our lives.

I give thanks for his tender patience and numerous miracles in mine. As we travel tomorrow to spend our day of thanksgiving with close friends, I hope every one of us can discern his gifts and offer gratitude for them, whatever they might be.

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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