My Grandmother Abee was a bustling kitchen helper. She could be everywhere at once and suddenly right where you didn’t expect her. One Thanksgiving, Nancy asked me to slice the ham. The ham was hot from the oven and smelling like brown sugar and pineapple, so carefully, I placed the oven hot pan on the side counter. As was our habit, I placed a large wooden carving board over one side of the sink. I recognized that I was covering a pan full of hot soapy water, but dinner was minutes away, and I had a ham to slice. As I lifted that ten pound mass of goodness, my grandmother nudged my hip and reached around me to get the dishcloth from under the carving board. The board flipped and the ham dropped directly into the soapy dishwater. There was a gasp from the moms, sisters, and aunts as they witnessed the entrée plunge into the water. Undaunted, my grandmother continued to wipe counters and set up vegetable dishes. One brave sister asked, “What are you going do?” I said, “Pat it off and carve it. Don’t tell anybody and it will be fine.” Indeed that ham was fine. Even though it was dunked in soapy dishwater, the ham was a tasty and plentiful center for our Thanksgiving feast.

As I drove back to my home, I realized that my ham plunge was the key to a passage our Sunday school class had discussed. Matthew 6: 25 reads “Do not worry about what you will eat or drink . . . do not worry about what you will wear. . . . Strive first for the kingdom of God.”

Family gatherings can be stressful. The questions are endless. “Whose family’s feast do we attend? What dishes to prepare? Will the crazy aunt who comments endlessly on any perceived fault of mine be there? Is this mad running around worth it?” All the crazy chaos of getting together to offer thanksgiving can be mediated with “Do not worry about what you will eat or drink or wear. Strive for the kingdom of God.”

Relationships are central to the kingdom of God. All in all, it doesn’t matter if there are two or zero sweet potato casseroles. What matters is that you show up and that you are kind to the people in your life. My family members have all my buttons on speed dial, but I don’t have to answer the call. I can smile, be gracious, and offer peace and love. I can remember the times my family has loved and sheltered me, and I can move from worrying about the menu, the choice of attire, the tacky centerpiece, or even a baptized ham. ThekingdomofGodis about people. In God’s kingdom, we are valued and welcomed at the table. This Thanksgiving, I am going to focus on welcoming people to the table with gracious kindness. For a moment, I want to experience the kingdom of God. That sounds like Thanksgiving to me.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.