We made the tough decision yesterday to not celebrate Thanksgiving in-person with our family. It wasn’t an easy choice, but with one million new Covid-19 cases reported last week in the US, and new lockdown measures in our state, it felt like the best decision. The statistical growth of the pandemic has become staggering over the last few weeks.They talk a lot about the numbers. Those numbers are people: children, friends, family, and strangers. Vaccines are on the way — but it will take time. It will take us all working together again to slow the spread of Covid-19 until the vaccines can be distributed.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Preparing and sharing a meal with the people you love feels so natural. The simple celebration of abundance and gratitude always gives me pause for deep reflection. My husband and I got married in November, a few weeks before Thanksgiving. We intentionally placed gratitude as a cornerstone in our marriage vows. We wanted to make sure we always expressed our gratitude not only for each other, but for all the gifts God has bestowed on us. A simple exercise was born that day. At the end of our wedding reception, we looked at each other and said what we were grateful for that day. Fast forward four years later, and we still end our day telling each other a simple point of gratitude. Sometimes it’s simple, sometimes it’s deep, but it’s always an opportunity to acknowledge the abundance we have received from God.

I have been facilitating the pilot of our new program, Sacred Land: Food and Farming. It has been a blessing to connect to others during this time to pray, learn, and grow. One of the many teachings from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass (one of the books in the program) that has touched me deeply states, “Many indigenous peoples share the understanding that we are each endowed with a particular gift, a unique ability. Birds to sing and stars to glitter, for instance. It is understood that these gifts have a dual nature, though: a gift is also a responsibility. If the bird’s gift is song, then it has a responsibility to greet the day with music. It is the duty of the birds to sing and the rest of us receive the song as a gift. Asking what is our responsibility is perhaps also to ask, What is our gift? And how shall we use it?”

This Thanksgiving I will celebrate simply: my husband and I will share a meal, just the two of us, and we will pray in thanksgiving for the gifts we have been given this year. But, I will also challenge myself to not only acknowledge the abundance of God’s gifts, but to ask, “How shall I use them?” This is the real work of gratitude: taking responsibility for the gifts we’ve been given.

As you sit around your Thanksgiving table, which might look a little different this year, I challenge you to ask yourself the same question: “How will you use the gifts you have been given?”