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My most thankful Thanksgiving ever

By Johnna Ferguson

It was nothing apparently dramatic. In fact, it was more on the order of “suddenly she realized” as in badly written fiction.

Roll back to 2001. We were living in Silicon Valley, and the internet bubble had burst. Richard G. Scott had said in conference that the gospel invariably led to peace and joy, but for years my favorite scriptures were the ones about not muzzling the ox. I could relate to the ox, and the obvious need for it to be unmuzzled somehow.

I didn’t know what to do, but in my growing sense that something was broken, I decided to talk to my bishop. If my heritage was plodding, let him charge me so. If I needed to repent, let him tell me what of, since I was tired of combing my character to no results. I had a bishop once who joked there were only four items on his prescription pad, and they were all unglamorous medicines like pray and fast. I’d heard that 10% of a ward takes up 90% of a bishop’s time. But I decided to see him anyway, promising myself not to be chronic.

And this was the interesting plan I brought out of that meeting. I was to pray for ten minutes every morning. He helped me figure out how, logistically, that might be done. I had a few children, all under age 8, and my husband traveled on business more often than not. My mornings, in fact my afternoons and evenings as well, were not my own. I had been praying daily, and usually for much longer lengths of time, whenever I could pigeonhole it into my crazy days, along with such other unscheduled but daily events like taking a shower. I had been a pray-er and meditator all my life. Bish had me praying instead with a watch in my hand, unpiously checking if where I was in my time allotment, and cutting the conversation short, if not off, at the end.

I don’t know what he was thinking, but I found out I could have a relationship with God with no hurdles. And it laid a point of origin into each chaotic day, a place from which order could spread.

Another thing that happened, was we had a houseguest who was the right person at the right time. He’s the younger brother of a good friend I had in college, who remembered me for someone I used to be before I was a mother, who talked a lot and wore bright clothing and wrote short stories. He got me to try my hand at poetry. He was also really appreciative of a place to stay, and would notice and thank me specifically for things I did to manage the house. That’s not something children under age eight really do, and my itinerant husband has always taken the strategy of saying he didn’t marry me for my dishwashing. I didn’t want to be measured by my adequate but inconsistent domestic skills, but it was encouraging to have the work noticed and valued.

Around the same time, was the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. I first heard from the other parents at school, when I walking my kids in. Of everything that has happened right and wrong since then, which is a whole other topic, what happened around here, where I live, is that people were praying, and they were gentler with each other. It seemed the Holy Ghost brooded over us all, not just me, and on whatever might be our crises.

One night I was praying. The kids were in bed and the house was quiet. I was tired as usual and my heart was full, of my concern for my kids and questions about what mattered, but I was also ready to go to sleep, not in any unusually noble or seeking state. And I was answered, though not quite to the questions I was capable of framing. And I knew that I was forgiven, had been forgiven, that I was more or not just my stories of who I was or how I got this way, that I was loved, that my offering was acceptable. That I did not have to do things the hard way. That I was loved. Did I mention that I was loved? I am loved. So the trying for that was irrelevant now.

In the weeks and months that followed, it was like the scales fell from my eyes, to borrow that phrase from Luke about Paul. It was amazing how much easier it was, to take care of my children or take action to handle problems, when I was no longer doing it to try and find out if I was good. If anything, I was more earnest, in fact, I was love-bombed and probably a bit strange sometimes to interact with. But mostly I found I could talk to more people comfortably, and freely since I could set aside my own issues to listen, and get away with my odd impulse to love everyone.

Right in the middle of this time, was Thanksgiving, and I was delighted it had come, an entire holiday dedicated to what I wanted to do anyway. There were many tender mercies, as we say these days. A family I’m fond of wanted to have thanksgiving with us, so they provided a turkey, which I could scarcely afford, for me to cook which I wanted to since I like control, and she made the rolls, which I’m insecure about. I wanted a new dress, and found material for $2.17 a yard, and sewed myself something for the first time since 9th grade and it turned out very well. I wrote my friend’s little brother, who was now my friend too, and talked him into joining us for the holiday. I set the table with lovely things. I’m sure I served the food half hot and half cold, as usual, but that’s why we have microwaves. And in testimony meeting I stood up and said:

Brothers and Sisters,
My name is Johnna Cornett
I want to tell you I know
that Jesus Christ lives
and redeems us.
He has redeemed me.

This has been an amazing week.
He has opened my heart to my husband.
He has opened my heart to my children.
I can face situations that scare me.
I love people I was afraid of.

And it all happened because of prayer.
of course.
I stand here very grateful.

I don’t know why I tell you my strange little tale, so you can decide what if anything, is relevant or crazy or ordinary. It’s just another thanksgiving post. I cannot charge you to go have a theophany to handle what you’re facing, and I cannot scold you the joy I wish on you by saying “Love is the Answer.” My resolve always to be this way, love-bombed and thankful, didn’t make it so, and I went on try new things and have new conundrums I never dreamed possible when all my children were under the age of eight, with attendant periods of despair and frustration and failure. Nevetheless, I, without evidence or ability to convey, believe I am significantly changed, by a revelation to me that I’m still unstringing.

About Johnna Ferguson

Johnna Ferguson joined Segullah in 2005 and designed and managed all its websites until 2010. Any day she rides her bike is a good day.

9 thoughts on “My most thankful Thanksgiving ever”

  1. You did it. I think you redeemed my sinking, ugly, pitiful holiday. Last night as I was busy making pies that weren't working (the gluten free one looked like the ugly step sister of the other glistening crusts), I thought, "This is not a holiday for thanks, this is a holiday for swearing." And I did. Swear, that is. In many creative ways. And at one point, I even conspiracy theoried (I hate conspiracy theories) my way around blaming this whole pitiful holiday on some sadistic plot to force women (me!) to spend an entire day (ok, three days) in the kitchen just so we can eat one meal. One meal! And then clean it up afterwards…

    And then I read this. And it's just beautiful. And I'm remembering that I chose to invite people to my house for the holiday, and I chose to celebrate this holiday in this way. And that this is my love-offering for today. Even if it's just for one meal.

    And I think I've resolved to eat Thanksgiving at a Heuriger next year.

  2. I was going to stop reading this midway. I forget my train of thought as to exactly why, but it may have been due to concentration as I have been online for a time. I am so glad that I continued. That special closeness and feelings of love is a treasured blessing that not everyone feels in this lifetime to such a degree. To feel clean before the Lord and to feel loved by the Lord is to know joy.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!!

  3. "That I did not have to do things the hard way." I love that insight. The whole idea of being enough (enough for our loved ones, for society, for God) can get so tangled up in the idea of doing things the hard way . . . I know it does for me sometimes . . . so thank you for this post. Beautiful.

  4. Thank you for this (and for the reference to one of my favorite poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins).

    It was beautifully written, and your closing line "Nevetheless, I, without evidence or ability to convey, believe I am significantly changed, by a revelation to me that I’m still unstringing." is something I've been pondering for days.

  5. I think this is one of the most beautiful posts we've put up. Johnna, thank you for giving us a glimpse of this transcendent experience. Thank you for reminding me of many things I've lost touch with recently.

  6. Thank you Johnna. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing such a personal experience. Your story strengthens my faith and gives me hope.


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