One of the greatest things we can be thankful for is God’s love for us. No matter what situation we may be in, the Lord has a special way of touching us with His hand of peace and grace that comforts us in all our troubles. He knew exactly what the Baumann family needed as they grieved the loss of their father and husband, Bill Baumann, who tragically took his life last April.

Thanksgiving has always been our most sacred family holiday. Our main tradition is an unvarying brunch menu served on the same dishes every year. Each person has their own candle at their place setting and a carefully selected verse attached by ribbon to the candleholder. After a time of sharing what we’re thankful for, we read the verses and I explain why I chose it for them. It is usually a pretty special time, but I knew this year would be different. The most visible thing would be who was not there.

The days before Thanksgiving were filled with more than the usual stresses. Every area of my life seemed to demand my attention. By the time I finally had a moment to prepare for the brunch, it was 11 p.m. Wednesday night and I had nothing to offer. But somehow, between then and Thursday morning, God gave me verses for each person, and I knew Bill must have his candle as well.

Daniel loves a celebration and was excited to find me cooking breakfast. He ran to get his tape recorder so we could cook and listen to story tapes together. He noticed the candle for Bill as he watched me set the table. A light went on in his mind and he disappeared for a while. He came back with a smile, an idea, and a bowl full of scraps of paper. Each piece of paper had one of our initials written on it. Each person could say or show two things they were thankful for when their initials were drawn.

Daniel was eager for his turn. First he showed us the pumpkin pie he was thankful for, his favorite. Then he disappeared again. My daughters and I were sure he was retrieving our much-loved cat. But he came back with a photo of him and his dad building his swing set together. He placed it by Bill’s candle. Instant tears for all the girls.

A remarkable time of heartfelt sharing followed. There were many scraps of paper in the bowl, and we had much to be thankful for. Finally we read the verses. I want to share two of them.

One of the most difficult part of my life is making decisions on my own, the kind I have no experience or confidence in making. As I prayed for direction one morning, God showed me Isaiah 30:20-21, the verses I had at my candle. “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more, with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.'” I heard His voice and shared with my kids how some of my burdens were lifted.

For Bill’s verse, I chose a familiar passage in Romans. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38). Though we are now separated from Bill, we are not separated from the love of God, and neither is he. And some day, our reunion in heaven will be all the sweeter in contrast to the pain we feel now.

We blew out the candles and our brunch was over. God met us on a special day. He used our family tradition, His Word, and the spontaneity of a little boy.