This past Thanksgiving, my family gathered at my parents’ house: my parents, my two older sisters, their husbands, and two children each, my younger sister and her boyfriend, me, my husband, and my mother-in-law. It was most of the family; eleven adults and four kids.
My family isn’t particularly religious. They don’t go to church. They don’t read the Bible. They don’t pray before meals, except for holiday feasts. I anticipated this: the rare blessing offered up before the holiday meal. I hoped it would happen. I planned for it even. So when we all sat down and settled the kids and got ready to dig in, my mom said to my dad, are we going to say grace? And he said, Chad’s going to do it.
Matter of fact.
And I don’t know exactly why my dad chose my husband– he knows Chad is religious… he knows Chad would willingly do it… he didn’t want to do it himself… It was something I believe probably wasn’t premeditated, but just a decision made in the moment. For whichever reason, he chose Chad. He didn’t choose me. I had thought about it already. I had specific thoughts in mind, some things I’d been thinking for our family and some things I’d been touched by at church. I wanted to bless the meal, and not just the meal, but my family.
I don’t think my dad’s decision had anything to do with gender, thankfully, but I do think it had to do with leadership. Growing up, I was a shy child. Quiet. I didn’t like attention and hid from the spotlight. I’m still not the most outgoing person, but I have also grown up. I have ambitions and I like to teach and lead and I’m getting more and more comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
The interesting thing about family is that you can do a lot of growing up without them noticing. Because you’re away at school. Because you have a job and they don’t see how you contribute ideas and make decisions. Because you volunteer and they aren’t there to see how you take charge or support others. Because they know the younger version of you so well.
I grew up, but my family, it seems, hasn’t noticed all of the changes. So while I see myself as a smart, capable leader, they still often see the shy child who sits back instead of steps up. It’s okay. I get it. I understand how hard it is to change how you see someone, especially when you’ve known them their whole life. I understand the nostalgia that comes with your children growing up and how much it requires you let go.
I know it’s taking time for them to see the changes in me. So I’ll be patient. And I’ll show them who I am now.
Are we going to say grace? My father replies, Chad’s going to do it. Their once shy daughter interjects, I’ll do it.
And some are surprised. My sister comments, This coming from the member of the family who hates public speaking more than anyone else? And I simply remind her of the charity concert we hosted, where I spoke from the stage and introduced the performers and thanked our sponsors. I remind her that she wouldn’t; that no one else would. I remind her that I no longer hate public speaking at all. I remind my family of my leadership, and I say grace. And it’s one step in showing them who I am now, who I want to be, how capable I am, and the choices I’ve made to be strong.
I bless our meal and I bless our family and I thank God for each person there, each person who is still– despite whatever age they are– growing up beside me. None of us is finished yet, and for that, I’m thankful.