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Giving thanks

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Holly Rehder

Holly Rehder

As a child attending elementary school, I learned about the first Thanksgiving and how the Pilgrims of Plymouth gathered with members of a neighboring Indian tribe to celebrate the harvest.

Later, I read about Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” who led a 17-year campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. I’m inspired by her perseverance, lobbying four U.S. presidents before Abraham Lincoln eventually issued a proclamation urging all Americans to set aside a day of “thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God.” The fact that Lincoln’s plea for “penitent and fervent prayers” came at the height of America’s Civil War is not lost on me.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the entire year. But if I’m really honest, it’s not the history of the holiday that makes it meaningful. It’s the time I spend with my family, sharing traditions passed through the generations and thanking God for all the blessings we’ve received. I look forward all year to that moment when we bow our heads in prayer before digging in to a bountiful meal made with love. Our home is then filled with laughter and thanksgiving, as each of us takes a turn telling what we are most thankful for at this moment in time.

Thanksgiving, for me, is pulling out my Grandma’s special rolling pin as I prepare pies for dessert. Thanksgiving is baking a turkey and having chicken and cornbread dressing. It’s my Papa’s chicken and dumplings recipe. It’s the joyous mix of chaos and cooperation that happens as everyone crowds into the kitchen, and the love and laughter we share. It truly fills my heart to overflowing.

Thanksgiving is also the official start of the Christmas holiday season in my home. Each year, on the day after Thanksgiving, my sisters and I would get our families together for a trip to the tree farm to pick out Christmas trees and choose an ornament that will symbolize our year. With new births, our families have grown, but some have also passed on. Even in the painful moments of missing my sister, I’m so grateful that God has allowed our family to stay close and to carry on these traditions. The ornaments that we pick out, along with the memories we make, are keepsakes we carry with us the rest of our lives.

For me, Thanksgiving is such a beautiful display of God’s love. I grew up wanting the traditions of a large family, a house full of kids, grandkids, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and cousins. God has blessed me with not only that, but also with a whole lot of “chosen” family that we have added in along the way. My cup overfloweth.

That’s not all, though. I’m also thankful to be born in America, with all the liberties and possibilities we enjoy. Finally, I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve, and to try to make a difference in our state.

Whatever you are thankful for, and whatever holiday traditions your family holds dear, I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving.

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to or visit


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