I just finished making my 4th “last trip” to the grocery store in preparation for the big meal on Thursday. Each “last trip” I thought I was really done.


But no. Somehow a new item mysteriously cropped up on the “still need” list. How can this be? I have cooked this same meal for almost 30 years and I still can’t get it down pat.

Determined to beat the shopping crowds….it’s only 2 days till Thanksgiving and they are calling for snow tomorrow (a recipe for disaster)-I set out in the predawn hours to make the 4th “last trip” to the grocery store.

I go to several different stores as I get ready for my favorite day of the year. Each store has items that are unique to them: honey brined turkey breasts, freshest produce, best pumpkin pies, etc.  (I can hear the condemnation now: “You don’t make your own pumpkin pies??” No, I do not. About 8 years ago #1 son released me by saying, “Mom, when these pies from ____ are so great, why would you ever want to make them?”)

I agreed and I embraced the freedom.

OK, I’m off on a tangent here. This is not about pies. Or turkey. Or anything that will happen two days from now.

It’s about what happened in the check out line on my 4th “last trip” this morning.

I was at my local grocery store, the one closest to my house, my mainstay for the past 33 years of married life. If grocery stores were like that bar in Cheers (where everyone knows your name) this would be mine. The owner passed away on Saturday and he was a character! We were telling “Ralph” stories in the OR yesterday.  I know most of the longtime cashiers (vs. the college kiddos) and my favorite one is Lillian.

Lillian works the first shift, when the store opens at 6am. Since the store is next to the surgery center where I work, I make many, many early morning stops so I can head right home and not fight the afternoon crowds. Over the years of early morning interactions, Lillian and I have gotten to know each other across the counter.

She lives in the north county (like me), has adult kids (like me), loves Jesus (like me) and sings on her worship team (not like me). She always asks about my boys, the weddings and knows about my AZ boy’s ministry. She knows the hard road we walked for a while a couple of years ago. I know the hard choice she made to leave the huge church she loved to go serve their church plant in PA.

We do more than idle conversation. We share life, in snippets. When Jesus is your common denominator stuff gets fast tracked.

This morning as I explained to Lillian that this was my 4th “last trip”, she told me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was going later this morning to learn the tumor staging and plan for surgery, chemo and radiation.

Gut punch.

In the midst of my hurry scurry, came a reminder of what is truly important. Who cares if the pumpkin pies are not homemade? My friend is dealing with life and death. I walked around the counter to hug her, pray for her day and the choices she would be asked to make today. Underlining the unknown ahead of her, was a countenance of peace. The kind of peace that comes when you know the One who holds all your days.

Not just the 4th Thursday in November.

Lillian said over and over, “I’m just so thankful”…for early detection, for a wonderful doctor, for church family holding her up to the One she loves above all. She has a great list for Thanksgiving.


This is the holiday for counting blessings, counting things we are thankful for…the basis for Thanks-living. It deserves so much more than just a once a year day of Thanksgiving. That’s what my friend was doing this morning.


I am thankful to have been there this morning to see the results of such living in Lillian. And for the reminder to practice it in my own life.

Daily thanks-living.

Starting today. Not Thursday.

Happy Thanks-living, friends!

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6 Responses to Thanks-living

  1. Nancy says:

    LOVED this! You are my hero for bringing us back to reality when we get swamped with the unimportant details of the holidays.

    • Stephanie says:

      Nancy, I keep wondering when I won’t have to be reminded and not have to be gut punched…have a blessed Thanksgiving with those grandbabies!

  2. KIM says:

    A great reminder Stephanie.
    Happy thanks-living to you & your family.
    Tears roll & belly laughs are all a part of my time with your blog.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Jenn says:

    BeautifuL. (Sniff sniff)

  4. Renee' B. says:

    You and I don’t know each other, Stephanie. But I am certain we would be fast friends, if we did! My friend, Andrea B., posted your link and I was inspired to read. This was so meaningful and so beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your world and your heart with us. I’m certain your “4th Last Trip” divine appointment was a special blessing to Lillian! Happy Thanksgiving to you: my sister, I haven’t met yet. Someday, we will have all of eternity to get acquainted! I look forward to that day!

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