Thanksgiving has become a comfy, cozy holiday where we stuff ourselves with fat-ladden food and try to reflect on all that is good and right in our lives for which to give thanks. Even on Facebook, there was some kind of Thanksgiving thing going on where each day participants would name another something they were especially grateful for. I didn't participate, as I wondered if anyone would appreciate comments such as "I thank God for the brokenness of this year, because in it I discovered Him to be enough!" or "I thank God for the loss of this or that, because I gained something greater!"
Instead, we got a daily dose of all that is wonderful and good in everyone's lives... Their families; a special healing; a new job; the new home they just closed on... I could have filled 365 days worth of thanks like these! Why, Rachel's story alone would consume an entire year of praises! This year God provided over $30,000. for Rachel's adoption and medical care; a new ministry for Doug (that included health insurance!); a church home with wonderful new friends; a new, "used" van to haul my growing family around in; and a spot on the beautiful beach I am writing from today!
But I'd need another full year in which to write the disappointments; the losses; the broken hearts; and the bottles of shed tears... In the end, I am coming to realize that real, authentic "thanksgiving" is found in those broken places! It is easy to give thanks for bounty... Not so when the blessings come disguised in loss!
Please excuse my negativity toward the holiday! In fairness, some of the family moments I'd most like to forget have been experienced around the Thanksgiving table. And yet somehow, year after year, I try to recharge hope that the heart of Thanksgiving might return to my family table once again. I feel somehow responsible as Mom and home maker to "create" these beautiful moments.
I spent hours planning, shopping, and in the kitchen preparing yesterday's very short-lived meal... alone. Then it took many hours to clean up the mess that accumulated in the preparation of it all. Not to mention the resulting devastation to the rest of my home left by three 7 year olds fending for themselves, while I was creating a delectable Thanksgiving feast. I fell in bed, exhausted and not so thankful!
Thanksgiving morning greeted me bright and early. Time to unload the dishwasher from last night's mess and start all over again. Pull all those casseroles and desserts from the refrigerators and stress out a little bit (well...maybe a lot!) in trying to get it all served up with a smile. "Excuse me, family! I'm trying to create the perfect Thanksgiving feast here! Could you please get out of the way?"
I would finally collapse into my seat at the table, sweating and exhausted, and then look to my family with great expectation of a warm, fuzzy, giving of thanks that would then occur around that dinner table. What I got was a prayer I hardly remember, spoken just before the family consumed their meal less than a half hour after it began. Then the "dinner guests" (I mean... family) moved to the living room to watch football or gathered on the back porch to chat, while I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen... alone. (OK... I guess I should be fair here... My Prince Charming DID help some!)
Holidays, I have found, are like the pain of labor in childbirth. Somewhere between now and next year's Thanksgiving celebration, I will forget the "pain" and will try once again to create the perfect Thanksgiving atmosphere for the family I love. But maybe... just maybe, I'm becoming older and wiser and can finally let go of all the world's ideas of what Thanksgiving should be...
I wonder what would have happened yesterday at our Thanksgiving table if we had actually acknowledged the "elephants" that served as invisible centerpieces... Like the loved ones that were missing because of broken relationships or the pain of the past year that no one would dare speak of at that moment.
The Bible says to "Give thanks in ALL THINGS". I think maybe we've lost our way over the many years since the first Thanksgiving celebration the Pilgrims and Indians shared. The years that proceeded it had been devastating! Most had lost loved ones to the cold winters, to starvation, and to rampant illnesses. Many had likely buried children or a spouse. And yet... they gathered to give thanks! Somehow I think they understood that bounty was not found in their abundance or comfort, but in the God who presided over it all!
Today, while I sit here alone on the beach writing and reflecting on yesterday's "festivities", women across America are standing in line (or spraying fellow shoppers with pepper spray!) to be the first to get their hands on this years coveted gifts, and spending money they don't have to create a magical holiday for their families. And again, they will work tirelessly to try and make that happen. They will plan, bake, shop, wrap, and hold their breath in hopes that the recipients of it all will be happy and grateful.
I've been a mom for 24 years now, and I'm willing to take the risk and admit that every single year I've done all of the above, hoping for happy and grateful children on Christmas morning. But again and again, I feel an incredible let down as Christmas day draws to a close. Many times I have cringed silently as children tore into one gift, only to quickly lay it aside to see what was "next" or when I caught their eyes searching beneath the tree in hopes of finding something else for themselves...
My grown kids still torture me and remind me how cruel my Christmas longings have been to their greedy hearts... How dare I insist we wake up together and share a special breakfast and then a reading of the real Christmas story before allowing them to become consumed in more "stuff"?
Maybe I'm becoming old and cranky, but I've decided that I'm about "done" with the holiday scene all together! Especially when I think about the measures we, as Moms, take to create this "magic". Most of us will torture our entire family to capture the perfect family photo that portrays us all as happy and whole. We'll attach letters that commemorate all the happy moments and special achievements of the last year and then somehow wrap it all up with the overused cheerful greeting... "Jesus is the Reason for the Season". Excuse me for saying this, but...Gag me on it!!
I have to laugh when I think about what kind of response I might get if I sent out a photo of our family and underneath listed the names of the family members "not pictured" because of a broken relationship and then attached a letter that simply said... "This has been the most difficult year we can remember, but God is faithful! Come... let us adore Him!"
In writing it today, I think that's exactly what I'll do... since when all is said and done, this truly IS "the reason for the season"! Yes... even the Thanksgiving season! Life is hard, it's complicated, it hurts,... but in it we can give thanks and fall on our knees in adoration of the God who is God of it all!
Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and his death outside of Jerusalem 33 years later would give "reason" for every season of our lives! Yes, this year has been one of the most painful and joy-filled years of my life! For THIS I give thanks and enter this new holiday season on bended knees, encouraging the little girls that look to me to lead them... "Come... let us adore Him!"
Following are a few of the things that made our Thanksgiving around here happy!...
|Need I say how much I love these three treasures?|
|And days still filled with wonderful "firsts"... like licking the brownie bowl! Yum!|
|New Friends brought into our lives by God Himself!|
|Locking arms with a Godly man who knows much of what it means to suffer for Christ!|
|No more yucky medicine! Daddy will have to dumpster dive for this viagra!|
|Thankful that there's always a reason to dance!|